Campaign Finance Reform – Oregon

Date: 1 Dec 2008 | posted in: governance | 0 Facebooktwitterredditmail

Oregon’s 1994 Ballot Measure 6 amended the state constitution to allow candidates to”use or direct only contributions which originate from individuals who at the time of their donation were residents of the electoral district of the public office sought by the candidate.” (Oregon Constitution Art. II, § 22) It imposed a 10 percent cap on the total amount of money a candidate could accept from contributors residing outside the district.

In August 1998 the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals struck down the Oregon ballot initiative in a 2-1 decision(VanNatta v. Keisling, 151 F.3d 1215 9th Cir.1998).

TheState of Oregon asserted two state interests: preventing the appearance of corruption and ensuring a republican form of government as justifications for the out-of-district ban. The court accepted deterrence of corruption as a legitimate state interest, but denied that republican government entailed a right to limit out-of-state contributions. “The right to a republican form of government has never before been recognized as a sufficiently important state interest,” wrote Judge Warren Ferguson The state could restrict out-of-district residents’ right to vote in the district, the court held, but could not restrict such residents’ right to express themselves about the election, including by contributing money.

The court recognized the state’s interest in combating corruption,but found that the Oregon measure was not closely enough drawn to withstand constitutional scrutiny. The measure banned all out-of-district contributions “regardless of size or any other factor that would tend to indicate corruption.” Further, the state had not adequately demonstrated that out-of-district contributions, as opposed to in-district contributions, led to corruption.