Author's note: I wrote an Op-Ed column and sent it to The Oregonian on 4/21/06. Even though I was the first candidate ever to qualify, and I'm currently the only non-incumbent using the program, Portland's daily newspaper decided its readers wouldn't want to read it. So here's what I sent:
I am running for Portland City Council, using the Voter Owned Elections (VOE) fund. VOE is a publicly financed campaign fund available to candidates who collect $5 (exactly $5, no more, no less) from 1,000 Portland residents. When registering to participate, I signed to say I understood I am personally responsible for following all the regulations. I read City Code Chapter 2.10 and its administrative rules, and added additional safeguards including not accepting donations from anyone under 18.
Everyone who helped me gather signatures with $5 contributions was a volunteer. No signature-gatherers have been paid to work on my campaign, nor has any member of my family. Links to my campaign finance reports are posted at AmandaFritz.com. I'm proud of the frugal expenses of my campaign, and of the hundreds of grassroots volunteers who are giving their time to help elect me as their voice in City Hall. I intend to demonstrate that public-financed campaigns, completed with honor and integrity, return power to the people of Portland.
I want to be elected to represent the neighbors of Portland, not large corporations or outsider interests. Because I qualified with 1045 five-dollar donations, gathered in 90 of Portland's 95 neighborhoods, I am responsible to individual citizens. And because my campaign is funded by all citizens (about 30 cents each), when elected I will be beholden to all citizens, and owned by the voters. Without VOE, I could not match the fundraising capacity of the incumbent.
Voter Owned Elections will transform government in Portland. For too long, there has been at least a suspected connection between money received and votes cast. Recently, several Oregon legislators wrote letters to the Oregon Public Utility Commission on behalf of electric utilities and then received campaign contributions from those utilities. Portland neighbors wonder about the effect of campaign contributions on votes such as funding the tram, or building parking garages in the historic district in NW. Whether real or unfounded, VOE eliminates this worry. Without trust, we cannot successfully engage citizens in discussions of problems and how to fix them.
Questions have been raised about the value of VOE, due to one candidate's failure to follow the rules. With all laws, there will always be someone who doesn't comply. VOE is a transparent system that allowed potential abuses to be spotted and dealt with. The regulations will be improved from this experience. The Citizen Commission will recommend changes needed to make it even more difficult to cheat, to protect citizens and our tax dollars. I support allowing donations only from registered voters, and prohibiting the hiring of family members using public funds. Other suggestions should be considered.
I'm glad we're not voting on public campaign financing on May 16, because the public deserves to vote on a refined system versus the Big Money system, not on flawed VOE versus flawed traditional financing.
My campaign is about restoring trust and listening to the people. Voter Owned Elections will help me change the culture of City Hall.
As a Certified Campaign Finance Fund Candidate, I take personal responsibility for the content of this Op-Ed. Amanda Fritz, RN, MA.