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Mayoral candidate complains: Groups forum violated rules

VOIS defends decision to not invite Brumm to Wednesday Champions of Change

The youngest candidate for Portland mayor fired Thursday the first salvo in the campaign, not against his fellow candidates but against a group that apparently did not invite him to speak at an event Wednesday night when the three other mayoral candidates took the stage.

Max Brumm, a 19-year-old Clackamas Community College student, sent a letter to the board members of the VOIS (Voice for Oregon Innovation and Sustainability) Alliance, alleging that the group violated election laws by not including himself and another candidate for mayor in its Champions of Change event when it billed the event as having '…all three Portland mayoral candidates appearing together for the first time!'

When Brumm's campaign treasurer - who also happens to be his mother, Lisa Brumm - wrote a letter to VOIS to call attention to the oversight, the board's president, Sattie Clark, responded with an e-mail she originally sent to Brumm on Sept. 20:

Hello Lisa,

Thank you for bringing Max to my attention. I think it's great that Max is trying to make a name for himself and help shape the conversation for the upcoming mayoral race. With all due respect, however, if we are going to consider him as a 'viable candidate' (in this case, 'viable' means having a chance of winning, or having a chance of strongly influencing the conversation or outcome) and include him in this event, we would need to get a list of Max's endorsements and/or anything else that might help establish his viability.

In a Sept. 23 e-mail, Sattie Clark further explained her position on the matter:

'The event is not a candidate forum. It is a private fundraiser centered on the sustainable business community. The candidates who were invited were all scheduled months ago (prior to announcing his candidacy, Jefferson was originally scheduled as a keynote). They all have close ties with the sustainable business community. They all have a demonstrated track record of supporting sustainability and business in Portland. They each have a vision for the role that VOIS Business Alliance will play in the future of our city. The VOIS board and event team seriously discussed the idea of including Max and determined that with our very tight program and focus, it just doesn't make sense to add Max to the program at this last minute.'

Bud Clark agrees

Brumm, who lives in Southwest Portland and graduated this year from Lincoln High School, told the Tribune on Thursday that the experience has been frustrating, and he believes proof that money is power.

'This wouldn't be happening if we still had public financing in Portland,' he said. 'Charlie and Eileen are planning on raising millions. I have about $2,000 in my account. If public financing was around, my voice would be heard; I could compete with them.'

Brumm says he's consulted with former Mayor Bud Clark on the issue, and Clark agreed that his voice should be heard, Brumm says. As far as having the experience required to be mayor, Brumm says, 'What has experience gotten us in the past? I've been a part of the community; I have an alternative look. I'd ask employees where we could make budget cuts in the city.'

Here is the letter Brumm sent Thursday, a day after the VOIS event:

Ms. Sattie Clark et al,

My campaign staff and I regretfully wish to inform you and VOIS Alliance Board members that your failure to invite a Mayoral candidate (e-mail dated 9/30/11) for a speaking invitation to your Champions of Change fundraising event last night (October 5, 2011); in which your website claimed to have as Special Guest Speakers '…all three Portland mayoral candidates appearing together for the first time!', seems to have violated many Department of Justice state laws, as well as IRS rulings for your non-profit organization.

As you were admittedly unaware (Sattie's reply e-mail dated 9/30/11) of my candidacy in this upcoming Mayoral race in Portland, you are also seemingly unaware that your organization has violated these rules that pertain to the structure of your 501(c)6 status. By neglecting to include me (one of the only two dually state and city registered current Mayoral candidates) in the event, VOIS Alliance has created an event that excluded a candidate; which makes the event and/or forum inherently political and the 501(c)6 must pay an excise tax of 35 percent on any funds raised with the event.

My campaign staff has diligently researched the following information and is simultaneously notifying the state and federal agencies that oversee and regulate these mandates.

501(c)6 must follow these rules if they are conducting political events (i.e. advanced notification to its members, separate bank accounts for these events, proxy tax notices, etc.)

VOIS Alliance needs to be prepared to provide a copy of the advance notice to its members about the percentage of money used for any political activities. Failure to do so may expose the 501(c)6 and all of its assets to penalties and/or taxes.

I reiterate that my campaign's proactive effort to respectfully request an allotted and equal speaking time that has obviously been given to other Mayoral candidates in this race was first challenged by Ms. Clark by asking me for endorsements to prove my viability, then dismissed intentionally by Ms. Clark once I fulfilled her request. Perhaps, I am the only viable candidate that pays attention to laws.

Kimberlee Stafford, an attorney with Tonkon Torp, responded Thursday afternoon on behalf of VOIS:

'We respectfully disagree with your interpretation of the law applicable to 501(c)(6) organizations and what constitutes political activity,' Stafford wrote. 'Last night's event afforded attendees an opportunity to hear brief remarks from three mayoral candidates. It was an educational forum in that respect. VOIS has not made any statements, express or implied, endorsing a candidate for mayor.'

She added: 'However, even if VOIS could be construed as engaging in political activity due to last night's event, such activity is indeed allowed. You may wish to review the documents you cited below. A 501(c)(6) organization may engage in political activity so long as it does not constitute its primary activity. A 501(c)(6) organization is different from a charity organized under 501(c)(3) in this respect. VOIS fully intends to comply with all applicable tax laws.'

Hales introduces business plan

At the VOIS event, mayoral candidate Charlie Hales pitched a new idea: an incentive for socially and economically responsible businesses to move to Portland.

The former city commissioner said he'd propose a 50 percent reduction of the city's Business License Fee for companies 'B Corp-certified companies,' a new classification of corporation which require officers and directors to think about their community, their social responsibility and the environment in making decisions, thereby using the power of business to solve social and environmental problems.'

B Corps are certified by a national nonprofit called B Lab. There are currently 30 B Corp companies in Oregon.

VOIS began as a nonprofit in 2009 by a few dozen local business leaders who wanted a way to advocate for sustainable business policies in the city.


For more information, see www.vois.org , www.charliehales.com , www.eileenformayor.com and www.jeffersonsmith.com .