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The City of Portland, Oregon

Open and Accountable Elections

Phone: 503-823-4345

Frequently Asked Questions

What is the Open & Accountable Elections program?

The Open & Accountable Elections program enables candidates to run for Mayor, Auditor, or City Commissioner without accepting large contributions, by instead getting their small contributions matched by the City’s Open & Accountable Elections Fund.

Which candidates can get small contributions matched?

The requirements for getting small contributions matched are:

  • The candidate must be running for Mayor, Auditor, or City Commissioner
  • The candidate must prove they have broad community support and are serious about running for office by collecting hundreds of  small contributions from Portland residents in order to get certified as matchable. Candidates running for Mayor must collect contributions between $5 and $250 from 500 Portlanders. Candidates running for Auditor or City Commissioner must collect contributions between $5 and $250 from 250 Portlanders.
  • Matchable contributions must be from Portland residents at least 18 years of age, who are citizens or permanent residents (per federal election law).

Please note that the name and street address donors who are matchable, along with the dates and amounts of their contributions, are public records and will periodically be released on the program website.

Which contributions are matchable?

The first $50 you give a candidate can be matched it:

  • You are a Portland resident at least 18 years of age who is a citizen or permanent resident.
  • The candidate you donated to gets certified to use the program.
  • The City can verify that the contribution was from you and you are eligible to be matched.
  • You have not donated to another candidate in the same race and already had that donation matched 

Please note that the name and street address donors who are matchable, along with the dates and amounts of their contributions, are public records and will periodically be released on the program website

How much can candidates receive in matching funds?

Candidates receive up to a 6-to-1 match on the first $50 from an eligible donor in the primary, and if they qualify for the general election, they can receive the first $50 from the same donor matched again.

What are the rules for candidates participating in the Open & Accountable Elections program?

Candidates participating in the program must follow rules about how to raise and spend campaign funds:

  • They are limited to accepting $250 per donor per election.*
  • They may only accept contributions from people, not businesses, unions, or political committees.*
  • They may only raise $950,000 ($380,000 in the primary, $570,000 in the general if running for Mayor or $550,000 ($250,000 in the primary, $300,000 in the general) if running for Auditor or City Commissioner.**
  • They may only spend their funds on legitimate campaign expenses, and certain expenses, like election night parties, can’t be made using public matching funds.

*There is an exception for seed money, to help a candidate get started in raising hundreds of qualifying contributions, and an exception for in-kind contributions. 

**If a participating candidate is running against a non-participating candidate who exceeds the fundraising limit, the participating candidate is released from it (with additional rules applying). 

What is the difference between Honest Elections and Open & Accountable Elections?

Honest Elections is a campaign finance reform package passed by City voters in 2018 and Multnomah County voters in 2016. The Honest Elections reforms include contribution limits and disclosure of donors on campaign ads. Parts of Honest Elections reforms have been struck down at the trial court level and is under consideration by the state Supreme Court.

The Open & Accountable Elections program aims to reduce corruption and the perception of corruption that the influence of money in politics creates. It provides candidates who have broad community support and follow program rules with up to a 6-to-1 match on the first $50 of small donations they receive from Portland residents.  One of the main differences is a restriction on any individual donating more than $500 in any election cycle, in Honest Elections.  In Open and Accountable Elections, donations are restricted to $250 except that the initial seed money of $5,000 can be donated in a lump sum or in larger donations.  To be prudent, candidates for OAE should consider restricting even seed money donations to not more than $500.