Want to run for the Oregon Legislature? You’d better be able to get your hands on at least a quarter of a million dollars.
A new report on 2008 campaign financing by the National Institute on Money in State Politics found that Oregon was one of the most expensive states in the country to run in. Legislative candidates here raised an average of almost $250,000.
“Even that figure is deceptively low,” points out Oregonian blogger Jeff Mapes. “Oregon didn't have any real competitive Senate races in 2008, so races in that chamber were unusually inexpensive that year.”
Counting just the House races, Mapes calculates that only in five states – all much bigger than Oregon – did candidates raise more money: California, Illinois, Texas, New Jersey and Virginia.
On a per-capita basis, only in New Jersey did candidates raise more ($4.41 per resident) than they did in Oregon ($4.16 per resident).
Money talks, the institute’s research found. Nationwide, the winning candidates raised a total of $771 million – 71% of the amount raised by all candidates combined – while the losers collected only $222 million. The advantage of incumbency isn’t just a myth, either: Incumbents nationwide raised an average of $109,818, compared to just $32,155 for challengers.
Why are Oregon campaigns so expensive? As Mapes sees it, it’s not because candidates here need more money but because they can get more money: “Oregon is one of just six states with no limits on contributions - and no limits on direct corporate and union giving to campaigns.”
A state slogan from a few years back said that “things look different here.” In the wake of the recent US Supreme Court decision that corporations and unions have the same right as real people to contribute to campaigns, the whole country – politically speaking – could look like Oregon pretty soon. And that’s not a good thing.