PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) — Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler’s reelection campaign is being sued by mayoral candidate Sarah Iannarone and others who say almost $175,000 his campaign accepted in large donations should be deemed illegal.
City elections officials had ruled that the donations were allowed under a court ruling in effect until last week, The Oregonian/OregonLive reported.
The campaign donations the lawsuit challenges were above a $500-per-donor limit approved by Portland voters in 2018. Similar rules also were approved by Multnomah County voters.
Both the $500 limits were deemed unconstitutional by a Multnomah County Circuit Court judge under decades-old precedents of the Oregon Supreme Court, which ruled that campaign donations are free speech protected under Oregon’s constitution.
But last week the Supreme Court ruled that the county contribution limits don’t violate Oregonians’ right to free speech. The Oregon Court of Appeals overturned the lower court judge’s ruling Tuesday in the Portland case.
Portland election officials say they’ll enforce the $500-per-donor limit starting Monday but won’t retroactively enforce the cap.
Jason Kafoury, an attorney representing two of the plaintiffs, said he believes the Oregon Supreme Court ruling makes the Multnomah County and Portland limits valid “from the start.”
In the lawsuit, the plaintiffs ask to have Wheeler’s campaign fined and ask that a judge rule quickly because the May 19 primary is coming.
Gregory McKelvey, Iannarone’s campaign director, said in a statement that the lawsuit is meant to “ensure a level playing field for all, as was the will of the voters.”
Lorien Sekora, a Wheeler campaign spokesperson, called the timing of the lawsuit “purely political,” and said it has no merit.
On Friday, Wheeler said his campaign would limit contributions going forward to $500 overall and called on state lawmakers to establish uniform campaign contribution rules in 2021.