June 27, 2016 •

Boulder, CO Updates Campaign Finance Rules

Boulder City Council has adopted two new ordinances creating a new municipal election code and updating campaign finance rules. The city will no longer be dependent on the state election code, and city staff will no longer need to continually […]

Boulder2Boulder City Council has adopted two new ordinances creating a new municipal election code and updating campaign finance rules.

The city will no longer be dependent on the state election code, and city staff will no longer need to continually update the code for local elections based on state legislative changes. Other cities, including, but not limited to, Denver, Colorado Springs, and Fort Collins, have adopted similar local codes.

The changes also clarify campaign finance disclosure requirements; campaigning done without cost, such as the use of social media, need not be disclosed. Critics believe the new provisions were rushed and encourage a lack of transparency.

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June 1, 2016 •

Denver Considers Strengthening Ethics Laws

Denver Councilman Kevin Flynn is drafting legislation to amend the city ethics code. His proposal will establish a monetary gift limit. Officials or employees in a position to take action benefiting a donor would be prohibited from accepting more than […]

Denver SealDenver Councilman Kevin Flynn is drafting legislation to amend the city ethics code.

His proposal will establish a monetary gift limit. Officials or employees in a position to take action benefiting a donor would be prohibited from accepting more than $250 from a donor in each calendar year.

Other proposed ethics changes may appear in a ballot initiative set to be finalized soon. The measure may include lower campaign contribution limits for local candidates and a ban on corporate contributions, as well as create a public financing system for local elections.

Proponents of the system argue it would provide incentive for candidates to build wider bases of funding support from small-dollar donors. The Denver Board of Ethics has been discussing changes to city ethics laws for nearly two years.

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May 12, 2016 •

Colorado General Assembly Adjourns

The second regular session of the 70th Colorado General Assembly adjourned on Wednesday, May 11. An expansion of state liquor laws and a bill allowing out-of-state investors to own marijuana shops were some of the measures approved just prior to […]

Seal of ColoradoThe second regular session of the 70th Colorado General Assembly adjourned on Wednesday, May 11.

An expansion of state liquor laws and a bill allowing out-of-state investors to own marijuana shops were some of the measures approved just prior to adjournment.

The first regular session of the 71st General Assembly will convene on January 11, 2017.

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March 21, 2016 •

Colorado Independent Ethics Commission Names New Executive Director

The Colorado Independent Ethics Commission has a new executive director. Constantinos “Dino” Ioannides assumed the role on March 1. The commission has been under scrutiny lately for its overall efficacy regarding ethics violations. The state auditor recently issued a scathing […]

Flag_of_ColoradoThe Colorado Independent Ethics Commission has a new executive director. Constantinos “Dino” Ioannides assumed the role on March 1.

The commission has been under scrutiny lately for its overall efficacy regarding ethics violations. The state auditor recently issued a scathing audit highlighting a lack of guidance on conflicts of interests, the commission’s failure to retain documents, and missing hearing minutes.

Ioannides serves as the third director since the commission was created by voter approval in 2006.

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March 21, 2016 •

Proposed Bill Would Allow Colorado Independent Ethics Commission to Investigate Complaints

The Colorado Independent Ethics Commission is coming under harsh criticism in the wake of records released by the state auditor, with some claiming it is unethical. Often, the burden of investigating and presenting a case for an ethics violation falls […]

Seal of ColoradoThe Colorado Independent Ethics Commission is coming under harsh criticism in the wake of records released by the state auditor, with some claiming it is unethical. Often, the burden of investigating and presenting a case for an ethics violation falls upon the person filing the complaint. As an alternative, state Rep. Beth McCann is sponsoring House Bill 1216 to enhance the ability of the commission to investigate public officials who skirt the ethics rules.

One of the more specific issues addressed in HB 1216 is the role of the attorney general. Currently, the commission relies on the legal assistance of the attorney general; if the person accused of an ethics violation is an elected official, the attorney general must also provide legal assistance to the official. HB 1216 would require the panel to retain or employ independent counsel rather than rely on the attorney general.

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March 10, 2016 •

Appeals Court Affirms Ruling Concerning Colorado State Issue Committee Disclosure

In Coalition for Secular Government v. Williams, the United States Court of Appeals for the 10th Circuit affirmed a lower court’s ruling declaring the state’s issue committee regulatory framework unconstitutional as applied to the plaintiff, but declined to address the […]

US-CourtOfAppeals-10thCircuit-SealIn Coalition for Secular Government v. Williams, the United States Court of Appeals for the 10th Circuit affirmed a lower court’s ruling declaring the state’s issue committee regulatory framework unconstitutional as applied to the plaintiff, but declined to address the facial validity of the Colorado Constitution’s $200 threshold for issue committee reporting. However, the appeals court did emphasize there must be a legitimate public interest in requiring financial disclosure from issue committees. Moreover, the strength of the public’s interest in issue committee disclosure depends, in part, on how much money the issue committee has raised or spent.

