Senate GOP puts off fundraising

SALEM, Ore. (AP) – The Senate Republican caucus will no longer accept campaign contributions during the legislative session, Senate GOP Leader Ted Ferrioli said Wednesday. He called for the governor and other top elected officials to do the same.

But an adviser to Democratic Gov. Ted Kulongoski said it’s unrealistic to expect him not to raise money while lawmakers meet and that Ferrioli’s statements were politically motivated.

The move by Senate Republicans is in line with the Senate Democratic caucus – which has refused contributions – and the House Democratic and Republican caucuses, which have made a similar pledge for the 2005 session.

Senate Republicans initially said they needed to raise money while meeting to have any chance of gaining ground in the Senate, where they are outnumbered 18-12 after Democrats gained three seats in the November elections.

Ferrioli said allegations that former Rep. Dan Doyle might have incorrectly reported nearly $80,000 of campaign donations led to the caucus decision.

Doyle, a Salem Republican, resigned from his seat on Jan. 31 amid a continuing state investigation into his campaign finances.

"With the development in the House and the discussion surrounding all that, finally we just decided, look, we’re out of it," Ferrioli said of John Day.

Senate President Peter Courtney, D-Salem, was glad Ferrioli changed his mind.

"I think that that’s good for the Senate and good for the legislative process," Courtney said.

In the 1970s, Oregonians passed a law prohibiting legislators from accepting campaign contributions during their sessions. But Attorney General Hardy Myers, in a 2001 opinion, said the law is an unconstitutional ban on free speech.

Kulongoski is raising money for his possible 2006 re-election campaign and Peter Bragdon, an adviser and former Kulongoski chief-of-staff, said it’s unreasonable to think Kulongoski wouldn’t be soliciting money now.

Kulongoski has raised more than $40,000 since the legislative session began Jan. 10.

"They’re very different offices," Bragdon said. "Legislators have a part-time job where they can spend a year and a half fund-raising."

Bragdon compared the situation to asking the president not to raise money while Congress is in session, and said Kulongoski doesn’t let money affect public policy.

Ferrioli, however, said Kulongoski can sign or veto bills from the Legislature, and shouldn’t accept money that could call his decisions into question.

Ferrioli also said the secretary of state, commissioner of labor and industries, state school superintendent and state treasurer should turn down donations. All those current officeholders are Democrats.

Representatives of those officials said they are in a different situation because they don’t vote on, sign or veto bills.