Polishing the turd

One of the worst ideas ever to come out of Portland City Hall has become quite a fixture. I'm talking about the practice of having the taxpayers pay for the local politicians' election campaigns. At first they called it "clean money," then it was "voter-owned elections," now it's the "small donor program" or some such euphemism. The City Council heads will be bobbling today while they natter on and on about how to change it, yet again.

When, in ancient times, then-City Councilman Erik "Opie" Sten first inflicted this goofball concept on the populace, only to have it immediately rocked by a scandal wrought by one Emilie Boyles, my main objection was that "clean money" was a fraud magnet and a waste of funds. But now that we've seen this deal in action for 17 years, my opinion of it has changed. It not just a fraud magnet and a waste of funds. It's actually inflicting harm.

Ask yourself, have the free campaign handouts brought us better leadership? Is the city better off now than it was when the campaigns were all financed by "dirty money"? In fact, I'd say the leadership has gotten worse, a lot worse. And the city's not been in this bad a shape in at least 50 years. Meanwhile, even know-nothings, with zero chance of winning an election, can have a nice bankroll to play with, courtesy of you and me.

Last year, we also had the extremely awkward scene in which the bureaucrats, who answer to the incumbents, tried to impose a huge penalty on a challenger for supposed violations of the program rules. That got thrown out on appeal, and so now, of course, they want to "improve" the appeal process.

And remember, from here on out we're going to have 12 council races, plus the mayor's, instead of just five. And they're talking about jacking up the council members' salaries, which will attract even more rejects and nutty characters to the pack of wannabes. That's gonna mean a lot of tacky mailers for Grandma Homeowner on fixed income to be paying for.

Mottet said her office will need extra money to cover matching costs for the unusually expansive November election.

The Small Donor Elections program receives a $1.4 million budget annually to run and fund the program. Thanks to unspent funds from the 2022 election cycle and past budget cycles, Mottet said she will have just under $6 million headed into the November 2024 campaign season.

Mottet told OPB that her office estimates needing about $4 million more to fully match funds in 2024 and cover operating expenses.

But you know, those are really minor details compared to the main truth, which is that public campaign financing hasn't gotten Portland better leadership. In fact, Portland is the poster child for quite the opposite. If you can't raise "dirty" money to run for office, then you're not a good politician, and you're probably not going to be a good council member.  

Rather than try for the umpteenth time to fix "clean money," they ought to just get rid of it. But around here (say it with me), nothing succeeds like failure.


  1. And virtually ALL of the idiot bobble heads now in charge of literally billions of taxpayer dollars have never had 2 nickels to run together and have NO idea of how to effectively manage the money or the personnel that spend (fritter it away) those funds.
    I try not to think about it because this makes me frustrated and angry.
    Fortunately I’m old, have no children and I’m leaving my leavings to charities that understand money management.

  2. You remark above that "the leadership has gotten worse." That misses the point.....it has failed miserably to attract "leadership".....rather the money attracts incompetent grifters who have no business in City government.....sillies looking for a handout. Talk about good money after bad! Sheesh!

  3. Not sure why. But, this reminds me of the conversations that occurred when NPR was being promoted.


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