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In The News

Watchdog group files complaints against groups pushing recall

Gabrielle Porter (High Timber Times)- A Colorado Springs-based watchdog organization has accused groups involved in instigating the recall of three Jeffco school members of violating state campaign finance laws in two lawsuits that will go before Colorado’s Office of Administrative Courts.

Colorado Government Watch alleged in an Oct. 13 complaint that nonprofit groups Jeffco United and Support Jeffco Kids — both of which have ties to the organization that initiated the recall of conservative school board members John Newkirk, Ken Witt and Julie Williams — are acting as financial pass-throughs for campaign funds while their nonprofit status protects them from disclosing donors. Colorado Government Watch wants the state to require both groups to register as issue committees, which would force them to disclose their donors, said director Dede Laugesen.

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Anonymous benefactor pays for city officials to attend Olympic Museum meeting

Pam Zubeck (Colorado Springs Independent)- Last month, eight people from Colorado Springs, including city employees, boarded a plane for New York City to talk about improvements to the streetscape and infrastructure surrounding the Olympic Museum and Hall of Fame with the project’s New York-based designer.

In an unusual move, the nonprofit Colorado Springs Sports Corp. used a donation from an unnamed “private foundation” to fund $15,748 in travel expenses for three city employees and two others associated with the city.

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2nd search committee name in hunt for Colorado federal judge

Monica Mendoza (Denver Business Journal)- It appears there are dueling search committees for the hunt to fill a vacancy on U.S. District Court in Colorado.

Today, U.S. Sen. Michael Bennet, D-Colorado, announced the formation of a bipartisan advisory committee that will recommend qualified applicants to fill an upcoming vacancy on the U.S. District Court in Colorado, created by Judge Robert Blackburn’s taking senior status on April 12, 2016.

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Broomfield council candidate’s past conduct raises questions about ethics, party politics

Shay Castle (Broomfield Enterprise)- An appointed member of Broomfield City Council running for election is coming under fire for his involvement in a series of civil suits, prompting questions over his suitability to hold elected office.

Between 2009 and 2013, Ward 4 Councilman Dennis Harward and his companies were defendants in at least five civil suits, three of which alleged unethical business practices, including misrepresentation and use of deceptive competitive strategies.

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Public-land transfer proponents may have violated lobbying laws

Joshua Zaffos (High Country News)- The central organization that advocates for Western states to take over federal public lands, Utah state Rep. Ken Ivory’s American Lands Council, is apparently running roughshod over state legislative rules.

The Colorado Secretary of State announced last week that it has “reasonable grounds to believe” the ALC may have violated state lobbying and disclosure rules for failing to report political spending or to register as a lobbyist. The ALC, which leads the West-wide movement to transfer federal lands to states’ control, emailed Colorado supporters this spring to build backing for a bill that would have created a county commissioner-led task force to study the benefits of public-lands transfer to the state of Colorado. (The Senate bill failed by one vote.) The ALC has ushered similar bills through nearly every Western state legislature, with varying success.

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Attorney’s listicle shows horror of Colorado school board rules

Kyle Harris (The Colorado Independent)- Few organizations bust Colorado’s power brokers in court as regularly as Colorado Ethics Watch. So when the organization’s attorney Peg Perl speaks — especially in a Buzzfeed listicle — Coloradans would be wise to listen.

Check out her post: “6 Scary Things You Need to Know About Colorado School Boards,” in which she uses GIF’s of pop culture icons including Darth Vader, Jerry Maguire and Napoleon (of Napoleon Dynamite) to explain troubling facts about the state’s rules governing school boards.

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Jeffco school board president calls for own investigation

Crystal Anderson (Arvada Press). In the middle of a recall campaign seeking to drive him from office, Jefferson County School Board President Ken Witt tried to make a big campaign splash by calling for the Colorado Independent Ethics Commission (IEC) to investigate his alleged violations of Colorado’s open meetings law.

“This is a serious charge of unlawful behavior and it’s now going to be printed on an official election ballot. But for this accusation to be taken seriously, a complaint should have been filed,” Witt said during an Oct. 8 press conference.

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Witt seeks ethics investigation of himself

Gabrielle Porter (Canyon Courier). School board president Ken Witt, one of three targets of a recall in the Nov. 3 election, has announced that he is requesting an investigation into himself by the state’s Independent Ethics Commission to counter ballot language that accuses the school board’s conservative majority of violating the Open Meetings Law.

The recall language on the ballot accuses Witt and board members John Newkirk and Julie Williams of “repeatedly violating Colorado open-meetings laws by secretly making major decisions behind closed doors.”

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Jeffco board president Ken Witt asks for ethics opinion into recall claim

Nicholas Garcia (Chalkbeat Colorado). Jefferson County School Board President Ken Witt, the target of a high-profile recall campaign, announced Thursday he is asking the state’s Independent Ethics Commission to weigh in on recall organizers’ claim that he violated state transparency laws.

“I’m simply calling their bluff,” Witt said at a news conference.

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10th Circuit: Do Voters Really Need Political Spending Disclosure?

Peg Perl (Harvard Law & Policy Review)- Over the last 10 years, the U.S. Supreme Court has repeatedly struck down campaign finance spending bans and contribution limits while keeping disclosure requirements intact. According to the Brennan Center, the Roberts Court has invalidated six different major provisions in federal and state laws and “significantly reshaped the legal landscape dictating how much big money can flow into political races.”

However, even the Citizens United case almost unanimously (8-1) reiterated the constitutionality of the public disclosure requirements when individuals or corporations run advertisements during the final weeks of the campaign season naming a candidate (“electioneering communications”). As Professor Rick Hasen notes in his 2011 analysis of Citizens United, the Court re-emphasized that the voting public has an “informational interest” in knowing who is speaking about candidates even when those ads avoid specific calls to vote for or against the candidate.

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