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City Club of Eugene: Campaign Financing in Oregon: The Dangers of Dark Money

One dollar bills scattered about
Alexander Grey
One or more ballot initiatives addressing campaign finance issues may be presented to Oregon voters in 2024.

Program date: March 1, 2024

Air date: March 4, 2024

From the City Club of Eugene:

Oregon stands out as one of the few states without any restrictions on political donations. This means that wealthy individuals and special interest groups can pour significant amounts of money into influencing election outcomes. For instance, in the 2022 governor’s race, candidates received over $82 million in donations, a substantial increase from the previous race’s $37 million. A considerable portion of these funds is funneled through organizations that don’t disclose their donors; they are commonly referred to as “dark money.” This opaque funding can sway public opinion and votes, while concealing the true backers of a campaign, posing a threat to our democratic process.

Efforts to reform campaign finance in Oregon have been ongoing, aiming to implement statewide limits on donations and enhance transparency in spending, particularly concerning political advertisements. One or more ballot initiatives addressing these issues may be presented to voters in 2024. In the entire history of the Oregon Legislature, despite consistent discussion among Oregon legislators, no bills aimed at imposing limits on campaign contributions have succeeded.

Dan Meek, representing Honest Elections Oregon, will discuss the significance of transparency in campaign financing and the challenges in amending existing legislation. Honest Elections Oregon previously led successful campaigns to establish contribution limits in Multnomah County in 2016 and Portland in 2018. Rick Metsger will delve into the political landscape, examining why little progress has been made and what’s at stake for various interest groups.


Dan Meek is a public interest attorney in Portland. He was the legal counsel at the California Energy Commission and staff director and general counsel for two subcommittees in the U.S. Congress for four years.

His work representing utility users resulted in the creation of Oregon Trail Electric Cooperative (the state’s largest cooperative utility) and Albina Community Bank in Portland. He has represented political parties and ballot measure advocates and opponents, including the winning side in the 2020 decision of the Oregon Supreme Court to overturn its 1997 decision that campaign contributions are not allowed by the Oregon Constitution. His clients have included Ralph Nader, Honest Elections Oregon, Common Cause, League of Women Voters, STAR Voting, Oregon Progressive Party, Independent Party of Oregon, and the Pacific Green Party.

He is the co-founder and co-chair of the Independent Party of Oregon.

Rick Metsger has been around Oregon political circles for almost three decades. He served in the Oregon Senate from 1999-2011, finishing his legislative career as Senate President-Pro Tem. In 2013, President Obama nominated him to lead the National Credit Union Administration, where he served until 2019. Prior to his legislative career, he worked for sixteen years as a news reporter and anchor at KOIN-TV in Portland. He has also penned articles for The Oregonian.

He now serves as Director of Legislative and Public Affairs at Pac/West Lobby Group in Salem. In that role, he writes about behind-the-scenes developments in Oregon politics in The Political Center newsletter, widely read by legislators, lobbyists, and the political news media.

About the City Club of Eugene:

The mission of the City Club of Eugene is to build community vision through open inquiry. The Club explores a wide range of significant local, state, and national issues and helps to formulate new approaches and solutions to problems. Membership is open to all, and Club members have a direct influence on public policy by discussing issues of concern with elected officials and other policy makers. The City Club’s mailing address is PO Box 12084, Eugene, OR 97440, and its website is cityclubofeugene.org.


Video and Broadcast

This program will be live streamed, and the videotape will be made available on the City Club of Eugene’s Facebook page and You Tube Channel, in addition to our website. It will be broadcast on Monday, March 4 at 7:00 pm, on KLCC 89.7 FM.

Contact: For more information, visit CityClubOfEugene.org.

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