McMinnville Mayoral and City Council candidates caught hiding campaign contributions and expenses


Scott Hill, Kellie Menke and Lisa McCracken receive numerous complaints for violating campaign laws

By Tom Hammer

As a lifelong resident of this area, I’ve never seen the level of vitriol involved in city races as I have seen this election cycle.  First-time candidates who are upstanding residents of the city are being attacked with vicious, baseless accusations.  This may not be unique to McMinnville, especially during a time when our country is bitterly divided on politics, but there is something even more sinister at work.

McMinnville has long had the reputation of being run by the “old guard”.  A small group of individuals that control not only city government but the local news media as well.  Candidates who filed this year to run for Mayor or city council are not part of the “old guard” and the response hasn’t been good.  Incumbents are actively violating campaign finance laws in an attempt to hide contributors and expenditures from the public.

How bad is it?  In addition to state laws governing campaign finance, McMinnvillle’s city council passed additional requirements regarding campaign finance disclosures this past May.  These ordinances passed unanimously and require more transparency when it comes to reporting “dominant contributors” with aggregate donations over $1,000.  If candidates receive donations over $1,000, they must disclose their top donors on every piece of campaign literature including mailers, newspaper ads and digital advertising.  The rules are very specific on how the top contributors must be displayed.  In addition, if a PAC contributes over $1,000 to a candidate, not only does that candidate have to list their top contributors, but they also have to list the PAC’s top 5 contributors.

The ordinance was proposed by McMinnville City Councilor Sal Peralta and is modeled after Portland’s recent changes to campaign finance disclosures.  Either the effort was an attempt at further transparency or a way to trip up new candidates because most were completely blindsided by the change.  The irony is that the very people who voted to pass the ordinances, Incumbent Mayor Scott Hill and Incumbent City Councilor Kellie Menke, are the candidates actively violating campaign finance rules.  In addition, candidate Lisa McCracken, running for Ward 1, hasn’t filed a single campaign contribution or expenditure in Orestar despite posting photos of her signs, mailers, door hangers, website, multiple color ads in the News Register and acknowledging contributions on her campaign Facebook page.

This bad behavior has triggered multiple election violation complaints, including two filed directly with the city against Mayor Scott Hill, and complaints filed against Kellie Menke and Lisa McCracken with the Secretary of State Elections Division.  The complaint against Councilor Kellie Menke alleges that she has failed to file all campaign expenditures in Orestar and filed her contributions late. Menke happens to be the treasurer for multiple, local non-profits which doesn’t instill much confidence in her ability to manage money and reporting requirements.  Scott Hill’s complaints center on his failure to disclose the required top contributors on campaign materials, as well as filing expenditures late.  Not a good look for the sitting Mayor of the town. Confirmed violations include fines, administered by Orestar, with heftier fines accompanying violations of the city’s new ordinances.

The local news media, Yamhill County’s News Register, has yet to report on these glaring violations and is doing a disservice to McMinnville voters by not reporting that the current Mayor and city councilors can’t seem to follow basic campaign finance laws. In fact, the paper published this week a glowing write-up about Scott Hill with no mention of his multiple violations of an ordinance he signed off on.

The “old guard” seems to be very threatened by the new voices stepping up to run for city government. That may be so, but it doesn’t excuse Scott Hill, Kellie Menke and Lisa McCracken’s attempts to hide their campaign activities from voters.  I hope these candidates are held accountable.