PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) – The owners of the marijuana business that hired Oregon Secretary of State Shemia Fagan to do consulting work made significant campaign contributions to the secretary – and other Democratic candidates for local, county, and state office – long before their recent troubles landed them in the spotlight.
Ever since March 29, when Willamette Week broke a story about the millions of dollars Aaron Mitchell and Rosa Cazares, the owners of the La Mota marijuana business, owe in state and federal taxes, the couple and their company have appeared in a string of headlines.
On April 27, KOIN 6 News reported the couple had hired Fagan to do consulting work for their company Veriede Holding LLC, an affiliate of the cannabis company La Mota. On that same day, KOIN 6 News reported that Mitchell and Cazares had purchased a property in Southeast Portland and let the home go to ruin – allowing squatters to move in and putting neighbors in danger.
In a media availability Monday, Fagan admitted her consulting job for Veriede Holding LLC was paying her $10,000 a month. Campaign finance records show that between September 2020 and April 2021, Mitchell donated $45,000 to Fagan’s campaign.
After admitting she made a mistake in agreeing to work for Mitchell and Cazares, Fagan said she plans to donate what remains of their campaign contributions and the rest of the money in her political action committee to the Oregon Humane Society.
Fagan resigned on Tuesday, a day after speaking to the press.
KOIN 6 News has discovered that Mitchell, Cazares, their company La Mota and a political action committee run by Cazares called the Progressive Business PAC have collectively donated $70,865 to now Gov. Tina Kotek; more than $21,000 to U.S. Rep. Val Hoyle, who was formerly the Oregon labor commissioner; $2,000 to Multnomah County District Attorney Mike Schmidt; and $1,000 to now Multnomah County Chair Jessica Vega Pederson.
Since the news broke of Fagan’s involvement with Mitchell and Cazares, some elected officials who accepted donations from the couple have issued statements.
Hoyle said, “Seeking campaign donations is not a part of the process I like, but when you have working class people running for office, you can’t just write yourself a check. That means we have to rely on contributions to fund campaigns. We need a different system, which is one reason I support campaign finance reform. I’ve returned all campaign contributions from La Mota owners and won’t be taking any additional funds from them.”
Vega Pederson said, “I am appalled at the allegations made against Mr. Mitchell, and as a resident of the Hazelwood neighborhood I’m outraged at the conditions of his property in my neighborhood. As a result, I am donating each of the $500 campaign contributions from Mr. Mitchell and Ms. Cazares to the Hazelwood Neighborhood Association, and I will do all in my power to ensure that Mr. Mitchell is held accountable.”
Meghan Cavanaugh, Kotek’s former campaign manager said, “The contributions from La Mota were made legally during the course of the campaign for Governor, but in the interest of transparency and reducing any distraction from the work of the people, the Governor has made a contribution in the amount of $75,000 to Oregon Food Bank for food acquisition.”
Schmidt’s office, meanwhile, says the district attorney is donating around $2,000 to the Urban League of Portland.
Below are the donations Mitchell, Cazares, La Mota and the Progressive Business PAC have made to candidates in Oregon.