At the end of June, two of the state's heavyweight trade groups, the Oregon Restaurant Association
and the Oregon Lodging Association
merged into a new group called the Oregon Restaurant & Lodging Association. That's a pretty big deal in political circles because the combined association speaks with one voice for more than 9,000 places that serve food and 2,500 lodging establishments. The association's clients together employ 170,000
Both groups have been politically active before now, particularly the Restaurant Association. That's because the member restaurants rely heavily on Oregon Lottery Commissions and operate on thin margins and are therefore highly sensitive to tax, labor and wage policy matters.
Since January 2008, the Restaurant Association has spent more than $900,000 on political activities, according to state filings; the Lodging Association spent about $130,000. From now on, they will combine their political spending but will operate through two political committees, at least through November, according to the group's lobbyist Bill Perry.
The combined Oregon Restaurant Lodging PAC will give to legislative candiates, while the Mahonia Hall Hospitality PAC will give to all other races. A common board will make decisions for both. Filings this week show that the Mahonia Hall PAC gave GOP gubernatorial candidate Chris Dudley a $40,000 check, on top of earlier gifts of $10,000
. That contribution is generous but not surprising as the two groups have in the past primarily given to Republican candidates and causes.