Broad Coalition Backs Statewide Small Donor Elections Bill

Bill Seeks to Address Growing Voter Concern About Big Money in Politics

Salem, Ore. — Today, Representative Dan Rayfield introduced House Bill 4076, also known as the Small Donor Elections Bill. The policy, which was first introduced in 2017, will ensure every voice matters in Oregon politics by making small donors a more powerful force in elections.

A diverse coalition representing Oregonians from across the state is calling on Representative Rayfield’s colleagues to support the bill, and to pass it in 2018 to address growing voter concern about the role of big money in politics. At a recent hearing before the Senate Rules and Executive Appointments Committee on January 10, community leaders expressed their support for the policy (video).

“Candidates of color and the voices of their communities of color have important solutions to offer that will build a stronger Oregon for all of us,” said Jenny Lee, Advocacy Director with the Coalition of Communities of Color, at the hearing. “Small donor elections will amplify the voices of community members who are not wealthy, and empower candidates without access to a network of wealthy donors but do have the support of their community.”

Under the Small Donor Elections program, candidates for legislative offices are given the option to run without big money by entering into a voluntary alternative to Oregon’s existing campaign finance system. Participating candidates agree to only accept small donations of $250 or less matched six-to-one with limited public funds.

“People who might believe their $10 or $20 donation wouldn’t amount to much in an expensive campaign become excited when their donation is matched on a five or six-to-one basis. Studies have shown that small donor elections have the capacity to get more people volunteering for political campaigns because they can see a pathway to victory,” testified Steve Carter, a volunteer with AARP Oregon.

The Small Donor Elections program will allow candidates to spend more time talking to ordinary constituents rather than raising money from affluent ones.

“With a small donor program, candidates will be able to spend more time talking with ordinary people – working families, young people, low-income folks, and others historically left out of the process – empowering more people to be engaged in our elections, and ultimately strengthening participation in our democracy,” said Courtney Graham at the hearing, Executive Director with the Oregon Bus Project.

The broad, diverse grassroots coalition backing the bill is made up of organizations on the front lines of advancing the interests of Oregon residents including women, people of color, small businesses, and LGBTQ individuals.

Supporters include the League of Women Voters of Oregon, Unite Oregon, Common Cause Oregon, Oregon State Public Interest Research Group, Latino Network, The Bus Project, Coalition of Communities of Color, Western States Center, The Urban League of Portland, AARP of Oregon, Rural Organizing Project, Oregon Chapter Sierra Club, Oregon League of Conservation Voters, Amplify, NAACP Portland Branch, Asian Pacific American Network of Oregon, Basic Rights Oregon, and Every Voice.