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Kristof gives over $1 million in political contributions before returning to NYT

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By GARY A. WARNER

Oregon Capital Bureau

 

New York Times journalist Nicholas Kristof will leave behind over $1 million in campaign contributions drawn from his derailed bid for Oregon governor, according to records of the Oregon Secretary of State.

Kristof announced Monday that he would return to the newspaper where he spent 37 years, winning two Pulitzer Prizes. 

New York Times Opinion Editor Kathleen Kingsbury wrote on Monday that Kristof would resume his column in the fall, after he finishes a new memoir. She said that it would be a “step up” from running for Oregon’s top job.

“In his ‘farewell’ column before running for governor of Oregon, Nick Kristof mentioned that when William Safire was asked if he would give up his Times column to be secretary of state, he replied, ‘Why take a step down?’,” Kingsbury wrote. “Now Nick is stepping up, resuming his Opinion column and once again interpreting the world’s depth and complexity for Times readers.”

On Monday, Kristof gave $990,000.52 to Oregon Strong, a new political action committee formed in July that lists his wife, Sheryl WuDunn, and his former campaign treasurer, Elizabeth Wilson, as directors.

The money came from what was left of the over $2.6 million Kristof raised for his “Nick for Oregon” political action committee created last year to fund his campaign for governor as a Democrat.

In December 2021, Kristof filed for candidacy as a resident of Yamhill County, where he had grown up. He listed his occupation as “Journalist, Author, Farmer.” Kristof quickly raised over $2.5 million, mostly in out-of-state donations. Contributors included billionaire philanthropist Melinda Gates, actor Angelina Jolie, fashion designer Diane von Furstenberg, classical violinist Jennifer Chun, former U.S. Sen. Thomas Daschle of South Dakota and a pair of treasury secretaries from the Bill Clinton administration, Robert Rubin and Larry Summers.

On Jan. 6, Secretary of State Shemia Fagan issued a decision that Kristof did not meet the requirement that candidates be a resident of the state for three years prior to running for office. Kristof disputed the decision, but Fagan’s stance was upheld by the Oregon Supreme Court on Feb. 17.

Kristof was raised in Yamhill County and lived there in recent years as he and WuDunn researched a book on the impact of opioids and economic dislocation of Kristof’s childhood friends. He left Oregon, becoming a Rhodes Scholar at Oxford University in Britain, and an internationally renowned reporter and columnist for the New York Times.

The money given by Kristof is one of the largest of 146,706 campaign contributions recorded through Tuesday by the Oregon Secretary of State’s office since Jan. 1, 2021. 

The biggest donations have been $1.75 million given by Nike Founder Phil Knight to Betsy Johnson, the insurgent candidate for governor. Knight has also given $1 million to Bring Balance to Salem, a political action committee managed in part by former U.S. Rep. Greg Walden, R-Hood River, that wants to elect non-Democrats to state office.

The Democratic Governor’s Conference gave $800,000 to Democratic governor candidate Tina Kotek late last month. 

After the Supreme Court ruling, Kristof paid off large campaign consulting and advertising bills. 

He recently gave $10,000 to Doris Towery’s campaign for Yamhill County Commissioner. Beth Wytoski, another Yamhill County Commission candidate, received $5,000.

Kristof gave $10,000 to the Friends of Tina Kotek, the PAC of his former opponent for the Democratic nomination. Kotek won the May 17 primary.

Kristof has maintained a steady flow of relatively small donations to about 20 candidates for Democrats or progressives running for offices ranging from Tigard city council to U.S. House. Terrebonne attorney Jamie McLeod-Skinner received $1,000 for her bid to win the 5th Congressional District. Rep. Andrea Salinas, D-Lake Oswego, also received $1,000 for her race in the new, open 6th Congressional District.

Bend attorney Emerson Levy, the Democratic nominee for House District 53, received $2,000. In the district next door, Rep. Jason Kropf, D-Bend, last month received $1,500 for his re-election bid. Along with candidates, Kristof has given $3,000 to the Senate Democratic Leadership Fund, which supports candidates in the upper chamber of the legislature. The Future House Builders, which does the same for the lower chamber received $2,000

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