Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler Wednesday announced he will observe campaign contribution limits for his reelection next year. But those limits will be much higher than what Portland voters approved in 2018 for candidates participating in its public campaign financing system.
Wheeler said in a statement that he will accept contributions of $5,000 per individual and $10,000 from organizations.
Last year, Portland voters agreed to bar corporate contributions and limit individual donations to $500. A Multnomah County judge has at least temporarily blocked the law from taking effect, ruling that they go against Oregon’s broad protections of campaign spending.
Supporters of tougher campaign finance laws pushed the Portland limits because they wanted a court fight: They’re hoping the Oregon Supreme Court will overrule a 1997 decision that essentially prohibits donations limits in Oregon.
In a separate case, the Oregon Supreme Court is considering Thursday the constitutionality of campaign limits enacted in Multnomah County.
“Voters are justifiably concerned with unlimited contributions allowed under state law. That’s why we’re voluntarily adhering to the same limits as federal candidates – our U.S. representatives and senators,” Wheeler said in his statement.
“These limits, capped at $5,000 per individual and $10,000 for a union or other organization, help level the playing field but deter outside spending like we’ve seen in elections in other major cities, where special interests disregard public financing and low limits and spend unregulated sums,” he said. “This is a standard that is stricter than the other candidates in this race for mayor.”
One of Wheeler’s primary rivals in the race, Sarah Iannarone, announced in August that she had qualified for matching funds under the city’s public finance system. To receive matching funds, candidates for mayor must limit themselves to individual donations of no more than $250 each.
Wheeler said he has relied on “grassroots donations from people from all walks of life.”
“We’ll continue this work and make sure all contributions are transparent and reported efficiently to ensure voter confidence,” he said.
An analysis by Sightline Institute concluded that of the $850,000 Wheeler raised in his run for mayor in 2016, more than half of it came from 400 donations.