SD-19: Why is Mary Kremer hiding her donations from Oregon Right to Life? (CORRECTED)

Kari Chisholm FacebookTwitterWebsite

Mary Kremer has failed to report a $2000 donation from Oregon Right to Life, and there's another $2111 in "independent" expenditures for her from ORTL. What are they hiding?

Update, 2:10 p.m.: This post has been corrected to reflect the difference between in-kind and independent expenditures.

In Senate District 19, there's a spirited Republican primary for the right to face off against Senator Richard Devlin. The two GOPers are Steve Griffith and Mary Kremer. Griffith is a former chair of the Portland School Board and board member at OLCV - and ran in 2008 for the state house against Chris Garrett. Mary Kremer is a former investment banker and spouse of Rob Kremer - the right-wing nutter who's best known for his charter school boosterism.

Kremer is definitely the choice of the Senate GOP leadership - and has reported lots of very large in-kind contributions from their PAC (The Leadership Fund) for staff salaries, printing, polling, and more.

But Kremer's not reporting any of her large in-kind donations from Oregon Right to Life. If she were, ORTL would be her third-largest donor. [CORRECTION:] But Kremer's failed to report one large $2000 in-kind contribution from Oregon Right to Life. What's she hiding?

How do I know she's not reporting them? Because Oregon Right to Life is reporting the expenditures and labeling them as in-kinds to Kremer. And they're all over seven days old -- well past the deadline for Kremer to report them.

All the gory details on the jump....

Here's the details:

[CORRECTION: those latter three are all independent expenditures, which makes them even more curious. See below.]

That's a total of $4111 $2000, and it would be roughly 12% of all of her contributions (assuming she's not hiding anything else.) Here's one sample of an ORTL mailing on behalf of Kremer (pdf).

Now, some will say - as I often do - that it's better to assume incompetence rather than malice. Sure. Except that a) Mary Kremer is a banker; b) Rob Kremer, who serves as her campaign treasurer, is a veteran campaign operative; and c) she's successfully reporting plenty of other in-kind contributions, so we know that she knows the law. As far as I can tell, it's just the Oregon Right to Life donations that aren't being properly reported.

SD-19 includes Lake Oswego, West Linn, and parts of Wilsonville, Tualatin, and SW Portland. The fact is that in SD-19, even in the Republican primary, there are lots of voters who aren't particularly inclined toward Oregon Right to Life's worldview. If they knew that ORTL was Kremer's third biggest donor, well, that might affect the outcome of the race.

Here's hoping that they're reading BlueOregon.

[UPDATE:] In a state without campaign donation limits, it's unclear to me why anybody would do an "independent" expenditure, but that's how they were filed. I suspect it's precisely so that Kremer wouldn't have to report those donations from Oregon Right to Life.

It's also unclear to me what the coordination rules are in Oregon - if you're combining "independent" expenditures with in-kind contributions. Maybe one of our campaign finance gurus can illuminate a bit.

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    Full disclosure: My firm built the campaign website for Richard Devlin. I speak only for myself.

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    Unfortunately, Steve Griffith has his facts wrong in this case. There is difference between an in-kind and an independent expenditure. If you look at the three links on this post, you will see they are actually independent expenditures and not in-kinds. Independent expenditures are only required to be reported by the party who pays the bill. Furthermore, Mary Kremer’s campaign has 7 days to report any expenditure. This clock would start on the day they know the amount of the contribution. In this case, that would be the day they received the mail.

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    Matt, thanks for the heads up on this.

    You're right that three of the four donations are labeled "independent expenditures". I have no idea why anyone would do IEs when there are no contribution limits - except perhaps to hide the expenditure.

    Nonetheless, you're wrong about the $2000 in-kind. ORTL filed the April 9th transaction on April 13th. At the latest, Kremer would have known about it on the 13th, when it appeared on ORESTAR - and thus she should have filed it no later than the 20th. She's at least nine days late now.

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    Actually, Kari, a lot of grassroots organizations spend money communicating to their members (or simply their mailing lists) information about candidates they are supporting--or opposing--without notifying the campaigns themselves. These are technically independent expenditures even though, as you imply, this distinction is largely irrelevant for non-federal races.

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      Hmmm...I'm a little confused on this maybe Jack can answer.

      If ORTL did a communication to their members about a candidate--without the candidate's knowledge or without any assistance from the campaign, that would be independent expenditure..and not an "in-kind", right? "In-kind" is an actual contribution to the campaign, as I understand it. It usually comes in the form of goods and services donated.

      It seems to me that there's a bright line difference between "in-kind" and "independent" expenditures. But perhaps I've been misinformed. I'd be grateful for a more complete explanation whether it be here from Jack or some other knowledgeable person.

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        Janice Thompson here with Common Cause Oregon.

        Communications to members aren't counted as a campaign contribution, as long as it is just going to members.

        An in-kind contribution is coordinated with a candidate.

        An independent expenditure is not coordinated with a candidate.

        Independent expenditures made by a political committee are reported in ORESTAR. Independent expenditures by a non-PAC entity (an individual or a business or political nonprofit) are reported but not in ORESTAR.

        Independent expenditures are not common in Oregon because there aren't limits on direct contributions to candidates but they do occur. One example were negative IEs targeting moderate Republicans produced by Gregg Clapper, often with funds provided by Loren Parks. Some would probably say that these were more negative than the candidate who presumably was intended as the beneficiary would have wanted linked to his campaign. Another example, is an OLCV mailing in support of a judicial candidate. Presumably they were sending this to environmentally minded voters for whom OLCV was a good messenger.

        But overall, independent expenditures aren't common in Oregon politics.

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          Thanks, Janice! Very helpful.

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          The only thing I would add to what Janice has written is that some PACs, in an overabundance of caution and also to demonstrate to their donors what they are doing with their money, report things as independent expenditures that technically may not be campaign expenditures at all (i.e., information to members) because there is no downside to over-reporting, as opposed to under-reporting.

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