SALEM, Ore. -- Oregonians have found Measure 107 on their ballots, an item designed to amend the state's constitution to explicitly allow for campaign finance regulations.
According to Oregon State University political expert Christopher Stout, Oregon is one of just a few states that don't have campaign spending and contribution limits.
“There’s been an increase in spending across the nation in campaigns and elections. And the fact that there’s no limit means that Oregon is ripe for outside spending," he said. “Just one or two individuals can have an outsized say in the electoral process.”
The Oregon Supreme Court has ruled that the state's constitution doesn't allow for limits on political campaign expenditures and donations as well as regulations requiring spending and advertisement disclosures. If passed, Measure 107 would amend the state constitution to explicitly allow legislators to regulate campaign finance.
Supporters believe that regulating campaign finance would be more fair for working Oregonians and minorities, who typically make smaller donations and whose campaigns may have difficulties attracting big-dollar donors.
"It's not fair when one person is able to speak in the same room with a giant megaphone that is able to speak over everyone else," said Yes for Fair and Honest Elections campaign manager Sonny Mehta. "That is fundamentally unfair and infringes on other people’s free speech rights.”
While the measure has largely garnered bipartisan support, opponents include Libertarian candidate for Oregon Secretary of State Kyle Markley, who fears limits on political speech.
“It strips from the Oregon constitution all of the protections that go above and beyond what the first amendment already requires.," he said. "If you want to hire a speechwriter or print out some handbills or put an ad on TV, that money is spent for the purpose of political expression. Without that money, the expression couldn’t take place.”
Markley said that third-party candidates such as himself sometimes rely on big-dollar donors, and finance regulations could lead to a less diverse marketplace of ideas.
“I look at these attempts to regulate campaign finance, and I view it frankly as censorship," he said.
According to officials, the measure would not have a financial impact on state or local government.
The state doesn't currently have any codified campaign finance regulations. If Measure 107 passes, it will be up to legislators to decide if and when they want to seek out reform.