Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler Fails To Reveal Big Donors In Campaign Ads, Complaint Charges

By Jeff Mapes (OPB)
April 16, 2020 10:43 p.m.

Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler is failing to disclose his top campaign donors in his political advertising as required by a new voter-approved law, according to a complaint filed with the city.

Ron Buel, a Portland campaign finance activist, recently filed the complaint, saying that voters ought to know where Wheeler is getting his large donations. The City Auditor has launched an investigation and will report its findings on April 21, according to Deborah Scroggin, the city elections officer.


Wheeler’s campaign has responded to the complaint, Scroggin said, adding that it won’t be released until the investigation is over.

Wheeler campaign's does not plan to respond to the complaint until the city elections office releases its decision on the complaint, said Wheeler campaign aide Amy Rathfelder in an email.

The disclosure requirement is one of the few sections of a strict campaign finance limit law — approved by Portland voters in 2018 – that has taken effect.  Most of the measure, which would limit individual donations to $500, has been held in abeyance while the Oregon Supreme Court decides whether limits like these violate free-speech protections in the state Constitution.


Portland also has a separate public campaign finance system that allows candidates to receive matching funds from the city if they restrict their donations to $250 or less.  Wheeler opted out of that system and said he will instead voluntarily limit himself to receiving up to $5,000 from individuals and $10,000 from organizations.

Since the disclosure law took effect last Sept. 1, Wheeler has received $10,000 contributions from the local branch of the  International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers and the Portland Metropolitan Association of Realtors. In addition, he also received $10,000 apiece from two well-known industrialists in Portland, Warren Rosenfeld of Calbag Metals and Peter Brix, an owner of a tug and barge company bearing his last name, according to reports filed with Oregon's campaign disclosure database.

Other large donations included $7,000 from Kroger, the grocery company that owns Fred Meyer, and $5,000 from the American Beverage Association.

Voters “should know his big contributions are coming from corporations and prominent businessmen and trade associations,” Buel said.

The law requires that campaign communications with voters include the names of the top largest donors.  The city auditor's office says that includes websites and email messages. Such disclosures have not appeared on Wheeler's website, Facebook page or Twitter account.

California and Washington both have similar disclosure laws that cover statewide races.

Correction: An earlier version of this story incorrectly said the Wheeler campaign did not respond to requests for comment.