Opponents of Portland referendums far outnumber supporters in latest financial reports

Opponents of the 13 ballot questions Portland voters will consider this fall have raised far more money than supporters and have a significant fundraising lead a month before the November election.

Three groups formed to oppose the ballot questions collectively raised $590,924 from July 20 to September 30 and have $388,896 left, according to new campaign finance reports filed with the city this week. Most of the money was raised by Enough is Enough, which raised $439,138 and has $282,025 left.

Ballot question supporters collectively raised $13,599 during the reporting period and have $19,049 left, including money raised before the last reporting period. The groups have primarily spent money on advertising, marketing and campaign materials.

Maine DSA for a Livable Portland, the ballot question committee formed to support four citizen-initiated referendums put forward by the Maine chapter of the Democratic Socialists of America’s Livable Portland campaign, raised $9,308 this term and has $5,003 left.

Wes Pelletier, president of the Livable Portland campaign, responded to the latest fundraising reports in a statement Friday, saying groups opposing referendums and charter questions “appear to represent workers, renters and working-class Portland every day,” but that “what these campaign finance reports make clear, however, is that they do in fact represent big business, out-of-state corporations, developers, and landlords.”

“Livable Portland has raised a small fraction of the amount raised by our opponents, and we’re very proud of that,” said Pelletier, noting that most donors to the campaign were from Maine and gave less than $100 each. “We have no paid staff or consultants, and our dozens of volunteers pour time and work into this fight because we’re not in it for the money, we’re in it for the majority.”

Enough is Enough was organized to defeat the 13 Questions, though the group has primarily focused on the DSA-sponsored Four Questions. Part of his message is that there are too many referendums on the ballot and it’s too hard to know the unintended consequences of each one, let alone how proposals might affect each other if multiple questions pass.

Matt Marks, a spokesman for Enough is Enough, said Friday that the group “was pleasantly surprised by the number of people who contributed small and large amounts to say, ‘Hey, we’re tired of this.'”

Some of his largest donations include $50,000 each from Uber and DoorDash. The group also received $25,000 from a San Francisco company, Seaforth Housing. Supporters of the ballot questions criticized such donations on Friday.

“It is disappointing that the leaders of Enough is Enough, former Councilman Nick Mavodones and local owner and developer Ned Payne, have decided to put so much money into local politics,” said the group Yes for Democracy, which supports the eight proposals in the bill. constitution commission. he said in a statement.

CLAIMED LOCAL CONNECTIONS

Marks said he was not aware of any substantial donations to Enough is Enough that did not have a local connection. Uber and DoorDash have employees in Portland whose jobs would be made more difficult under Question D, which seeks to raise the city’s minimum wage, because of a provision that affects their status as independent contractors, she said. And she said that Seaforth Housing operates an apartment building in Portland.

Enough is Enough also drew criticism from referendum supporters this week after he missed a Wednesday deadline to file his campaign finance report. Both Marks and a spokesperson for the city of Portland said it was due to a typo in the email address used to submit the report. Marks said that after the group was notified of the error, he filed the report with the city on Thursday. There will be no penalty for filing late, city spokeswoman Jessica Grondin said.

Fair Elections Portland, a group that supports the charter commission’s clean elections proposal (Question 3), said in a statement Thursday that they were “disappointed but not surprised that this anti-democratic campaign doesn’t bother to follow the basic requirements of disclosure that already exist”. place.”

Anna Kellar, the group’s president, was pleased to learn on Friday that the report had been released. Kellar’s group raised just $501 this term, not counting $3,200 in in-kind donations, and has $9,612 available. Kellar said the group believes there is broad support in Portland for the clean elections proposal, which would create a mechanism to publicly fund candidates for local office, and isn’t concerned about spending more.

Kellar also said the amount of money raised by Enough is Enough and other groups highlights the need for the proposal, which would primarily affect campaign spending on candidate races. Although a provision barring foreign contributions would apply to ballot questions.

