Democratic candidate for Oregon governor Tina Kotek on Monday pledged to make contribution limits a top priority if voters elect her, citing the ongoing role of large donations in state races.
“We’re going to put this at the top of the list,” Kotek said at a roundtable with campaign finance advocates. “The Legislature will pass limits and if they don’t, we’re at the ballot.”
Kotek and the campaign finance reform advocates pointed to the outsize role of Nike co-founder Phil Knight, who has spent $6.9 million in the last year supporting a Republican effort to win more seats in the Oregon Legislature and unaffiliated governor candidate Betsy Johnson, a former longtime Democratic lawmaker who voted with Republicans against gun and environmental regulations.
Knight’s spending also includes a recent switch to support Republican gubernatorial candidate Christine Drazan, and he supported the reelection bid of Washington County’s law-and-order district attorney, Kevin Barton.
Johnson has raised $16.7 million as of last week, the latest information reported by her campaign. In addition to Knight’s $3.75 million, she’s received her biggest contributions from The Papé Group heavy machinery dealers ($1 million), Columbia Sportswear CEO Tim Boyle ($789,000) and California-based Sierra Pacific Industries, one of the nation’s largest lumber producers ($500,000).
Democrats, who have held most statewide elected offices and had majorities in the Legislature for a decade, have not made contribution limits a priority, including during Kotek’s time as House speaker. Oregon has contribution limits on the books that voters approved in 2006, but those limits were deemed unenforceable for years because courts ruled they violated the state’s free speech protections.
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