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Activists look to set campaign contribution limits

SALEM — Activists looking to reform campaign finance in Oregon are taking steps to get a measure limiting contributions on the November 2016 ballot.

Two separate groups of advocates are planning to work toward finance reform, The Bulletin in Bend reports.

Daniel Lewkow of Common Cause Oregon said if the Legislature does not pass a bill putting a constitutional amendment on the ballot to curb campaign contributions his group will work to collect the 177,000 signatures to do it themselves.

"People like legislators to act on issues, not to ignore issues," Lewkow said last week, adding that voters "cannot be more clear that they want them to act on money in politics."

Dan Meek is also working with other activists to push for finance reform. His proposed statewide ballot initiative would allow voters to set limits. Lawmakers could also set limits if three-quarters of members in the Senate and House agree on the terms.

Oregon is one of six states that doesn't limit the amount of money businesses, unions, individuals and political groups and can give to campaign accounts of candidates and ballot measures.

In 1994 Oregon voters approved a measure to impose limits on campaign contributions, but the Supreme Court in 1997 ruled Oregon's free speech protections prevented the limits. Voters passed another measure to enact limits in 2006, but a companion measure that would have changed the constitution failed.

Before becoming governor, then-Secretary of State Kate Brown proposed a resolution that would have put a constitutional amendment question on the ballot next year, but after taking over as governor, Brown in April asked a panel of legislatures to pass on the bill.

"We hope the Legislature takes this up in the short session and actually moves the ball forward on this," Lewkow said. "The people have twice before voted for limits. We've seen how hyper-concerned people are."