“We see a lot of the same interest groups that are giving this ‘No Referendums’ campaign also giving to the candidates,” Kellar said. “It’s a lot of the same players: real estate agents, major restaurant associations. All of these groups, while having a legitimate voice in the political process, should not be able to use these contributions to gain more of a voice.”

LARGE EXPENDITURE IN CONSULTING

Enough is Enough has spent a substantial amount of their money raised, $124,613, with LFD Strategies in Scarborough. The address listed on the campaign finance report is the same as the address for Red Hill Strategies, a public relations and consulting firm that was co-founded by Lance Dutson, a consultant who has worked on several Republican campaigns.

Marks confirmed Friday that Enough is Enough hired Dutson to work primarily in digital advertising. The Maine DSA tweeted Thursday that Enough is “being secretly run by a Republican agent named Lance Dutson.”

Dutson did not respond to messages seeking an interview Friday night, but Marks said it shouldn’t matter whether the company being used to buy and place ads is run by a Republican or a Democrat. “The message is not biased in any way, shape or form,” he said.

Two other city-registered election question committees also raised significant funds to oppose the referendums. Restaurant Industry United, which opposes Question D and its elimination of the subminimum wage or tip credit, raised $128,700 and has $87,989 left.

And Protect Portland’s Future, which opposes Questions 2 and 5 of the founding commission, raised $23,086 this term and has $18,882 left.

Restaurant Industry United’s largest donations include $25,000 each from Uber and DoorDash, and $50,000 from the National Restaurant Association. It also received smaller donations from a handful of Portland restaurants, including Bruno’s Restaurant and Tavern, Gritty McDuff’s, DiMillo’s on the Water and Dock Fore.

Greg Dugal, a spokesman for Restaurant Industry United, said all members of Hospitality Maine, a trade group that represents the hospitality industry in Maine, are members of the National Restaurant Association, which is why the group supports his campaign.

And he said that Uber and DoorDash not only rely on restaurants for business, but also have workers in Portland who could be affected by Question D. “They operate in the city of Portland and their product is available in the city of Portland.” Dugal said. “They also have to represent their interests. … We all know that what they do will be seriously altered if what is proposed is approved.”

Uber did not respond to an email Friday asking about its donations. In a statement, a DoorDash spokesperson said: “Our mission is to grow and empower local economies, and we do this by helping connect Portland customers with the best of their community. These sweeping measures would have a devastating impact on the ability of local businesses, including the merchants we support in Portland, to serve their customers while threatening the flexible income opportunities that Dashers overwhelmingly tell us they value.”

EXPLOITATION OR INDEPENDENCE?

Dashers are paid based on estimated time, distance and convenience of an order, customer tips and promotions, the company said. On average, Dashers earn more than $25 an hour, including 100 percent of tips, and work fewer than four hours a week, the company said.

Information on the Livable Portland campaign website says that Question D “will ensure that all independent contractors (including food delivery workers, Uber and Lyft drivers) are paid the full minimum wage, so they don’t follow being exploited by companies that only provide inconsistent income.”

At a City Council meeting in August, an Uber driver told the council that he frequently makes trips at the Portland International Jetport. In one case, he took someone to Boston for $102 and Uber took $35. “That was 102 miles down, and I had to get back to Portsmouth without a ride,” said the driver, Louis Ouellette. “So how much am I out as an independent business and myself?” He said he supports Question D.

“I think this is a step in the right direction and I would be interested in working with the sponsors, as well as the next department, to iron out the details to help me and other drivers who move this city keep things fair and equitable. ,” he said.

But another driver, identified in meeting minutes as Ed Ahlemeyer, said he was surprised to hear support for the proposal.

“The only reason I’m an Uber driver is so I don’t have to be somebody’s employee,” Ahlemeyer said. “That’s what will happen if this happens. We will be forced to be employees. I will lose flexibility in my work. … If you want the benefits of being an employee, don’t be an independent contractor. That right should not be taken away.”


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