Mayoral Race: Over Two Million Dollars, and Counting

Evan Manvel

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."

If you’re a Street Roots reader, you may have read this news April 27th. If not, go to their site and support them. And support Common Cause, too, if you want more information like this.

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.

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    Interesting that you're only looking at contribution size, but don't mention that 22% of Jefferson Smith's contributions come from out of state, compared to 7% and 9% for Brady and Hales.

    The Common Cause analysis would be much stronger if it established a more objective baseline. For example, why not pick several non-profits (ranging from the Symphony, to Outside In), to see what percentage of contributions are large. If that baseline showed that 30% of contributsion would normally be of $10,000 or more, then a candidate who gets only 20% of contributions of more than $10,000, would be laudable. But by simply saying that there's a single measure of "large," creates a statistical illusion.

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        That affects a tiny percentage of donations (1% last I checked) since Oregon has unlimited donations thanks to Jefferson Smith's inaction while in the state legislature to enforce the law.

        If you look at his donations for individuals from out of state it includes executives from transnational corporations. Individuals, really?

        The out of state donations from Smith are a major downside. Also, I estimated the average donation under $100 was $80, not $50 (it skews up), and this held well for all the candidates I had actual donation counts from, so the donation count is significantly lower. Many of Smith's small donations come from out of state, too, since his net is cast very widely. Only 56% of his documented money comes from in state sources according to that chart (which is worse than I computed back in March), but it further doesn't break down in-Portland donations. The number is even smaller. Mister 100% Portland is thus very likely mostly supported from out of city interests from the evidence we can ascertain. That should alarm anybody. It alarms me.

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          Why is it a problem that people who know and recognize Jefferson support him, again? Has it ruined John Kroger's performance in office? Don't think so.

          And your contention about not following the law is really weird. There's a constitutional amendment that blocks a legislative solution, no matter what nonsense Dan Meek keeps trying to push.

          You sure are doing a lot of speculative jabbing. The point remains that Smith has more supporters than any other candidate in the race, more than any other in Portland's non-public-finance history, and did it with 7 fewer months of campaigning than the other two majors.

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            Supporters equals donors?

            Citing Kroger is laughable. Can't believe you did that. That hurts your argument.

            Article II Section 8 doesn't block a legislative solution. Did you read it and the case law? Did you read the filings (Hazall and Horton) from Meek and Williams?

            If you did, I'd like to read your brief.

            Further, there is a legislative solution even he could have done according to your twisted logic: a legislative referral to vote on something similar to Measure 46, a constitutional amendment.

            Unlike you, I don't give legislators free passes when they are asked to do something to fix a major problem and never deliver, instead focusing on sending some money to some development commissions or requiring posting a phone number in some tavern -- all of that could have done without special bills for them (rules processes would have been better on the latter one), but Smith wants it to make it look like he did a lot of real work.

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              Kroger was attacked for a large number of personal donations from out of state. The attack failed, miserably.

              I don't need to read case law; I just need to wake up in the morning and find the OSC still in existence, and prohibitions on contribution limits still in effect. Funny how that works.

              Why would a legislative referral for another vote have made any sense? The voters already made clear they did not want the Constitution modified. The Leg IS enforcing the law; the highest law of the state.

              Your ire against legislators is misplaced. You need to take it up with the other legislative body in Oregon...the voters. They rejected 46.

              Your arguments throughout this thread are wholly unpersuasive; I think I have better things to do getting out the vote for Jeff. If you have a candidate you'd prefer, maybe that's a good course for you too.

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                The voters passed Measure 47.

                Some of the people who rejected 46 felt that it was not needed to implement measure 47 since it didn't touch speech/spending, only donations.

                Put them together and the majority still want Measure 47 implemented.

                46 was just insurance in case the executive officers didn't want to enforce it. Well, the executive officers didn't want Measure 47 enforced. Now it has been through the courts and the question of the constitutionality of Measure 47 has not been an issue of opposition. Instead, the arguments opposed are technicalities that don't hold water.

                The legislature could have resolved the issue by referring it back to the voters with, say, the extra majority requirements removed so that the legislature could fix mistakes it wanted to fix that was one reason they wanted to dump Measure 46 -- another reason some people may not have wanted Measure 46 but who voted for Measure 47.

