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The Oregonian - Business News

PUD opponents use almost $3 million

Supporters of the unsuccessful November ballot measures to create a public utility district spent just under $40,000



Documents filed with Multnomah County's elections division Thursday show that opponents of two failed ballot measures that would have created a people's utility district outspent supporters 75-to-1 during a contentious campaign.

Portland General Electric and PacifiCorp spent nearly $2 million on a successful campaign to defeat two measures last month that would have created a public utility with the authority to condemn property owned by the utilities. Citizens Against the Government Takeover, the utility-backed political committee that campaigned against measures 26-51 and 26-52, spent another $1 million for in-kind services.

Supporters of the ballot measures, the Oregon Public Power Coalition and the Don't Waste Oregon Caucus, reported Thursday they had spent $39,797, including $1,377 worth of in-kind services.

PGE, owned by bankrupt Enron, contributed $1,157,000 in cash and $253,070 in services to fight the ballot measures. PacifiCorp, owned by Glascow-based ScottishPower, contributed $808,000 in cash and $752,692 in services. Smaller contributors gave an additional $25,532.

Services included legal advice, printing and canvassing.

"What this shows us is a grass-roots group against big money ain't going to win," said Liz Trojan, treasurer of the Oregon Public Power Coalition.

Brian Gard, president of the Portland advertising firm Gard & Gerber and chairman of Citizens Against the Government Takeover, said money does not guarantee an outcome. Gard & Gerber directed the campaign against the measures.

"Voters are good at separating bad information from good information and have rejected large money campaigns in the past," he said.