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Strike Two for Portland’s Voter Owned Elections

Steve BucksteinQuickPoint!

The Portland City Council, in its collective wisdom, imposed a system of public campaign financing in 2005. The goal was to reduce the impact of large special interest dollars on campaigns for city offices. So how’s that working out?

First, in 2006, Emily Boyles received $145,000 in public funding for her city council run, but ended up owing the money back because of things like paying her 16-year old daughter for “web marketing,” and making advance rent payments for campaign space beyond the primary election. Needless to say, the city is still out most of the cash.

Now, in just the second election cycle since Voter Owned Elections hit the scene, the only viable candidate for Mayor trying to use the system was just ruled ineligible because he inadvertently accepted a large in-kind contribution for a poll taken before he even became a candidate.

Businessman Sho Dozono easily qualified for $161,000 in public funds to run against current commissioner Sam Adams. But Adams and others challenged Dozono’s right to public funding because they claimed the poll contribution violated the rules. City Auditor Gary Blackmer disagreed, but last week a judge interpreted the convoluted rules as disqualifying Dozono, and he’s now scrambling for private donations with the election less than eight weeks away.

Portland voters aren’t scheduled to have their say on this flawed system until 2010. But with Voter Owned Elections racking up a zero for two record already, it may be time to pull the plug early, and put this debacle behind us.

Steve Buckstein is Senior Policy Analyst and Director of the Oregon Economic Opportunity Project and the Government Transparency Project at Cascade Policy Institute.

© 2007, Cascade Policy Institute. All rights reserved. Permission to reprint in whole or in part is hereby granted, provided the author and Cascade Policy Institute are cited. Contact Cascade at (503) 242-0900 to arrange print or broadcast interviews on this topic. For more topics visit the QuickPoint! archive.

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