Portland Mayor Clarifies: I Will Take Money From Strippers

"We welcome contributions from ANY working person."

Facing criticism for his unsolicited pledge earlier this week to refuse donations from the adult entertainment industry, Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler's reelection campaign this afternoon clarified his position: He will accept campaign contributions from sex workers, including strippers.

"We are not taking donations from the corporate side of the adult entertainment industry," says campaign spokeswoman Amy Rathfelder in an email to WW. "We welcome contributions from ANY working person."

Wheeler's campaign waded into controversy this week when it promised to reject donations from the "adult entertainment" sector. The campaign made that pledge while announcing it would set a cap on campaign donations: $5,000, a number 10 times higher than the one Portland voters approved in 2018. (That $500 contribution cap is held up in the courts.)

While making that announcement, Wheeler's campaign volunteered to reject donations from several industries: "Pharma, oil, coal, firearms, tobacco, and adult entertainment."

That pledge appeared to be intended to blunt criticism of Wheeler accepting large donations. It did not.

Instead, Wheeler's leading challenger Sarah Ianarrone criticized Wheeler as being dismissive of sex workers—and asked every stripper in the city to donate $8.74 to her campaign. (That number is a reference to the 87.4 percent of Portland voters who approved a $500 contribution limit.)

With a long week nearly over, Wheeler's campaign today said it would also accept stripper money—and added that it would seek a bill to protect strippers from wage theft.

Wheeler's campaign says it welcomes "the opportunity to speak with any leader or resident of Portland who wants to engage in a substantive policy discussion with the State of Oregon in crafting legislation that would prevent these workers—and employees in any service industry—from suffering from wage or tip theft, and other mistreatment."

Such reforms have been attempted in Salem before—and resulted in a bitter battle between the affected dancers.