The court went on to agree with the 9th Circuit’s characterization of the sliding scale by noting “. . . the value of this financial information to the voters declines drastically as the value of the expenditure or contribution sinks to a negligible level. As the monetary value of an expenditure in support of a ballot issue approaches zero, financial sponsorship fades into support and then into mere sympathy” [Appellate Case: 14-1469; see Canyon Ferry Rd. Baptist Church of E. Helena, Inc. v. Unsworth, 556 F.3d 1021, 1033 (9th Cir. 2009)].

In its earlier holding, the lower court advised state lawmakers the secretary of state will “be on the hook for fees every time a group, like the Coalition for Secular Government, falls under the $200 trigger for issue committee status and has to sue to vindicate its First Amendment rights” [D.C. No. 1:12-CV-01708-JLK].

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June 11, 2015 •

Colorado Secretary of State Adopts Campaign Finance Rule Amendments

On June 10, the Colorado Secretary of State posted notice of the permanent adoption of amendments to campaign finance rules. The rules concerning campaign and political finance have been recodified to improve the administration and enforcement of state campaign finance […]

Seal of ColoradoOn June 10, the Colorado Secretary of State posted notice of the permanent adoption of amendments to campaign finance rules. The rules concerning campaign and political finance have been recodified to improve the administration and enforcement of state campaign finance law.

Specifically, the rule revisions clarify and simplify the rules, remove language duplicative of statute, and ensure consistency with department rulemaking standards. The rules were considered at a rulemaking hearing on May 21. All amendments will become effective 20 days after they are published in the Colorado Register.

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May 7, 2015 •

Colorado General Assembly Adjourns Sine Die

The first regular session of the seventieth Colorado General Assembly adjourned sine die on Wednesday, May 6. Legislators sent roughly 50 bills to the Governor before adjourning hours shy of the midnight deadline. Measures passed include a tax increment financing […]

Colorado State CapitolThe first regular session of the seventieth Colorado General Assembly adjourned sine die on Wednesday, May 6. Legislators sent roughly 50 bills to the Governor before adjourning hours shy of the midnight deadline.

Measures passed include a tax increment financing bill giving counties, school boards, and special districts more say in how cities waive future tax dollars for urban renewal projects, a bill increasing the pay of the governor, other state executive officers, lawmakers, and county officials effective in 2019, and a bill to reduce standardized testing in Colorado public schools.

Photo of the Colorado State Capitol by Greg O’Beirne on Wikimedia Commons.

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March 16, 2015 •

Colorado Independent Ethics Commission Announces Increased Gift Limits

On March 9, the Colorado Independent Ethics Commission released Position Statement 15-01, increasing the gift limit from $53 to $59. Public officials or employees are prohibited from soliciting, accepting, or receiving any gift or other thing of value worth more […]

Flag_of_ColoradoOn March 9, the Colorado Independent Ethics Commission released Position Statement 15-01, increasing the gift limit from $53 to $59. Public officials or employees are prohibited from soliciting, accepting, or receiving any gift or other thing of value worth more than $59 in any calendar year without giving lawful consideration of equal or greater value in return, unless the gift or thing of value falls under a listed exception.

The gift limit is adjusted in accordance with the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics Consumer Price Index for Denver-Boulder-Greeley every four years. The $59 limit will be recalculated in the first quarter of 2019.

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December 3, 2014 •

U.S. Statehouse Series – Colorado, The Centennial State

This week we visit the state of Colorado and its capitol building. Located in the “Mile High City” of Denver, the capitol building was constructed in the 1890’s, and almost two decades later a 24 karat gold plated dome was […]

US State Houses logoThis week we visit the state of Colorado and its capitol building.

Located in the “Mile High City” of Denver, the capitol building was constructed in the 1890’s, and almost two decades later a 24 karat gold plated dome was added in commemoration of Colorado’s gold rush days.

Colorado State CapitolThe building’s exterior is composed of Colorado white granite, while its interior contains two rare types of marble: rose and mauve. In fact, the marble was so rare that its known supply was completely used up in the construction of the capitol, a process that took six years to complete. In fact, the building itself was composed with the nation’s capitol in mind.

The interior is composed of brass and stained glass with the dome towering 180 feet above. Inside you’ll find beautifully painted portraits of each U.S. president from Washington to Clinton. On the first floor are the offices of the Governor and Lt. Governor.

