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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 Supports Teach-In On ALEC Before Denver Conference

The American Legislative Exchange Council—more commonly known as ALEC—is holding their annual meeting in Denver from July 19 to 21, 2017. In response, a coalition of organizations held a teach-in on Saturday, July 15th in Denver to educate the public about ALEC’s negative impact on economic, environmental, and social issues. Ethics Watch Executive Director Luis Toro spoke as the expert on money in politics on the main panel at the event. He also partnered with Carla Castedo of Mi Familia Vota Colorado to teach a break-out session on efforts to make voting more difficult and to encourage more corporate money in politics.

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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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Report: Colorado’s Ken Salazar was hired by Anadarko after Firestone explosion

Kelsey Ray (Colorado Independent)- Former U.S. Interior Secretary Ken Salazar identified himself as a lawyer for oil and gas giant Anadarko immediately following a fatal home explosion in Firestone last month, International Business Times and MapLight are reporting.

Investigators say an improperly abandoned flowline attached to an Anadarko well caused the blast.

Salazar, also a former Democratic U.S. Senator who weighed a 2018 bid for governor but decided against it, spoke with Democratic Gov. John Hickenlooper’s top attorney, Jackie Melmed, about the explosion, according to an email IBT and MapLight obtained. That email is dated April 26, the same day Hickenlooper’s Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission and the Frederick-Firestone Fire Department linked the explosion to an Anadarko well nearby.

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

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Ken Salazar Working For Anadarko After Promising To Honor Federal Ethics Law

David Sirota, Lydia O’Neal, Andrew Perez (International Business Times)- Former U.S. Interior Secretary Ken Salazar has been working for a major oil and gas company as it has sought to limit political damage after a deadly explosion near one of its Colorado wells, a spokesperson for Colorado Democratic Gov. John Hickenlooper and emails obtained by International Business Times and MapLight say.

One of his state’s most powerful Democrats, Salazar was in touch with Hickenlooper’s office after the blast on behalf of Anadarko Petroleum — a company Salazar helped when he ran the Interior Department under former President Barack Obama.

Salazar, a corporate lawyer, has previously said he would honor federal ethics laws by walling himself off from matters in which he was involved at the agency. Emails show he has been working for Anadarko in Colorado though he has not registered to lobby for the company there, state records show.

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

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Should Denver taxpayers help candidates for local office pay for their campaigns?

Erica Meltzer (Denverite)- A group of Denver campaign finance reform advocates are trying to place an ordinance on the November ballot that would allow for public financing of municipal elections, reduce the amount of money candidates can take from individual donors and ban corporate and union donations.

Right now this effort is going by the motherhood-and-apple-pie title “Democracy for the People,” and proponents hope to start circulating petitions in a few weeks. Opponents say there are better uses for public dollars, but the backers of this measure point to evidence from other cities that public financing increases participation in politics by regular people. 

“This would modernize and reform local campaign finance laws to make sure it’s open and accessible and most importantly accountable to the people,” said Jon Biggerstaff, executive director of Clean Slate Now, the group behind the initiative. Biggerstaff ran unsuccessfully for the State Senate on a platform that prioritized campaign finance. Clean Slate Now was founded by former Colorado Senate Majority Leader Ken Gordon to work on reducing the influence of money in politics.

Click here to read the full story in the Denverite.

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