                Clearly the people only answered the question of whether or not they wanted Measure 47 once, and that was when they voted on exactly it, and they voted for it.

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        Brady won't take from felons! So Tre Arrow can't endorse :)

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        Except in the analysis I did, I found his out of state donations were significantly larger, and in the 1000+ range, much higher than in state.

        It's not a pattern of grassroots support, it's out of state and out of city interests.

        Would you guys please look at the actual numbers before making assumptions? I started from your assumption and then the numbers informed me otherwise.

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            Evan, Don't you mean other people who go to Harvard Law School take a paycheck from their high-paying corporate law firm jobs while doing little, if any actual work, but instead devote their time founding and running organizations that focus on grassroots organizing to get progressive candidates elected.

            I know you don't want to get folks from Stoel Rives involved in your claim.

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              One of my neighbors works for Stoel Rives -- not going to mention what they said others said, but from the sound if it, yes, you're probably right, getting them involved in the claim would not bode well.

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      One wrong presumption that is essential to Common Cause's take is that people give to buy influence. Or to put it another way, if a person was to give $10,000 to the Symphony, or $10,000 to Central City Concern, to fund those non-profits, how much would it be "OK" for them to give to a political candidate, without being subject to your criticism that the donor is "trying to have access to City Hall."

      You gave to a candidate; did you do it to buy access, or because you believe(d) in a candidate? I think for 99.9% of the people, and certainly for me, a contribution to a political candidate, like a contribution to a non-profit, is because you believe in the cause.

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          So what are those folks in DC and NYC expecting?


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          Dan, then you miss my point. People give money to things they care about. People who have more money to give, give more. As much as we can try to equalize income/wealth (no such luck, particularly with national politics), it's the reality that we live in. It's not cynical to think that the first reason people give to anything is that they want to support it; you're the cynical one, to say that it's all about buying something.

          On the access part, every Portland politician I've heard talk about this is pretty explicit about trying to affirmatively keep room on their schedule for any voter to ask for a meeting. Every candidate has taken large amounts of money, from a variety of sources. If any of the candidates had wanted to self-limit contributions, they could have done that, but they didn't

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            Jonathan - if you want to get an insider's sense of how major political givers view the relationship between money and access, a good place to start is this recent Planet Money story:

            When Lobbyists Pay To Meet With Congressmen

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              I don't think that story is any more meaningful than if you cited a Chicago case study. The local politicians I've heard talk about the issue (in the context of publicly financed campaigns) all do a pretty good job of explaining the impact on them. I think that someone who donates money, like someone who volunteers on a campaign, or someone who served on a board or committee with a politician, likely has greater access to that politician. None of those people are bribing, but all of them undoubtedly feel like they've got some connection to a politician.

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                People who give money may think that way, but not organizations. Any politician who says a major contributor is not expecting something in return is lying. THAT quote is from a former Portland Commissioner. And you're lying to yourself.

                And Smith has proposed a cap multiple times. Brady and Hales have refused.

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                  Smith proposed a cap after he entered the race late so would have more later density of spending. If he structured it to be more fair or earlier to the other candidates who already had campaigns, staff, and a budget plan that are built to a certain scale of campaign, they may have listened. As it was, Smith was just playing a game to look like a grassroots candidate. I asked him for a copy of his "letter" and he hasn't shown it, which tells me it probably doesn't have reasonable terms, like cap from X date to Y date, both in the future.

                  Smith is a dodgy one. Get the real facts before defending him.

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                      A lack of reply is information from a politician when you point out that he's sold out and he tells you personally a story about the letter. I asked him to send it to me so I could hold their feet to it and make a big deal. Why wouldn't he publish the letter? He forgot? It's not on his website on the front page? Why wouldn't he make a big deal of it if he had an honest letter that YOU talk about and supposedly is important enough for everybody to know about except officially?

                      Whisper campaign strategy?

                      And he didn't scale down his campaign, he ramped it up.

                      The only grassroots candidate is Cameron Whitten.

                      Unless you mean the grassroots of people who donate to political campaigns, which is a tiny number of people -- and considering about the same number of people donated to Smith and Brady, I'm not sure how you can claim he's grassroots: Smith's supporters are slightly less willing to fund his campaign. That seems like he has less "support" in your funny world of dollars == support.

