Oregon capitol

The most unexpected bill of the 2024 legislative session may well prove the most consequential. On March 7, the Legislature approved HB 4024, which will fundamentally alter Oregon’s campaign finance system beginning in January 2027.

Campaign spending in Oregon has long been characterized by the absence of limits accompanied by thorough transparency. Though OBI does not consider this system flawed, the organization has been open to changes that are fair, constitutional and workable. Two initiative petitions filed for the November 2024 ballot violate one or more of these criteria and would, if approved by voters, severely limit the ability of businesses to participate in campaigns. One, filed by an activist group calling itself Honest Elections Oregon, is IP 9. The other, supported by public employee unions, is IP 42.

The passage of IP 9 would create additional problems. Because it would limit contributions and spending so severely, it inadvertently would increase the role of so-called “dark money” organizations. Candidates would be unable to control their own messages, and transparency – a hallmark of Oregon’s system – would all but disappear.

The November election created urgency to act during this year’s short session, and the potential harm these measures would do created the necessity of doing so despite the complexity of any alternative system. Fortunately, circumstances – and a shared desire to preserve good government – aligned to create the opportunity.

The result, HB 4024, is the product of extensive negotiations involving legislators and affected organizations, including OBI, public employee unions and, critically, IP 9 backers, who ultimately agreed not to pursue the initiative. In addition to establishing limits on how much any particular donor can contribute, HB 4024 will create a system that preserves the ability of businesses and membership organizations like OBI to participate in campaigns while also containing provisions to mitigate the use of such organizations to evade limits or disclosure. It also includes substantial efforts to improve the state’s campaign finance database and enhance transparency.

The new system is not what any affected group would create on its own, but it is fair, workable and far better than the IP 9 or IP 42.

For contribution and spending details, please see this grid. As noted earlier, the limits do not take effect until Jan. 1, 2027. Before then the secretary of state will issue a new campaign finance manual, and OBI will provide educational resources to its members.