Melinda Gates, Angelina Jolie open their checkbooks for Kristof’s run for Oregon governor

The Democratic candidate, who formally announced last month, reported raising just over $1 million, mostly from out-of-state donors

By: - November 8, 2021 4:57 pm

Nick Kristof, pictured on his farm in Yamhill on Sept. 11, launched his campaign for governor on Wednesday, Oct. 27. (David Hume Kennerly/Center for Creative Photography at the University of Arizona)

Out-of-state donors including philanthropist Melinda Gates and actress Angelina Jolie boosted ex-New York Times columnist Nick Kristof to a record-breaking $1 million in campaign contributions during the first two weeks of his run for governor.

Just under three-quarters of his haul came from outside of Oregon, according to campaign finance records filed with the Oregon Secretary of State. And about half of the remaining $289,000 came in the form of small contributions under $100, meaning Kristof didn’t have to provide identifying information for any of those donors.

Kristof, of Yamhill, is running as a Democrat.

In a press release, Kristof, said he received contributions from more than 2,500 donors in 35 of Oregons’ 36 counties – he has yet to convince any of the 1,429 voters in Sherman County to open their pocketbooks.

He hasn’t reported any campaign spending yet, though his campaign has been busy traveling and hosting events since he announced on Oct. 27. Candidates have 30 days to report contributions or expenses this far from an election. 

One of his largest contributions of $50,000 came from Melinda Gates, the Seattle-based philanthropist and ex-wife of Microsoft founder Bill Gates. She and her ex-husband continue to run the world’s most influential private foundation, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.

Kristof’s campaign also received $50,000 from David Cohen, founder of the Ezrah Charitable Trust. Kristof and Cohen both attended Oxford University, and Cohen helped establish an annual prize accompanying Kristof’s holiday “gift guide” column that directed readers to charities. 

Tom Bernthal, the fiancé of Facebook chief operating officer Sheryl Sandberg, also contributed $50,000. Actress Angelina Jolie’s family trust tossed in $10,000, and fashion designer Diane Von Furstenberg, “Educated” memoirist Tara Westover and Cathy Sulzberger, sister of the New York Times’ publisher AG Sulzberger, all contributed $5,000. 

Kristof’s three largest contributions in Oregon came from Newberg winemaker Doug Tunnell; Glen Van Peski, founder of a Bend-based outdoor outfitting company, and Audra King, a Eugene resident who lists herself as unemployed and shares a home with the owner of the second-largest winemaker in Oregon. All three contributed $10,000.

Political analysts already expected the 2022 gubernatorial election, the first in two decades without an incumbent governor on the ballot, to surpass 2018 as the most expensive race in Oregon’s history. Kristof’s national audience of wealthy New York Times readers kick started it.

In 2018, then-state-Rep. Knute Buehler, R-Bend, quickly jumped out as the leader in a GOP primary by raising $1 million in his first month. Incumbent Democratic Gov. Kate Brown raised about $1 million over the course of the year before Buehler entered, and by the time the two met in November, Brown had raised $17 million to Buehler’s $18.5 million.

So far this year, no other candidates for governor have raised that much. On the Democratic side, House Speaker Tina Kotek, D-Portland, added $414,000 to the $91,000 she started the year with, and Treasurer Tobias Read raised $485,000 and spent a little less than half of it. 

Former Democrat Betsy Johnson, a state senator from Scappoose running for governor as an independent, raised just under $66,000 and spent more than that. Johnson still has a larger war chest than most of her opponents after she moved $524,000 from her previous campaign accounts.

Bud Pierce, a Salem oncologist making another stab at the Republican nomination for governor after losing to Brown in 2016, raised $723,000 so far this year and spent most of it. Fellow Republican Bridget Barton, a political consultant from Lake Oswego, brought in $350,000, and Sandy Mayor Stan Pulliam raised $494,000.  

None of the remaining candidates has yet raised more than $50,000. 

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Julia Shumway
Julia Shumway

Julia Shumway has reported on government and politics in Iowa and Nebraska, spent time at the Bend Bulletin and most recently was a legislative reporter for the Arizona Capitol Times in Phoenix. An award-winning journalist, Julia most recently reported on the tangled efforts to audit the presidential results in Arizona.