The Independent Party of Oregon is now the third major political party in Oregon, because over 5% of registered voters in the state have joined it.

Until now, concerned voters in Oregon have had only one realistic choice, when faced with ineffective or corrupt government: vote for the “other” party. But both the Democratic and Republican parties in Oregon heavily depend on huge campaign contributions from corporations, unions, and wealthy individuals. The Oregonian has reported that races for the Oregon Legislature are the most expensive, per capita, than in any state other than New Jersey. It now takes over $500,000 to win a contested race for the Oregon Legislature; sometimes over $1 million, even for just one of the 60 seats in the Oregon House. Campaign spending in Oregon state candidate races has increased from $4 million in 1996 to over $60 million in 2014.

And about 80% of Oregon’s legislative districts are so heavily skewed toward Democratic or Republican voter registration that races for the Legislature are not contested. In about one-third of all races for the Legislature, the Republican candidate and the Democratic candidate are the same person!

The Sunlight Foundation, a liberal think tank, just graded Oregon an “F” on disclosure of lobbyist information, joining 3 other states at the bottom. The Center for Public Integrity grades Oregon an “F” in political financing and in public access to information. In response to the Kitzhaber/Hayes scandal, the Oregon Legislature did nothing of substance on these subjects, except to allow lobbyists to disclose even less.

The Independent Party of Oregon (IPO) offers a unique opportunity to thwart the “2-party system.” IPO needs candidates to run for local offices, for the Legislature, and for the four statewide offices to be voted on in 2016: Governor, Secretary of State, Attorney General, and Treasurer. But Oregon law says that no one can run for nomination in the IPO primary election who has not been a member of IPO since September 10, 2015. The Legislature has refused to change that law, and we will challenge it in court, but it could stand and deprive IPO of all candidates who have not joined IPO at least 8 months in advance of the May 2016 primary election.

IPO wants to reduce special interest influence over our government processes; increase transparency in government, protect Oregon consumers, particularly with respect to banks, insurance companies and private utilities; provide incentives for small businesses to thrive and for larger businesses to expand in Oregon in a way that returns more benefits to the public than it costs.

If you might have any possible interest in running for office as the candidate of the Independent Party of Oregon, you should change your voter registration to “Independent Party” by September 10. It takes about 2 minutes, here: https://secure.sos.state.or.us/orestar/vr/register.do. Or just search “Oregon voter register.”

Do it now. You need not decide whether to run until the primary election filing deadline, March 8, 2016. But you need to reserve opportunity now to help save Oregon’s democracy.

Dan Meek is co-chair of the Independent Party of Oregon.

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