A list of Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) regarding general questions related to the City of Portland's campaign finance regulations in City candidate elections. While this page includes FAQs, they are not legal advice. For exact language and legal requirements, view Portland City Code and City Charter.
Which provisions of the campaign finance regulations are currently upheld and enforceable?
To find out which specific provisions are currently deemed unconstitutional, visit the Campaign Finance Legal Status update page. For a general overview, see below:
- Upheld under Oregon’s Constitution:
- Communication to voters related to a City election must disclose the sources of the contributions or independent expenditures used to fund the communication. See Code Section 2.10.030.
- Individuals can make campaign contributions via payroll deduction if employers agree to it or offer other such deductions. See Code Section 2.10.010(C).
- Limits on campaign contributions to candidates running in a city election. See Code Section 2.10.010(A) and (B), except for self-funding limitations under City Charter Section 3-301(b)(3).
- Prohibited under Oregon Constitution and U.S. Constitution:
When did the Auditor’s Office begin enforcement of contribution limits?
As a result of court orders in April of 2020, beginning May 4, 2020, the Auditor’s Office has enforced regulations related to contribution limits (outside of the self-funding provision in City Charter Section 3-301(b)(3)).
The City’s enforcement does not include reviews of contribution violations alleged to have occurred before the May 4, 2020 enforcement date.
Do advertisements for ballot measures have the same disclosure requirements as city candidates?
Code Section 2.10 regulates City of Portland candidate elections. Ballot measures, whether qualified by initiative, referendum, or Council-referral, are not subject to disclosure requirements in City Code 2.10.
I saw an advertisement for the governor's election, but the candidate did not disclose the sources that funded the campaign. Will your office investigate?
Code Section 2.10 was passed by Portland voters and only regulates City election races. Candidates running for mayor, auditor, or a city commissioner seat are subject to regulations in Code Section 2.10.
Other elections, such as gubernatorial, congressional, and presidential elections are not subject to the disclosure requirements in City Code 2.10.
I saw an advertisement from a candidate for mayor, but the ad did not list any campaign funders. How should I report this potential violation?
If you believe a candidate is not complying with the campaign disclosure requirements, fill out a complaint form or send an email with all required information to firstname.lastname@example.org. Required information includes: subject of complaint, alleged violation, and any relevant evidence you may have related to the alleged violation. See the Auditor’s Office rule regarding submitting complaints for all information that must be included in complaints.
If the inquiry is a valid complaint, our office will launch an investigation according to the regulation requirements. If necessary, the City Elections Office may contact you for additional information.
Can people submit complaints anonymously?
No. The Auditor’s Office cannot accept complaints submitted anonymously. However, if you want your information to be confidential, please indicate so in your complaint. The Auditor’s Office will keep information confidential to the greatest extent allowed by law. However, some provisions of Oregon public records law may require disclosure of complainant information.
How is this different than other campaign finance regulations that currently exist?
Candidates for City elections must adhere to both state and City campaign finance regulations. Oregon’s Secretary of State is responsible for enforcing statewide campaign regulations, which are primarily disclosure and registration based in the state’s database of transactions, known as the Oregon Elections System for Tracking and Reporting (ORESTAR). In contrast, City regulations are specific to contribution limits and disclosures on certain campaign communications.
To view state election laws or search the public database of campaign finance disclosures, see the links below:
- Search the statewide campaign finance transaction database (ORESTAR)
- State Election Laws
- State Campaign Manuals
Code Section 2.10 (the City’s campaign disclosure, contribution limits, and related regulations for City candidate elections) are additional regulations that only apply to candidates running for Citywide offices: Mayor, Commissioners, and Auditor.
The City also runs a program that provides eligible candidates with matching public funds, called the Small Donor Elections Program (formerly known as Open and Accountable Elections Program or OAE). This voluntary program provides matching public funds to qualified candidates in City elections. The program is separate from the City’s campaign finance regulations and is currently overseen by Commissioner Carmen Rubio's Office.
Who oversees and enforces the City campaign finance regulations?
The City Auditor’s Office oversees and enforces these regulations. The Office investigates complaints and publishes decisions regarding alleged violations.
Are there any administrative rules?
Yes. The City Auditor’s Office has adopted the following administrative rules:
- ARA 13.01 describes the purpose, authority, and construction of the administrative rules.
- ARA 13.02 offers definitions for the campaign finance regulations.
- ARA 13.03 offers details on filing a valid complaint, including treatment of retroactive allegations. The rule also describes investigation processes and clarifies penalties and enforcement criteria for certain violations.
- ARA 13.04 offers additional interpretation on digital media, social media, and other electronic campaign communication disclosures.
- ARA 13.05 aligns the City with state law on when contributions are considered received and clarifies when candidates participating in the City's public funding of elections program are subject to Charter contribution limits.
To view all of the Administrative Rules from the Auditor’s Office, visit the Administrative Rules Page for Campaign Finance in City Elections.
Candidates are prohibited from accepting more than $579 from individuals or committees during an election cycle, and communication to voters must include the top five dominant contributions per election cycle. How does your office calculate election cycles?
For this regulation’s purposes, an election cycle depends on the candidate, but is one of the following:
a) For incumbents: from the date the person was previously elected to the position, according to when the City certified election results, to the date the seat is officially filled, according to certified election results. This may be a four-year period or less, depending on the seat and whether a run-off is required.
b) For other candidates: Candidacy begins from the earliest of the following dates:
- The day the person files to run for office;
- The day the person declares themselves a candidate;
- The day the person begins receiving and accepting contributions toward candidacy; or
- The day the person makes an expenditure for the purposes of securing a nomination or election.
An election cycle ends the date the position is elected, according to when the City certifies election results. This may be from as short as three months to more than a year, depending on the seat, when the person files for office and begins collecting funds, and whether a run-off election is required.
For more on election cycles for recall elections, see Question Four under the City Recall Questions section.
How do I find out who contributed to a particular candidate?
The Oregon Secretary of State maintains the Oregon Elections System for Tracking and Reporting (ORESTAR) database. Effective January 1, 2007, the public can search for specific statements of organization, contributions, expenditures, and campaign finance activities by candidate committees or political committees. For additional guidance on how to search in ORESTAR, see the Secretary of State's latest Campaign Finance Manual or visit the state’s website.
Have additional questions? Please contact the City Elections Office at email@example.com or 503-865-6503.