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Democrats challenge Wehby's fundraising

Oregon Democrats have filed a challenge to an expenditure by the president of Stimson Lumber Co. for advertising against Monica Wehby’s main challenger for the Republican nomination for the U.S. Senate.

Andrew Miller, Stimson’s chief executive, and Nevada businessman Loren Parks paid $106,000 for broadcast ads against state Rep. Jason Conger, R-Bend, who also is seeking the Senate nomination. Miller has been linked romantically to Wehby, although neither would discuss their relationship, saying it is a private matter.

Miller also played host to a Wehby fundraiser last week.

The chairman of the Democratic Party of Oregon, in announcing a complaint filed with the Federal Election Commission, said it defies belief there was no coordination of effort. Independent political action committees can spend for or against candidates, but under federal rules, they cannot coordinate those efforts with the candidates.

“When you’re in a relationship, communication is essential. When you have a Super PAC, communication is forbidden. Starting a Super PAC for someone you are romantically involved with and feigning ignorance of her campaign strategy and denying coordination is brazen, to say the least,” said Frank Dixon of Portland, chairman of the Democratic Party of Oregon.

“Monica Wehby and timber baron Andrew Miller are making a mockery of our campaign finance system. To claim there’s no coordination when a major funder of the Super PAC is hosting campaign fundraisers is unbelievable. The FEC needs to investigate allegations of illegal coordination immediately.”

It is unlikely that the FEC would investigate the complaint before the May 20 election.

Wehby, a Portland pediatric neurosurgeon, has raised $1.1 million compared with under $300,000 for Conger, a Bend lawyer and two-term state representative. She had more cash on hand than he did on March 31. Final pre-election reports are due Thursday to the FEC. Three other candidates trail them in fundraising.

The winner of the five-way primary will face Democratic Sen. Jeff Merkley, who is seeking a second six-year term.

Wehby's campaign manager blasted the complaint. "Our campaign has not coordinated with this group in any way," said Charlie Pearce. "Anyone suggesting otherwise is making a false accusation."

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