Our Oregon, a political nonprofit fronting for a coalition of ultra-liberal agencies and organizations, is the subject of a new complaint alleging it failed to follow the state’s campaign finance disclosure requirements.
The complaint, filed on May 13 with the Oregon Secretary of State’s Office, notes that, “During calendar year 2020 and for many years prior, Our Oregon has operated as a political committee without filing a statement of organization with the Secretary of State as required by (state law).”
Filed by the Oregon office of the Freedom Foundation, a national public policy organization specializing in the abuses of government employee unions, the action explains that Our Oregon’s unregistered political activity “means that millions of dollars spent influencing electoral politics in Oregon remain hidden from public view and permits Our Oregon and its contributors to deceive voters about the extent of their influence in Oregon elections.”
“One incident like this is a mistake,” said Freedom Foundation Oregon Director Jason Dudash. “Two would indicate incompetence. But what we’re talking about here is a pattern of arrogant behavior that clearly indicates Our Oregon doesn’t believe it’s subject to the same disclosure laws everyone else is.
“And given how closely aligned some of the groups in Oregon are with the governor and her allies in Salem,” he said, “I can see why they’d believe that.”
On its 2018 Form 990 filed with the Internal Revenue Service, Our Oregon claims its mission is to “[p]romote economic and social fairness by working in coalition on a broad range of issues and activities in the public arena.”
As Dudash notes, however, the complaint tells a different story. It cites multiple sources that regularly describe the group’s true purpose in more nakedly political terms, including Our Oregon’s own website and job offerings that admit its mission is squarely focused on “advancing progressive ballot measures” and “winning elections.”
The complaint also documents millions of dollars in unreported political contributions that Our Oregon has solicited and received over the past several years.
“Our Oregon can obscure its true objectives with all the flowery language it wants,” Dudash said. “But that doesn’t alter the fact that it was created to be, and functions as, a political action committee.”
Campaign reporting requirements were adopted to remind Oregon voters that, behind political front groups with innocuous-sounding names like “Our Oregon” lurk powerful special interests whose objectives may — or may not — be in the public interest.
And the subterfuge isn’t just for the sake of the general public. Our Oregon is heavily involved with government employee unions like SEIU, AFSCME and the Oregon Education Association — whose leadership doesn’t want its own members to know how many of their dues dollars are spent playing partisan politics rather than advocating for better wages, benefits and working conditions.
“Oregon’s public disclosure laws are as clear as the reason they were adopted,” Dudash said. “And so is the fact that Our Oregon has been violating them with impunity. The question is whether the state is going to apply them fairly or continue with its double standard.”