City Council Candidate AJ McCreary Paid 15-Year-Old Son $3,200 From Her Campaign Funds

Payment to a family member raises questions about the candidate’s use of publicly funded campaign dollars.

AJ McCreary, a City Council candidate running against incumbent Commissioner Dan Ryan, paid her 15-year-old son $3,200 in campaign funds on May 4 for “management services,” according to a filing with the Oregon secretary of state.

McCreary, a first-time candidate who runs the Equitable Giving Circle, a Portland nonprofit, is participating in the city’s small donor elections program, which was designed to get big money out of city races. Using taxpayer money, the city matches donations for qualifying candidates at a 9-to-1 ratio up to the first $20, meaning that a $10 contribution turns into a $100 contribution. Individual contributions are capped at $250.

Candidates paying relatives for services is not prohibited by campaign finance law in Oregon. But a candidate paying her child, and especially one who is 15 years old, raises questions about the appropriate use of taxpayer dollars.

McCreary’s campaign has raised $132,000 so far ($93,816 of it in city matching funds) and has spent $122,000 of it. She is running on a platform to end all homeless camp sweeps and reroute Portland Police Bureau dollars to non-police alternatives. She’s Ryan’s leading challenger.

LaQuisha Minnieweather, McCreary’s new campaign manager, told WW on the phone this afternoon that McCreary’s son is a paid campaign staffer. “AJ is really big on paying people for the work that they do, and her son is no exception to that,” Minnieweather said. McCreary also denied any wrongdoing.

McCreary’s website credits her son for its creation.

This isn’t the first instance of a City Hall candidate paying her child. In 2006, City Council candidate Emilie Boyles single-handedly discredited Portland’s first foray into publicly financed elections. Among her offenses: paying her 16-year-old daughter $15,000 for Internet marketing.

Update, 10:42 am Tuesday, May 10: The city’s small donor elections program does not allow candidates to pay relatives, according to Susan Mottet, director of the small donor elections program at the city. Candidates can use private contributions to pay family members.

However, state law requires that campaigns only have one bank account, meaning that private and public funds aren’t divided into two separate accounts. That means that campaigns pool all funds into one account. The city does not require campaigns, when they report expenditures to the city, to say whether it paid with private or public dollars.

Mottet says the city does not know how much in private funds McCreary had available on May 4, when she paid her son.