Two political action committees organized to oppose a Lincoln County ballot measure that would phase out short-term rentals in unincorporated residential neighborhoods have raised more than $280,000 — almost 20 times the amount raised by a committee in favor of the measure — much of it from outside the county.
According to the Oregon Secretary of State’s campaign finance database, the political action committee for the Via Oregon Coalition has raised $78,977 this year to fight Measure 21-203, which, if approved by Lincoln County voters on Nov. 2, would in five years phase out all short-term rentals in low-density residential zones outside cities — about 500 properties.
Another political action committee opposed to the measure, Save Lincoln County Jobs, has raised $205,135 — $200,000 in a single contribution from Meredith Lodging, a vacation rental management company with about 400 properties on the coast and main offices in Lincoln City and Bend.
Via Oregon first appeared on the scene in 2018 to advocate for the vacation rental industry in municipal regulations, and it took on a more public face when the organization 15neighborhoods began circulating its petition for Measure 21-203 last year. Via Oregon’s political action committee was formed Aug. 9.
The director of Via Oregon’s PAC is listed as Jamie Michel, of Waldport, vice president of business development at Sweet Homes Vacation Getaways. Fifteen of about 70 contributions to the PAC have come from out of state, including $25,000 from the Committee to Expand the Middle Class, a California political action committee set up and funded by Airbnb, and $15,000 from Mitchell Haeri, of Irvine, Calif.
There were other contributors from California, as well as from Colorado, Washington, Arizona, Iowa, Montana and Nebraska. In-state contributions came from Eugene, Portland, Corvallis, Redmond, Salem, Tigard, Beaverton, Dundee, Scappoose, Springfield, Lebanon, Albany, Waldport, Seal Rock, Newport and Lincoln City.
The Save Lincoln County Jobs PAC was formed Sept. 7. Its director is listed as Kyle Murphy, of Bend, president of Mount Bachelor Village Corp., which operates Mount Bachelor Village Resort. The PAC has received a couple of contributions from residents of Gladstone and Sherwood, but its coffers were almost entirely filled by a single $200,000 contribution from Meredith Lodging (the company also made a $3,000 in-kind contribution Sept. 21). Meredith Lodging markets and manages rentals for Mount Bachelor Village.
Neither PAC has yet dipped deep into its war chest. Via Oregon has only reported five expenditures — $1,000 to the nonprofit Our Oregon for access to its voter file; $778.33 to campaign compliance firm C&E Systems; $1,450 to Angela Querfeld, of Portland, for management services; $390.05 to Amy Anderson, of Portland, for a reimbursement of personal expenditures; and $4,000 to the News-Times for advertising.
Save Lincoln County Jobs has made four big expenditures so far — $10,000 each to two public relations firms, Hubbell Communications, of Portland, and R.L. Steinman and Associates, of Springfield, Mo. The PAC also paid $7,493.75 to Overnight Art, of Lincoln City, for printed campaign materials, and it spent $7,185.44 for Gateway Communications, of Portland, to provide similar services.
The pro-Measure 21-203 15neighborhoods PAC was formed Aug. 9, although a previous PAC supporting the ballot petition that raised more than $18,000 was active from July 2020 until that date. Its director is listed as Michele Riley, of Depoe Bay, one of three chief petitioners associated with the former PAC.
The single largest contribution to the 15neighborhoods PAC, $2,653.94, came from its predecessor action committee. Of the $15,317.93 total in its coffers, $1,200 came from out-of-county contributors — $200 from a Tigard resident and $500 each from residents of Turner and Portland. 15neighborhoods steering committee member and PAC treasurer Monica Kirk contributed $1,000, as did Michael Miller on the same street as Kirk, and South Beach resident Bob Sulek kicked in $2,500.
The 15neighborhoods PAC has reported $8,765 in expenditures, $8,565 of which was paid to Riley, the PAC’s director. Kirk said Riley was reimbursed for billboard rentals, but the amount reported was incorrect, and she in fact rented two billboards for $2,415 and $3,075. The PAC also paid $4,500 to the News-Times for advertising, Kirk said, and paid Anchorage marketing firm The High Point Agency $2,325 for social media services, but neither of those expenditures yet appear on the campaign finance website. Kirk said she has reported the corrected figures and additional expenditures to the secretary of state’s office.
State Rep. David Gomberg called the influx of cash to fight the measure “an astounding amount of money, especially for a campaign only a month long.
“To put that amount in context, in my last campaign for the legislature, which covered four counties and lasted a full year, less than half as much was spent by both candidates combined,” Gomberg said.
He encouraged voters to look at the county voter’s pamphlet to learn about the measure. “There is going to be an awful lot of advertising out there, which could be misleading. I saw an ad in the paper today saying the measure applied to Lincoln County when it actually only applies in county areas outside of cities like Newport, Waldport, Depoe Bay and Lincoln City.”