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Campaign Finance

Treasurer Walker Stapleton joins Colorado’s governor’s race. What that means.

Corey Hutchins (Colorado Independent)- Republican State Treasurer Walker Stapleton officially waded into the large field for governor with a low-key weekend announcement on social media and the launch of a campaign website.

The only real news for close watchers of Colorado politics is that the second-term office-holder, who is a cousin of George H.W. Bush, finally made his bid official. His entrance adds an established current Republican statewide officeholder with access to big money into a large race where some candidates are jockeying for the “outsider” mantle in the era of Donald Trump.

For months, a Super PAC-like group called Better Colorado Now has been raising money, ostensibly to support Stapleton’s gubernatorial bid, a controversial arrangement since Stapleton had associated himself with the group prior to announcing his run. Campaign finance laws forbid candidates from coordinating with PACs, but since he hadn’t yet made his candidacy official, he could get as close to the PAC as he wanted, even helping it raise money.  Stapleton also got a boost from another group, which gave him free statewide publicity in an ad campaign supporting term limits.

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

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Ethics Watch Comments on Proposed Campaign Finance Rule Changes

Today, Colorado Ethics Watch submitted comments on proposed changes to the Campaign and Political Finance Rules. Secretary of State Wayne Williams issued the proposed rules on August 30, 2017 and invited comment.

Ethics Watch commented on two aspects of the proposed rules. First, it supported the Secretary’s effort to clarify the difference between political committees and independent expenditure committees and urged him to include in the rules a statement that political committees may make contributions to candidates and political parties but independent expenditure committees may not. Second, it opposed the Secretary’s rollback of a rule allowing Coloradans to file campaign finance complaints by fax or email. It urged the Secretary to restore email filing, or at a minimum, to establish rules permitting filing by mail or private delivery service.

Click here to read Ethics Watch’s comments.

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Denver proposal aims to force disclosure of independent spending as “dark money” trickles down

Companies, groups and other big spenders who work to support or defeat candidates and ballot measures in Denver’s local elections increasingly are operating in the shadows, city officials and good-government advocates say.

Less than two years before the next municipal election, a Denver City Council proposal seeks to close transparency gaps that allow such spending to go unreported as long as the people behind it don’t coordinate directly with a candidate’s campaign.

Such activity by super PAC-style groups has mushroomed in federal and state elections since the U.S. Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision in 2010 took the handcuffs off independent spending by corporations and labor unions, making restrictions on them unconstitutional.

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

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Money in politics: Denver campaign finance rules targeted for update

Adam McCoy (Colorado Politics)- If money could talk, its voice would arguably be deafening in politics. In the interest of added transparency for money in municipal elections, Denver election officials have proposed some changes to the city’s campaign finance rules.

The proposed revisions to campaign contribution regulations in local politics would refine and add some key terms in its law; establish a structure for reporting campaign ads (TV, radio, etc.) from candidates or outside groups and, for the first time in Denver, institute fines for candidates who fail to file campaign finance reports on time, city Director of Elections Amber McReynolds said. The changes are expected to be rolled out for the 2019 election cycle.

Click here to read the full story in Colorado Politics.

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Sheriff Bill Elder seeks second term, and political races shaping up

Pam Zubeck (Colorado Springs Independent)- Sheriff Bill Elder will seek a second term in El Paso County, having filed for re-election in the 2018 election way back on March 24.

But there does appear to be a snag: Elder’s campaign candidate affidavit filed with the Secretary of State lists his residential phone as a number that rings to his office at the Sheriff’s Office. That’s curious, given that campaigns and official business aren’t supposed to mix.

Reached at that phone number, Elder says, “I don’t have a home phone.” Asked if he has a cell phone he could have listed, he says, “I have a personal cell phone, but I’m not putting my personal cell phone on it. I’d get all kinds of crank calls.”

