Sec. of State Create Giant Campaign $$$ Loophole

Press release from Richard Leonetti, 8-28-07:

Secretary of State Bill Bradbury Creating Giant Loophole
Destroying Political Finance Reporting Law

My name is Richard Leonetti. I am a retired businessman, interested in government.

During 2006, I received mail and saw brochures about many statewide ballot measures from a group calling itself “Our Oregon.” I wondered who they were. I found out that the corporate registration of “Our Oregon” shows that it was formed in 2005 by Larry Wolf, head of the Oregon Education Association (OEA), and Art Towers, head of the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) in Oregon. I was then very surprised to learn that “Our Oregon” had not filed any campaign contribution and expenditure reports with the Secretary of State.

Oregon law clearly requires that any person or entity that accepts money (“contributions”) to be used in a political campaign must register as a political committee (ORS 260.005(16)). The law also requires every political committee active in a general election to file at least 3 contribution and expenditure reports in every election year (ORS 260.073). Apparently, “Our Oregon” disregarded the law, never registered, and never reported its contributions.

Way back on January 13, 2007, I filed with the Secretary of State a formal complaint that “Our Oregon” violated numerous laws by never registering as a political committee or reporting its sources of money, even though it spent at least hundreds of thousands of dollars (if not more) to affect the outcome of the 2006 election. “Our Oregon” spent large sums against Measures 39, 40, 41, 42, 43, 45, 46, 47, and 48, and in favor of Measure 44. It has admitted it also helped in political candidate campaigning in 2006. My complaint stated that this conduct also appears to violate the law which prohibits making political contributions in a false name (ORS 260.402), which is a felony.

Despite my numerous calls and emails to his staff, Secretary Bradbury has taken no action against “Our Oregon.” I have heard that he has held private meetings about my complaint–with his “public relations person” present. He appears ready to let “Our Oregon” off the hook, perhaps because the unions led by the creators of “Our Oregon” are his own huge financial backers. The OEA directly contributed $114,000 to his campaigns for Secretary of State, and SEIU directly contributed $50,000.

Also, until a few weeks ago, “Our Oregon” was apparently managed by Patty Wentz, who is now Governor Kulongoski’s public information officer!

If Bill Bradbury lets “Our Oregon” off the hook, he would blow a giant loophole in Oregon’s laws on political money disclosure. If “Our Oregon” can get by with this, then any other person or union or corporation or group could also fund political campaigns and completely avoid reporting their sources of money:

Just form a non-profit corporation with a nice name, take contributions from undisclosed sources, and pass the money to candidates or measure campaigns in the name of the non-profit corporation itself.

This would make Oregon’s campaign contribution reporting laws a dead letter. Bradbury should not create this huge loophole to protect his own financial backers.

I am sending this email (bcc) to all members of the Oregon Legislature and to many organizers of ballot measures to alert them to this loophole. If “Our Oregon” does not have to report its sources of contributions for money used in political campaigns, then why should anyone else?

I can be reached for comment at [email protected].