SALEM — The words “Knute Buehler” were never spoken during Thursday’s meeting of the House Rules Committee, but his presence hovered over arguments for and against new ethics legislation, which was approved and sent to the House floor.

House Bill 4077 by Rep. Dan Rayfield, D-Corvallis, would close what the Democratic Party of Oregon and the liberal group Our Oregon have called “The Buehler Loophole.”

“Based on information I have, I am going to vote no,” said House Minority Leader Mike McLane, R-Powell Butte, a committee member. “This is a partisan attack by Representative Rayfield.”

Rayfield countered that the bill was about increasing transparency in government and was not linked to any specific incident in Oregon. Rather, he said, it was a realization that the state was behind others in the level of disclosure it required of candidates and officeholders.

“I have personally refused to politicize this,” Rayfield said.

Neither Rayfield, McLane nor any other committee members mentioned Buehler, the Republican representative from Bend, who has been the unofficial target of the legislation for two years.

Democrats had filed a complaint last year against Buehler, who at the time was considering a run for governor, alleging he had failed to report income from companies that did business with the state. After the state ethics commission dismissed the bulk of the case, Rayfield introduced his bill, which the Democratic Party of Oregon dubbed “The Buehler Loophole Bill.”

The new version has been called the same nickname by the progressive group Our Oregon.

Buehler has officially announced he is running for the GOP nomination for governor — and that he will vote yes on the bill if and when it comes to the House floor.

“This legislation brings clarity to an unclear reporting rule — I will support it,” Buehler said.

— Reporter: 541-525-5280,