According to Colorado’s Secretary of State, the proposed “personhood” amendment won’t make the 2012 ballot due to lack of signatures — and that decision is final. The Denver Post reports:

The Colorado secretary of state’s office said Tuesday the proposed anti-abortion “personhood” amendment will not be on the 2012 ballot — no matter the outcome of proponents’ planned legal action to prove they collected enough voter signatures.

The ballot certification deadline was Monday. Even if a judge rules personhood sponsors’ petition was sufficient, the measure would have to wait for the 2014 general election, secretary of state spokesman Andrew Cole told The Post Tuesday.

However, that’s not the end of the story. Personhood USA takes a different view:

Personhood USA founder Keith Mason said Tuesday supporters have a 30-day window to take legal action challenging Secretary of State Scott Gessler’s Aug. 29 determination that the Personhood Amendment failed to make the ballot — falling short by 3,859 signatures.

Petitioners collected 82,246 valid signatures of the 86,105 required, according to state officials. “We have until Sept. 28 to file our lawsuit. And the more we look, line by line, the more confident we are we have enough signatures,” Mason said. “We have recovered thousands of signatures.”

Personhood USA seems serious in their desire to make a legal challenge, as seen in this September 14th email to supporters:

We need your help! Last month we told you that volunteers worked tirelessly to collect over 112,000 signatures to get the Personhood Amendment on the ballot in Colorado. But the Secretary of State in Colorado has denied our request by claiming that we are 3,700 signatures short of qualifying for the ballot. This a purely political act, as many of the signatures discarded were actually valid signatures!

We must file a court challenge within 30 days, and we fully intend to do so. But we need your financial help! In order to continue our fight for the unborn and protect all innocent life we need to raise over $50,000 to combat the political machine in Colorado. …

They might win that legal challenge — or they might lose it. Basically, right now nobody knows whether “personhood” will be on the ballot in 2012 or not.

That’s hugely frustrating for me. All plans to update Ari Armstrong’s and my 2010 policy paper The “Personhood” Movement Is Anti-Life are up in the air until this matter is resolved. Right now, I’m not sure what kind of revisions we’ll want to make, because we may want to talk about the new language of the 2012 ballot measure or not.

Also, I don’t know whether I’ll want to raise money for those revisions or not, as I did in 2010. I’m not willing to slog through the burdens and risks of reporting again, as would be required if “personhood” makes the ballot, unless, that is, the court rules in our favor next week. In that case, I won’t have to report, even if “personhood” is on the ballot. That would be awesome.

Gah! The uncertainty is just killing me. These matters will be resolved soon, I know, but time is running short!

Appeals Court Rules Against Gessler

 Posted by on 3 September 2012 at 2:00 pm  Campaign Finance, Free Speech
Sep 032012
 

Court rules against Gessler in campaign change:

An appeals court says Secretary of State Scott Gessler overstepped his authority by raising a financial disclosure threshold for political groups and that the change violated state law. The Colorado Court of Appeals issued the ruling Thursday, affirming a lower court’s decision. At issue was a change from Gessler’s office to raise the financial disclosure threshold for political groups from $200 to $5,000.

Opponents argue that raising the threshold would make it easier for political groups to avoid disclosing financial interests for ballot initiatives. Gessler maintained that his aim was to bring state campaign-finance laws in line with a federal appeals court ruling.

A Gessler spokesman says the state is leaving itself open to expensive constitutional challenges, but that the secretary has not decided whether to appeal the latest decision.

The opinion is available as a PDF. The main issue seems to have been whether Scott Gessler had the authority as Secretary of State to change the threshold for campaign finance disclosures for issue committees, not the rule itself.

However, the court did seem to read the “Parker North” (Sampson v. Buescher) case as some kind of isolated decision, without implications for the constitutionality of the current $200 threshold. The court wrote, in part:

We do not agree with the Secretary, in any event, that Sampson created a gap in the law, triggering his obligation to promulgate a rule. The Tenth Circuit panel declined to address the facial challenge to Colorado’s campaign finance laws, and only held that the application of these laws to the plaintiffs in that case unconstitutionally burdened their freedom of association. See Sampson, 625 F.3d at 1249. Consequently, Sampson provides persuasive authority with regard to future applications of the campaign finance laws in a similar context, but does not render these laws completely inoperative. See Sanger, 148 P.3d at 410­11.

