PORTLAND, Ore. – KATU's political reporter, Patrick Preston, attempted to hash out the campaign cash controversy that has erupted between the two candidates running for Oregon's secretary of state during "Your Voice, Your Vote" Sunday.
What started the ball rolling on the controversy was when incumbent Democrat Kate Brown announced she was limiting her campaign spending in this year's race to $1 million and proposed to her challenger, Republican Knute Buehler, to do the same. He declined. He said, however, that he does support voluntary spending limits but negotiations should happen at the beginning of campaigns.
Both candidates, who were interviewed separately for this week's show, insisted that "big money" is a problem in politics, and both said that they are the most qualified candidate to tackle the issue. In fact, both claimed they've done something to curb its effects.
"When I was in the Legislature, I worked with a coalition of legislators to pass a bill to bring Oregon to a high level of transparency with reporting campaign expenditures and contributions," said Brown. "As a result of my work, we have one of the most transparent systems in the country and Oregonians can follow the money in politics."
"I've gotten big money out of politics in the past, and I would do it again," Buehler said, flatly rejecting the assertion that by declining to accept Brown's million-dollar limit he was diluting his own message of getting big money out of politics. "Twenty years ago ... I led a effort to pass a campaign finance reform in Oregon that completely revamped Oregon's campaign finance laws."
Buehler, a first-time candidate for public office, has been out-raising and out-spending Brown during the campaign, and he called Brown's spending-limit announcement a "political gimmick ... that's coming from a career politician who in 20 years hasn't passed any meaningful campaign spending limits."
Brown countered to charges that she proposed the limit for politically strategic reasons by saying she thought a million dollars "was a reasonable amount to spend in the race for Oregon secretary of state," adding that "I am committed to getting the big money out of politics, and I am the only one who's doing anything about it."
Tracking all that campaign cash and reporting it to the public – in addition to other election-related responsibilities – is part of the secretary of state's job. Other responsibilities of the office include auditing state government and handling business registrations. Additionally, the secretary of state steps in when the governor is no longer able to perform the duties of that office.
Brown, a former legislator, touted her experience and accomplishments in government as evidence that she deserves a second term. She said those accomplishments as secretary of state include the launching of Business Express – a one-stop site for help in starting or expanding a business – and the implementing of online voter registration.
"I'm very passionate about engaging every Oregonian, because I believe that your vote is your voice and every single voice matters," she said.
Buehler, a physician from Bend, said under Brown's leadership the office has "underperformed" and said there is a lot of potential in the state that still needs to be tapped. He also said his experience in the private sector of starting and running businesses has given him a unique perspective of what they need to thrive.
"I may be an outsider to the partisan politics of Salem, but I have a deep insider's knowledge of Oregon and its people," he said.
There was a lot more discussed during the show, click on the "Play Video" button above to watch it in its entirety.