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            About access, not sure it's my long hair, but Fritz was the only office that would talk to the Green Party about charter/election reform issues, and she was the publicly funded candidate. She said that she wasn't surprised we couldn't get appointments and implied it was the funding situation, but maybe it was the long hair, as I said.

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      Ummm, Jefferson has received LOTS of money from the DC Area and the NYC area, not sure that really counts as Vancouver, WA.

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      It's one reason for Measure 26-108 (Brian Rohter was one of the chairs for the "Yes" campaign, and Eileen Brady was a big supporter). But it failed, and any candidate who isn't out there asking everyone for contributions is not going to succeed. That's why Brady and Smith are neck and neck on the total number of contributors.

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        Yup - huge kudos to Rohter and Brady and everyone else who worked hard on that race!

        But for a few votes...

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          I guess I'd say those few votes were probably lost due to a couple of really unfortunate uses and/or abuses. Given where our US Supreme Court is, I don't expect that the equalizing feature of 26-108 (more money to publicly financed candidates if a non-public candidate outspends) would have passed constitutional muster, and without the equalizing amounts, it would be a worse system than what we have.

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        Jonathan, tell me more about situations where Brian was a big mover and shaker on something in Portland, and his wife helped out in a vague, undocumented way! I love those stories. :)

        Brady and Smith aren't neck and neck; he's got over 100 more in 7 fewer months, last I checked.

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      Look at Orestar; it looks to me like Jefferson has 7 contributors who gave $10,000 or more (not counting in-kind), and Eileen has 8 contributors who gave $10,000 or more (again, not counting in-kind).

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        Yes, I said pick "almost" any baseline.

        And I don't know why you'd throw out in-kinds, which are things of value a campaign has received.

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          Not all in-kinds are the same.

          Some in-kinds are when an outside party literally pays for something - a pile of yardsigns, or a poll, or flight of direct mail.

          But some in-kinds are really a form of professional assistance. Volunteering isn't trackable as an in-kind, unless it's coming from a professional who typically charges for that work.

          I think it's hard to get under the hood and go apples-to-apples on in-kinds (to mix metaphors), so I've always thrown 'em out when trying to analyze things.

          Cash is king, since that's what you use to buy TV ads and direct mail, so that's the most relevant thing.

          Full disclosure: My firm built Eileen Brady's campaign website. I speak only for myself.

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        In my analysis I found that the greatest difference between the two candidates was that Smith had fewer "mid-range" donations and his large money was more from out of the area. He had a lot of very large donations and a lot of those from out of state balacing his pesudo-progressive donations from locals in small amounts, where he isn't actually getting a lot of money -- his under $100 donation pool is around the same size as Brady. Brady had the best "inside Portland" and "inside Oregon" profile. Smith had specifically gone after small donations in his published newsletters, but oddly the numbers don't show he's outclassing Brady in receiving those.

        Then again I analyze numbers all day with distributed compute clusters so I probably see things other people don't bother looking at. This analysis is nowhere near the one I've done. I actually found out total donor numbers from some campaigns so can look into the aggregate donations, for example.

        In the end we're talking about amounts within one power of two in almost every metric. They aren't all that much different. They are more alike than different, and these debates are kind of pointless because the numbers are so similar. If the accusation is that one candidate is bought by special interests, the accusation applies to all in almost the same amount. I think we need to step back and take a longer look at actual issues and their past behavior.

        If we're really concerned about donations and influence, Cameron Whitten wins.

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          Problem with the analysis is that it uses incomplete data. You don't know the extent of anyone's full donation profile, just by looking at Orestar. And the more low-dollar donations there are, the less you know.

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            The low dollar amounts are very small (even for Smith) compared to the total dollar amounts and we can infer likely facts from them based on the trend lines from other proximate data which we do have. In database theory you can easily work with "null" values with modern analysis methods. Codd made it a fundamental concern of his database theory.

            In some cases, I asked some campaigns for more data, so I did get extra data that's not in orestar.

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            He could publish the numbers on his <=100 donations to make a point if he felt it would help him. He didn't have to opt into hiding small donor info. You can opt out of it.

