Oregon has no limits on political campaign contributions for any state or local race. None!
The result is that corporations dominate politics in Oregon. They outspend labor unions by 5-1 and massively outspend all other groups and causes put together, including those for more healthcare, environmental protection, human and civil rights, decent and living wage jobs for all, consumer protection, and sufficient funding for education and other needs. Corporations have pushed up the total reported spending on political races in Oregon from $4.2 million in 1996 to $49 million in 2002 – a factor of 12 in 6 years. Legislative candidates who spent more money won 91% of the time. 75% of the money came from only 1% of the contributors. Only 4% of the contributions were in amounts of $50 or less.
Big political spenders get what they want from Oregon government. Examples abound:
In 2004, the Oregon Lottery Commission disregarded its own study, showing that Canadian provinces pay video poker outlets commissions of 15% of the money taken in, instead of the 32% paid in Oregon. So video poker parlors get to keep an extra $85 million per year that should be going to schools. Why? The Commission answers to the politicians, and the Oregon Restaurant Association contributed over $1.2 million to them in the last 3 elections.
Enron took over PGE in 1997 and in 2001 got from the Oregon Public Utility Commission (OPUC) the largest electricity rate increase in Oregon history – over $400 million per year. The OPUC chair--longtime paid PGE consultant Roy Hemmingway--said PGE/Enron needed the money because of the high price of power–caused by Enron's own manipulation of West Coast energy markets, assisted by PGE. The OPUC also refuses to make PGE pay back any of the $710 million PGE has charged us ratepayers since 1997 for "federal and state income taxes" that in fact neither Enron nor PGE has ever paid. This outrage continues right now at the rate of $93 million per year! Why? Because PGE/Enron has handed out almost $400,000 to candidates for the Oregon Legislature and both parties.
For more examples, www.oregonfollowthemoney.org shows more examples of Oregon government favors for corporations involved in insurance, accounting, banking, gambling, alcohol, tobacco, and pharmaceuticals.
What can we do about this? Take action!
FairElections Oregon is working to enact statewide initiatives to take back democracy in Oregon.