According to campaign finance records for incumbent Mayor Charlie Hales, more than half of the money donated to his campaign in 2015 has come from the real estate industry.
A GoLocal review of campaign contributions show that $58,000 of the $103,859 donated to Hales so far this year has come from architects, real estate developers, real estate consultants and others connected to the real estate industry. By comparison, his opponent in the election for Mayor of Portland, State Treasurer Ted Wheeler, has received only $3,250 in donations from the real estate industry so far.
John Horvick, Vice President of Political Operation with DHM Research, told GoLocal that real estate developers donate to local political candidates early and often to ensure that they are on the officials’ “good side.”
“This is typical of campaigns in Portland,” he said. “The development community is active so they can have a chance to influence whoever they are donating to.”
What It Means
Gary Malecha, a Professor of Political Science at the University of Portland, told GoLocal that developers want to ensure that they have a good relationship with those in power.
“They want to make sure they have access to those who are going to be making these decisions,” Malecha said. “Its not uncommon to see heavy contributions by those who are going to deal often with a government entity.”
Horvick, with DHM, agreed. He said developers want to make sure that their interests are taken care of after the election.
“They have money, they have interest, and a lot of them have known Hales for a long time,” he said. “It’s not surprising that this money is flowing to him.”
Something to Worry About?
Jim Moore, Director of the Tom McCall Center for Policy Innovation at Pacific University, told GoLocal he thought the issue of fundraising “should be a concern” to voters in the mayoral election. He cautioned, however, that whether it is made an issue will be left up to voters.
“It boils down to whether people feel they need to be concerned about it,” Moore said. “It’s legal, and it’s above board and it’s been something that has always been happening in Portland, so I don’t really think people are too worried about it.”
Horvick said that he believes that regardless of whether voters show interest in campaign finance issues this election, candidates will bring it up often during their talking points.
“Certainly I would expect each candidate to make issues about where the other candidate is getting his money from,” he said. “They will try to tell a story about each other and say why this is a bad thing.”
Horvick, with DHM, said he was not surprised to see the donations from the real estate industry flowing to Hales.
“It doesn’t surprise me that developers are supporting Hales,” he said. “It’s typical of campaigns in Portland for the development community and Hales comes from that community. It’s really his natural constituency.”
Malecha, with the University of Portland, said that it is not uncommon to see an incumbent like Hales raise money quicker than a challenger such as Wheeler. He said that often, developers and other donors will tend to donate to the incumbent because they are already aware of and pleased with his stance on issues important to them.
“They already have familiarity with him the know his perspective and his feelings about those issues, so he feels like a safer choice,” Malecha said.
Malecha also said that donors may give their money to Hales because they believe that is where the best chance for an election-night victory lies.
“It is not at all uncommon for the incumbent to have an easier time raising money,” he said. “They are difficult to defeat because they have name recognition and other advantages. Donors want to make sure that the people in power are their recipient, and that is the best way to make that happen.”
Representatives from both the Ted Wheeler and Charlie Hales campaigns declined to comment for this story.