GOP complains Democratic fundraiser violates ethics rules

Oregon Republicans have accused state Democratic leaders, including Rep. Peter Buckley of Ashland, of an ethics violation over a fundraising luncheon, a charge Buckley dismisses as "political games."

The complaint, filed Monday with the Oregon Government Ethics Commission, faults Democrats for invitations issued to a private fundraising luncheon featuring Democratic gubernatorial candidate John Kitzhaber and sitting political leaders.

"As the 2011 Legislative Session Approaches (join us) for a private luncheon to discuss potential session issues" at the Arlington Club in Portland for $1,500 a person, the invitation reads.

The invitation is "arrogant about the public process" and a violation of ethics laws because it asks for money in exchange for access to a possible future governor and other political leaders, said Greg Leo, communications director for the Oregon Republican Party.

"I know it's convenient for Peter Buckley to dismiss this but we're taking it very seriously," said Leo. "and will pursue it all the way to the election."

Buckley brushed off the issue as partisan politics.

"It's a strange complaint," said Buckley. "It's no different than a $25 a ticket fundraiser event ... and it's ironic the Republicans are complaining about high-dollar donors when they do lots of it ... . I'm stunned they'd say it's unethical and theirs is any different. They have private meetings to talk and get money from people."

The complaint said the Democratic officials on the invitation "exercise the strongest influence on our state's budget, our legislation and our legislative agenda" and have violated ethics laws by offering to talk about the narrow matter of "session issues."

This link, said Leo, violates ORS 244.040, prohibiting public officials from seeking personal gain through use of confidential information gained in office.

"Why is it corrupt to have lunch with (donors) but not one-on-one? I don't understand the reasoning," Buckley said. "I've done fundraisers all over the state and I'm glad to. Just because you limit the attendance, how does that make it go over the line?"

The gathering was set up by the Senate Democratic Leadership Fund.

— John Darling, for the Mail Tribune

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