The 2022 election campaign received a jolt of political adrenaline on Monday as former New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof reported over $1 million in contributions for his bid for Oregon governor.
The report filed exactly one year before the Nov. 8, 2022 general election catapulted Kristof to the front of the race for campaign dollars.
Kristof's "Nick for Oregon" committee raised $1,010,999 from contributions dating to Oct. 15, though he did not announce he was running until Oct. 27.
The campaign reported no expenditures. Under state law, candidates have up to 30 days to report money raised or spent.
Kristof showcased his national reach, with 26 of the 29 largest donations of $10,000 or more coming from out of state. In all, more than 400 of the individual contributions came from outside of Oregon.
The campaign's announcement of the fundraising total focused on in-state money given to Kristof. It noted 2,522 Oregonians in 35 of 36 Oregon counties contributing.
“I am so grateful for this outpouring of support from all over Oregon,” Kristof said. “It’s clear: people from every corner of this state are ready for new leadership.”
Kristof's best-known and financed Democratic rivals are House Speaker Tina Kotek of Portland and Treasurer Tobias Read.
As of Monday, Kotek reported $414,103 in contributions. When added to money she has from her 2020 re-election campaign, she reports $456,887 in current funds.
Read has reported raising $485,886 and has a cash balance of $328,163.
Among Republicans, 2016 governor candidate Bud Pierce of Salem has reported raising the most money. The Salem oncologist took in $748,040 this year including $340,000 of his own money. He reports $203,529 in the bank.
Sen. Betsy Johnson, D-Scappoose, has announced she will run as an independent. She has to submit 23,750 valid signatures to go directly to the November ballot. Johnson reports raising $65,850 this year and has $522,605 in the bank from previous campaigns.
Read, Kotek, Johnson, Pierce and several other candidates have been actively fundraising this year.
As of Monday, 17 candidates have filed to run in the May 17 primary next year. Pierce is the only one of the top fundraisers to have officially turned in the paperwork to run. Candidates have until March 8, 2022 to file.
A separate filing allows a candidate to raise and spend money by registering a new campaign finance committee with the secretary of state or amending an existing one.
As of Monday, 23 candidates have active fundraising committees registered for the 2022 governor's race.
Kristof's report was topped by a trio of $50,000 contributions from out of state:
• Melinda French Gates of Kirkland, Washington, philanthropist and the ex-wife of Microsoft founder Bill Gates. She is a former Microsoft manager who Forbes estimates has personal wealth of $6.3 billion following her August divorce from Bill Gates. Forbes ranked her as the 158th richest person in the United States. Bill Gates ranks fourth with an estimated at $134 billion.
• David Cohen, a Charlotte, N.C. venture capitalist. A former Goldman Sachs executive, Cohen is owner of Simcah investment fund, and co-founder of Enza Capital, which focuses on early stage investments in Africa. Kristof wrote in 2019 of having lunch with the fellow former Rhodes Scholar to plan a charity campaign. He's given donations up to $500,000 to Democratic and climate action PACs.
• Thomas Bernthal, the Los Angeles-based CEO of Kelton Global, a strategic marketing firm. A former NBC News producer and Clinton White House staffer, Bernthal has worked on branding with major corporations, including Nike, Facebook, Google, Amazon and General Electric. He's engaged to Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg and is the brother of "The Punisher" actor Jon Bernthal.
The three Oregonians giving $10,000 were:
• Glen Van Peski, chairman of Gossamer Gear in Bend.
• Audra King, Eugene. Listed as "not employed," state documents show her as having the same address and being in business with Justin King. Justin King is the national sales director of his family's winery, King Estates. He's also contributed photos from Iraq and Haiti to the BBC, and is a musician whose 2018 album "Vines" includes the song "For Audra."
Among those contributing at least $10,000 was the trust of actress Angelina Jolie, of Los Angeles.
Under Oregon's expansive freedom of speech guarantees in the state constitution, anyone or anything can give unlimited money.
Attempts to curb contributions have been struck down by the Oregon Supreme Court. Voters in 2020 approved a constitutional amendment that would allow for limits on political giving. The ballot measure left specific amounts for state lawmakers to decide. An attempt to fill in the blanks with specific dollar amounts stalled during the Legislature's 2021 session.
The 2018 campaign for governor set a state record with incumbent Gov. Kate Brown and challenger Knute Buehler, R-Bend, raising just under $40 million in direct contributions to their campaigns.