There's $2 million we'll never get back

When I looked the other day to see how much money the taxpayers of Portland have poured into Sarah Iannarone's failed mayoral campaign, my jaw dropped. Well over half a million dollars!

That is because here in Portland, City Council wannabes have the option of getting the taxpayers to pay the vast majority of the expenses of their campaigns. It used to be called "Clean Money," but when that system turned out to be a colossal embarrassment, they re-jiggered it and now it's "Open and Accountable Elections."

And man, it is one loose slot machine. Look at some of the numbers for this year, culled from the Oregon Secretary of State website, keeping in mind that the final payouts to Iannarone, Mapps, and Eudaly may not be included here:

Omitted from this list are a handful of other, lesser characters who got the city's money in the primaries as well. But even without them, as you can see, we're well over $2 million.

Does this make sense? I hate that there's so much private money sloshing around in politics, but I don't think the solution is making the taxpayers pay instead. The public basically just paid Iannarone half a million dollars to run against Wheeler.

Besides, the City of Portland is not exactly rolling in dough right now. The last I heard, City Hall just set up a $100 million emergency line of credit. We are borrowing money on an emergency basis to pay for politicians' lawn signs. It's crazy.

Not to mention the overhead of running the system. The city's website shows not one but two bright young staffers whose salaries and benefits should also be taken into account. That's got to get us pushing $2.25 million this year.

For what? Carmen, Mingus, and Dan? Do any of those folks look like they would have been corrupted if they had had to go with private fundraising? Do you think they would have had big enough war chests if the city weren't cutting checks to them left and right?

One of the original beneficiaries of "Clean Money," Amanda Fritz, is retiring from the City Council next month. After she gets her gold watch, let's retire public bankrolling of politicians' campaigns with her.


  1. At least it's a big comfort knowing that every cent of this 2 million was spent on a legitimate campaign expense. I'm so grateful there were no creative schemes to funnel funds to friends and relatives. No mysterious consultant fees or life style coaches or eye-popping charges for miscellaneous. And I'm sure none of it was spent renting office space from a friend with an empty garage or any of that. And definitely no kick backs to the candidates to cover their own pesky expenses outside of politics.

    Yes, it's a lot of money but democracy can be very expensive. As a trusting Portlander, I'm just so grateful that it was all completely aboveboard and legit.

  2. While Sarah was running for office, how did she pay her own personal bills? She wasn't working. How much of the $2 million is being pocketed by the candidates themselves?

    1. You can go on Orestar and see who they say was paid, when, and how much.

      The city probably also requires reporting, but I'm not familiar with what they demand disclosure of, or how much of that disclosure is made freely available to the public.

    2. I hate the impact money has on our races enough that I'm a fan of publicly financed elections. Amanda Fritz benefited from the first system, though it was significantly flawed. It's easy to focus on the big dollar recipients, but Rubio, who won her race in the primary, only received $84k. That doesn't mean that we can't improve the system as time goes on, including putting limits on what candidates receive. In light of all the money that went into some races I have seen, $2 million seems like a reasonable amount to pay to increase the field to include those who will not be as clearly beholden to big dollar donors or interests.


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