In the runoff for an open seat on Portland City Council, Multnomah County Commissioner Loretta Smith has raised roughly $210,000 more than her opponent, former legislator Jo Ann Hardesty.
But Hardesty has raised more from small donors, according an analysis by the backers of a measure that would limit donations to no more than $500 from individuals and prohibit corporate contributions.
About 66 percent of Hardesty's donations comes from small donations of $500 or less. Just 18 percent of Smith's money comes from those donations, according to the analysis prepared by the backers of the "Honest Elections" measure.
If the proposed fundraising caps existed, Hardesty might have a leg up on her competitor. She has raised double what Smith has in $500 donations or less, according to the analysis by the backers of Measure 26-200.
"Voters have a choice in November between supporting someone who's focused on small donor and grassroots organizing and someone who has taken $1000, $5000, $10,000 checks," says Jason Kafoury, a Hardesty supporter who is also campaigning for the campaign finance caps.
In a sharp contrast, Smith has raised 43 percent of her funds from donations of $5,000 or more. Only 17 percent of Hardesty's donations come from donations that large.
Big fundraising certainly helps, but it doesn't always win the day in Portland. Smith also led Hardesty in fundraising in the six-way primary and finished a distant second.
Hardesty has long been a supporter of campaign finance caps. In a reversal for Smith, she now supports the Portland measure, she told WW in an endorsement interview last week. (Previously, she has said caps hurt women and people of color trying to break into politics.)
Her new position was welcomed by supporters of the measure, but they did not back off the criticism of the way she's raising money.
"If she supports our ballot measure, she's not campaigning like she does," says Kafoury.
Smith says in a statement she helped with campaign-finance reform at Multnomah County, saying the county should assist the backers of the measure after a challenge to the measure was filed in court.
"Last year I was the first Commissioner to argue that the County Attorney should actively defend the campaign finance initiative," says Smith in a statement. "I felt strongly that we needed to defend the voice of the people. Should a new campaign finance law go into place, I will absolutely abide by it."
Even that claim is contested. Kafoury says it was County Commissioner Sharon Meieran who has consistently championed the campaign finance caps at the county.
Meieran would only say that she did not remember Smith as the first commissioner to back going to courts to defend the measure.
"No, that is not my recollection of how that went down," Meieran tells WW.