The city ruled last week that council candidate Emilie Boyles is ineligible for public campaign money and demanded that she return $145,000.
Auditor Gary Blackmer ruled that Boyles violated the public financing code by taking out a year's lease on her campaign headquarters — a former restaurant that she planned to use after the campaign for a food bank she runs.
Among other expenses, Boyles paid her 16-year-old daughter$12,500for Internet marketing work. Candidates can pay family members for campaign help, but must prove the work was done for the going market rate.
"She signed an agreement with us that she would abide by the rules," Blackmer said. "We think she broke the rules. She needs to give the money back."
Besides returning the money she's already received, Boyles faces at least $10,000 in fines.
Boyles, who has two weeks to appeal, could not be reached for comment. In a recent interview with The Oregonian newspaper, she said she didn't know it was against the rules to rent space for a year.
However, on her campaign Web site, Boyles said the campaign will continue to "move forward without funding."
"Money is not the most important part of a campaign, you, the citizens are," Boyles said on the Web site.
"I will continue to work, continue to serve people in poverty and people with disabilities, continue to ride Tri-Met and continue to advocate for common citizens who need to be able to afford to work and play and run businesses in Portland."
The city's public financing program is designed to offset the influence of big money in politics. Candidates for the council must collect $5 contributions from 1,000 Portlanders to receive $150,000 in taxpayer money for the May primary.
In more trouble for the Boyles campaign,the Oregon attorney general's office is investigating whether a man working for her broke any laws while helping her qualify for the public money.
Boyles hired a Ukrainian immigrant named Vladimir Golovan to collect the needed signatures, and he delivered 950 of the 1,000.
But some of the people who signed don't recall contributing $5 to the campaign, and Boyles' campaign report has several instances in which one person appears to have signed for several people, an apparent violation of state election law.
Boyles paid Golovan $15,000 once she qualified for the taxpayer money.
— The Associated Press