June 25, 2014 •

Beauprez Claims Victory in Colorado GOP Gubernatorial Primary

Bob Beauprez came out on top in the Colorado GOP gubernatorial primary on Tuesday. The former congressman accepted his party’s nomination after besting fellow candidates Tom Tancredo, Scott Gessler, and Mike Kopp in a four-way race. GOP strategists worried a […]

Bob BeauprezBob Beauprez came out on top in the Colorado GOP gubernatorial primary on Tuesday. The former congressman accepted his party’s nomination after besting fellow candidates Tom Tancredo, Scott Gessler, and Mike Kopp in a four-way race.

GOP strategists worried a Tancredo tea-party victory would hurt the Republican ticket in November and seem satisfied with the establishment win. All four GOP primary candidates intend to work as a team to support the new Republican nominee as he battles to unseat Democratic Gov. John Hickenlooper.

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June 6, 2014 •

Colorado Deputy Secretary of State Issues Decision on Petition for Declaratory Order

On Thursday, June 5, Colorado Deputy Secretary of State Suzanne Staiert issued an agency decision in response to Citizens United’s petition for declaratory order. Citizens United requested its upcoming documentary be excluded from the definition of reportable electioneering communication by […]

Flag_of_ColoradoOn Thursday, June 5, Colorado Deputy Secretary of State Suzanne Staiert issued an agency decision in response to Citizens United’s petition for declaratory order. Citizens United requested its upcoming documentary be excluded from the definition of reportable electioneering communication by classifying it as one of the constitutional exemptions. The secretary of state found the communication does not fall within any exemptions and there is no general press-entity exemption to the definition of electioneering communication.

As Citizens United engages in communication for the primary purpose of influencing elections, it is exactly the type of entity to which reporting requirements apply. To rule otherwise would defeat the purpose of state campaign finance law and disregard the rationale behind full disclosure.

Moreover, the secretary of state found it does not have the authority to create a general press exemption to campaign finance reporting requirements. Although the Federal Election Commission applies such an exemption for Petitioner at the federal level, the secretary of state lacks the authority to import the FEC’s analysis and decision. Therefore, Petitioner’s remedy at the state level lies with courts in the form of litigation, with the legislature in the form of referendum, or with the people in the form of initiative.

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May 9, 2014 •

Colorado General Assembly Passes Senate Bill 14-217

Colorado state legislators recently passed a bill aimed at increasing lobbying transparency. Senate Bill 14-217 passed the House by unanimous vote on May 7, demonstrating bipartisan support for changes in lobbyist disclosure requirements. The bill requires lobbyist subcontractors receiving business […]

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Colorado state legislators recently passed a bill aimed at increasing lobbying transparency. Senate Bill 14-217 passed the House by unanimous vote on May 7, demonstrating bipartisan support for changes in lobbyist disclosure requirements.

The bill requires lobbyist subcontractors receiving business from a professional lobbyist to report subcontracting business on their annual disclosure statements though such information is contemporaneously reported on the professional lobbyists’ disclosure statements.

Another legislative provision requires lobbyists to update their registration statements within 24 hours of lobbying for a new client or subcontracting for another lobbyist. Per its design, SB 217 effectively closes a lobbying loophole by allowing the public to connect the lobbyists who subcontract for lobbying firms to the clients hiring such firms.

If signed by Gov. Hickenlooper, the bill will become effective July 1, 2015.

 

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April 17, 2014 •

Colorado Ethics Commission Dismisses Complaint against Hickenlooper

The Colorado Ethics Commission, which has long been accused of partisanship, is likely to face more criticism in light of a recent ruling. On Monday, April 14, the commission voted to dismiss a complaint against Democratic Governor John Hickenlooper. Hickenlooper […]

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The Colorado Ethics Commission, which has long been accused of partisanship, is likely to face more criticism in light of a recent ruling. On Monday, April 14, the commission voted to dismiss a complaint against Democratic Governor John Hickenlooper.

Hickenlooper was accused of violating state gift law by allowing the Democratic Governors Association to pick up the tab for food and lodging expenses associated with a 2013 conference. In its reasoning, the commission claimed Hickenlooper’s policy expertise shared at the conference, and the hours he spent organizing it, exceeded what was spent on food and lodging.

William Leone, one of the commissioners who heard the complaint, argued an elected head of state “has a legitimate interest to present, discuss, debate, and hear about [the] policy initiatives . . . he chooses to advance.”

