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In The News

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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Rug store flap weaves an ethics tapestry between Glendale and state watchdogs

Marianne Goodland (Colorado Politics)- An ethics complaint lodged against a former Glendale city councilman has turned into a can of worms for the Colorado Independent Ethics Commission over whether home-rule cities that have their own ethics codes have the final say over ethics complaints.

The ethics issue dates back to 2016, when MAK Investment Group of Glendale filed an ethics complaint with the city against then-city councilman Jeff Allen. The complaint alleged Allen, who also serves as CEO of the Glendale Chamber of Commerce, improperly voted on the city’s budget, which includes funding for the chamber.

Click here to read the full story in Colorado Politics.

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Emails raise ethical questions about Colorado lawmaker. But he says there’s nothing to see.

Jesse Paul (Denver Post)- A top Republican state lawmaker appeared to suggest wielding his political influence to help or harm a business partner in an email exchange that led up to a lawsuit now pending in federal court, but he says his words have been taken out of context.

Ray Scott of Grand Junction, currently the No. 4 Republican in the state Senate, made the remarks in 2012 as part of a dispute with Montigo Del Ray Corp., a custom fireplace company, about its decision to remove his business as a regional representative for states including Colorado, Utah and Wyoming.

Scott is founder of Gas Products Corporation, which sells high-end heating equipment for luxury homes and commercial applications, and at the time, served as a state representative with a focus on energy issues. Gas Products, according to the lawsuit, handled area business for the Canada-based Montigo.

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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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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