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How The Mighty Have Fallen!

Questionable Campaign Donation Trips Up Big Time Developer

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Six months ago, Tom Moyer and Neil Goldschmidt were two of the highest rollers in downtown Portland. Goldschmidt, the former mayor and ex-Oregon governor, had the city's political and business community by the short hairs. As one current politico admits, every candidate for elected office salivated for his endorsement. Along with Moyers, who owns Fox Tower, the two old-timers had plans to develop the park blocks as a greenbelt and roll out an entire facelift for downtown. They were the masters of Portland's universe.

But then came Goldschmidt's rapid downfall. Admitting to the statutory rape of a then-14-year-old neighbor girl during his tenure as mayor, Goldschmidt quickly became a political, business, and social pariah.

Now it seems as if Moyer may have also stumbled. Last Tuesday, a Multnomah County Grand Jury handed out an indictment against Moyer, his granddaughter, and his executive assistant, Sonja Tune. The indictment stems from charges that Moyer violated campaign election laws by funneling money into Jim Francesconi's bid for mayor under names besides his own. Oregon's election laws are fairly lax, but they do require that a donation be made in the donor's name. If the charges stick, it is a Class C felony--a crime that carries as much as a $125,000 fine and five years in prison.

Attorneys for Moyer and Tune have stated they will contest the validity of the law.

The case stems from donations made to the Francesconi campaign in May 2003. (Although knowingly accepting an illicit donation is considered a violation, Francesconi's campaign was cleared from all suspicion by the grand jury.) On May 16, 2003 Moyer made a $500 contribution. On that very same day, his assistant, Tune, made a $2,000 donation. What makes this contribution peculiar is that Tune is not what one would call a political high roller. She lives in a modest 1300 square foot home and doesn't have a record of major political giving. Yet, Tune's contribution put her in an elite class. At that point in Francesconi's fundraising, only two people had given larger amounts. Five others had given equal amounts, but those were all professional peers of Moyer-CEOs of big-money corporations like the Schnitzer Group.

In spite of the oddities of Tune's contribution, Moyer and her donations flew under the radar screen for campaign watchers and reporters alike. It was only a year later when a city hall insider pointed several local reporters to Francesconi's Contribution and Expenditure (C&E) reports and told them to look into Tune and Moyer's contributions. In April, the Mercury and the Oregonian published stories about those particular donations. In turn, the Mercury urged a reader to file a formal complaint with the Election Division. That complaint triggered a six-month investigation, which culminated in last week's grand jury indictment. Moyer's 26-year-old granddaughter was also implicated for making a $2,500 donation.

Seemingly a coincidence, in April, at the time the news broke about Moyer's contributions, council member Erik Sten and city auditor Gary Blackmer co-introduced a concept to city council called Clean Campaign Financing. Similar to plans in Arizona and Maine, qualifying candidates would receive $150,000 in public money for council races and $200,000 for mayor races if they secured 1,000 $5 donations from registered voters and subsequently rejected any other private donations. The plan intends to limit the influence of big money donors in local elections.

In April, with the news of Moyer's allegedly illicit donations hovering, council approved pushing forward the idea. Again with eerie synchronicity, and with news breaking about the Moyer indictments, last Friday city council again discussed Clean Campaign Financing in a public work session, the first major milestone for the concept since April. The ordinance should move forward for a vote from council in the next few months.

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