Nike Spent More Than $900,000 to Beat Metro’s Multibillion-Dollar Transportation Tax

Alone among the many tax measures on last week’s ballot, Metro’s measure went down to defeat.

Tilikum Crossing. (Brian Burk)

As late campaign finance filings trickle in for the Nov. 3 election, evidence of Nike's role in defeating the $4 billion Metro transportation tax, Measure 26-218, continues to grow.

In the final weeks before the election, campaigns have up to seven days to disclose contributions and expenditures. Over the weekend, additional in-kind expenditures from Nike hit the secretary of state's online reporting system, bringing the company's total spending to $914,000. That's a little more than a third of the $2.66 million that the Stop the Metro Wage Tax has reported raising.

Nike spokesman Greg Rossiter said the stakes were high for the sportswear giant.

"Nike has its global headquarters and thousands of employees in the Portland area," Rossiter said in a statement.

He noted that Nike is more often on the "yes" side of campaigns.

"We have a long track record of successfully working with elected leaders and community members to support levies and bonds for essential public services, including schools, parks and libraries," Rossiter said. "Nike is often one of the largest business contributors and a strategic partner to these efforts. The 2018 Washington County library campaign and the 2020 Portland Parks & Recreation levy, the Portland Public Schools bond and the Multnomah County libraries bond measure are recent examples of our support for ballot initiatives in our home community."

The "no" campaign, the Stop the Metro Wage Tax PAC, still has an outstanding deficit of $531,000—meaning it spent more on ads than donors provided—so it's possible Nike is not yet finished giving.

The "yes" campaign, Let's Get Moving, raised $1.17 million, and still shows $149,000 cash on hand.

In an election that saw Multnomah County voters approve new funding for Portland Public Schools, the Multnomah County Library system, preschool for all and Portland Parks & Recreation, not to mention a statewide cigarette tax increase, the Metro measure, which would have built a new MAX line from Portland to Bridgeport Village and invested in 17 transportation corridors around the region, failed by 54% to 46% in Multnomah County and 58% to 42% across the three-county Metro region.

Metro Council President Lynn Peterson was undaunted by the defeat.

"An incredible amount of community work, over the course of years, went into shaping the projects and programs in this measure," Peterson said in a statement after the measure failed. "This work remains invaluable. We are not giving up on it. We need to move forward as a region. We're going to keep growing. Safe, reliable transportation remains a regional challenge that we must address together—doing nothing is not an option."

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