City Campaign Finance Legal Status
File a Campaign Finance Complaint
On November 6, 2018, voters amended the City of Portland Charter relating to the election of City of Portland candidates (Mayor, Commissioners, Auditor) by requiring contribution and expenditure limits in campaigns as well as requiring disclosures on certain campaign communications, additional registration of expenditures with the Secretary of State, and employee political deductions via payroll.
Campaign Finance General Requirements
Below is a summary of requirements included in the City's campaign finance regulations. For the specific requirements, see Portland City Code Chapter 2.10 and City Charter Chapter 3, Article 3.
In general, the following contribution limits apply to City candidates other than those participating in the City's Small Donor Elections Program (formerly known as Open and Accountable Elections Program or OAE):
|Contributor||Limits within an Election Cycle|
|Political Action Committees (PACs)||$579|
|Small Donor Committees||No Limits|
|Other Entities (e.g., businesses, unions, etc.)||Prohibited from Contributing|
Small Donor Elections Program participants are subject to that program's contribution and expenditure regulations. Participants and those wishing to contribute to such participants should contact that program directly for restrictions and requirements.
In general, communication to voters related to a City of Portland candidate election requires three levels of disclosures:
- Presenter: Disclose the name of the entity or political committee that paid to provide or paid to present the communication.
- Contributors: Disclose the names of those who contributed more than $1,158 to the presenter in the current election cycle.
- Income sources: Using categories provided by the North American Industry Classification System (NAICS), disclose the types of businesses where each listed contributor obtained a majority of income over the last five (5) years.
Additional disclosure information:
- The first level of disclosure applies to any political committee or entity presenting communication to voters related to a City candidate election, not just communication produced by candidates.
- The second and third levels of disclosure apply to any political committee or entity producing communication to voters if the entity or political committee has received or spent at least $1,158 on political advocacy during the election cycle.
- Political advocacy includes funds raised or spent for the purpose of supporting or opposing a candidate, measure, or political party.
- Matching funds provided by the Small Donor Elections Program are not required to be disclosed on communication to voters.
- For audio and video communication, the disclosures must be current to within five business days of transmission. For all other communication, the disclosures must be current to within 10 business days.
- If any of the disclosable contributors is a nonprofit or political committee (excluding Small Donor Committees), disclosures must also include that contributor's top three funders in the current election cycle.
In addition to contribution and disclosure requirements, these regulations also require the following:
- Entities must register with the Oregon Secretary of State as a political committee within three business days of exceeding $762 in independent expenditures; and
- Businesses must allow employees to make contributions to City candidates via payroll deduction if payroll deductions are available for other purposes.
Campaign Finance Frequently Asked Questions
- ARA 13.01 - Purpose, Authority, Construction
- ARA 13.02 - Campaign Finance: Definitions
- ARA 13.03 - Campaign Finance: Complaint Process
- ARA 13.04 - Campaign Finance: Disclosure Requirements
- ARA 13.05 - Campaign Finance: Contribution Limits
- Inflation Chart Appendix for Contribution Limits, Dominant Contributor Threshold, and Threshold for Requiring Certain Disclosures
Please refer to the City's Campaign Finance Legal Status webpage for the most up-to-date information on the legality of the campaign finance regulations.
As required in City Charter, contribution violations are subject to civil penalties of two to 20 times the amount of unlawful contributions. Further, both contributors and candidates are subject to civil penalties.
All other violations are subject to civil penalties of up to $3,000 per violation.
Complaints and Investigations
View Completed Complaint Investigations
In accordance with City Charter Section 3-305(d), the City Elections Office will launch a campaign finance investigation if it becomes aware of a potential violation. Although the Elections Office may self-initiate investigations, it primarily relies on complaints from the public to launch investigations. If you are aware of a candidate, political committee, individual, or any other entity that has violated the City's campaign finance regulations, you may submit a complaint to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Before submitting a complaint, be sure to review:
To view a list of completed investigations, please visit the Elections Office's page on campaign finance complaints.