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Oregon Supreme Court upholds limits on campaign contributions
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Oregon Supreme Court upholds limits on campaign contributions

The Oregon Supreme Court ruled on Thursday that campaign contribution limits do not violate Article I, Section 8 of the Oregon Constitution—Oregon’s free speech provision.

Chief Justice Martha Walters considered three sections of the Multnomah County Code (§§ 5.200-03). These sections address campaign contribution limits, independent expenditure limits and disclosure rules.

First, Walters explained campaign contribution limits do not, on their face, violate Article I, Section 8 of the Oregon Constitution. In 2016 Multnomah County set a $500 limit for individual contributions. Walters determined campaign contributions are not a form of expressive conduct under the Oregon Constitution. However, Walters did not make such a determination under the US Constitution. Walters stated:

The controlling Supreme Court precedent makes it difficult to decide whether the county’s contribution limits violate the First Amendment without further proceedings in the trial court.

Second, Walters found the limits on independent expenditures are invalid under both the Oregon and US Constitutions. The expenditure limits set a cap on the amount an independent person or entity could spend on communications in support of a candidate. Walters stated existing Oregon and Supreme Court precedents indicate expenditure limitations violate the First Amendment. Multnomah County acknowledged the Oregon Supreme Court is not the proper forum to challenge controlling federal cases.

Third, Walters did not make a determination on the disclosure rules. Walters explained, “[d]uring the pendency of this proceeding, the county amended the disclosure provisions of its ordinance and a decision about the validity of the former provisions will have no practical effect.”

Overall, Walters remanded this case to the circuit court for further proceedings.