Clarifying the Governors debate debate: Brown will need to take a position

There is some confusion about how Oregon election laws apply to a Governor Debate. Here is an excerpt from Oregon Revised Statute, Chapter 260.007.

260.007 Exclusions from definitions of “contribution” and “expenditure.” As used in this chapter,“contribute,”“contribution,“expend” or “expenditure” does not include:


     (10) A candidate debate or forum for a
     state office, or a communication publicizing
     a candidate debate or forum for a state office,
     when all major political party candidates
     for the state office have been invited
     to participate in the candidate debate or forum

This law has several unanticipated effects on candidate debates here in Oregon.

First: When a debate sponsor or broadcaster holds a debate and only invites two of the three major party candidates, then that sponsor will need to file a campaign contribution report with the State of Oregon reporting the fair value of the air time, including any promos for the debate, to ORESTAR the State campaign finance reporting system. So if KATU broadcasts a two person debate for two hours and they would normally charge a candidate $100,000 for two hours of air time then they will need to report a $50,000 political contribution to Buehler and a $50,000 political contribution to Brown.

Second: Tthere is nothing preventing a for profit broadcasting corporation from holding a two person debate they just need to be clear to the public that they are making a political contribution to the Democratic and Republican candidates. I don’t know how the journalists involved or the station managers would feel about that perception. Perhaps they’d accept that as a condition of hosting the debates.

Third: Any non profit entities, like Portland State University or – I assume – the City Club of Portland that sponsors a debate is required to invite all three major party candidates. That’s because these organizations are forbidden in most cases from making political contributions. They don’t have the option of a two party debate and making a political campaign contribution to Buehler and Brown

This isn’t really a dispute between the Democratic, Republican and Independent parties. It is a decision that the media, and the Brown campaign have to make. The Buehler campaign has already been in support of three party debates. It will now be up to the Brown campaign and whether it wants to condition her appearance in debates on excluding the Independent Party candidate, and whether media and broadcasters will accept or support that pre-condition.

The IPO has heard from the Buehler campaign. It has not heard from the Brown campaign. The ball is in their court. Will Brown, and perhaps Buehler, use contortions of the law, or straw men, to avoid an Independent candidate from participating in the debates? Will the media outlets decide they’ll just go ahead and file contribution reports – which seems a moral and ethical problem? Perhaps. But I don’t know whether that would be well received by the public or independent voters.

This is getting interesting.


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