Grow Oregon, a secretive business-backed advocacy group that has ambitions of being a major player in legislative and statewide races, did not make much of a showing in the Nov. 6 general election.
The group is funded by many of the state's leading companies, such as Nike, PacifiCorp, The Standard, U.S. Bank and Schnitzer Steel. Grow Oregon, a 501(c)4 non-profit founded last year as a counterweight to the union-backed Our Oregon, which has built a formidable get-out-the-vote and advocacy organization.
In January, the Grow Oregon hired Erica Hagedorn, a former top assistant to Salem's pre-eminent business lobbyist, Mark Nelson, to be its executive director. Grow Oregon was established to develop the kind of precisely-targeted voter database that Our Oregon has used so effectively and to support candidates on what it said would be "bi-partisan" basis.
It's hard to know what the group is doing behind the scenes with voter information and targeting because A 501(c)4 does not have to report most of its activity. But Grow Oregon did make some in-kind campaign contributions.
The group gave $12,500 each to three GOP House candidates: incumbent Reps. Matt Wand (R-Troutdale) and Katie Eyre (R-Hillsboro) and challenger Steve Newgard (R-Milwaukie). They all lost.
Grow Oregon also gave to two Democratic House candidates who won easily: Rep. Jeff Barker (D-Aloha) got $1,900 from the group; and newcomer Caddy McKeown, a Democrat from Coos Bay running for an open Oregon House seat, received $5,000.