Today, the Secretary of State issued a letter stating his intent not to implement any of Measure 47, despite the fact that it was enacted by voters in the November election.
“I am not going to comment a lot on the Secretary of State’s letter, until I have a chance to discuss it with Hardy Myers.” said Dan Meek, a volunteer lawyer with FairElections Oregon. “No one in Oregon government consulted with any of the supporters of Measure 47 before issuing this letter.”
“I disagree that the substantive provisions of Measure 47 can be disregarded. The letter assumes that all of the limits on political contributions are unconstitutional, without any judicial determination of that conclusion. The reasoning in the letter appears to be circular, and assumes the existence of a court decision on Measure 47 that does not exist,” said Meek.
Further, supporters of it can, if necessary, bring a declaratory judgment action in court so that the Oregon Supreme Court will be able to review its substantive provisions, including all of its limits on political contributions and expenditures. If the Court agrees that any of the limits are constitutional, then the entire Act takes effect, even under the circular reasoning of the letter.
“The letter appears to seek to preclude any court determination of the validity of the limits,” noted Meek. “We believe that the 1997 Oregon Supreme Court decision (on Measure 9 of 1994) is not immune from revisiting.”
The “free speech” clause of the Oregon Constitution was in 1857 copied from the Constitution of Indiana, and Indiana which has very low and strict limitations on political contributions by corporations and unions. Also, 27 other states have “free speech” clauses in their constitutions that are virtually identical to Oregon’s. Each of them declares that every person has the right “to speak, write, or print freely on any subject.” Some of them use the word “publish” instead of “print,” but they are otherwise the same as Oregon’s. Of these 28 states, all but one (New Mexico) have limits on political contributions, and no state supreme court has ruled that their constitutions preclude such limits.
In addition, the following provisions in Measure 47 do not constitute limits on political contributions and should be implemented immediately:
a. Every campaign advertisement funded by “independent expenditures” must prominently disclose the top 5 contributors to the “independent” campaign, the businesses they are engaged in, and the amounts contributed by each of them.
b. Every candidate who spends more than $5,000 of personal money on a campaign for public office must disclose in every subsequent campaign ad the amount of personal money being spent on the campaign.
c. Every contributor of $500+ per year must obtain a “handle” from the Secretary of State, so that her future contributions can be more accurately recorded.
d. The Secretary of State must “make available on the Internet in an interactive database format all contribution and expenditure reports” within 5 business days of getting the data.
e. No employer can “provide or promise any benefit or impose or threaten any detriment due to the fact that an employee or contractor did or did not make [political] contributions or expenditures.” Any employee subjected to this “shall have a civil cause of action against the violator and shall, upon proof of violation, recover a civil penalty of not less than $50,000 per incident of violation.”
f. Campaign contributions not used in the campaign shall revert to the State Treasury to help pay for the Voters’ Pamphlet. Such funds cannot be amassed in “war chests” and then used in a subsequent election or to support or oppose some other candidate later.