I was appalled to read Monday in the Press Herald that the supposedly grassroots organization Unite Portland is an attack group funded by some of the city’s wealthiest real estate developers.

In the article, Unite Portland spokesperson Dory Waxman claimed, “Unite Portland is a diverse group of concerned citizens.”

That’s hogwash. As their own fundraising reports show, Unite Portland had just 12 donors as of Oct. 7.

And they aren’t “diverse.” Seven are or have ties to developers, property owners and influential real estate brokers. Names like Tom Watson (of Port Property Management), Jim Brady (developer of the Eastern Waterfront), Jed Troubh (developer of Thompson’s Point) and Rachael Alfond (spouse of developer Justin Alfond).

Watson, Brady and Alfond each wrote a $5,000 check to Unite Portland.

The legal maximum you can donate to a municipal candidate is $850, but there is no legal limit when donating to political action committees. In fact, all seven folks from the real estate industry have already donated thousands of dollars to Spencer Thibodeau’s mayoral campaign.

Thus, while the Unite Portland PAC runs endless attack ads against the incumbent, Thibodeau insisted in the article that he’s running a “positive campaign” – though he and Unite Portland share the same wealthy donors.

Does the average voter have $5,000 lying around to spend on negative ads against a candidate they don’t like? Of course not. But these folks have learned that, by funneling their wealth into a PAC, they can gain more influence over local politics than you and I.

When did this become normal in Portland?

Joey Brunelle


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