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Monthly Archives: Jan 2016

The CORA buck stops nowhere

Luis Toro (The Colorado Statesman)- Last November, the State Integrity Investigation released its report card grading the 50 states on various measures of good government. Colorado placed 13th overall, receiving high marks for our budget and auditing processes. Despite our ranking among the states, many of Colorado’s grades were embarrassing. Colorado placed 44th for ethics enforcement, below even some states that don’t have ethics commissions, with a failing grade. The state also placed 34th, with a letter grade of “F,” for public access to documents.

The State Integrity Investigation is an analysis of state government transparency and accountability conducted by the Center for Public Integrity. The project highlights areas that lead to decreased citizen confidence in government and increased risk of corruption.

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Federal lawsuit attacks Colorado’s money-in-politics enforcement system

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.

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Citizens will suffer if political parties extend Citizens United even further

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.

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Outside counsel contracts for jail abuse case raise questions

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.

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Utah lawmakers got a hefty pay raise for waging lands fight, tax record shows

Robert Gehrke (The Salt Lake Tribune)-

State Rep. Ken Ivory was paid $135,000 last year for his work as president of the American Lands Council — a group dedicated to winning state ownership of federal lands — and his wife was paid another $18,000, according to the group’s most recent tax filing.

Ivory’s salary shot up by $40,000; the state representative estimated he spends about 60 hours a week working on issues for the American Lands Council.

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Ethics Watch Submits Comments On Proposed SOS Rules

January 14 – Today, Ethics Watch submitted comments opposing proposed changes to the Colorado Election Rules that would increase the chances of partisan mischief in elections and exceed the authority of the Colorado Secretary of State.

The two rules would (1) allow political parties to dictate to clerks which election judges should perform the task of signature verification and (2) apply electioneering prohibitions to drop-box locations, which would increase opportunities for harassing election complaints if, for example, a car with a political bumper sticker inadvertently drove within 100 feet of a drop box located on a public street.

The hearing on the proposed rules is today at 9:00 a.m. Ethics Watch will not submit additional testimony at the hearing.

Click here to read Ethics Watch’s comments.

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Databases, nonprofit records, wage theft, transparency on Colorado legislature’s 2016 agenda

Jeffrey Roberts (Colorado Springs Gazette)-

Colorado lawmakers will consider at least four measures to expand public access to information during the legislature’s 2016 session, which convenes Wednesday.

Those measures include database records; nonprofit records; wage theft transparency and judicial branch records.

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What your Colorado lawmakers will be up to this session

Corey Hutchins (The Colorado Independent)-

Next week begins another legislative session in Colorado where Republicans who control the Senate and Democrats who control the House will hash out bills under the gold dome of the Capitol all while Democratic Gov. John Hickenlooper continues to shape his legacy a year into his final term.

Democrats and Republicans are offering differing agendas but they’ll both be dealing with budget cuts and will be debating laws this year under the pressure of a presidential election cycle and while every member of the House and half the Senate is up for re-election themselves.

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Greeley-Evans School District 6 officials raise questions with hint hiring campaign consultant

Tyler Silvy (Greeley Tribune)-

With state funding cuts and nearly $300 million in potential construction costs looming for Greeley-Evans School District 6, district officials have considered hiring a campaign consultant to help the district pass a ballot initiative. If officials were to do so with taxpayer dollars, it would blur the spirit — if not the letter — of campaign finance law.

District 6 Superintendent Deirdre Pilch during a Dec. 14 Board of Education work session floated the idea of bringing in a campaign consultant to help the district pass a ballot initiative, an idea Pilch hasn’t actively pursued since.

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Colorado’s senators agree on most candidates for federal vacancy

Monica Mendoza (Denver Business Journal)-

In what appeared to be a partisan spat over the choosing of candidates to fill a vacancy on the U.S. District Court bench in Colorado, Colorado’s two U.S. senators — one a Democrat, the other a Republican — set up two different search committees.

But those panels have come with nearly the same short lists of candidates.

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