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Author Archives: COEthics

Publisher Still Preparing to Sue Lawmaker for Calling his Newspaper “Fake News”

Jason Salzman (Huffington Post)- The publisher of the Grand Junction Sentinel insisted Wednesday night that he’s getting his “ducks in a row” in preparation to sue Colorado State Sen. Ray Scott (R-Grand Junction) for labeling the Sentinel “fake news.”

“Have you attempted to patch things up with Sen. Scott?” 9News anchor Kyle Clark asked Jay Seaton, publisher of the Grand Junction Sentinel last night, prior to panel discussion on media issues streamed on Facebook. “You’re going to be covering him for years to come. There’s nothing to be gained by media outlets fighting with public officials like this.”

Click here to read the full story in Huffington Post.

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Democratic lawmakers take on dark money in elections communications

Marianne Goodland (Colorado Independent)- Last year, at least four campaign fliers showed up in voters’ mailboxes in the Front Range that didn’t disclose who paid for the mailers.

As The Colorado Independent reported, the mailers, all on behalf of Republican candidates for state House and Senate, contained information the Democratic candidates said was inaccurate. It’s against the law to make knowingly false claims, but there was no way to complain about it because the mailers didn’t identify who paid for them. State law requires a mailer contain a disclaimer saying who paid for it only if it comes from an independent expenditure committee, which cannot directly coordinate with candidates. Mailers, TV and radio and Internet ads that come from candidates and political parties do not have to include a disclaimer.

Click here to read the full story in the Colorado Independent.

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Lawmakers endorse optional ‘cooling-off period’ to resolve records disputes without litigation

Jeffrey Roberts (Colorado Freedom of Information Coalition)- A Colorado House committee Thursday endorsed a completely reworked proposal to encourage the resolution of open-records disputes without litigation.

The new version of HB 17-1177 essentially makes mediation optional. If a requester files a notice of intent to sue over a records denial, a government entity would have 14 days to meet with the requester in person or by phone. A professional mediator would get involved if both parties agree and share the cost.

Click here to read the full story in Colorado Freedom of Information Coalition.

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Democrats announce bills to curd the influence of money in politics

Peter Marcus (Colorado Politics)- House Democrats on Wednesday announced a package of legislation aimed at curbing the influence of money in politics.

“It is no secret that there is a lot of cynicism about political entities today and the dark money that is spent on political campaigns,” House Speaker Crisanta Duran, D-Denver, said at an afternoon news conference at the Capitol. “Last year’s election was one of the worst examples we have seen.”

Click here to read the full story in Colorado Politics.

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Colorado Democrats propose reforms to shed more light on political “dark money”

Brian Eason (Denver Post)- Colorado House Speaker Crisanta Duran on Wednesday rolled out a series of bills to require that more “dark money” be disclosed under the state’s campaign finance laws, calling it a necessary step to ensure that out-of-state interests can’t “drown out the voice of our people.”

The four bills, all sponsored by Democrats, won’t stop — and probably won’t even slow — the flow of out-of-state money, but they would make it easier, in some cases, to see where the money’s coming from.

Click here to read the full story in the Denver Post.

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Let’s discuss ‘fake news’ in a time of ‘alternative facts’

Nicole Vap (9News)- KUSA – Let’s have a conversation about “fake news” stories, and the truth.

9NEWS and Next anchor Kyle Clark hosted a panel discussion about fighting “fake news” in a time of “alternative facts.”

Our conversation included Jay Seaton, publisher of the Grand Junction Daily Sentinel, will talk about his threats to sue a state senator for defamation after the senator described the paper as “fake news.” Sen. Ray Scott, a West Slope Republican, accused the Sentinel of printing “fake news” following a story about a pending bill to change the state’s public records law. Sen. Scott declined multiple invitations to take part in the interview, citing the pending lawsuit. He said he would change his mind if Seaton “swears off his lawsuit”.

You can see our full panel discussion here.

Click here to read the full story on 9News.

