PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) – The committee campaigning against a Portland measure that would change the city’s form of government and the way it’s elected is calling out its opposing committee for accepting large donations from out-of-state contributors.
Vadim Mozyrsky, leader of Partnership for Common Sense Government, the committee that’s opposing Measure 26-228, held a news conference Tuesday where he accused the group that supports the measure of misleading voters.
Among his many complaints against the group Portland United for Change, he said the group has received a major portion of its funding from out-of-state donors.
“We’ve seen time and time again that connected big money donors have tried to influence the outcome of the measure,” he said.
He claims Portland United for Change has amassed close to $300,000 from out-of-state donors.
A search of campaign finance donations on the Oregon Secretary of State’s website shows that Portland United for Change had received a total of $137,164 in out-of-state donations, not $300,000, as of Thursday. This amounts to about 14% of the committee’s total contributions.
To reach that $300,000, Mozyrsky is counting more than $172,000 in contributions from Oregon Ranked Choice Voting Advocates. This political action committee is based in Corvallis, but Mozyrsky argues that most of its funding comes from out-of-state donors.
KOIN 6 News contacted Oregon Ranked Choice Voting Advocates to ask about their donors but did not hear back before the deadline.
So far, Portland United for Change has far out-fundraised Partnership for Common Sense Government.
The pro-Measure 26-228 group had more than $999,000 in contributions as of Thursday while the group opposing the measure had more than $198,000.
Mozyrsky prides himself in the fact that so far, none of the action group’s contributions have come from out-of-state donors.
Portland United for Change’s two major out-of-state donations came from Denver-based Unite America, which gave $50,000, and Maryland-based FairVote Action, which gave $75,000.
While these were significant campaign contributions, Portland United for Change pointed out that it has received comparable donations from local donors, like $100,000 from ACLU Oregon and $40,000 from Northwest Health Foundation.
KOIN 6 News asked Portland United for Change if it was surprised to receive the out-of-state campaign contributions. The group responded by saying it was not and that the out-of-state groups that donated to them have been interested for decades in supporting reforms nationwide.
“Groups like FairVote earnestly want to support our local interest to improve how we are represented in City Hall so that communities of color, women, and working class people have a fairer shot at being well represented in local city politics,” said Damon Motz-Storey, spokesperson for Portland United for Change.
He said these out-of-state PACs are excited about the work Portland has been doing since 2020 to fix its city government, implement ranked choice voting, and create city council districts.
Will Mantell, press secretary of FairVote, said his committee has paid close attention to Portland’s charter reform measure and considers the ranked-choice voting method it would implement “the gold standard.”
“FairVote has advocated for ranked-choice voting nationally for 30 years, and our supporters are excited about the work of Portland’s charter commission and dozens of neighborhood groups, whose years of engagement and coalition-building for better elections are a model for community-driven reform across the nation,” said Rob Richie, president and CEO of FairVote.
Measure 26-228 would do away with Portland’s commission form of government and would instead replace it with a city council form of government. The city would be divided into four city council districts, each with three members — forming a council of 12 people.
The measure also asks Portlanders to adopt proportional ranked-choice voting, also known as single transferable vote.
If it passes, it would make Portland one of only a few dozen cities around the U.S. that uses ranked-choice voting. Mozyrsky feels it’s an experimental voting structure.
Motz-Storey said this is not an experiment and it’s not being driven by out-of-state interests.
“Cities in the U.S. and abroad use these components of governance and the complete package that Measure 26-228 represents,” he said.
He said out-of-state donations have been helpful to the campaign’s efforts, but not essential.