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Supplement to the City Club of Portland Bulletin Vol. 93, No. 19; Friday, October 22, 2010

CITY OF PORTLAND MEASURE 26-108: Continues City Public Campaign Financing for Mayoral, Commissioner, Auditor Candidates If approved, Ballot Measure 26-108 would continue the system of public funding of candidates for the offices of mayor, city commissioner and city auditor. The Portland City Council created the Campaign Finance Fund (CFF), which is available to candidates who choose to participate and who meet certain qualifying criteria, in May 2005.

Proponents of the measure argue that large campaign donations create, at the very least, the perception that contributors gain undue access to, and influence over, candidates once they are in office. For participating candidates, the CFF removes the potential influence of campaign donors. Proponents further contend that public funding tends to reduce overall campaign spending.

Opponents counter that perceptions are not facts and there is no evidence that Portland’s elected officials are beholden to those who finance their campaigns. The costs of the CFF are hard to bear in rough economic times, when declines in city revenue prevent full funding of core services. Opponents argue that the CFF is rife with potential for abuse and that it forces taxpayers to finance the political careers of candidates they may not support.

After three election cycles, the CFF has not generated sufficient data to allow your committee to draw definitive conclusions about its effects on the cost of campaigns, the influence of money on government or the competitiveness of races. However, the indicators have been sufficiently positive that your committee concludes voters should retain public funding. The CFF is well managed and encourages the candidacy of individuals who demonstrate broad community support. Participating candidates can offer meaningful opposition to incumbents who would otherwise face only nominal challenges to their incumbency. Candidates receiving public funding need not spend time “dialing for dollars” and as a result are able to devote more time to meeting potential voters.

Your committee concludes that, at a cost of about $1 per Portland resident per election, the CFF is an exercise in democracy worth retaining.

Your committee recommends a “YES” vote on Measure 26-108.

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