In The News

Colorado ethics commission has no investigators, little authority

Joey Bunch (Denver Post)- The Colorado Independent Ethics Commission, approved by voters in 2006, struggles to do its work for lack of authority, resources and money, say critics who include former administrators.

Its limitations have made what might have been a graft-busting agency a panel of five political appointees who give their opinions and, at worst, charge a fine of double the amount of money in question.

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Conflict of interest for Ethics Commission? Lawmakers seek fix

Corey Hutchins (The Colorado Independent)-

Lawmakers hoping once again to try and rid the state’s anti-corruption agency from its own conflicts of interest might have an unlikely ally in their effort this year: the state’s Republican attorney general, Cynthia Coffman.

When the legislative session begins next month, Democratic Rep. Beth McCann plans to carry a bill that would decouple the attorney general from her role giving legal advice to the Colorado Independent Ethics Commission. The IEC, as it’s known, is a beleaguered, underfunded state agency currently operating without a director. It was set up in 2006 to hear complaints about politicians who potentially run afoul of ethics laws.

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Conservatives burned money on JeffCo races. Unions spent big and won

Marianne Goodland (The Colorado Independent)-

The Independence Institute, Americans for Prosperity and other conservative groups sank hundreds of thousands of dollars into the 2015 school board races and ended up with no wins to show for it in at least two Colorado school districts.

Final campaign finance reports for the 2015 election, which came out on December 3, showed these groups spent nearly a half-million dollars on the Jefferson County school board recall races alone, and that’s only in money that’s traceable through the state’s campaign finance website or through open records requests… Click Here to read full article >>

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TABOR is Jabba the Hutt: Peg Perl’s Buzzfeed political observations

Kyle Harris (The Colorado Independent)-

As lawyers go, Peg Perl’s pretty fierce. She knows all about state government, ethics, courts, judges and laws. But she has other talents as well. Perl can make some pretty funny viral meme’s on Buzzfeed to explain the ins-and-outs of Colorado politics. Remember her listicle showing the horror of Colorado school board rules?

Now, Perl’s back at it — this time in the days after the new Star Wars movie came out (no spoilers please) — with a crack at what the 2016 Colorado Statehouse session is going to be like… Continue Reading Here >>

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Nonprofit that gave big to successful Jeffco school board recall effort broke state law, judge finds

Nicholas Garcia (Chalkbeat Colorado)-

A nonprofit that launched in May broke state law when it made a large donation to the successful recall effort of three Jefferson County school board members and did not disclose its donors, a Colorado administrative judge decided Thursday.

As part of the decision, the nonprofit Jeffco United was fined $1,000 and ordered to register with the secretary of state as a political committee and disclose its donors within 10 days… Click Here to read full article >>

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Jeffco’s recall free-for-all spurs call for campaign finance reform

Gabrielle Porter (Canyon Courier)-

An ethics watchdog group has called for state campaign finance reform in the wake of the release of contribution figures from the Jeffco school district’s contentious recall election.

While any change to the Colorado Constitution, which specifies how elections are conducted, would require a statewide vote, Peg Perl, senior counsel for Colorado Ethics Watch, said Colorado legislators can take several steps to bring more transparency to local elections…click here to read the full article in The Canyon Courier.

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No #SpoilerAlert Needed for Colorado School Board Elections Spending

Peg Perl (Huffington Post)-

Imagine you have been binge-watching episodes of your latest obsession on Netflix and just at the moment a major plot twist will be explained (like #whoshotannalise), the screen goes dark. NO! Now you’ll never know who it was?!

Coloradans may soon have that same feeling about who was actually behind the dramatic wins and losses of the 2015 School Board elections. The big reveal is supposed to be on December 3, when post-election spending reports are due to be filed with the Secretary of State. But a combination of state laws treating school board elections differently than other state candidate elections and the post-Citizens United boom in non-candidate group spending will have voters shaking their heads in the dark… Click here to read the full story in the Huffington Post.

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Why Petty Corruption Matters

Luis Toro (Colorado Independent) –

Two recent scandals involving county commissioners show that while Colorado has a reputation for clean government, we’re not immune from public corruption.

A Grand County Commissioner recently pleaded guilty to embezzling public property valued at “a few thousand dollars” and resigned. Former Commissioner James Newberry was caught filing phony reimbursement requests for meetings he didn’t attend.

Meanwhile, in Elbert County, Commissioner Robert Rowland signed a county check to reimburse himself for a $1,000 fine a judge had ordered him to pay to the county, causing a storm of lawsuits that threatens to cost the county tens of thousands of dollars… Click here to read the full story in The Colorado Independent.

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A shockingly bad report card for state governments

Peg Perl (Harvard Law and Policy Review) –

Many of us know state government is often the better venue for a particular court case or legislative initiative. U.S. Supreme Court Justice Brandeis praised states as “laborator[ies]” of democracy. Earlier this year, a poll found that over 60% of Americans thought state and local government were more likely to provide better policy solutions than Congress. But we must trust in the integrity and transparency of a laboratory if we are going to abide by its results. According to the 2015 State Integrity Investigation, none of the fifty state governments deserve that trust… Click here to read the full article >>

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Public records in the digital age

(The Fort Morgan Times)-

Access to government records is essential to hold officials accountable. But if that access isn’t in harmony with modern times, it’s useless.

The Coloradoan newspaper in Fort Collins requested a digital database of Colorado State University’s employee names, salaries and raises to examine allegations by a CSU professor that the university has based pay raises on gender.

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