Democrats in Southern Oregon Rejected Contributions From Significant Political Donors

Oregon Rejected Contributions: Ashland’s lone Democrat in the state senate, Jeff Golden, has been a vociferous advocate for limiting campaign contributions but has so far been unsuccessful in enacting such a measure despite the Democrats’ control of both chambers of the legislature.

Democrats in Southern Oregon Rejected Contributions From Significant Political Donors

According to an interview Golden gave to Jefferson Public Radio this fall, he has made it a point to refuse campaign contributions from lobbyists and special interests for the past two election cycles. Because of Golden’s stance, his Republican opponent, Medford Mayor Randy Sparacino, was able to outspend him by a considerable margin during the election.

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State campaign finance reports show that this year, Golden raised $233,000 and spent $216,000. About $1.1 million was collected and disbursed by Sparacino.

While those numbers were interesting, they did not reveal the full extent of political expenditure in Oregon’s Senate District 3 contest. Southern Oregon Priorities, a PAC supported by Senate Democrats and public employee unions, has spent more on pro-Golden advertisements than Golden’s campaign has so far this year.

Campaign finance records from the state show that Southern Oregon Priorities spent a total of $266,000 on efforts to reelect Golden this year. Jared Mason-Gere, a former lobbyist for the Oregon Education Association statewide teachers union who now works for the Washington teachers union, is named as the PAC’s director on LinkedIn.

Golden’s reelection earlier this month was aided by the political action committee to the tune of 3.9%.

In 2014, the same political action organization spent $482,000 to help Golden defeat moderate Republican candidate Jessica Gomez.

Democrats in Southern Oregon Rejected Contributions From Significant Political Donors
Democrats in Southern Oregon Rejected Contributions From Significant Political Donors

According to state campaign finance declarations, Golden’s reelection was bolstered by the expenditure of several thousand dollars on advertisements and polls by the statewide teachers union and a political action committee supported primarily by public employee unions. In addition to the $60,000 spent by Oregon Right to Life and other pro-life organizations, Sparacino received at least $30,000 in independent expenditures.

On Wednesday, Golden voiced his dissatisfaction with the independent spending that was used to help elect and re-elect him.

No matter what I did, Golden added, “the upstate folks just kept throwing money at the race.” Four years ago, “they spent a lot.”

According to Golden, “that was incredibly annoying.” I’ve expressed my disapproval of this activity multiple times.

After Golden voiced his displeasure to his colleagues Democrats this year, he claimed that the party “throttled significantly back” its expenditure on television advertisements. Political contributors and PAC employees’ stated spending in the state’s campaign finance database has come under fire from Golden, who claims the numbers are inflated compared to the amount of advertising he has seen in his own race.

Golden advised caution, saying, “They best check their receipts.” It’s my contention that you can succeed without their money, and some upstate persons with a vested interest in the status quo would like to discredit that claim.

While good government advocates are trying again to get their reform proposals on the ballot in 2024, Golden said his experience shows the need for campaign contribution limits and better donor disclosure requirements for political ads, which he expects Democrats to prioritize in the 2023 legislative session. Many lawmakers and their political friends may not support the advocates’ recommendations because they would impose stricter donation limits and disclosure standards than they would like.

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Because of a “mismatch in resources” between Golden and his Republican opponents, Southern Oregon Priorities PAC relied heavily on donations from the Senate Democratic Leadership Fund, whose executive director, Oliver Muggli, said the strategy “was necessary for 2018 and it was necessary again this year.”

Republican expenditures “was really high,” Muggli added. We merely needed to make sure voters knew about all of Senator Golden’s hard-fought achievements for the district, and they spent over a million dollars on ads attacking him.

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