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

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Ethics Watch Supports Denver Campaign Finance Reform

Yesterday, the Denver Clerk and Recorder’s office submitted proposed language for an ordinance to update the City’s campaign finance disclosure system and improve enforcement. The language was the product of a working group that included Colorado Ethics Watch. Ethics Watch Executive Director Luis Toro released the following statement:

“We thank Clerk and Recorder Debra Johnson for devoting her office’s time and energy to the important task of modernizing and improving Denver’s campaign finance ordinance. We hope City Council will see that, with input from members of the working group, the proposal balances the burden on candidates and outside groups to correctly track and report their contributions and spending with the people’s right to cast an informed ballot.”

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Jared Polis, Walker Stapleton, and Colorado’s low campaign cash limits

Corey Hutchins (Colorado Independent) – Two recent events that shifted the ground under Colorado’s sprawling candidate field for governor have lent scrutiny to the rules governing how money is raised and spent in Colorado’s gubernatorial elections.
First was the recent unexpected mic-drop exit of Democratic Congressman Ed Perlmutter— a move that stunned political observers. The formidable campaigner, and a perhaps a front-runner in the race at the time, abandoned his bid in part because of Colorado’s low campaign contribution limits that make it hard to battle against a self-funding candidate.
Perlmutter just didn’t have the “fire in the belly” to run for governor while serving as a congressman, he said, and noted his decision “accelerated” after his colleague, the multi-millionaire tech-entrepreneur Jared Polis of Boulder, got in the race. Polis, who is one of the richest members of Congress, will use his vast personal wealth to bankroll his campaign instead of having to spend time raising money in a state with low campaign contribution limits.
Now, this week on the Republican side, State Treasurer Walker Stapleton revealed a strategy that cribs from the playbook of his second cousin Jeb Bush’s presidential campaign and highlights an increasing nationalization of state politics. Stapleton, who has not filed paperwork to run for governor, might be holding off doing so in order to raise money outside of the state’s low limits, according to a story in The Denver Post.

Click here to read the rest of the story in the Colorado Independent.

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GOP-backed group fights court ruling that it must pay fines and disclose donors

Jason Salzman (Colorado Times Recorder)- It’s been three months since a Denver judge ordered Colorado Pioneer Action (CPA), a political committee run by former U.S. Rep. Bob Beauprez (R-CO), to pay a $17,735 fine for violating campaign finance laws and to register formally as political committee, requiring CPA to disclose its donors.

But Beauprez hasn’t produced the cash or the names of the donors. What’s up?

After Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) Robert Spencer issued his ruling that CPA failed to register and file reports as a political committee during the last election, CPA appealed, and Matt Arnold of Campaign Integrity Watchdog (CIW), which brought the case against CPA, guesses the case won’t be heard for a few months, at the earliest.

Click here to read the full story in the Colorado Times Recorder.

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What does $80 million buy oil and gas interests? Voter profiles, door knocking and influence at local and statewide levels

Christopher Osher (Denver Post)- The oil and gas industry in the past four years has poured more than $80 million into Colorado to shape public opinion and influence campaigns and ballot initiatives, creating a political force that has had broad implications throughout the state.

Environmentalists and industry officials alike call the effort one of the best-financed operations advocating for drilling in any state. Just two months ago, that political muscle came into play when the industry successfully lobbied Republican legislators to kill legislation tightening regulation in the wake of a fatal home explosion in Firestone that investigators have blamed on a severed gas pipeline.

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

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Ethics Watch Supports Teach-In On ALEC Before Denver Conference

The American Legislative Exchange Council—more commonly known as ALEC—is holding their annual meeting in Denver from July 19 to 21, 2017. In response, a coalition of organizations held a teach-in on Saturday, July 15th in Denver to educate the public about ALEC’s negative impact on economic, environmental, and social issues. Ethics Watch Executive Director Luis Toro spoke as the expert on money in politics on the main panel at the event. He also partnered with Carla Castedo of Mi Familia Vota Colorado to teach a break-out session on efforts to make voting more difficult and to encourage more corporate money in politics.

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