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In The News

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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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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El Paso County pays to settle sexual harassment and retaliation claim but won’t say to whom

Pam Zubeck (Colorado Springs Independent)- El Paso County’s Board of County Commissioners on July 25 approved a $67,983 settlement with a woman who alleged she was sexually harassed and retaliated against in the Sheriff’s Office, and now the county won’t say who got most of the settlement money.

And that might not be legal.

The item appeared on the BOCC’s consent calendar, a catalog of items that normally enjoys quick approval with no public comment and no commissioner discussion.

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

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The misdemeanor for violating CORA is going away on Aug. 9. Does that matter?

Jeffrey Roberts (Colorado Freedom of Information Coalition)- It’s been on the books since the state legislature adopted the Colorado Open Records Act nearly a half-century ago: Anyone who “willfully and knowingly” violates the statute is guilty of a misdemeanor and faces up to 90 days in jail and a $100 fine.

But on Aug. 9, when Senate Bill 17-040 goes into effect (barring a referendum petition against it), the criminal penalty in CORA will disappear. Lawmakers erased the provision in the same legislation that clarifies the public’s right to obtain copies of public records kept in digital formats.

Does that matter? The change leaves only one method – civil litigation – for enforcing CORA violations.

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

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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 dynamo Peg Perl starting a firm, eyeing a run for Denver office in 2019

Joey Bunch (Colorado Politics)- The MVP of good government and public policy at the Colorado Capitol is changing jerseys. Peg Perl, tenacious senior attorney for Colorado Ethics Watch, is starting a consulting firm, Democracy TNG.

She’s also thinking about running for local office in Denver in 2019. That’s as much of an announcement as she’s making right now. If history is any guide, Perl will be tough to beat. Heck, just last month Law Week Colorado named her one of the top six women lawyers in the state.

Perl’s bio reads like that of a public policy lifetime achievement award winner. She seamlessly combined law and honest government advocacy with Ethics Watch since 2012. Perl chairs the Women’s Lobby of Colorado working on issues that impact women and families, such as health care and workplace equity.

Click here to read the full story in Colorado Politics.

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Zansberg: Colorado’s Open Records Act much improved

Steve Zanzberg (The Coloradoan)- On Thursday, Gov. John Hickenlooper signed into law Senate Bill 17-40, which was introduced by Sen. John Kefalas (D, Fort Collins).

All Coloradans owe both men, and several other elected officials, a huge debt of gratitude. The new law makes express a guarantee that those of us in the “records requester community” had previously argued was implicit in the Colorado’s Open Records Act: the right of all Coloradans to receive digitized copies of public records that the government maintains in a digitized format.

Click here to read the full story in the Coloradoan.

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Colorado hemp bill’s author dismisses claims of conflict

Dan Njegomir (Colorado Politics)- Legislation intended to keep federal water flowing to Colorado’s hemp crop — a growing industry in the state, if you’ll forgive the expression — has unexpectedly led to an anonymous accusation that the bill’s sponsor has a conflict of interest. So says a report in the Durango Herald.

Spoiler alert: The law seems to be on the sponsor’s side, as the Herald reports.

Senate Bill 117, adopted by lawmakers in the 2017 session and now awaiting the governor’s signature, was supposed to quell controversy, not cause it. As explained in a press release by the state Senate Republican majority when the bill was approved by the legislature last month, industrial hemp is misunderstood because of its association with marijuana, and that has led to bad policy by the federal government:

After Colorado voters approved hemp’s cultivation as part of a broader legalization of marijuana, questions arose about the legality of using federal reclamation water to grow a  crop often wrongly confused with marijuana.

Montrose Republican state Sen. Don Coram, who introduced the measure, said in the press release that the bill “ensures that Washington can’t deny hemp growers access to water from federal reclamation projects, due to disagreements between Washington and Denver on drug and farm policies.”

Click here to read the full story in Colorado Politics.

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