Gov. Kate Brown is well-positioned to lead state politics for some time: She won election on Nov. 8 and still has $1.15 million in her campaign account for a 2018 run.
Yet her campaign team is so eager to keep raising money for Brown that they've invited lobbyists to a fundraiser which conflicts with lobbyists' ethical guidelines.
On Nov. 28, Brown's campaign sent out an invitation to lobbyists and other supporters inviting them to a lunch—and to make a contribution for between $500 and $5,000:
"I wanted to extend an invitation for you to join Governor Kate Brown for our 'Tinsel the Town' holiday fundraising luncheon," read the invitation from Brown's finance director Tiernan Donohue. "This intimate luncheon with Governor Brown will take place on Friday, December 16th beginning at 11:30am at the Barrel Room at the Nines Hotel."
Many of the people invited to the event were lobbyists. Most Oregon lobbyists belong to an association called the Capitol Club, which sets out rules for what lobbyists can and cannot do.
One of those rules prohibits giving or promising donations during weeks when the Legislature is in session, in order to avoid the potential appearance that elected officials' decisions might be influenced by such donations.
Here's what the rule says:
"No member [of the Capitol Club], during a session of the Legislative Assembly or during the weeks in which interim committee days are held, shall make or promise to make a campaign contribution to a legislator, to a candidate for legislative or statewide office in Oregon, or to a campaign committee that supports legislative or executive candidates for office in Oregon."
The Legislature is meeting this week for its quarterly interim committee sessions.
Longtime lobbyists were puzzled by the invitation.
"No one has fundraisers during interim committee days week," says one lobbyist who got the invitation and asked for anonymity in order to preserve goodwill with Brown. "They all know our Capitol Club rules tell us it's a no-no to give then. It's shoddy staff work at the campaign level not to have thought of this."
Liz Accola Meunier, a spokeswoman for Brown's campaign, says nobody intended to put lobbyists in a difficult position.
"Our fundraiser this Friday is a Holiday Luncheon for the governor. The invitation list makes no designation to appeal to lobbyists or any other profession. Invitations to the Holiday Luncheon were sent to a wide range of the governor's supporters," Meunier says in an email.
"To the extent that there are rules pertaining to lobbyists, it is our understanding that these are Capitol Club rules. These are rules set by a private organization for its members. The campaign would happily refund any contribution at any donor's request."