The capitol also serves as the center for legislation, housing the House and Senate Chambers, as well as the Legislative Hearing Room, which was formerly the state Supreme Court Chambers. The House of Representatives Gallery and the Senate Gallery are magnificently decorated with beautiful stained glass pieces as well as embedded brass, its luxurious features complemented with comfortable theater seating.

Thank you once again for joining us this week during our exploration of and education on the wonderful state of Colorado’s capitol. You can take a virtual tour of the Colorado Capitol, or arrange for an actual tour here.

Don’t forget to join us as we take on yet another statehouse!

Photo of the Colorado State Capitol by Greg O’Beirne on Wikimedia Commons.

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October 15, 2014 •

Federal Appeals Court Rules for Citizens United

On Tuesday, October 14, the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled Citizens United may air a documentary slamming Colorado liberals without disclosing its backers. The conservative group argued Colorado campaign finance laws burden some speakers while protecting others, in violation […]

Citizens UnitedOn Tuesday, October 14, the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled Citizens United may air a documentary slamming Colorado liberals without disclosing its backers. The conservative group argued Colorado campaign finance laws burden some speakers while protecting others, in violation of the First Amendment.

The court issued an emergency injunction allowing Citizens United to get the film out before the Nov. 4 election. While the movie will be exempt from disclosure, the court will allow the secretary of state to require disclosure for advertisements about it, if the ads are in support or in defeat of a named candidate.

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October 3, 2014 •

Colorado Republican Party Granted Permission to Form Super PAC

The Colorado Republican Party has been given permission to form an independent expenditure committee, or super PAC, because state law includes political parties under the definition of “persons.” A district court judge granted the party’s motion for summary judgment and […]

Flag_of_Colorado

The Colorado Republican Party has been given permission to form an independent expenditure committee, or super PAC, because state law includes political parties under the definition of “persons.” A district court judge granted the party’s motion for summary judgment and will allow the group to raise and spend unlimited funds to aid in electing Republican candidates.

Earlier this year, the party asked Republican Secretary of State Scott Gessler for permission to form the committee. Gessler said he did not have authority to issue permission but encouraged the party to sue the state to clear up the matter. Republican Attorney General John Suthers appears to have followed Gessler’s lead and essentially did not fight the suit.

Nonprofit campaign finance watchdog Ethics Watch intervened in the case and argued a political party should not be able to set up a super PAC – as the huge influx in campaign spending might make candidates, who need a party’s endorsement to get their name on the ballot, beholden to the super PAC’s contributors.

Colorado voters passed a constitutional amendment in 2002 prohibiting corporations and labor unions from directly supporting candidates or political parties. In his decision, Second District Court Judge Robert McGahey avoided the constitutional conflict and maintains it is legal to establish the super PAC as long as it is truly independent of the party.

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September 26, 2014 •

Federal Judge Rejects Citizen United’s Request for Preliminary Injunction

A federal judge rejected Citizens United’s request to air a documentary critical of Colorado Democrats without disclosing its donors in accordance with state law. The conservative group argues its free speech rights are violated when the law requires it to […]

Flag_of_ColoradoA federal judge rejected Citizens United’s request to air a documentary critical of Colorado Democrats without disclosing its donors in accordance with state law.

The conservative group argues its free speech rights are violated when the law requires it to disclose donors while effectively exempting traditional print media and broadcasters from the same requirement.

Although its motion for a preliminary injunction was denied, Citizens United President David Bossie claims the organization will appeal to the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals in Denver.

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August 20, 2014 •

Citizens United Files Suit Against Colorado Secretary of State

On August 14, Citizens United filed suit in federal court against Colorado Secretary of State Scott Gessler. The lawsuit is a response to Deputy Secretary of State Suzanne Staiert’s June decision classifying the group’s upcoming documentary as a reportable electioneering […]

Flag_of_ColoradoOn August 14, Citizens United filed suit in federal court against Colorado Secretary of State Scott Gessler. The lawsuit is a response to Deputy Secretary of State Suzanne Staiert’s June decision classifying the group’s upcoming documentary as a reportable electioneering communication.

Citizens United had hoped the documentary would be excluded from the definition of reportable electioneering communication under a general press-entity exemption. Although the Federal Election Commission applies such an exemption for Citizens United at the federal level, the secretary of state lacked the authority to import the FEC’s analysis and decision.

Citizens United is now asking the court to permanently enjoin enforcement of applicable reporting and disclosure requirements in their entirety or, in the alternative, enjoin enforcement of the requirements as applied to Citizens United. The group argues its right to engage in political speech is significantly burdened while the rights of print media and broadcast facilities are not. Moreover, the group claims the reporting and disclosure requirements discriminate based on a speaker’s identity and, therefore, violate both the U.S. and Colorado constitutions.

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