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    My theory as to why the double-dip with Hales and Brady is probably because Smith wasn't expected to be in the top two, so donors who look for access donate to the top two early ensuring access.

    Another theory is that they determined that Smith was so disorganized that he wouldn't be a good mayor or bureau head.

    Yet another theory is that Smith entered the race late and those donations came earlier on and would have gone to all three otherwise.

    We can make up theories all day. Anybody want to go ask those donors why they would double-dip? I'd like to see their answers.

    An organization I'm involved with endorsed three candidates, but that was based on issue positions from a vote. I doubt people were voting hoping for access, but maybe they were? Allegations are easy to make. Some easier than others:

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    What percentage of the total of Oregon income tax revenue comes from people who pay more than $1,000 in state income tax in a year? Or from $5,000? Because if tax revenue skewed in the way these campaign contributions/percentages skew, it would cast a different light on this discussion.

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      I know I've given four or five separate times, what with parties and matches and whatnot.

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        4 or 5 times? Wanted to see how or why that would work.

        sqlite3 Smith.db "select sum(Amount), count(*) from candetable where SubType = 'Cash Contribution' and ContributorPayee = 'Mark Bunster';"

        So according to ORESTAR you've given at least 10 times, for a total of $671:

        amounts: 20,96,20,100,20,20,25,100,20,250

        dates: unknown,01/21,03/06,03/08,03/14,03/16,04/16,04/16,04/16,04/20

        So I guess you donated three times in one day, so 7 times. Even if the unknown $20 was on 1/21, that's 6 times, still more than your five times.

        So you go to house parties and everybody who has already been to one donates token amounts to model that everybody who hasn't donated should join the club, eh? I see a few people who have done this. In the next comment (no room here) I'll paste a breakdown of who beat you.

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          Hans-Michael Vermeersch wins with 29 separate donations. Below is the list of people who have donated four or more times to Smith.

          $ sqlite3 -header Smith.db "select ,aggtotal-tot as hidden from (select ,coalesce(agg2011+agg2012,agg2012,agg2011) as aggtotal from (select ContributorPayee,sum(Amount) as tot, count(*) as cnt, (select max(AggregateAmount) from candetable tmp where TranId > 1135634 and prime.ContributorPayee = tmp.ContributorPayee) as agg2012, (select max(AggregateAmount) from candetable tmp where TranId <= 1135634 and prime.ContributorPayee = tmp.ContributorPayee) as agg2011 from candetable prime where SubType = 'Cash Contribution' and ContributorPayee not like 'Miscellaneous%' group by ContributorPayee having cnt > 2 order by cnt desc));"


          Hans-Michael Vermeersch|1004.36|29|954.36||954.36|-50.0

          Jefferson Smith|1494|9|1569||1569|75

          Mark Bunster|651|9|671||671|20

          Todd Olson|105|8|205||205|100

          Garrett Downen|585|7|189|430|619|34

          Stephanie Vardavas|975|7|725|350|1075|100

          Alex Tinker|215|6|269||269|54

          Jamie Earl|164.12|6|184.12||184.12|20.0

          Ken Hayes|2896|6|1396|1100|2496|-400

          William Scott|1200|6|1000|200|1200|0

          Wilson Johns|1100|6|350|750|1100|0

          Alexandra Acker-Lyons|500|5|200|450|650|150

          Carol Adler|2200|5|1200|1000|2200|0

          Christine Splitt|430|5|829.52|3828.47|4657.99|4227.99

          Jamie Drakos|310|5|310||310|0

          Jayme Rabenberg|104|5|189||189|85

          John Springer|685|5|698|135|833|148

          Alexander Albertine|1000|4|500|500|1000|0

          Cynthia Morris|1950|4|998|1000|1998|48

          Janet Westwood|524|4|274|250|524|0

          Lawrence Matasar|1200|4|1000||1000|-200

          Robert Corwin|120|4|244||244|124

          Ryan Robinson|1150|4|650|500|1150|0

          Was trying to see how people's aggregate values could reveal when they needed to be pulled back out of the less than $100 number. Massaging a few more corner cases and I could shrink down his <$100 list from people who donated more later like you did. The negative numbered aggregate totals in the last column are likely cases of repeat donation with separately entered contributors not associated correctly to a previous name either by accident (typo'd or moved addresses) or by real name collisions. A large last column is likely a donation from 2011 legislative session that I filtered out but got aggregated into the orestar 2011 numbers.

