SALEM, Ore. (AP) — A conservative super PAC with ties to the Koch brothers is buying into Oregon’s Senate race. Gov. John Kitzhaber picked up some surprising donations. And a national Republican group is targeting Oregon’s Legislature. Here’s a look at some of the more interesting news in Oregon politics this week, and it’s all about the money:
SUPER PAC IN SENATE RACE
A super PAC aligned with the Koch brothers’ political network has signaled its intent to spend big in Oregon, buying at least $1.5 million in television ads.
The Koch brothers own a variety of companies in oil and natural resources, among other industries, and are big donors to conservative candidates and causes. They’re also vilified by Democrats, and Democratic Sen. Jeff Merkley’s campaign was eager to tell the world that the Freedom Partners Action Fund is getting involved in Oregon.
“The Koch brothers hate how Jeff’s stood up on behalf of middle-class Oregonians to powerful special interests just like them,” Merkley spokeswoman Lindsey O’Brien said in a news release.
Significantly, the ad buy shows national Republicans haven’t abandoned Wehby, despite a string of bad publicity for the Republican.
“It shows there’s a legitimate shot to put Oregon on the map for Republicans,” said Dean Petrone, a spokesman for Wehby. “Outside groups wouldn’t be investing that kind of money if they didn’t see the opportunity.”
KITZHABER OPPONENTS GIVE HIM MONEY
Kitzhaber’s campaign reported two surprising contributions this week.
Rick Miller, founder and chairman of Avamere, which owns assisted living centers, gave the Democrat $25,000. Andrew Miller, chief executive of Stimson Lumber, gave $10,000.
Both men, who are unrelated, were leaders of the Oregon Transformation Project, a political action committee that was credited with helping conservatives win a majority on the Clackamas County Commission in 2012. They tend to support Republicans, and both supported Kitzhaber’s 2010 rival, Chris Dudley.
Andrew Miller acknowledged that his donation “has perplexed a lot of people.” But he said he’s in the natural resources business, and on farm and forestry issues, Kitzhaber has been collaborative, inclusive and balanced.
“He’s proven himself to me,” Miller said. “If somebody’s demonstrated their ability to lead in an area, I don’t see why they shouldn’t be supported.”
Miller’s company, Stimson Lumber, gave $20,000 to Republican Dennis Richardson’s campaign in October. Miller said that early contribution was meant to help Richardson get his campaign off the ground.
“I really do believe they’re two good candidates who are qualified to serve and lead,” he said.
The Associated Press wasn’t able to reach Rick Miller late on Friday.
NATIONAL GOP TARGETS OREGON LEGISLATURE
The national Republican group in charge of boosting the party’s state legislative prospects says it’s targeting Oregon’s House and Senate for pickups.
Both chambers were included on the Republican State Leadership Committee’s list of 16 Democratic chambers they hope to flip.
The group wouldn’t say how much it plans to spend in any particular state.
Asked to identify specific pickup opportunities in Oregon, spokeswoman Jill Bader pointed in an email to the Alan Bates-Dave Dotterrer rematch in Southern Oregon. She also said “several House incumbents will have to answer for their support of the expensive embarrassment” of the Cover Oregon failures.
Campaign finance records show the group has spent about $420,000 on Oregon legislative races in the last two election cycles.
Democrats aren’t worried.
“We’re really confident we’re going to win Senate District 8,” said Michael Sargeant, director of the Democratic Legislative Campaign Committee. “If that happens, I don’t see a path for the Republicans to take the majority.”
That district pits incumbent Republican Sen. Betsy Close of Albany against Democratic Rep. Sara Gelser of Corvallis.
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