Campaign money

The three major candidates for governor in 2022 are raising records amounts of contributions.

The state-sanctioned game of campaign cash "hide-and-seek" for the Nov. 8 election came to an end this week.

Through Sept. 27 it was perfectly legal for campaigns to wait up to 30 days to report contributions and expenditures to the Oregon Secretary of State.

Some campaigns were swift to show how much money they were bringing in, which could be viewed on the ORESTAR website maintained by the state.

Others waited the entire month, a common tactic to keep from tipping off competitors as to how well (or not) fundraising was going.

Starting Sept. 27, the deadline shifted to just seven days. A three-step scheduled meant to ease balancing the books came to an end on Oct. 5. Now all transactions have to be reported within seven days.

The result: Oregon's campaign coffers bulged with an influx of 23 individual contributions of $250,000 or more between Sept. 1 and Oct. 6.

As the campaign reports came in, the website updated the total, with contributions big and small filling in the blanks of dates in the system. Some had been reported earlier. Others were new to the tabulations.

Six contributions topped $1 million.

In all, the secretary of state totaled 22,392 contributions that arrived since Sept. 1.

The list included the $1 given by Portland physician Smitha Chadaga to Tina Kotek, the Democratic candidate for governor.

Most of the attention went to the biggest of the big numbers. including the financial switcheroo by Nike co-founder Phil Knight.

The Beaverton billionaire's largest donation was $2 million on Sept. 1 to Betsy Johnson, the unaffiliated candidate for governor.

But his latest drop was $1 million on Oct. 6 to Christine Drazan, the Republican nominee for governor.

Added to earlier contributions, Knight has given $4.75 million to candidates for governor running against Kotek, the Democrat.

Johnson has counted on the cash from Knight to help offset the kind of contributions that made up the other four largest donations:

Drazan received new $1.5 million and $1 million chunks of cash from the Republican Governors Association. Total to date: $4,083,749

Kotek was given new $1.25 million, $1 million and $750,000 donations by the Democratic Governor's Association. Total to date: $4,879,029.

The latest donations come as two new polls and some national election forecasters are showing Drazan and Kotek in a dead heat. Johnson trails in third place.

Every remaining day in the campaign will set a new record for the most expensive election for public office in Oregon history. 

The 2022 trio of governor candidates blew past the old record of $40 million earlier this week. It was set in 2018 when Gov. Kate Brown defeated former Rep. Knute Buehler, R-Bend.

Brown couldn't seek seek re-election this year because of term limits.  Democrats have won every election for governor since 1986.

As of Friday, the 2022 governor's race gusher has topped $45 million.

That doesn't include much of the third-party "dark money" ads that seem to populate every moment between YouTube videos.   

Despite the crushing competition, a few contributions to other races have been big enough to tally among the top givers. 

But even then, the list starts, again, with Knight.

His Nike sportwear brand has built his $34.5 billion fortune (as of Friday). He's Oregon's richest resident and ranks as the 29th richest person in the world, according to the Bloomberg Billionaire's Index.

Knight gave $1 million to Bring Balance to Salem, the PAC seeking to defeat Democrats running for the legislature. Knight handed over the money on Aug. 29. As allowed by law, the contribution wasn't reported until 11:59 p.m. on Sept. 28.

Added to an earlier $1 million contribution, Knight has now given a total of $2 million to Bring Balance to Salem. The PAC's campaign consultant is a firm co-owned by former U.S. Rep. Greg Walden, R-Hood River.

The Bring Balance to Salem PAC gave $500,000 to The Leadership Fund, which backs Republicans running for the Oregon Senate. It's controlled by Senate Minority Leader Tim Knopp, R-Bend.

Knopp's job in addition to the Senate is as executive vice president of the Central Oregon Builders Association. Timber and construction interests have been a major bankroller of the Bring Balance to Salem PAC.

In a large act of role reversal, Kotek contributed $350,000 of her campaign fund money to the Democratic Party of Oregon. It's one of the main political action committees and groups aiding Democrats running for congressional and legislative office in Oregon.

With three open congressional seats and several competitive legislative races, some candidates "down ballot" from the governor's race are struggling to pay their campaign bills with the election just a month away.

The campaign finance rules govern most, but not all, political races in Oregon. Rules for campaign contributions to U.S. House and U.S. Senate races in 2022 are handled by more restrictive guidelines enforced by the Federal Elections Commission. So are early campaign contributions to PACs involved in the 2024 presidential campaigns.

Quarterly campaign finance activity counted by the FEC ended on Sept. 30. Reports of how much money came in and went out are due by Oct. 15.

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