UPDATE (Nov. 5, 6:50 p.m. PT) — Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler announced Tuesday evening he will donate about $16,000 he has received in contributions from U.S. Ambassador to the European Union and Portland hotelier Gordon Sondland to several charities, as well as to a grassroots coalition supporting impeachment proceedings against President Donald Trump.
The announcement comes on the heels of Tuesday's revelation that Sondland had told Ukrainian officials that military aid was linked to officials carrying out the investigations into presidential candidate Joe Biden. The admission was a reversal from Sondland's statement last month, when he reportedly told investigators he did not believe any conditions were put on the release of the aid.
“The mayor made it clear that he wanted to give Ambassador Sondland the opportunity to explain his involvement in the Ukrainian scandal,” said Wheeler’s reelection campaign manager, Jennifer Arguinzoni. “Especially in light of the acknowledgment of a quid pro quo and the testimony of Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman, it has become clear that Sondland’s actions are potentially counter to the law.”
Portland mayoral candidate Sarah Iannarone had called on Wheeler at the beginning of October to return previous campaign donations he received from Sondland.
Wheeler’s deputy campaign manager, Amy Rathfelder, said that Wheeler had wanted to wait and hear Sondland’s testimony before coming to a decision about what to do with past donations.
"We really wanted to make sure we gave Ambassador Sondland the opportunity to testify and testify publicly, so we were well aware of all of the implications of his involvement," she said. "With the revelation of the ambassador's testimony to the public, it's gotten to the point where we no longer believe its a good idea to be associated with him."
According to state campaign finance records, Wheeler received a $10,000 campaign contribution in 2016 from a fund connected with Provenance Hotels, which Sondland founded.
Sondland personally donated $5,000 to Wheeler’s mayoral campaign in 2015 and $500 to his campaign for state treasurer in 2012.
Wheeler has also received support from Sondland’s wife, Katy Durant, who chipped in $6,500 to his campaigns between 2010 and 2015. Durant served on the Oregon Investment Council alongside Wheeler during his time as state treasurer.
Rathfelder said she's not aware of any campaign plans to return Durant's contributions.
Iannarone's campaign said that while they welcomed Wheeler's decision to give away the contributions, they believe the mayor should have done so sooner.
"At the very least, as a candidate for public office, Mayor Wheeler should have recognized the necessity of returning Sondland’s money the moment Sondland was implicated in the impeachment scandal," a statement from Iannarone's campaign read.
"Instead, it took Mayor Wheeler a month following revelations of Sondland’s involvement in subverting our democracy in the Ukrainian scandal and his inconsistent testimony to Congress to return the reported $16,000."
Wheeler is far from the only Oregon politician to whom Sondland has donated over the years. Sondland and Durant gave $50,000 to Republican Knute Buehler’s gubernatorial campaign in 2018. Since 2008, Sondland has also contributed to the campaigns of Portland City Commissioner Nick Fish, former Oregon Gov. John Kitzhaber and former Portland Mayor Sam Adams.
Wheeler’s campaign said he will donate $4,000 to the ImpeachNow.org coalition, which is “supporting the House impeachment inquiry into Donald Trump.” Donations of $1,500 will also be provided to the Portland Parks Foundation, Transition Projects, CAUSA, Portland Audubon, Basic Rights Oregon, DePaul Treatment Centers, SOLVE and Portland United Against Hate.