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Oregon Campaign Finance Tracker: March 2023
Keeping tabs on off-season campaign donations & expenditures
Last month, we were one of the first media outlets in Oregon to notice Northwest Natural Gas Company dumping nearly $1 million into astroturf group “Eugene Residents for Energy Choice.”
In the March 2023 Oregon Campaign Finance Tracker, we can start to see how the group - funded solely by money from NW Natural (hence the astroturf label) - is spending it’s fortune to convince Eugene residents to challenge an ordinance “banning natural gas hookups in new low-rise residential buildings.”
Perhaps unsurprisingly, the gas company-backed “Eugene Residents for Energy Choice” dumped more than $50k in radio ads and media consulting in March 2023 alone. The flood of spending of NW Natural money started (and was much higher) in February, but it seems like they have plenty of their initial $1 million “investment” left to spend.
Salem auto legend steers cash towards extremist candidates
Richard “Dick” Withnell, whose family recently sold their position in the local car sales market, made campaign finance moves in March 2023 with two notable donations:
To anti-transgender and book banning Salem-Keizer School Board candidate Casity Troutt, Withnell handed $1000. Not a huge amount, but the largest individual donation to Troutt to date.
To Oregon Attorney General candidate Will Lathrop, Withnell donated a whopping $25,000 - which also represents the largest donation Republican Lathrop has earned to date. The Attorney General race is on the 2024 electoral calendar in Oregon.
Withnell has a long history of supporting Republican candidates, including ardent proponent of the “Big Lie” State Sen. Kim Thatcher (R-Keizer); prison industry waterboy State Rep. Kevin Mannix (R-Keizer); and just recently in January 2023, Withnell kicked $500 towards Satya Chandragiri - another Republican running to retain his seat as Salem-Keizer School Board Director.
Beverage groups take top spot for March 2023 contributions
Driven largely by huge donations from alcohol & beverage giant Columbia Distributing, a pair of beverage PACs in Oregon collected around $150k in March 2023.
Oregon Beverage PAC and Oregon Soft Drink PAC took in nearly $75k apiece. Here’s how it broke down:
Oregon Beverage PAC: Columbia Distributing - $72,240; Clatsop Distributing Co. - $1,685
Oregon Soft Drink PAC: Columbia Distributing - $37,607; BigFoot Beverages - $20,566; Douglas County Bottling - $9,248; Admiral Beverage Northwest, Inc - $4,790
Addition to the SKP Oregon Campaign Finance Tracker
It’s helpful to highlight the movers & shakers in Oregon Campaign Finance on a month-to-month basis, but it’s also helpful to pull back and look at the larger picture. Specifically:
How much money, in aggregate, is flowing into politics in Oregon on a regular basis.
Political campaigns are cyclical, but how does campaign finance change throughout the year?
How much is spent each month? And how much is raised?
Unfortunately, Oregon’s campaign finance database (ORESTAR) is perhaps the least user-friendly tool on the entire Internet. So it takes time to export and sort through the raw data to present these aggregate views of campaign finance.
With that in mind - the tab labeled “Monthly Totals” on this sheet is a work in progress.
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