After ruling for Hickenlooper, the commission declined to revisit a decision handed down last year against Republican Secretary of State Scott Gessler for a substantially similar set of facts. Gessler believes the people of Colorado have no faith in a partisan ethics commission; he was saddened, but not surprised, by Monday’s decision.

 

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March 14, 2014 •

Lakewood’s Municipal Campaign Finance Provisions Effective April 1

The city of Lakewood, Colorado revised its campaign finance ordinance; the new provisions are effective April 1. The most notable change is a shift away from state law. Colorado allows any municipality with an adopted ordinance covering any issue addressed […]

Lakewood Civic Center

The city of Lakewood, Colorado revised its campaign finance ordinance; the new provisions are effective April 1.

The most notable change is a shift away from state law. Colorado allows any municipality with an adopted ordinance covering any issue addressed in the Fair Campaign Practices Act to assume jurisdiction over all campaign finance matters occurring within the municipality.

Lakewood will no longer fall within the jurisdiction of the secretary of state, as the ordinance adds provisions concerning contribution limits, registration and reporting requirements, and civil penalties for violations of municipal campaign finance law.

Photo of the Lakewood Civic Center courtesy of Jeffrey Beall on Wikimedia Commons.

 

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February 28, 2014 •

Jane Feldman to Leave Colorado Independent Ethics Commission

Jane Feldman is stepping down as Executive Director of the Colorado Independent Ethics Commission. She is the first and only director to serve, as the commission is a product of a 2006 ethics ballot measure. Luis Toro, director of Colorado […]

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Jane Feldman is stepping down as Executive Director of the Colorado Independent Ethics Commission. She is the first and only director to serve, as the commission is a product of a 2006 ethics ballot measure.

Luis Toro, director of Colorado Ethics Watch, praised Feldman, calling her “the very model of a dedicated civil servant.”

While Feldman looks forward to retirement from state government, her critics claim she may simply be a scapegoat. Complaints brought the commission under public scrutiny, and a House committee will soon hear a bill concerning the commission’s procedural mechanisms. Meanwhile, the commission is investigating Gov. John Hickenlooper for alleged gift violations.

There is no word yet of a new Executive Director.

 

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February 10, 2014 •

Colorado Secretary of State Issues Campaign Finance Advisory Opinion

Deputy Secretary of State Suzanne Staiert issued an advisory opinion on February 6 addressing the formation of independent expenditure committees by political parties. Although an advisory opinion is not binding, its purpose is to provide clarification regarding the agency’s interpretation […]

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Deputy Secretary of State Suzanne Staiert issued an advisory opinion on February 6 addressing the formation of independent expenditure committees by political parties. Although an advisory opinion is not binding, its purpose is to provide clarification regarding the agency’s interpretation of current campaign finance law.

Political parties may operate an independent expenditure committee and may raise funds in any amount from any permissible source. If a political party chooses to form an independent expenditure committee, it must avoid the appearance of corruption through the implementation of sufficient safeguards. Any expenditures coordinated with or controlled by a candidate are considered a contribution to the candidate committee and are, therefore, subject to contribution limits.

 

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January 31, 2014 •

Court of Appeals Finds Colorado Contribution Limits Unconstitutional

On January 15 the United States Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit declared certain Colorado campaign contribution limits unconstitutional. State law requires major party candidates to appear on a primary ballot even if they are running unopposed; they are […]

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On January 15 the United States Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit declared certain Colorado campaign contribution limits unconstitutional. State law requires major party candidates to appear on a primary ballot even if they are running unopposed; they are then permitted to accept contributions up to the statutory limit for each of the primary and general elections. Similarly, minor party or write-in candidates who appear on the primary election ballot may accept contributions for both the primary and general elections.

Unaffiliated, minor party, or write-in candidates who do not appear on a primary election ballot, however, may only accept contributions for the general election.

Under the recent ruling, contribution limits based on statutory classification violate the right to equal protection for individuals wishing to contribute to write-ins, unaffiliated candidates, and minor party candidates when each candidate runs unopposed for the nomination.

The Secretary of State has not yet addressed the court ruling or made any new changes to existing contribution limits.

 

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December 13, 2013 •

Colorado Court of Appeals Upholds Ruling on Campaign Finance Disclosure Regulations

On Thursday, the Colorado Court of Appeals affirmed a lower court ruling striking down rules reducing or eliminating disclosure requirements for issue committees, political committees, and more than 500 political organizations. The rules, put forth by Secretary of State Scott […]

Seal of ColoradoOn Thursday, the Colorado Court of Appeals affirmed a lower court ruling striking down rules reducing or eliminating disclosure requirements for issue committees, political committees, and more than 500 political organizations. The rules, put forth by Secretary of State Scott Gessler in 2012, also capped penalties for failure to file major contributor reports in the days leading up to an election.

