While some were unhappy about the placement of The Oregonian’s recent Politifact story, I think a bigger news failure is what hasn’t been reported on: the political contributions in the Portland mayor's race, which have broken a combined $2 million. At over a million dollars, the Brady campaign may soon break an individual record for spending in a mayoral race.
The Willamette Week has an online ticker and an occasional story (seems like their last one was February 1st), but the overall paucity of coverage has been a glaring reminder of the shrinking fourth estate.
In their most recent update, the WWeek reports Brady has raised over $1,070,000, Hales over $606,000, and Smith over $458,000. And you can hear the crickets chirping.
Luckily, Janice Thompson from Oregon Common Cause loves this stuff, digging into campaign finance reports and summarizing the results. Since Oregon is pretty much the Wild West when it comes to campaign financing, watching who’s giving how much is an indicator of who thinks they’ll have their interests and values looked after in City Hall.
Thompson recently published a long Street Roots story, “Big Money, Big Stakes in Portland’s Mayoral Race” decrying the dollars in politics, and noting:
"The Brady and Hales campaigns are particularly dominated by contributions of $1000 and up."
The data show 73% of Brady’s funds are from contributions of $1000 and up, compared to 71% for Hales and 52% for Smith.
On the small donor side, Smith gets 23% of his funds from contributions of $100 or less, while Hales gets 9% from such contributions and Brady 7%. Thompson estimates Brady has a total of 2182 contributors, Hales 1433, and Smith 2259.
While money is flowing to all three, there are a couple of newsworthy parts of those numbers: Jefferson is bucking the historic average of around 70% coming from $1000+ checks, and Jefferson likely has the most donors ever in a mayoral race outside of the brief public finance system.
Thompson also highlights those donors who give to multiple candidates, what she calls “double giving.”
"Most [77%] of the double giving involves contributions from one donor to both Brady and Hales. This trend is troubling given that the contributions seem to be more about ensuring future access than dedicated support for one candidate.” [9% was money given to all three, 7% to Brady/Smith, 7% to Hales/Smith].
If one had the time, or our fourth estate had more resources, one could further try to categorize the large donations and figure out which industries and individuals are giving the most to whom. Feel free to do it yourself online at Orestar.
Thompson concludes on this note:
"Everyday Portlanders can’t afford to write checks of $1000 much less $10,000 to mayoral candidates. Portland’s private money campaign finance system is broken as demonstrated by the domination of fundraising by such a small number of donors who can write these large checks.”
For now, if you want your voice heard in politics, I'd recommend going to volunteer in this wide-open mayoral race. The time is now.
Footnote: Thompson reports the record for spending in a primary is “still held by Jim Francesconi whose 2004 primary spending in inflation-adjusted dollars came to $1,181,058."
UPDATE: There’s an updated piece from Common Cause online here; the numbers don’t change much but there is a nice chart of each candidate’s top donors.
Disclaimer: I’ve endorsed Jefferson Smith, as has Bike Walk Vote, a group I co-chair. I speak only for myself.