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Campaign Finance

WEISER: So-called ‘Dark money’ is plain free speech

Scott Weiser (Colorado Springs Gazette)- There is a new liberal pejorative for describing what is an essential aspect of our political system: anonymity in political speech. Some candidates for City Council are complaining that they don’t know who are funding political campaigns so they are trying to impugn the messages by using the sinister-sounding “dark money” as a descriptor for anonymous donations that fund political speech.

“People deserve to know who’s spending money to influence their vote,” said Colorado Ethics Watch executive director Luis Toro in the March 26 Gazette. “It helps them understand who benefits from possible policies. And it also helps identify possible conflicts of interest with legislators and City Council members and the industries that are supporting them.”

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

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Sharp elbows, dark money: Is this new normal for Colorado Springs city elections?

Jakob Rodgers, Billie Stanton Anleu (Colorado Springs Gazette)- Dark money, high-dollar campaigns and sharp-elbow politicking are playing an unusually big role in this year’s contests for the City Council, longtime political observers say.

The veiled donations and rough-and-tumble tactics in a few races highlight the stakes in an election that could reshape the priorities of the city’s legislative body.

Six of the council’s nine seats are in play. So come April 4, the City Council could be stacked with candidates more willing to follow the lead of strong Mayor John Suthers.

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

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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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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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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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Republican Attorney General Moves To Block Local Fracking Regulations After Flood Of Fossil Fuel Campaign Cash

David Sirota (International Business Times)- In the latest salvo in an intensifying national battle over climate change policy and fossil fuel extraction, Colorado Attorney General Cynthia Coffman filed a lawsuit to aimed at preventing local communities from restricting hydraulic fracturing. The Republican’s lawsuit on behalf of the powerful oil and gas industry comes only a few years after fossil fuel industry campaign cash boosted her campaign for public office.

Republicans have traditionally portrayed themselves as supporters of local control; during a presidential campaign visit to Colorado, Donald Trump said he supported local officials’ right to restrict fracking. But Coffman’s lawsuit aims to overturn moratoriums on fracking passed by Boulder County officials who said they wanted to develop detailed plans for orderly fossil fuel development.

Click here to read the full story in the International Business Times.

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The deep-pocketed outside groups that spent millions to influence the race for the state Capitol

The top race for the state legislature in 2016, at least in terms of spending by the candidates, was the contest between Republican incumbent Sen. Laura Woods of Westminster and Democratic challenger and former state Sen. Rachel Zenzinger of Arvada.

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

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2016 campaigns: A torrent of spending at the last minute, records show

Joey Bunch (Colorado Politics)- Races for the legislature, county commissions and district attorneys across Colorado got a big kick in donations once mail ballots went out, Colorado Ethics Watch found by parsing campaign disclosures on file with the state.

Outside groups spent more than $3.7 million of the $11.5 million they put into state races after Oct. 24, Ethics Watch found

Click here to read the full story in Colorado Politics.

Click here to read the full report by Colorado Ethics Watch.

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Ethics Watch Reveals Extent Of Last-Minute Outside Spending In Colorado Election

Approximately one-third of all the outside spending on Colorado state candidate elections happened between October 24, when polls opened, and Election Day, according to a review of public records conducted by Colorado Ethics Watch.

Under Colorado law, outside groups that make independent expenditures to support or oppose candidates during the last days before a primary or general election must file reports of their spending within 48 hours. During the rest of the year, independent expenditures are disclosed in reports filed on a calendar that varies depending on how close it is to an election. By reviewing these reports, Ethics Watch was able to determine that approximately $11.5 million was spent on disclosed independent expenditures on Colorado state and local races during 2016. Of this total, just over $3.7 million was spent while polls were open.

Nearly a million dollars, or eight percent of all independent expenditures during 2016 occurred on a single day, October 28. This spending spike was largely due to a $439,855 expenditure made by a group called Colorado Safety & Justice, which in turn had just received a $420,000 donation from businessman George Soros. The expenditure was made to support Jake Lilly, a candidate for District Attorney in the First Judicial District (Jefferson and Gilpin Counties).

2016-independent-expenditures-graphic

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