Multnomah County Campaign Finance Charter Amendment Frequently Asked Questions
Updated Oct. 22, 2019
Circuit Court strikes down most of Campaign Finance Amendment
On March 6, 2018, Circuit Court Judge Eric J. Bloch struck down key elements of recent Multnomah County legislation regulating campaign finance in Multnomah County candidate elections. In particular, the court concluded that the following provisions of the legislation violate the free speech clause of the Oregon Constitution:
- Limits on campaign contributions;
- Limits on campaign expenditures and independent expenditures; and
- A requirement to disclose certain funding sources in campaign communications
The court upheld requirements in the amendment around registering as a political committee and employees’ rights to make contributions by payroll deduction as permissible under state and federal law.
You can read the Judge's opinion on the declaration of validity here.
How did we get here?
On November 8, 2016, voters amended the Multnomah County Charter relating to elections for Multnomah County elective offices (Chair, Commissioners, Sheriff, and Auditor) by generally establishing:
(1) campaign contribution limits;
(2) expenditure and independent expenditure limits;
(3) registration and disclosure requirements;
(4) an employee’s right to make contributions by payroll deduction in some circumstances; and
(5) mechanisms to administer and enforce those provisions.
On April 6, 2017, the Board of Commissioners took the first step to carry out the voters’ will by adopting an ordinance. The full text of the ordinance can be found online. But because similar measures have been repeatedly challenged as violating free speech rights, the Board also asked the County Attorney to petition the Courts to provide legal certainty about the constitutionality of these provisions.
On May 3, 2017, the County filed a validation proceeding requesting the Circuit Court to uphold the constitutionality of the County campaign finance provisions under the Oregon and United States Constitutions.
On March 6, 2018, the court issued its ruling striking down the contribution limits, the expenditure and independent expenditure limits, and the disclosure requirements.
Is the County going to appeal the circuit court’s ruling?
Yes, the County filed an appeal with the Oregon Court of Appeals, and the appeal has been certified directly to the Oregon Supreme Court. The Oregon Supreme Court will hear oral arguments on Nov. 14, 2019, at 1:30 p.m. in the Supreme Court Courtroom at 2850 Broadway NE, Salem, OR 97303. The case is scheduled to be heard second in the afternoon.
What is the status of the campaign finance legislation while the case is being appealed?
While the case is being appealed, the circuit court’s judgment remains in effect. That means that the contribution limits, expenditure and independent expenditure limits, and the disclosure requirements are invalid and cannot be enforced. The payroll deduction and registration requirements are effective and must be followed.
Individuals with questions about how to comply with the law are advised to seek private counsel to discuss their individual needs
What are the registration requirements?
The legislation provides:
“An Entity shall register as a Political Committee within three (3) business days of making aggregate Independent Expenditures exceeding $750 in any Election cycle to support or oppose one or more Candidates in any Multnomah County Candidate Election.”
No party to the validation proceeding challenged the validity of this provision, and the circuit court upheld its validity. This provision was intended to align with state registration requirements, and entities therefore should register with the Oregon Secretary of State as provided in state law when they have made aggregate Independent Expenditures exceeding $750 as described in the County legislation.
What is the payroll deduction requirement?
The legislation provides:
“Individuals shall have the right to make contributions by payroll deduction by any private or public employer upon the employer’s agreement or if such deduction is available to the employees for any other purpose.”
Public and private employers who make payroll deduction available to employees for any purpose must allow employees to make contributions in Multnomah County candidate elections (meaning elections for Chair, Commissioner, Sheriff, or Auditor) by payroll deduction.
Where can complaints be submitted?
If you believe there has been a violation of the County’s campaign finance legislation, complaints can be submitted via email at firstname.lastname@example.org or by calling 503-988-0477.