Oregon Supreme Court Rejects Measure 47

SALEM, Ore. — A ballot measure approved by Oregon voters in 2006 cannot be enforced; that’s the decision the Oregon Supreme Court came to concerning restrictions on campaign financing.

The court says it the restrictions can’t be enforced because voters actually struck down a companion measure, which would have allowed the state’s constitution.

The court’s decision didn’t address whether limits on contributions would violate free speech rights, an issue going back years in Oregon.

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  1. Dan Meek says:

    The Chief petitioners issued this press release: http://hosted.comm100.com/Newsletter/Newsletter_EmailWebVersion.aspx?key=9XaAUo92EKFdP6Yt5wOZu8i8RU7TQMn3QxTJ%2fHevTx7lEYBYDl%2fX0w%3d%3d&siteId=39365

    The press release states, in part:

    The Court’s decision today is disappointing. Harry Lonsdale, retired CEO of Bend Research Corp. and a prime supporter of Measure 47, said “It’s a sad day for Oregon. Oregon voters are savvy; they know that our elections are for sale. Four times Oregon voters have voted to get the Big Money out of Oregon politics. The Oregon Supreme Court should address the merits of the Constitutional arguments.”

    Plaintiffs’ positions in Hazell v. Brown are noted in the memorandum of one of their attorneys, Daniel Meek, available at http://fairelections.net/court/M47/Appeals/m47case.pdf.

    In November 2006, the voters of Oregon enacted Measure 47, which established the nation’s most strict system of limits on political campaign contributions and expenditures. It also requires every political advertisement funded by “independent expenditures” to fully disclose the names, businesses, and amount contributed by each of its 5 largest donors, right in the ad itself.

    The people were forced to act, because the Oregon Legislature has never enacted limits on political contributions.

    This Oregon Supreme Court decision leaves Oregon without operative limits on political campaign contributions in all state and local candidate races. Only 3 other states have no contribution limits: Missouri, Virginia, and Utah. Oregon voters have enacted contribution limits 4 times (1908, twice in 1994, and in 2006), yet none of those limits has been enforced since 1973.

    The result is that campaign spending in Oregon will continue to skyrocket. Total spending on campaigns for state and local offices in Oregon increased from $4.2 million in 1996 to $57 million in 2010. Candidates for Governor in 2010 alone raised and spent over $20 million. Winning a contested race for the Oregon Legislature now typically costs over $600,000, sometimes as much as $1 million.

    The Oregonian (April 6, 2010) reported that spending on state legislative races in Oregon is higher per capita than in any other state, except New Jersey.

    It also leaves Oregon with no requirements that political ads identify their funders. Section (6)(g) of Measure 47 provided that every campaign advertisement funded by “independent expenditures” in excess of $2,000 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–all in the advertisement itself. This is the most stringent law regarding disclosure of funders of independent expenditure ads, but now it will not be enforced.

    Prior to its repeal by the Oregon Legislature in 2001, Oregon had a statute, ORS 260.522, that required every campaign ad to state “the person responsible for the publication.” The Oregon Legislature repealed this statute by votes of 28-0 in the Senate and 52-3 in the House.

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