Multnomah political spending limits deemed unconstitutional

March 7, 2018

PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) — A county judge has ruled that Multnomah County’s voter-approved limits on campaign contributions are an unconstitutional infringement on free speech.

Judge Eric Bloch ruled Tuesday that the county and its voters cannot cap campaign contributions to candidates for county office at $500 per donor.

He ruled they also cannot force disclosure of the largest contributors to political mailers, or limit other types of spending. The limits are “impermissible” under the free speech guarantees within the Oregon Constitution, Bloch wrote, citing a related Oregon Supreme Court opinion.

His ruling falls in line with earlier decisions by the state high court that tossed out limits on political spending as unconstitutional.

Multnomah County voters adopted the spending limits with an 89 percent “yes” vote in November 2016.

Dan Meek, an attorney representing supporters of the spending limits, told The Oregonian/OregonLive that the ruling will be appealed.

Several Multnomah County Commission races had been operating under the now-overturned campaign finance limits. The seat held by Commissioner Loretta Smith is open and Multnomah County Chair Deborah Kafoury is up for re-election. There are also races for county auditor and sheriff.

“Candidates who want to take big money will now be able to take big money,” Meek said.

The limits did not apply to other contests, such as city council, school board or legislative races.

Opponents of the now-overturned limits include the Portland Business Alliance, Taxpayer Association of Oregon, Portland Metropolitan Association of Realtors, and Oregon Business and Industry.


Information from: The Oregonian/OregonLive, http://www.oregonlive.com

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