That’s wrong, I think, and I hope that gets relitigated. In addition, I very much hope that the Colorado legislature will change the law on the threshold for reporting for issue committees — to some level much higher than Gessler’s $5000 limit.

 

The Center for Competitive Politics just posted a press release about their filing of a preliminary injunction in CSG’s campaign finance lawsuit.  If we win, I won’t have to file campaign finance reports while litigation is pending.  (Hallelujah!)

DATELINE: Tuesday, August 14, 2012

CONTACT: Sarah Lee, Communications Director, 770.598.7961

ALEXANDRIA, Va. – The Center for Competitive Politics’ (CCP) legal team filed a motion for preliminary injunction late last night on behalf of a Colorado group, Coalition for Secular Government (CSG). CCP asks that a federal judge in Colorado enjoin Colorado Secretary of State Scott Gessler refrain from forcing CSG to register as an “issue committee” until their constitutional claims can be heard. Otherwise, CSG will be unable to speak until a potentially lengthy litigation has run its course.

Last month, CCP filed its lawsuit on behalf of CSG in the United States District Court for the District of Colorado, questioning whether Colorado can force small educational groups to register with the state before writing or publishing philosophical and policy analysis that mentions a state ballot initiative.

The case stems from the efforts of Colorado resident Diana Hsieh. Hsieh, who holds a Ph.D. in philosophy, organized the non-profit CSG together with her friend Ari Armstrong in order to promote a secular understanding of individual rights, including freedom of conscience and the separation of church and state. Because of unconstitutionally vague state laws, confusion as to what constitutes political speech and what is covered under a press exemption, and a refusal by the state to abide by a federal court order, Hsieh and CSG have found it nearly impossible to carry out the activities of a small non-profit group without fear of running afoul of Colorado’s complex campaign finance laws.

CCP Legal Director Allen Dickerson hopes the motion for injunction in the case will free the group from the administrative burden of registering as a political group, allowing them to speak freely until their case can be fully considered by the federal court.

“Given the strength of its case, we hope CSG will be allowed to speak unfettered until, and if, a court determines that they must register as an issue committee,” he said. “It makes little sense to force them to register – and limit their speech accordingly – only to turn around many months later and tell them they had a constitutional right to speak freely all along.”

No hearing on the motion has yet been set.

The Center for Competitive Politics promotes and defends the First Amendment’s protection of political rights of speech, assembly, and petition. It is the only organization dedicated solely to protecting First Amendment political rights.

In related news, a federal judge recently struck down some of Secretary of State Scott Gessler’s campaign finance rule changes. The Denver Post reports:

A judge on Friday invalidated some campaign finance rules changed by Colorado Secretary of State Scott Gessler. Denver District Judge J. Eric Elliff upheld one rule defining what can be considered electioneering communications. But he invalidated a rule that would have capped penalties for some campaign finance violations. He also rejected rules affecting who must file campaign finance reports. …

One of the invalidated rules said groups only had to file campaign finance reports if at least 30 percent of their spending was for or against a ballot issue. Elliff said the rule would have required issue committees with very little income, most of which is spent on election-related matters, to file reports while groups with huge budgets could spend big on election matters without having to file reports if the expenditures were less than 30 percent of their total spending.

I didn’t like that 30% rule: it was poorly-constructed so as to disproportionately burden small groups. So I’m not sad to see that struck down, even though the result is that now we don’t have any clear guidance on what counts as the “major purpose” that triggers filing obligations for issue committees like CSG.  That’s frustrating.

I’m deeply unhappy that the rules capping fines have been struck down, as unlimited $50 per day per violation fines are downright obscene.  What sane person is willing to wade through pages of confusing and complex campaign finance regulations and then attempt to file detailed reports on expenditures and contributions over $20 — with the threat of thousands upon thousands of dollars of fines for innocent errors looming over them?

 

Sara Burnett blogged about my campaign finance lawsuit for the Denver Post yesterday. The post begins:

The Center for Competitive Politics has filed a federal lawsuit against Secretary of State Scott Gessler, saying Colorado’s campaign finance laws are overly burdensome and violate the First Amendment rights of small educational groups that want to weigh in on a ballot question.

