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Oregon v. Campbell

February 15, 1973


On review from the Court of Appeals.

Ridgway K. Foley, Jr., Portland, argued the cause for appellants. With him on the briefs were Souther, Spaulding, Kinsey, Williamson & Schwabe, Francis E. Harrington and Maurice D. Sussman.

John H. Clough, Assistant Attorney General, Salem, argued the cause for respondent. With him on the brief were Lee Johnson, Attorney General, and John W. Osburn, Solictor General.

McAllister, Justice. Holman, Howell and Bryson, Justices. O'Connell, Chief Justice, Specially Concurring. Denecke, Justice, dissenting in part.


Petitioners were convicted by the court without a jury of violation of ORS 254.590:

"No person shall give, pay or receive any money or other valuable consideration for securing signatures of electors upon any petition for the initiation of any measure or referendum on any measure or for the recall of any public officer."

A violation of this statute is a misdemeanor.

In a consolidated appeal the Court of Appeals affirmed the convictions, 498 P2d 836 (1972), and we granted review. The case involves the proper construction of the statute and its constitutionality. Petitioners Collins and Campf also contend that, as to them, there is no evidence to support a finding of guilt.

Petitioners Collins and Campf sponsored a referendum campaign, in order to secure a popular vote on the cigarette tax measure enacted by the 1971 Legislature. They hired petitioner Campbell to conduct the petition drive, under a contract which provided in part as follows:

"Whereas Sylvan Campf and Ed Collins, hereinafter called 'sponsors', are sponsors of a petition for a referendum * * * and need to get the signatures of more than 26,000 voters on the petition; and

"Ronald K. Campbell, hereinafter called 'canvasser', is willing to recruit a crew to get such signatures and have them to sponsors in time to file them with the Secretary of State * * *

"Canvasser is to recruit persons to circulate petitions and obtain signatures of registered voters. * * * He is responsible for collecting signatures throughout the state.

"Canvasser is to secure not less than 25,000 valid signatures * * *.

"Canvasser is to bear all expenses for his office and telephone. He is to pay his employees at least the minimum hourly wage required by law and all wages, taxes thereon and license expense is to be borne by him. * * *

"Canvasser is to receive for his services the sum of Six Thousand Dollars ($6,000.00) from which he shall pay all wages, taxes and other expenses, and if he shall by obtaining sufficient valid signatures be the primary cause of getting the referendum on the ballot shall receive the additional sum of Twenty-Five Hundred Dollars ($2,500.00)."

Campbell was paid at least $7,500.00 pursuant to this agreement.

Campbell hired canvassers to circulate the petitions and obtain signatures. The canvassers were paid by the hour, with additional payment offered for any signatures obtained after their regular working hours. Campbell instructed the canvassers to try to get ten or twelve signatures an hour.

Collins and Campf were indicted jointly for paying money to Campbell "for Ronald Campbell's securing signatures of electors on a petition for the referral to the people of Chapter 535, Oregon Laws 1971 * * *". Campbell was indicted for paying money to one Stephen Jordan "for Stephen Jordan's securing signatures of electors * * *". All were found guilty by the trial court.*fn1

No prior cases have construed ORS 254.590. The Court of Appeals considered the statute quite clear in its application to all three petitioners:

"* * * It clearly forbids paying a person to secure signatures on a petition -- precisely what was alleged and proven in the present cases. There is no need to resort to rules of statutory construction when the plain and usual meaning of the words was adequate to warn the defendants of the proscribed activity." 498 P2d at 838.

With specific reference to petitioners Campf and Collins, the Court of Appeals said:

"* * * The finding of the trial court [as to their guilt] is supported by the language of the contract, the initial payment, and the subsequent conduct of the parties which indicates that the sponsors intended their payment to Campbell as compensation for his work in obtaining the required number of signatures." 498 P2d at 837-838.

The Court of Appeals thus held that the statute prohibits not only the compensation of persons who circulate petitions and directly solicit signatures, but also the payment of compensation to a person who organizes and coordinates a referendum, recall, or initiative campaign or who otherwise works to secure the necessary number of signatures.

Article IV, Section 1, of the Constitution of Oregon provides:

"(2)(a) The people reserve to themselves the

initiative power, which is to propose laws and amendments to the Constitution and enact or reject them at an election independently of the Legislative Assembly.

"(3)(a) The people reserve to themselves the referendum power, which is to approve or reject at an election any Act, or part thereof, of the Legislative Assembly that does not become effective earlier than 90 days after the end of the session at which the Act is passed.

"(4)(b) Initiative and referendum measures shall be submitted to the people as provided in this section and by law not inconsistent therewith."

Although the initiative and referendum systems in Oregon date from 1902, the present language is the result of a 1968 amendment to the constitution. The amendment was intended primarily to (1) change the basis for determining the number of signatures required on initiative and referendum petitions and (2) to provide more time for the certification of signatures. At the same time, the initiative and referendum provisions were completely rewritten. From 1902 to 1968 the right of the legislature to legislate in connection with these powers reserved by the people was recognized in the following language:

"* * * Petitions and orders for the initiative and for the referendum shall be filed with the Secretary of State, and in submitting the same to the people he, and all other officers, shall be guided by the general laws and the Act submitting this amendment, until legislation shall be ...

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