People First PAC draws fire for spending on Portland Charter Commission election

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An offshoot of the political group People First Portland reported spending more than $10,000 on next week’s Charter Commission election, mostly in support of a slate of candidates.

But People First Charter also spent money to oppose some candidates, and those attacks on other candidates have stirred debate.

People First Charter’s spending has also come under fire from some candidates the political action committee supports, with at least one District 1 candidate asking the progressive group to remove her from its materials.

In a May 14 filing with the city, People First Charter Treasurer Aaron Berger reported the PAC initially spent $8,600 to support or oppose candidates: almost $1,100 each in support of Shay Stewart-Bouley in District 1, Zach Barowitz in District 3, Marques Houston in District 4, and at-large candidates Pat Washburn, Nasreen Sheikh-Yousef, Anthony Emerson and Catherine Buxton.

The group also reported spending almost $250 each to oppose Cheryl Leeman in District 4, Brian Batson in District 3, and at-large candidates Marpheen Chann and Steve DiMillo.

It was not clear in the finance reports how exactly these expenditures were used. But the money went to Daylight Communications, an Ipswich, Massachusetts, public relations firm and was described as “mail house and direct mail,” which includes design, printing, mailing, and postage. 

The reports are listed as being from Democratic Socialists of America on behalf of People First Charter. Its parent organization, People First Portland, successfully campaigned last fall to enact a slate of progressive initiatives via referendum.

The Charter Commission, which was established by voters last July, could theoretically overhaul the city’s style of government, including revamping the balance of power between the mayor and city manager.  The contest has attracted more than 20 candidates, in a race marked by hostility and political name-calling.

In a second expenditure affidavit dated May 21, Berger reported People First Charter spent another $2,250, all of which went to Dale Rand Printing. In this case, the PAC spent more than $321 each to support Washburn, Emerson, Buxton, Sheikh-Yousef, Stewart-Bouley, Barowitz, and Houston. These expenditures were listed as “printed campaign materials.”

No other political action committees reported having made expenditures, according to the city’s list of filed finance reports. But campaign finance reports required from candidates 11 days before the June 8 election were due by 4:30 p.m. Friday, May 28. They were made available to the public Tuesday after being reviewed by the city (see sidebar).

Several candidates have said they oppose People First Charter’s tactics.

Stewart-Bouley publicly asked the group to remove her from its materials. She tweeted that the group “put words in (her) mouth” that misrepresented her position on the city manager.

Emerson, in an op-ed published in the Portland Press Herald, none of the candidates endorsed by the group were told their names would be used in attacks against other candidates. The past candidate for School Board also tweeted he would never run for office again in the city.

“A downright hellish experience, magnified by the fact that as someone who works for a living I lack the time or resources to mount a serious campaign,” he said.

District 5 candidate Ryan Lizanecz, who was not endorsed by People First Charter, released a statement denouncing the group as a “handful of people” that has been “running attacks against other candidates throughout Portland.” He said PACs run by “unaccountable political operatives” should have no say in this Charter Commission race.

A spokesperson for People First Charter said they had no comment.

Candidates file updated financial reports

Candidates for Portland’s Charter Commission were required to file their latest campaign finance reports with the city by Friday, May 28, 11 days ahead of the June 8 election. 

The reports, which were released Tuesday, represent the period from April 21-May 25. Previous reports were due 42 days before the election, and final reports must be filed 42 days after the vote.

At-large

William Bailey raised $1,315 and spent $959 in the period. 

Catherine Buxton had $2,039 at the beginning of the filing period. She raised an additional $678, $1,799, and had $918 left on hand.

Marpheen Chann had $4,131 at the beginning of the filing period, raised an additional $2,155, and spent $5,206. He had $1,081 on hand.

Lawson Condrey had $518 at the beginning of the period, raised an additional $975, and spent $645, for a balance of $848 on hand.

Steve DiMillo had $330 at the beginning of the period. He raised an additional $1,380 and spent $1,720. He had no cash available.

Anthony Emerson did not have a report listed.

Benjamin Grant had $4,877 available at the beginning of the period. He raised an additional $1,760 and spent $4,675, for a cash balance of $1,962.

Ian Houseal spent $91 and raised nothing.

Nasreen Sheikh-Yousef had $1,021 at the beginning of the period. She raised an additional $870 and spent $1,775, and has $117 remaining.

Patricia Washburn raised $1,259 and spent $1,298. 

District 1

David Cowie reported spending $36 and raising nothing.

Karen Snyder spent $188 and raised nothing.

Shamika “Shay” Stewart-Bouley had $4,326 available at the beginning of the period, raised an additional $2,389 and spent $4,474. She had $2,241 on hand.

District 2

Robert O’Brienraised and spent $105. 

District 3

Zack Barowitz had a cash balance of $7,748 at the beginning of the period. He raised an additional $1,520 and spent $1,813, for a cash balance of $7,456.

Brian Batson reported $319 on hand at the beginning of the filing period. He raised an additional $601 and spent $147, for a balance of $773.

Charles Bryon raised and spent $631. 

District 4

Marcques Houston had $4,068 at the start of the period. He raised an additional $1,340 and spent $3,939 for a balance of $1,469.

Cheryl Leeman had $2,031 at the beginning of the period. She raised an additional $1,520 and spent $1,466, and had $2,086 on hand.

District 5

Mony Hang reported raised $1,175 and spent $127 in this period. He has $1,048 on hand.

Ryan Lizanecz did not have a report listed by the city.

— Colin Ellis