A former leader of Democrats in the Oregon House of Representatives announced Monday she was suspending her run for the state’s second-highest office as a Portland newspaper prepared to publish an article about her campaign expenditures when she was in the Statehouse.
“Let me be clear, I have always followed Oregon campaign finance laws and fully reported all expenditures for travel and other expenses while fulfilling my responsibilities as House Democratic Majority Leader and fact-finding as a state legislator,” Jennifer Williamson said in an email to supporters and on her campaign website.
The newspaper Willamette Week on Monday published a story about Williamson’s campaign expenditures during the years she served in the House. A four-week examination of Williamson’s expenditures, covering four elections over the past eight years, paints a picture of a politician who does not appear to have broken any laws, but has instead liberally interpreted the limits of campaign spending in ways rarely seen in Oregon, the story said.
The story said William’s expenditures are unusual in the breadth and frequency of her travel; the use of campaign funds to rent Portland office space from her husband’s law firm and a Salem apartment from her niece; and her frequent use of campaign funds for meals and alcohol during legislative sessions when lawmakers receive a per diem allowance.
Williamson assumed office in the House in 2013 and left office on Dec. 30 to focus on her campaign for secretary of state.
“I won’t allow my family to be put through this,” Williamson’s email said in announcing her decision to suspend her campaign for Oregon secretary of state.
From March 2014-August 2019, Williamson’s campaign paid for more than $32,000 in airfare, including trips to Europe, Asia and Hawaii and $24,000 on lodging outside of Oregon, The Oregonian/OregonLive reported, citing Oregon campaign finance records.
Williamson said she often used campaign dollars in place of taxpayer dollars for her travels related to her duties as a lawmaker and legislative leader.
“This election and the issues we face in our democracy right now are much bigger than me. I am unwilling to risk our state’s future progress with this distraction,” she wrote.
Follow Andrew Selsky on Twitter at https://twitter.com/andrewselsky