As the state contemplates an income tax hike, Oregon’s elites line their pockets with taxpayer money.

In 2016, as politicians across America were fleeing voter wrath, Oregon’s governor and attorney general were blazing an unlikely trail – accepting hundreds of thousands of dollars in campaign donations from businesses with state contracts.

Since 1940, at the federal level, individuals and entities negotiating or working under federal contracts are prohibited from giving political cash to candidates, parties or committees. In Oregon, however, this political patronage is perfectly legal, at least for now.

Our analysis at American Transparency (OpenTheBooks.com) found 207 state contractors gave $805,876 in campaign cash to Governor Kate Brown ($518,203) and Attorney General Ellen Rosenblum ($287,673) since 2012. These businesses hold lifetime state contracts worth at least $2.6 billion. State contractor donations to the governor and attorney general represent 57 percent of current cash on hand in their campaign committees.

We found the data by looking at a universe of companies or their affiliated employees funding Brown or Rosenblum’s campaigns since 2012. We then matched those company names with the contract database provided by the State of Oregon. It’s a trail of conflicts of interest paved with campaign cash and contractor payments.

Oregon Gov, Kate Brown speaks to the crowd of supporters after being elected at the Oregon Convention Center in Portland, Ore., on Tuesday, Nov. 8, 2016. (AP Photo/Steve Dykes)

We found 41 law firms holding state contracts with a lifetime value of nearly $50 million who gave political donations to Rosenblum ($196,093 in donations) and Brown ($89,958 in donations) since 2012. Oregon outsources legal work to these firms despite Rosenblum’s Department of Justice employing up to 1,228 staffers at an annual taxpayer cost of $74 million. Why put state employees to work when you can outsource it to potential donors? By comparison, the Attorneys General of Illinois and New York have 875 and 1,685 employees respectively.

State campaign disclosures show that firms themselves, or their affiliated partners, principals, and employees gave the following:

  • Markowitz Herbold PC – $25,084 in campaign donations to the governor and AG. Separately, the firm received new and amended state contracts valued at $13 million from 2013-2015.
  • Orrick, Herrington & Sutcliffe LLP – $16,331 in campaign donations to the governor and AG. Separately, the firm held state contracts worth a lifetime value of $2.995 million.
  • Stoll, Stoll, Berne, Lokting & Shalchter PC – $15,617 in campaign donations to the governor and AG. Separately, the firm held contracts worth a lifetime value of $2.71 million.
  • Tonkon Torp LLP – $6,560 in campaign donations to the governor and AG. Separately, the firm held contracts worth a lifetime value of $2 million.
  • Ball Janik LLP – $4,600 in campaign donations to the governor and AG.  Separately, the firm held state contracts worth $1.11 million over their lifetime that were initiated, modified, or amended during 2011-2015.

Before publishing, we pressed the five law firms for confirmation, comment and context. While three responded, only Ball Janik confirmed their contracts.

We also found major U.S. corporations who reaped Oregon state contracts worth millions of dollars in lifetime value while each business, or affiliated employees, gave campaign cash to the governor or AG since 2012. Some of these businesses include Alaskan Air (contracts worth $25 million); AT&T ($32.4 million); Hewlett Packard ($38.5 million); Microsoft ($15.6 million); Pitney Bowes ($9.8 million); Verizon ($57.2 million); FedEx ($82 million); CH2M Hill ($129.9 million); and PacificSource Health ($82.4 million).