Challengers argued the rules were invalid because Gessler exceeded his authority by effectively amending the Colorado constitution and campaign finance laws passed by the General Assembly.

In addition to finding the rule changes invalid, the appeals court overturned Gessler’s 2012 rule narrowing the definition of “electioneering communications.”

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October 17, 2013 •

Lakewood, CO City Council Approves New Campaign Finance Laws

for April 2014

Lakewood Civic Center
The Lakewood Civic Center

The Lakewood, Colorado City Council voted to approve new campaign finance rules October 14. The new ordinance caps campaign donations at $2,500 per person for council candidates and $5,000 for mayoral candidates. Additionally, cash and in-kind donations will be treated the same; together they cannot exceed the limits.

Other amendments to the ordinance require LLCs making political donations of more than $100 to disclose their members.

The ordinance also addresses complaints against candidates. The deadline to file a complaint has been changed from 180 days after the alleged violation to 120 days after the violation.

Finally, the ordinance outlines the threshold or point at which a person interested in running for an elected position becomes a candidate. Declaring candidacy, receiving a donation, or making a campaign-related expenditure all trigger the change in status.

City Attorney Tim Cox confirmed the changes will have no effect on the current election and will not be implemented until April 2014.

Photo of the Lakewood Civic Center by Jeffrey Beall on Wikimedia Commons.

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September 27, 2013 •

Hearing on Proposed Changes to Colorado Rules Governing Lobbyists

Consolidation and clarification of rules on agenda

Seal of ColoradoThe Colorado Secretary of State’s Office is holding a rulemaking hearing regarding the rules governing lobbyist regulation. The hearing will be held on October 4, 2013, from 9:00 a.m. to 12:00 p.m., in the Blue Spruce Conference Room on the second floor of the Secretary of State’s Office. The public is invited to submit comments before and during the hearing, and the hearing is open to the public for discussion regarding the proposed changes.

The proposed changes include consolidation of several rules, and clarifications such as factors determining whether a violation is substantial, and who qualifies as a rulemaking official.

The complete list of changes and details of the hearing are available here.

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July 19, 2013 •

First Recall Elections in Colorado History

Backlash from supporting tougher gun laws

Flag of ColoradoTwo state senators will face recall elections for the first time in Colorado history on September 10. Governor John Hickenlooper signed the executive order setting the election date for Senator Angela Giron and Senate President John Morse after the Denver District Court ruled against the senators’ attempt to block the recall.

The campaign to recall the two senators was spearheaded by the National Rifle Association, a result of the senators’ votes in favor of universal background checks and limiting ammunition magazines.

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November 7, 2012 •

Colorado Voters Approve Citizens United Ballot Measure

Asks state congressional delegation to introduce constitutional amendment

Seal of ColoradoVoters overwhelmingly approved Amendment 65, a ballot measure that instructs the Colorado congressional delegation to propose, and the state legislature to ratify, an amendment to the U.S. Constitution to overturn Citizens United.

While the results are heralded by watchdog groups like Colorado Common Cause as a clear sign that Colorado voters want action on the issue of corporate political spending, the measure has no legal significance as it cannot force the state’s congressional delegation or legislature to take any action.

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October 3, 2012 •

Federal Judge Requests Campaign Finance Clarification from Colorado Supreme Court

Questions address issue committee registration thresholds

Colorado CourtsA federal judge has issued an order to the state supreme court seeking clarification of the state’s campaign finance laws. The order arises from a suit filed against the secretary of state by the Coalition for Secular Government (CSG), alleging that certain provisions of the Fair Campaign Practices Act are invalid under the First Amendment. CSG plans to raise funds that will go toward updating and disseminating a policy paper that may address ballot issues, activities that may require it to register as an issue committee and disclose its donors under Colorado law.

The judge requested the Colorado Supreme Court to clarify:

  • Whether the position paper expressly advocates for a ballot issue or question such that it falls within the definition of expenditure in the Colorado Constitution;
  • If it does qualify as a ballot issue expenditure, is it eligible for the exemptions allowed for news items, editorials, and other similar writings;
  • Whether the policy paper is a “written or broadcast communication” that would categorize CSG as an issue committee, and if not, did it become one when CSG posted the paper to its blog or Facebook page; and
  • What the monetary threshold is that would require an issue committee to register.
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