Pro-fluoride campaign makes “grants” to minority groups

The pro-fluoride campaign, Healthy Kids, Healthy Portland, has reported $325,000 in new contributions since Monday, taking a large lead in the money race on Measure 26-151, the proposal on the May 21 ballot to fluoridate Portland’s water.

The campaign reported contributions of $165,920 from the Northwest Health Foundation; $60,000 from the Oregon Dental Association; $50,000 from FamilyCare, Inc., a managed care organization; and $10,000 each from The Dental Foundation of Oregon and SEIU Local 49.

That brings Healthy Kids’ total raised in 2013 to $478,000 with $129,000 on hand. The opponents of fluoridation, Clean Water Portland, have raised $111,000 and have $47,000 on hand.

Healthy Kids, Healthy Portland also reported an eye-catching list of expenditures to several groups that work with minorities and immigrants.

Among those expenditures: $20,000 to the Center For Intercultural Organizing; $20,000 to the Native American Youth and Family Center; $20,000 to the Asian Pacific American Network of Oregon; $20,000 to the Latino Network; $20,000 to the Immigrant & Refugee Community Organization; and $19,100 to the Urban League.

As WW reported last month, Healthy Kids has aggressively sought the support of such organizations. That’s not unusual.

What is somewhat uncommon is rewarding that support with cash payments, which the campaign characterized in its filings as “grant[s] for outreach services.” Campaigns typically spend their money on advertising, consultants, polling, rent and other direct expenses, not making grants to other groups.

Evyn Mitchell, the campaign manager for Healthy Kids, says the grants to minority and immigrant groups are “a new and different approach.”

Mitchell says making grants to groups for outreach is no different than hiring campaign staffers to canvass or make phone calls. In the case of fluoride, however, the target audience—minority and low income voters—are different.

“Fluoride and dental health are really important to low income communities and communities of color,” Mitchell says. ‘We’re just trying to provide capacity to the groups best positioned to do the outreach.”