March 7th, 2011 | by NIGEL JAQUISS News | Posted In: Legislature, Politics

Beer Lobbyist Supports Contribution Limits

Oregon State Capitol.Oregon's Capitol Building

Here's a little bit of a man-bites-dog story.

Last week, the Oregon House considered a couple of bills (House Bills 2894 and 2239) that would limit political campaign contributions. Oregon is currently one of only five states that allow unlimited contributions. One of those who offered forceful testimony in favor of limits was Paul Romain, a lobbyist for the Oregon Beer & Wine Distributors Association, among other clients.

That's somewhat counter-intuitive because the Beverage Political Action Committee Romain directs has doled out nearly $600,000 in contributions since Jan. 1, 2007, according to filings with the Oregon Secretary of State. That total makes the group one of Salem's largest concentrated givers.

Here's the written version of testimony Romain offered the House Rules Committee last week:


Testimony From Paul Romain 
Regarding Campaign Contribution Limits
 
Campaign spending is getting way out of hand.  Elections are going to the highest bidder, not necessarily the person with the most effective message.  We are capable of spending as much as anyone in the political arena, so I make these comments in the hope of bringing sanity to the election process.  Without reasonable campaign limits, each election becomes more and more expensive.  The amount necessary to run a successful campaign spirals upward and the small contributor becomes irrelevant.  Pass-through contributions become the norm, and the voter has no real knowledge of just who is supporting or opposing the candidate or measure.  Those of us with large campaign PACs greatly increase our influence over the process. This past election we tried to say “no” to candidates who did not need the money but were simply trying to fund other campaigns.  In order to bring sanity back to the political process there needs to be reasonable limits on how much one entity can contribute to any particular candidate, a ban on any pass-through contributions from other candidates or office-holders (except for reasonable caucus contributions) and very detailed disclosures on who is funding any “independent” campaigns in support or opposition to any candidate or measure.  These comments  are mine alone.  I have not discussed this with any clients. Thanks.
 
Paul Romain

In an interview today, Romain acknowledged that he might seem to be under-cutting a source of Beverage PAC's considerable influence. But Romain says he thinks lawmakers would be willing to consider policy discussions on their merits without the sweetener of large checks. He says he thinks political discourse would be clearer and more honest if there weren't so much money flushing through the system, buying mail and electronic ads of questionable veracity.

"We were effective when we didn’t have a PAC," Romain says. "We think discussions should be based on logical arguments, not who has the most money."

Somewhat unusually for a lobbyist, Romain submitted his comments on his own, rather than as the view of his clients. But he thinks most of the people for whom he works share his view on contributions.

"It's just spiraling out of control," Romain says of political spending. "Where will it end?"

 
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