The campaign against an initiative that would make it more difficult for Oregon lawmakers to trim tax breaks could be fined as much as $11,900 for campaign finance violations, according to the secretary of state’s office.
The potential penalty is steep because the transactions by the Vote No on (Measure) 104 political action committee were so large: a $250,000 contribution from the Oregon Education Association, followed by transfers of $70,000 and $100,000 respectively to the political nonprofit Our Oregon and its political action committee Defend Oregon.
Becca Uherbelau, executive director of Our Oregon, is also director of the Vote No on 104 political action committee.
Although the transactions took place Aug. 13 and Aug. 15, the Vote No on 104 political action committee hadn’t reported any contributions or expenditures as of Thursday, according to an elections complaint filed by Paul Rainey. That’s well past the 30-day deadline to disclose such transactions to the state. Rainey previously worked as the caucus administrator for Oregon Senate Republicans and still works on Republican campaigns.
The contributions and expenditures at issue in the secretary of state’s potential penalties are the only transactions so far received or given by the anti-Measure 104 political action committee.
Katherine Driessen, communications director for Our Oregon and Defend Oregon, said the bookkeeping firm they use, C&E Systems, made a mistake. Driessen shared an email from C&E Systems President Jef Green to Our Oregon, in which Green took responsibility for the late filings and the potential penalty.
“Without getting too technical, when we set up the database for the No on 104 database (sic) we didn’t enter the proper election day and as a result our software systems that reminds us to file transactions did not flag the pending transactions,” Green wrote. “I take full responsibility for the late filings and the proposed penalty.”
So far, the political action committee supporting Measure 104 has reported raising roughly $230,000 and spending $151,000 this year, according to state campaign finance records.
Defend Oregon has been recording quite detailed expenditures with the state. They show Ben Unger, the former director of Our Oregon who led the unsuccessful campaign to pass Measure 97 two years ago, was in Oregon in July.
Unger, whose sister Melissa Unger is head of SEIU 503, quit and moved to Atlanta earlier this year. Defend Oregon paid $449 for Unger to stay at McMenamin’s Crystal Hotel in downtown Portland in late July, plus $2,073 to cover other unspecified costs he incurred, according to campaign finance disclosures.
Driessen said Unger is working on campaigns against Measures 103 and 104. “He is a consultant for us on the campaigns,” Driessen said.