Five out-of-state donors providing most of the cash in support of OR gun control measure

Five out-of-state donors providing most of the cash in support of OR gun control measure
AP Photo/Mark Lennihan

A few days ago I wrote about the $750,000 check that Seattle socialite Connie Ballmer cut to supporters of Oregon’s Ballot Measure 114, noting that the single donation made up a health portion of the more than $2-million that the Safe Schools, Safe Communities PAC has brought in from donors. As it turns out, Ballmer and just a handful of other deep pocketed donors are responsible for the vast majority of money raised. Far from being a grassroots effort to impose a host of new restrictions on legal gun owners, this is an Astroturf campaign that’s been largely funded by out-of-state gun control activists.

Just five individuals and organizations account for $1.53-million of the $2.4-million that the anti-gun PAC has raked in over the course of the campaign to impose a magazine ban and a permit-to-purchase system (complete with a database of gun owners and a host of unfunded mandates for law enforcement that will cost agencies tens of millions of dollars each year), and Second Amendment activists will recognize at least a few of them.

None of the five biggest contributors live in Oregon, as it turns out, but several of them have a history of campaign contributions to gun control efforts around the country.

Balmer is followed by Seattle venture capitalist Nicolas Hanauer and the national progressive group Sixteen Thirty Fund, which each contributed $250,000 in support of the measure.

Hanauer is the founder of a public-policy incubator called Civic Ventures and hosts a podcast called Pitchfork Economics. He has backed gun safety measures in Maine, Nevada and Washington as well as measures to raise the minimum wage and fight animal trafficking.

The other top donations to the measure’s campaign came from Everytown for Gun Safety Action Fundfounded by former New York City Mayor Mike Bloomberg, at $155,000 and the nation’s largest teachers union, the National Education Association, at $125,000.

Following close behind are Giffords’ $100,000 and Brady’s $50,000 contribution. In all, a whopping eight out of the ten largest cash contributions have come from out-of-state interests; totaling $1.68-million of the total $2.4-million raised to date.

Maxine Bernstein of The Oregonian notes that opponents of Measure 114 have only raised $76,000, including a $31,000 donation from the Oregon Firearms Federation. Nike co-founder Phil Knight has spent heavily on the state’s gubernatorial race; donating to both independent Betsy Johnson’s campaign and, more recently, Republican Christine Drazan, but has apparently kept his wallet closed to conservatives hoping to defeat the anti-2A ballot measure (both Johnson and Drazan, incidentally, oppose Measure 114 while Democratic candidate Tina Kotek supports it).

Despite the lopsided fundraising figures, the most recent survey of voters in Oregon found opposition to Measure 114 slightly larger than support. 577 likely Oregon voters were quizzed about Measure 114, and, according to pollster Nelson Research, 49.4% said they opposed the measure, 46.1% expressed support, and another 4.5% of people were still undecided. The poll has a margin of error of 4.1%, but it’s still a clear indication that the magazine ban and permit-to-purchase mandate doesn’t enjoy the 80-to-90% support that gun control activists routinely claim for their “reasonable” infringements on a fundamental right.

In addition to the paid advertising coming from the pro-114 PAC, the gun control measure is also getting some free publicity from at least one local media out. In it’s reporting on the newest poll, station KGW managed to provide extensive quotes from three supporters of Measure 114, while offering only a brief one-sentence statement from a single opponent.

Antoinette Edwards, the retired director of Portland’s Office of Youth Violence Intervention, tells KGW she has been fighting for a measure like this her entire life.

“I have watched too many young people lose their lives and cross the yellow tape lines,” said Edwards. “In fact, I always bring young people with me every time I speak to be reminded of why we must do something different. We have to.”

Mollay Ramos strongly supports the measure as she lost her brother Deshawn Mayes last year to gun violence in downtown Portland.

“I was just 19 and I was there the whole time holding him, the whole time while he was bleeding out the whole time when no one came for help,” said Ramos. “I lived the reality.”

“We recognize that we must address firearm violence,” said Shane Nelson, president of Oregon State Sheriffs’ Association. “But measure 114 is just not the answer.”

“Nowhere in 114 is anyone said that we’re coming after your Second Amendment right,” said Reverend Dr. Matt Hennessee of the Interfaith Peace and Action Collaborative. “It has nothing to do with that. It has everything to do with people being responsible about the guns that they have, and not using them against each other.”

The reality is that Measure 114 won’t do a damn thing about the illegal use of firearms in Portland. If anything, it will simply lead to more arrests for the newly-created crime of possessing a pistol without the required permit; a non-violent offense that could still land gun owners in jail. The magazine ban is equally troublesome, not only because it would prohibit an item that is common use for a variety of lawful purposes (a Second Amendment no-no, according to SCOTUS), but will likely lead to a disproportionate number of arrestees being young minority males.
That’s actually one of the chief arguments of progressives who’ve been speaking out against Measure 114; the new gun laws would be anything but equitable in addition to being ineffective and he tens of millions of dollars that would spent on enforcing the provisions of Measure 114 would be better spent on actual violence reduction programs and other efforts aimed at addressing the root causes of violence. It’s an argument that appears to be resonating on the left, and that could result in a political earthquake taking place in Oregon on Tuesday. The gun control lobby sees Oregon as friendly territory, so if Measure 114 goes down to defeat thanks to broad opposition from across the political spectrum it will not only cause an existential crisis for anti-gun activists, but a road map for Second Amendment advocates to use in other states that are currently hostile to our fundamental right of armed self-defense.