It’s not the first lawsuit filed against Gessler over campaign finance rules. But unlike those cases, Gessler may find himself siding with the plaintiffs – at least philosophically – on parts of this one.

“I’m sympathetic to these small groups wanting to engage in their elections and it only further illustrates how screwed up our campaign finance laws are,” Gessler said in an emailed statement today.

Amen to that! Go read the whole thing.

 

I have some exciting news to share — and I’m particularly delighted to share it with you on Independence Day!

My fight against Colorado’s onerous campaign finance laws has been taken to a whole new level, thanks to the Center for Competitive Politics. They’re representing my organization, the Coalition for Secular Government, in a federal lawsuit challenging the application of Colorado’s campaign finance law to Ari Armstrong’s and my policy paper in defense of abortion rights. CCP is arguing that the onerous campaign finance regulations violate our First Amendment rights.

I couldn’t be more excited for this opportunity protect the right to speak freely on politics in Colorado.

Here’s CCP’s press release. You can expect more details to be posted on here on NoodleFood in upcoming weeks.

Colorado Group Files First Amendment Lawsuit

DATELINE: Monday, July 2, 2012

CONTACT: Sarah Lee, Communications Director, Center for Competitive Politics, 770.598.7961

ALEXANDRIA, Va. — The Center for Competitive Politics (CCP) legal team, led by Legal Director Allen Dickerson, today filed a lawsuit in the United States District Court for the District of Colorado on behalf of the Coalition for Secular Government (CSG). The question raised by the First Amendment lawsuit is whether Colorado can force small educational groups to register with the state before expressing an opinion on or publishing an analysis of a ballot question.

Colorado resident Diana Hsieh, a doctor of philosophy, organized the non-profit CSG together with her friend Ari ArmB in order to promote a secular understanding of individual rights, including freedom of conscience and the separation of church and state. Because of unconstitutionally vague state laws, confusion as to what constitutes political speech and what is covered under a press exemption, and a refusal by the state to abide by a federal court order, Hsieh and CSG have found it nearly impossible to carry out the activities of a small non-profit group without fear of running afoul of complex Colorado campaign finance laws.

“Ari and I simply wanted to discuss a Colorado ballot measure as a small part of our effort to educate people about our philosophy. Our goal has never been to defeat such measures; they would have lost just as badly without our policy papers,” Hsieh notes. “It’s frustrating that even our modest efforts are hampered by the Colorado campaign finance system. To avoid the risk of costly lawsuits and hefty fines, we must report minor purchases of office supplies and the names and addresses of small-dollar donors. Our experiences with Colorado’s system have been confusing and dispiriting. We’ve not abandoned our efforts, as most people would have done, but we’ve definitely scaled back our efforts. We shouldn’t have to register and file these meaningless reports with the State to speak on moral and political topics of public concern.”

Dickerson and the CCP legal team filed a complaint alleging that, even though Diana and CSG plan to raise no more than $3,500, nearly all of which will go toward updating and disseminating an expanded and updated copy of their public policy paper, the state of Colorado appears to demand that CSG register as an issue committee, with all the paperwork burdens and restrictions that status entails. Dickerson notes that this is unconstitutional under the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution and burdensome, particularly for a small group seeking only to exercise their right to speak.

“No group that spends very little money, and whose principal product is a policy white paper, should need the state’s permission to speak,” said Dickerson. “Despite good intentions, Colorado’s voters approved laws with that unreasonable and unconstitutional result. We hope this suit will give the federal courts an opportunity to protect CSG and other vulnerable, grassroots speakers.”

The suit asks for a declaratory judgment and requests that the court hear CSG’s claims on an expedited basis.

A background paper on the lawsuit can be viewed here.

A copy of the complaint filed in the lawsuit can be viewed here.

The Center for Competitive Politics promotes and defends the First Amendment’s protection of political rights of speech, assembly, and petition. It is the only organization dedicated solely to protecting First Amendment political rights.

 

Recently, I learned that the Institute for Justice (IJ) has taken the case of paleo blogger Steve Cooksey. He’s in trouble with North Carolina regulators who wish to suppress his freedom of speech. I couldn’t be more delighted, as the case combines two of my great loves: paleo and free speech.

