Friday, November 17, 2006

BREAKING: SoS to Declare M47 Null and Void

The Secretary of State's office has released a letter to petitioners this afternoon declaring that Measure 47, the campaign finance reform measure that passed in last week's election without the attendant change to the Oregon Constitution (OC) in Measure 46, will--in its entirety--NOT be enforced as law. The office cites Section 9F:
Section 9. Penalty for dueling. Every person who shall give, or accept a challenge to fight a duel, or who shall knowingly carry to another person such challenge, or who shall agree to go out of the State to fight a duel, shall be ineligible to any office of trust, or profit. —
Oh, wait, wrong Section 9, sorry--that's from the OC. But given the persecution complex some of M47's primary supporters have had all year, maybe it's instructive to remind them of the consequences should they challenge Bill Bradbury to a duel. Let's see if we can scare up the right paragraph, which actually flaps breezily from Dan Meek's own self-hanging petard of a ballot measure:
"If, on the effective date of this Act, the Oregon Constitution does not allow limitations on political campaign contributions or expenditures, this Act shall nevertheless be codified and shall become effective at the time the Oregon Constitution is found to allow, or is amended to allow, such limitations."
What the Sos is arguing is that because the wording says "this Act," and not "certain parts of this Act," the authors of M47 have declared their own measure null until such time as M46 (or something like it) is approved.

You can bet that Meek will challenge that interpretation, contending that they simply meant the dollar amounts, and that greater disclosure does not limit contributions or expenditures. But relying on the "plain, natural and ordinary meaning" of the words written, the SoS will potentially argue to the courts that "this Act" means this Act, the whole Act, and nothing but the Act.

Interestingly (and pretty ironically), because "this Act" was to be automatically codified into law upon acceptance, the SoS will also declare M47 to be law...just not law that anyone will have the authority to enforce. Which has huge implications for any future attempt to amend the OC. If the OC is amended, then M47 will automatically go into effect--which means that any bill or initative that seeks to reform campaign finance in Oregon will trigger not just the potential for reforms, but the actual reforms passed in M47. Will this make a "Son of 46" bill harder or easier to pass? My guess is harder, but that's just a guess. What's really a pisser is that people who want reform but do NOT want M47's reforms, will now have to force a repeal of 47 before offering a new 46-style amendment to the OC.

Oi! Stay tuned for litigation, folks!

You can read the SoS letter here {pdf}.

Update, 230pm--

Janice Thompson at Money in Politics Research Action Project (MiPRAP) has put out a statement on the ruling:
Oregonians still want reform and the legislature should fulfill mandate of the last election with ethics and campaign finance disclosure improvements that can go into effect without a constitutional change. The passage of Measure 47 is a clear signal that Oregonians are tired of big money politics and want campaign finance reform. That it can’t go into effect without its companion, Measure 46, isn’t unexpected, given language in Measure 47 indicating that it was intended to go into effect in its entirety.

The legislature has already adopted disclosure improvements that meet many of the goals of Measure 47 regarding the need for online access of campaign finance reports. In 2007, we should see immediate action on additional disclosure improvements that aren’t tied to reforms that require constitutional action.

In addition, the legislature has an immediate opportunity to adopt a comprehensive set of ethics reforms recommended by the Ethics Work Group of the Oregon Law Commission. The legislature should move beyond the work group recommendations in regard to a comprehensive ban on gifts, entertainment, food and beverage, and trips, but other recommendations from this year-long effort are solid.

Oregonians have a history of being careful about amending the constitution. Contribution limits, however, are a helpful piece of a reform package and have been found constitutional at the federal level and most other states. Given the loss of Measure 46, Oregonians may be more receptive to a set of reform steps that includes amending the constitution more narrowly.