Hales Aiming to Break Contribution-Limit Promise Again

Mayor-elect holding big-ticket fundraiser to pay off campaign debt

Even after the race is over, Portland Mayor-elect Charlie Hales keeps finding new ways to break his promise of campaign financing limits.

Hales is paying off his campaign debts with a reception at Old Town restaurant Gilt Club on Dec. 4, with tickets starting at $50 and "sponsorship levels" ranging from $200 to $2,500. That's well over the $600 cap Hales placed on individual donations in June.

Hales won the election handily, but his campaign finished the race $35,971 in the red. It has $11,800 in outstanding bills, and $71,000 in unpaid loans. All of those loans are money Hales loaned to his own campaign.

Now he's looking to reimburse himself with the Dec. 4 event, which an invitation obtained by WW describes as an "evening reception to celebrate the end of the campaign and the upcoming inauguration."

Canmpaign manager Evyn Mitchell says the reception doesn't break the campaign financing pledge because the campaign is over.

"We stuck to our pledge throughout the campaign," Mitchell says. "We need to take care of debt, mostly from the primary, so that Charlie can govern and not worry about remaining debt from the campaign."

Hales made his pledge to limit contributions in June while locked in what looked to be a tight runoff with Rep. Jefferson Smith (D-East Portland).

"From now on, this campaign will only accept contributions up to $600 and all from within the state of Oregon. And I call on Jefferson Smith to join me," Hales said in a June statement. "This is one pledge in one race. It won't cure all the ills of big money in politics. But it is a good start. And there is never a wrong time to do the right thing."

He broke the pledge in October, writing Smith to say he was changing the rules so public-employee unions could donate to his campaign at a rate of $50 per union member. Two days after he wrote to Smith, on Oct. 17, Hales accepted a $20,000 in-kind contribution from SEIU Local 49, and another $14,067 in-kind contribution from United Food and Commercial Workers Local 555.

On Nov. 6 Hales defeated Smith 61 percent to 31 percent.