IJ made an awesome video summarizing the case:

For more information on the case, see this page. The press release says:

Can the government throw you in jail for offering advice on the Internet about what people should buy at the grocery store?

That is exactly the claim made by the North Carolina Board of Dietetics/Nutrition. And that is why today diabetic blogger Steve Cooksey of Stanley, N.C. has teamed up with the Institute for Justice (IJ) to file a major First Amendment lawsuit against the State Board in federal court.

In December 2011, Steve Cooksey started a Dear Abby-style advice column on his blog to answer reader questions. In January 2012, the North Carolina Board of Dietetics/Nutrition informed Steve that he could not give readers personal advice on diet, whether for free or for compensation, because doing so constituted the unlicensed, and thus criminal, practice of dietetics.

The State Board also told Steve that his private emails and telephone calls with friends and readers were illegal. The Board also ordered him to shut down his life-coaching service. Violating the North Carolina licensing law can lead to fines, court orders to be silent and even jail.

“You don’t need the government’s permission to give someone ordinary advice,” said IJ Senior Attorney Jeff Rowes. “North Carolina cannot require Steve to be a state-licensed dietitian any more than it can require Dear Abbey to be a state-licensed psychologist.”

This lawsuit seeks to answer one of the most important unresolved questions in First Amendment law: When does the government’s power to license occupations trump free speech?

“Advice is protected speech,” said IJ attorney Paul Sherman. “Just because the government can license certain types of expert professional advice doesn’t mean the government can license every type of advice.”

Steve Cooksey began offering dietary advice because he is concerned about America’s diabetes epidemic. Over 25 million Americans have diabetes, including approximately 800,000 in North Carolina. The human and financial toll is staggering. Diabetes is now a leading cause of stroke, blindness, kidney failure requiring transplantation, and amputation. Because diabetes is a condition of elevated blood sugar, Steve advocates eating foods that keep blood sugar low.

After being diagnosed with Type II diabetes, Steve did research and learned that the high-carb/low-fat diet his doctors recommended to him may not be best for diabetics because carbohydrates raise blood sugar. He adopted the low-carb “Paleolithic” diet of our Stone Age ancestors: fresh veggies, meats, eggs and fish, but no sugars, processed foods or agricultural starches.

Steve lost 78 pounds, freed himself of drugs and doctors, normalized his blood sugar and feels healthier than ever. He believes a low-carb diet is the simplest, cheapest and most effective way to treat diabetes. This goes against the conventional wisdom promoted by licensed dietitians, which advocate a high-carb diet and drugs to lower blood sugar.

“Diabetics need access to information from all points of view, including those that challenge the conventional wisdom,” said IJ client Steve Cooksey. “We cannot let government licensing boards censor the Internet and chill our speech.”

For more on today’s lawsuit, visit www.ij.org/PaleoSpeech. Founded in 1991, the Virginia-based Institute for Justice is a national public interest law firm that fights for free speech and economic liberty nationwide.

This case has huge implications for every advocate of paleo and other non-standard diets. Yet the principle is broader: every person has a right to express and advocate his own views, even when that person is not licensed by the state.

If you want to contribute to Steve’s fight against these government censors, please support the Institute for Justice by a donation!

 

Rick Santorum wants to ban hard-core pornography:

Rick Santorum wants to put an end to the distribution of pornography in the United States.

“America is suffering a pandemic of harm from pornography,” Santorum’s official website reads. “Pornography is toxic to marriages and relationships. It contributes to misogyny and violence against women. It is a contributing factor to prostitution and sex trafficking.” The former Pennsylvania senator states that, “as a parent, I am concerned about the widespread distribution of illegal obscene pornography and its profound effects on our culture.”

Santorum criticized the Obama administration for turning “a blind eye … to the scourge of pornography” and for refusing to enforce obscenity laws. “If elected President, I will appoint an Attorney General who will do so,” Santorum writes. “While the Obama Department of Justice seems to favor pornographers over children and families, that will change under a Santorum Administration.”

In fact, America is suffering a pandemic of harm from meddling statist politicians, particularly of the theocratic variety, such as … Rick Santorum!

Oh, and if that’s not alarming enough, see for yourself how preacher Chris Terry introduces Rick Santorum:

For more, see Pastor Dennis Terry Introduces Rick Santorum, Tells Liberals and Non-Christians to ‘Get Out’ of America.

