The Oregon Department of Justice declined on Wednesday to open a criminal investigation into a complaint alleging that a ballot initiative agreement negotiated by Gov. Kate Brown, Nike and public employee union was illegal.
"Based on our review, we have concluded that a criminal investigation is not warranted in this matter," DOJ Criminal Justice Division chief counsel Michael Slauson wrote in a letter to the Secretary of State's office.
"In reaching that conclusion, we note that there is no information that the proponents of (Initiative Petition 25) sought to qualify the petition for the ballot for an improper purpose or that any of the named individuals engaged in intimidation, blackmail or extortion," Slauson wrote.
Slauson referred the complaint, filed in late July by Portland resident Richard Leonetti, back to the Secretary of State's office to determine whether it should take civil or administrative action.
Leonetti's complaint focused on an apparent deal to keep the public employee union's so-called corporate transparency initiative off the November ballot. Initiative Petition 25 would have required large companies such as Nike to disclose their taxes and other sensitive business information in filings with the state, or pay a fine.
Brown's re-election campaign told OPB last month that the governor was meeting with corporate leaders and public employee unions in an attempt to keep Initiative Petition 25 and another initiative, now known as Measure 104, off the ballot. Backers of Measure 104, which would make it more difficult for the Legislature to trim tax breaks, went ahead and got it on the ballot.
After meeting with the governor and days before the signature-gathering deadline for initiative campaigns, Nike contributed $100,000 to a new political action committee called the Common Good Fund. It was created by Nike's senior director of government and public affairs Julia Brim-Edwards, who is also on the Portland Public Schools board.
A spokeswoman for the union-backed political nonprofit Our Oregon said days before the signature deadline that it had more than enough signatures to qualify, after spending hundreds of thousands of dollars on paid signature gatherers. They never turned them in, a decision union leaders said was based on the need to focus on defeating Measure 104 and another anti-tax initiative already on the ballot.
Leonetti's complaint named the governor, Brim-Edwards, AFSCME executive director Stacy Chamberlain and SEIU Local 503 president Steven Demarest. He asserted the arrangement reportedly brokered by Brown violated a prohibition in state law against paying to "sell, hinder or delay any part of an initiative, referendum or recall petition."
Christian Gaston, a spokesman for Brown's re-election campaign, wrote in an email: "This complaint was nothing more than an attempt to distract Oregonians from the truth: Governor Brown succeeded in bringing business and labor leaders together to have a reasonable discussion about a better way to move Oregon forward."
SEIU Local 503 did not respond to a request for comment.
The Justice Department has two ongoing investigations into other initiatives on the November ballot. It's investigating a complaint by Our Oregon that the signature-gathering firm for Measure 104 violated state election laws. Prosecutors are also investigating multiple complaints that signature gatherers for Measure 105, which would repeal Oregon's sanctuary law, engaged in deceptive practices.