Oregon Senate Passes Bill Banning Politicians From Accepting More Than $100 a Year in Cash From One Donor

The impending law is a result of WW’s reporting on tens of thousands in political contributions made to top Democrats in stacks of cash by the owners of La Mota.

VIBE SHIFT: Sen. Jeff Golden (D-Ashland) signals approval on June 15. (Blake Benard)

The Oregon Senate passed a bill Thursday afternoon that bans any political candidate or committee from accepting more than $100 annually in cash from any one source.

The clause that bans cash contributions over $100 was added as an amendment by the House Committee on Rules to an existing voting bill passed earlier in the session. That bill, with the cash contributions amendment, was reapproved Thursday afternoon by a resounding 22-0 vote.

Republican lawmakers drafted their own version of the bill in mid-May, but it never received a first hearing due to the GOP walkout, which ended today.

Related: Senate Republicans return after longest walkout in Oregon history.

Republican lawmakers, including Senate Minority Leader Tim Knopp (R-Bend) and House Minority Leader Vikki Breese-Iverson (R-Prineville), drafted that bill in response to WW’s reporting in May that Rosa Cazares and Aaron Mitchell, the co-founders of embattled cannabis chain La Mota, gave tens of thousands of dollars in political contributions to top Democrats in stacks of cash. Candidates who accepted contributions in cash from the couple include Gov. Tina Kotek, Senate President Rob Wagner (D-Lake Oswego) and Bureau of Labor and Industries Commissioner Christina Stephenson.

Campaign staff for Kotek drove last year to a West Hills mansion the couple rented at the time to pick up the tens of thousands of dollars in cash, Kotek’s campaign manager told WW last month. So did campaign staff for Wagner.

That raised concerns about the difficulty of tracing cash contributions, and critics said it compounds another problem with the state’s campaign finance laws: Oregon is one of only five states that allow unlimited contributions. That meant donors could give limitless amounts, in cash, from sources that can’t be traced.

“When you have physical cash, it’s much harder to track and trace the true original source of funding for it,” Portland lawyer Jason Kafoury said at the time. “Do we really want our Oregon democracy to be defined by people that have tens of thousands of dollars in cash to hand to politicians?”

WW reported on the cash contributions shortly after revealing Mitchell and Cazares’ failure to pay taxes and creditors while contributing to politicians, the secretary of state’s decision to moonlight as a consultant for La Mota, and how Fagan shaped a state audit of cannabis regulation to please Cazares, her patron. Those reports resulted in Fagan’s May 2 resignation.

The bill will go into effect upon its signature by the governor.

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