 

This is really good news: Colorado Supreme Court upholds “magic words” test for political spending by 527s. That sounds strange, but here’s what it means:

Handing political organizations known as 527s a big victory heading into the 2012 election, the Colorado Supreme Court ruled Tuesday that the groups should not be limited in how much money they may accept from donors if their political advertisements don’t include so-called magic words such as “vote for” or “elect.”

Ads that simply state a candidate’s position on an issue or that include flattering — or not-so flattering — things about a candidate but don’t include the “magic words” established in an earlier U.S. Supreme Court ruling are considered free speech, the unanimous court found.

Attorney Mario Nicolais, who argued before the court on behalf of the Senate Majority Fund and the Colorado Leadership Fund, called the case “a complete victory for the defendants and free speech.”

This seems to be a really great ruling for free speech in Colorado’s elections! I loved this quote from “attorney Jason Dunn, who represents the Colorado Leadership Fund”:

“Voters clearly wanted a bright line as to when expressing their opinion about issues of the day crosses into regulated political speech. To do otherwise would chill political speech, resulting in everyday citizens being unable to know when simply expressing their opinion on issues of the day becomes regulated speech subject to the complex world of campaign-finance law and its penalties for any misstep.”

So true!

You can read the whole story here.

Vince Carroll on SuperPACs

 Posted by on 13 February 2012 at 2:00 pm  Campaign Finance, Election, Free Speech, Politics
Feb 132012
 

Vince Carroll recently published an excellent column in the Denver Post in defense of free speech in elections… against the current hue and cry against SuperPACs. Here’s a taste:

The primary examples of a Super PAC’s handiwork that The Times bothered to mention in its “septic tanks” editorial were ads in Iowa by supporters of Mitt Romney “attacking Mr. Gingrich for his government lobbying and ethics violations.” It’s fine, you see, for The Times — a very big corporation indeed — to point out Newt Gingrich’s “government lobbying and ethics violations” during the peak of a campaign, but let a few private individuals pool their money to make the same case in a negative ad and that is an intolerable state of affairs.

Go read the whole thing.

 

The Campaign Doctor newsletter offers marketing tip for campaigns. I subscribe because their advice is often useful for thinking about how to best promote political ideas. A recent issue offered some disturbingly useful advice: a candidate should hire a campaign finance manager first, before anyone else. Yes, that’s just how onerous our campaign finance laws are.

How to determine who and what to hire for your campaign
By Chris Ingram

Most campaigns have limited resources. In today’s trying economy, scarce dollars requires even more prioritizing of expenditures than ever before.

Many candidates start their campaign with the idea that they will hire a pollster, a press secretary, a campaign manager, and so on – until they realize those guys (and gals) cost money. In most areas, anyone running for county commission, town council, school board, or the like ends up being their own manager, press secretary – I’ve even seen a few try to be their own pollster!

My advice to candidates is always this: the first person any campaign should hire is not a strategist, manager, or pollster – it’s a good accountant who will file their campaign finance reports. I also advise them not to rely on a friends or relatives who are accountants who will do it for free.

Allow your accountant friend or family member to serve as your campaign treasurer who signs the reports if you want, but you should pay a professional to do the grunt work and keep you out of trouble. And since you’re a paying client, they will return your phone calls, which free labor doesn’t always do.

The person in this role could be called lots of things, but I would call them your campaign finance compliance officer. Ideally they have familiarity with campaign finance law as well as accounting. This person is the most invaluable person on your campaign team and worth every penny. Filing bad campaign finance reports can be embarrassing, costly, distracting, and can result in civil fines and even criminal prosecution.

So when it comes to tracking donations, expenditures, campaign finance law, and disclosure reports, don’t skimp, pay up and hire a good campaign finance compliance officer.

Chris Ingram is the president and founder of 411 Communications a corporate and political communications firm, and publisher of Irreverent View. Ingram is a frequent pundit on Fox News and CNN, and has written opinion columns for the Washington Times, UPI, and National Review online.

Thanks to campaign finance laws, a candidate dare not move without a hired accountant to track and report contributions. That’s the predictable effect of demanding “transparency” (read: onerous reports) and “accountability” (read: hefty fines) in elections.

(If you want to sign up for the newsletter, you can do so here.)

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