          (I'm not your normal SQL ninja.)

          Are these people your house party plants? ;)

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      As of a download I did about an hour ago:

      Analyzing candidate Brady:

      Total cash donors donating more than 100 dollars: 1014

      Total cash donors from Portland donating more than 100 dollars: 775

      Total distinct cash donors donating more than 100 dollars: 819

      Total distinct cash donors from Portland donating more than 100 dollars: 627

      Total dollars donated from cash donors donating more than 100 dollars: 757962.78

      Total dollars donated from Portland cash donors donating more than 100 dollars: 585118.05

      Total dollars donated from cash donors donating 100 dollars or less: 70040.97

      Total dollars donated from all cash donors: 828003.75

      Total dollars donated from all in-kind donors: 147233.39

      Total dollars loaned: 95000

      Total dollars donated from all donors: 1073312.14

      Analyzing candidate Smith:

      Total cash donors donating more than 100 dollars: 742

      Total cash donors from Portland donating more than 100 dollars: 467

      Total distinct cash donors donating more than 100 dollars: 481

      Total distinct cash donors from Portland donating more than 100 dollars: 286

      Total dollars donated from cash donors donating more than 100 dollars: 332523.48

      Total dollars donated from Portland cash donors donating more than 100 dollars: 182414.48

      Total dollars donated from cash donors donating 100 dollars or less: 100339.81

      Total dollars donated from all cash donors: 432863.29

      Total dollars donated from all in-kind donors: 22668.29

      Total dollars loaned:

      Total dollars donated from all donors: 456903.58

      Analyzing candidate Hales:

      Total cash donors donating more than 100 dollars: 648

      Total cash donors from Portland donating more than 100 dollars: 529

      Total distinct cash donors donating more than 100 dollars: 518

      Total distinct cash donors from Portland donating more than 100 dollars: 418

      Total dollars donated from cash donors donating more than 100 dollars: 549711

      Total dollars donated from Portland cash donors donating more than 100 dollars: 356110

      Total dollars donated from cash donors donating 100 dollars or less: 60228

      Total dollars donated from all cash donors: 609939

      Total dollars donated from all in-kind donors: 9143.66

      Total dollars loaned:

      Total dollars donated from all donors: 619082.66

      source and algorithms posted here:

      • (Show?)

        Updated my comparison with a table with a much more thorough breakdown of candidate donations:

        Should add in double-dipping at some point in another table.

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      So you can see from my numbers, which come from very simple queries straight off extracted SOS data tonight, Smith's "under 100" cash donations comprise 100339.81 of 456903.58

      Or 22.0% for Smith

      For Brady it is 70040.97 of 1073312.14

      Or 6.5% for Brady

      For Hales it is 60228 of 619082.66

      Or 9.7%

      Or the accessible amount of data we have is 78%, 93.5%, and 90.3%, respectively.

      And yes, I can use "distinct" in sql, so I know how to count unique donors.

      With just 286 donors above $100 inside Portland for Smith out of 481, or only 59% of his donors, or on a cash basis, 54% of his viewable money (vast amount of his donations), that's a lot of major donor power from outside Portland. To put it in perspective, 77% of Brady's large donor money is local in both amount of donors and dollar power.

      Make no mistake, these are all big money candidates. Your $50 tax credit isn't going to get you far in this election. But I'm concerned at the influence of out of city money on Smith on a percent basis of his donations.

      I did a lot more than this level of analysis before, as I looked at corporations, unions, pacs, where they were located, etc. back in March. I could slice the data up any way you'd like, as that's my profession. I'm not posting the earlier analysis since it's probably slightly out of date, and I'll supplement the analysis some more over the weekend.

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        I happen to be one of those "out of city money" donors. There are plenty of us in surrounding areas who are giving because what happens in Portland affects our cities as well. And we want to see the best person in City Hall since when Portland does well, so do we.

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      And somehow the numbers add up to more than I earned as a staffer there? Grassroots campaign = less pay. Just so no one thinks I was raking in the big bucks...

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