Kulongoski Flexes Fundraising Muscle

Summary: A hefty contribution from Democratic governors helps him far outpace Republican Kevin Mannix in the latest report

Thanks largely to a $150,000 contribution from the Democratic Governors’ Association, Democrat Ted Kulongoski far outraised Republican Kevin Mannix in the first half of September in the race for Oregon governor.

The candidates were required to file daily contribution reports while the Legislature was in session from Sept. 1-18, and those showed that large donors are playing a key role in the governor’s race.

During that period, Kulongoski raised about $450,000, while Mannix collected about $250,000.

While a third of Kulongoski’s money came from one donor, Mannix received about half of his money from three wealthy business people active in Republican politics.

Joan Austin, who owns a Newberg dental supply company, and Roderick Wendt, son of one of Oregon’s wealthiest men, Klamath Falls businessman Richard Wendt, each gave $50,000. William Colson, who owns a nursing home company, gave $25,000.

In the May primary election, all three had backed one of Mannix’s rivals, Portland lawyer Ron Saxton.

In addition, Mannix said Evergreen Aviation had pledged $50,000 to his campaign.

Kulongoski, who has had strong support from organized labor, received almost $90,000 in contributions from six labor groups. But he also made significant inroads with business donors, with Liberty Northwest, a workers’ compensation insurer, giving $12,500, and Boise-Cascade and Portland auto dealer Scott Thomason each giving $10,000.

The $150,000 from the Democratic Governors’ Association was by far the largest contribution the group has ever made in Oregon. B.J. Thornberry, the association’s executive director, said the group in part wanted to help Kulongoski counter an independent advertising campaign that Citizens for a Sound Economy has waged against him.

Citizens for a Sound Economy, a corporate-backed group that promotes free-market policies, said it has spent more than $116,000 airing ads that criticize Kulongoski for backing a temporary income tax increase to help fill the state budget shortfall.

Candidates for state offices once were barred from raising money while the Legislature was in session. But the attorney general said the law was unconstitutional, and the Legislature responded in 2001 by passing a bill requiring candidates to disclose money raised when lawmakers are in session.

As a result, the 18-day special session that ended last week gave an early window into the fund-raising of the gubernatorial candidates, who must file complete reports next week.

The early reports also showed Kulongoski, who has led in the polls, has had a much broader fund-raising effort than Mannix. He had almost 400 donors who gave more than $50 each, compared with slightly more than 200 for Mannix.

Kulongoski, a former state attorney general and Supreme Court justice, received at least $25,000 from legal interests.

In addition to the $250,000 in cash he raised, Mannix reported $34,000 of in-kind donations of services and supplies.

Amy Casterline, Mannix’s campaign manager, said even if Kulongoski is leading in fund-raising, “we’ve met the goals we’ve set for ourselves” and will have enough to run a competitive campaign.