People for Portland’s First Lobbying Report to City Hall Shows Half a Million Dollars Spent in Three Months

The auditor’s quarterly reports have never shown a larger number.

Pink Martini sing-along in pioneer square as part of Portland's 'reopening' in July. (Chris Nesseth)

The quarterly City Hall lobbying reports released today by Auditor Mary Hull Caballero contain a long list of pretty routine expenditures by companies and groups with business in front of the Portland City Council—and one outlier: People for Portland.

That group, which formed over the summer to pressure elected officials to move with more urgency on homelessness, crime, litter and other livability issues disclosed spending $561,747 in the three months ending Sept. 30.

“I can’t off the top of my head remember anybody who spent that amount of money in a quarter,” Hull Caballero tells WW.

To put that amount in perspective, Uber Technologies spent about $63,000 in the first two quarters of 2015 lobbying City Hall in the run-up to the City Council vote legalizing the ride sharing service here.

Uber’s lobbying reports for that time show dozens of meetings with elected officials and City Hall staff, whereas the People for Portland lobbying report shows only a couple such meetings.

The difference: People for Portland has been talking directly to the public with television ads and a series of professionally produced videos featuring city residents expressing their dissatisfaction with the state of the city.

As WW reported earlier, the group told prospective donors it expected to work with an initial budget of $1.5 million.

Related: A Presentation for Donors Reveals Some of People for Portland’s Secrets

The sources of People for Portland’s money, however, remain largely a mystery. The group is organized as a 501(c)(4) nonprofit, a designation that allows it to raise and spend money without disclosing its donors. The Oregonian reported earlier that Columbia Sportswear CEO Tim Boyle and Harsch Investment Real Estate CEO Jordan Schnitzer acknowledged giving money to the group, but otherwise the identities of its backers remain a secret.

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