4/30/08

AFSCME uses forced-dues for political donations

Pendleton (Oregon) City Council candidate Bryan Branstetter responded Monday to campaign finance accusations fellow candidate Connie Wright made in a letter to the Secretary of State's office Friday. Wright did not specifically direct most of her accusations at Branstetter, but more toward possible union contributions to his campaign. Wright alleged union contributions came from treasuries that members dues filled, something Wright - a former union official herself - believes was illegal.

The legal counsel for American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, Jason Weyand, disagreed, saying campaign donating with dues dollars is legal in Oregon.

"AFSCME Local 3361 has not engaged in any conduct that violates applicable election laws," Weyand said in an e-mail to the East Oregonian, "because Oregon does not prohibit local unions from using dues money to contribute to political campaigns."

The AFSCME Web site, in a question-and-answer section, deals with the issue - "Do my dues pay for contributions to political candidates?"

The Web site answer says, "No. Under federal law, and many state laws, union dues cannot be used directly to fund political candidates, although they may be used to support some state-level candidates."

"While that may be the case for federal campaigns, it's not the case for local campaigns," Weyand said.

Weyand said this applies to national campaigns, but because Branstetter's race is local, only local and state laws apply.

"In general, there's different rules for federal campaigns versus state campaigns," he said. "Local city council and county elections are governed by Oregon laws - when we can and cannot make contributions."

Branstetter said he had nothing to hide.

"I have open books," he said. "If the Secretary of State wants to come look at them, I'm all in favor of it because I've got nothing to hide from no one."

Branstetter's committee to elect, along with a list of contributions and expenditures, are listed with Oregon's elections database, ORESTAR.

His total contributions amount to about $2,675. A list of who donated and the amount is available at the state elections Web site.

"Anything I've either got a bill for, received a contribution from, such as in-kind, is on ORESTAR," Branstetter said.

He said he would welcome anyone looking at his accounts.

Branstetter said there are more important issues.

"My deal is you need to focus on the issues of the city," he said. "It needs to be a positive campaign. ...I put my name in the hat to run for city council because I believe in the city."

(eastoregonian.info)

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