Today, Colorado Ethics Watch submitted comments on proposed changes to the Campaign and Political Finance Rules. Secretary of State Wayne Williams issued the proposed rules on August 30, 2017 and invited comment.
Ethics Watch commented on two aspects of the proposed rules. First, it supported the Secretary’s effort to clarify the difference between political committees and independent expenditure committees and urged him to include in the rules a statement that political committees may make contributions to candidates and political parties but independent expenditure committees may not. Second, it opposed the Secretary’s rollback of a rule allowing Coloradans to file campaign finance complaints by fax or email. It urged the Secretary to restore email filing, or at a minimum, to establish rules permitting filing by mail or private delivery service.
Click here to read Ethics Watch’s comments.
Jeffrey Roberts (Colorado FOIC) – The Colorado House voted Monday to require independent groups and individuals to disclose expenditures when they buy ads, billboards and mailings that mention only political parties.
Disclosure currently is required when such communications mention candidates, but not when they generally suggest that you support Democrats or Republicans.
Under HB 16-1434, which was sent to the Senate on a 34-31 vote, any entity spending $1,000 or more on this type of communication within 30 days of a primary or 60 days of a general election would have to file a report with the Colorado Secretary of State.
Such ads also would have to include “paid for by” disclaimers. And if they are produced in coordination with a political party, the party must also report the spending.
Click here to read the full story at the Colorado Freedom of Information Coalition blog.
Marianne Goodland (Colorado Independent) — Once Colorado’s secretive Independent Ethics Commission dismisses a complaint as frivolous, it cannot be appealed to any higher court.
That’s the decision the Colorado Supreme Court made today on a 4-3 ruling.
The case involved Colorado Ethics Watch, which filed an an ethics complaint against an Elbert County commissioner, which the Ethics Commission dubbed frivolous.
Click here to read the full story in the Colorado Independent.
Peter Jones (The Villager)-
A recreational-marijuana store called the Smokin’ Gun is smoldering at the center of the latest controversy to hit Glendale, but the elected leader says his fingerprints won’t be found.
Mayor Mike Dunafon disputes a complaint from the nonprofit, Colorado Ethics Watch, which accuses the city leader of not appropriately recusing himself last year from a City Council vote approving Smokin’ Gun, a new pot-retail outlet owned by his now-wife.
Kristen Wyatt (Associated Press)-
Colorado’s newest pot shop has some wondering whether strippers and weed are too closely aligned on a busy highway just east of downtown Denver.
The Smokin Gun Apothecary opened on a site formerly occupied by the Denver area’s best known strip club, Shotgun Willie’s. The strip club hasn’t gone away — it’s moved just across the parking lot, testing ethical and potentially legal issues about the state’s growing legal recreational pot industry.
Brendaliss Gonzalez (Denver Channel)- Colorado Ethics Watch claims the mayor had a financial interest when he cast the vote.
According to the city council minutes taken at the meeting on Feb. of 2015, Mayor Mike Dunafon originally recused himself from the vote concerning granting the approval to open the Smokin’ Gun Apothecary next to Shotgun Willie’s, a strip club also owned by the mayor’s wife.
Carlos Illescas (Denver Post)- Colorado Ethics Watch has filed a complaint with the city of Glendale, asking that the City Council censure Mayor Mike Dunafon after he voted to approve a plan for a new recreational marijuana store owned by his now-wife.
His wife, Debbie Matthews, is majority owner of the Smokin Gun, a recreational marijuana store on Colorado Boulevard that is scheduled to open as soon as next week.
Corey Hutchins (The Colorado Independent)-
Want to know who’s making sure Coloradans are obeying the state’s campaign finance laws? Look in the mirror.
The Centennial State has long been unique in having a money-in-politics system watchdogged not by trained investigators or regulators, but by average citizens. It’s called private-party enforcement, and under that system citizens here have to bring complaints themselves against those in power they feel might be violating the law.
Peg Perl (Harvard Law & Policy Review)-
Today is the sixth anniversary of the U.S. Supreme Court decision in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission. The electorate has survived three election cycles of being bombarded by advertising funded by almost unlimited amounts of outside group spending in candidate races from local school board to President of the United States, most of it minimally disclosed—if at all. Yet, the major political parties are arguing publicly that they—not the voters—are the true victims of the Citizens United ruling.
As early as 2010, there was some argument that keeping political parties subject to contribution limitations and prohibitions while also enforcing robust public disclosure would harm parties vis a vis outside groups. National as well as some state-level Republican Party committees brought federal lawsuits immediately after Citizens United challenging limitations on political party contributions on constitutional grounds. The Fifth Circuit rejected the challenge, stating “we do not read Citizens United as changing how this court should evaluate contribution limits on political parties and PACs.” The special three-judge panel set up to rule on challenges to modern campaign finance law also upheld political party contribution limits, and the U.S. Supreme Court summarily affirmed on direct appeal. The three-judge panel in that case told the parties that the arguments about disparity between political parties and outside groups in spending and contribution restrictions was not a constitutional violation, but instead a policy argument to be made to Congress.
Arthur Kane (ColoradoWatchdog.org)-
Two Denver city contracts issued to law firms with close ties to Denver City Attorney Scott Martinez raise questions about timing, billing and whether they were bid.
Martinez’s office hired Faegre Baker Daniels and Brownstein Hyatt Farber Schreck in June 2014 to handle a lawsuit by Jamal Hunter, who said he was assaulted by fellow Denver jail inmates with the knowledge and encouragement of a deputy.