Oct. 6, 2016
SALEM -- Nike co-founder Phil Knight contributed a total of $380,000 to seven House Republican candidates and one Senate Republican candidate in competitive races around the state, according to new campaign finance filings and a party spokesman.
The personal campaign donations are unusually large contributions to legislative races for Knight, who last gave to legislative candidates in 2012, according to state records.
Knight has contributed to both Democrats and Republicans over the years, including $250,000 to Gov. John Kitzhaber's re-election campaign in 2014 and $400,000 to Republican gubernatorial candidate Chris Dudley in 2010. However, his past contributions to legislative candidates were typically only a couple of thousand dollars.
Democrats currently hold a three-fifths supermajority in the Senate and are one vote shy of that threshold in the House. With supermajorities, Democrats could pass legislation raising taxes without any Republican votes.
Knight's contributions, first reported by the Register-Guard on Tuesday, included $80,000 for Rep. Mark Johnson, R-Hood River, said Preston Mann, a spokesman for Promote Oregon Leadership PAC, which works with Republican House candidates across the state.
Knight's other contributions included $50,000 each to House candidates Ron Noble of McMinnville, Patti Milne of Woodburn, Lori Chavez-DeRemer of Happy Valley and Dan Mason of Hillsboro. Senate candidate Alan DeBoer of Ashland also received $50,000.
Knight gave $25,000 to Rep. Julie Parrish of West Linn, whom he's contributed to in the past, and $25,000 to House candidate Rich Vial of Hillsboro.
Milne, DeBoer, Chavez-DeRemer and Mason are all running in districts currently held by Democrats.
Greg Rossiter, a spokesman for Nike, did not respond to an email seeking comment Wednesday. Separately, Nike has contributed $75,000 so far to the campaign against Measure 97, a corporate gross receipts tax on the November ballot.
Republicans also offered little comment on Knight's contributions Wednesday. "Phil Knight has been a friend of our state for decades," Mann wrote in an email. "We are honored to have his support."
Knight has previously contributed to Rep. Jennifer Williamson, D-Portland, who is now House majority leader. So far, Knight has not contributed to Williamson's campaign this year.
Aaron Fiedler, communications director for House Democrats political action committee Future PAC, said Wednesday evening that Democrats are focusing on soliciting small donors. "Our campaigns are continuing to work hard toward Election Day, knocking on thousands of doors and raising money from grassroots donors from across the state," Fiedler wrote in an email.
-- Hillary Borrud