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A GOP gadfly fights reform of a campaign finance law that many say has run amok

Dan Njegomir (Colorado Politics)- Not long ago, libertarian-leaning Reason magazine ran an expose of Colorado’s convoluted campaign-finance law and how it invites abuse by those who manipulate it to clobber — and silence — their political foes. We blogged on the article at the time, noting its focus on controversial Colorado political operative Matt Arnold and his business, Campaign Integrity Watchdog, as Exhibit A.

The article characterized Arnold essentially as a serial complainant who files pretextual and vindictive actions over minor clerical errors found in the campaign disclosures of candidates and other entities covered by the campaign-finance law. The actions are often filed at the last possible moment. That runs up the meter on the fines — not to mention legal fees — that the targets must fork over. The law has no screening process for such complaints, Reason points out; it’s come one, come all. And all must be turned over, indiscriminately, to the Office of Administrative Courts to sort out.

Click here to read the full story in Colorado Politics.

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Yolanda Avila sues the city while running for City Council

Pam Zubeck (Colorado Springs Independent)- Yolanda Avila sued the city last year seeking damages for injuries she received when she fell into an uncovered 4-foot-deep utility vault beneath a city sidewalk.

Avila also is seeking a seat on the Colorado Springs City Council in the April 4 city election.

The former public defender says she’ll distance herself from any Council discussion of the case, should she be elected, but acknowledges the incident has influenced how she would approach her job as a councilor.

Click here to read the full story in the Colorado Springs Independent.

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Ethics Watch finds at least $1.9 million spent in electioneering disclosure gap

Research by Colorado Ethics Watch shows that at least $1.9 million was spent on political ads during the gap between the date of the 2016 primary and the beginning of the 60-day electioneering communication disclosure window.

Ethics Watch reviewed political spending by groups that file disclosures with the Colorado Secretary of State for the period between June 29 and September 8, 2016. This period was chosen because groups were not required to report spending as electioneering in the gap right after the primary election and sixty days prior to the general election when spending on electioneering communications, defined as ads that name candidates without necessarily urging a vote for or against them (including so-called “call and tell” ads) must be disclosed pursuant to Colorado’s electioneering communications disclosure law.

The $1.9 million figure is almost certainly on the low end because Ethics Watch could only review spending by groups that must disclose all their spending to the Secretary of State under other laws. These include political parties, independent expenditure committees (Super PACs), PACs, and so-called “527” political organizations. During the gap, however, these reports can disclose lump sums for “advertising” but omit important information detailing which candidates were the targets or beneficiaries of the spending. 501(c)(4) organizations and other groups not required to file regular reports with the Secretary of State are not required to file any disclosures for candidate-specific spending during the summer gap, so it is not possible to know exactly how much political advertising was purchased during this time period.

Breaking the spending down by the parties groups traditionally support, Republican-supporting groups outspent Democratic groups by a slim margin. Democratic-supporting groups were more likely to label their spending as an electioneering communication despite the fact that such reporting is not required during this disclosure gap period.

“The traditional sixty-day window before the general election for electioneering disclosure is based on an outmoded belief that the election doesn’t really start until around Labor Day,” said Luis Toro, Executive Director of Colorado Ethics Watch. “We hope Colorado’s laws will be updated to reflect the reality that electioneering for the general election starts the day after the primary and continues through November.”

Click here to read a summary of Ethics Watch’s findings.

 

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Digital public records bill passes first committee hurdle

Yesterday, the Senate State, Veterans, and Military Affairs Committee considered a bill to modernize and update the Colorado Open Records Act, and the bill passed 4-1 with five amendments. It now goes to the Senate Appropriations Committee. Luis Toro issued the following statement:

“As we highlighted in our 2013 report, 21st Century Sunshine, CORA is in desperate need of modernization for the digital age. Ethics Watch has participated in a task force over the past year working to modernize CORA, specifically on the issue of digital records. Currently, data that exists in searchable formats like Excel is turned over in unsearchable format like paper copies or pdfs by records custodians, a process allowed by the current CORA law. The task force worked all year to craft a compromise bill that would address the concerns of requestors and records custodians.

Ethics Watch remains committed to the core concepts of CORA reform from the working group that would ensure digital records are accessible in a searchable format. We are still reviewing the amendments passed yesterday to make sure they will not have the effect of reducing public access to government records.”

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