Campaign Finance Update

 Posted by on 17 June 2011 at 12:40 pm  Activism, Campaign Finance, Free Speech, Politics
Jun 172011

The battle over campaign finance continues! Here’s some of the latest news:

(1) Last week, the progressive group Colorado Common Cause filed a complaint in Denver District Court against Colorado’s Secretary of State, Scott Gessler, for raising the threshold for reporting for issue groups from $200 to $5000. You can read their press release and complaint. A few weeks ago, I e-mailed Gessler to say that I’d be happy to testify about my own experience in support of the rule change if challenged in court. I hope that he takes me up on that, if it would help him defend this rule change.

(2) To my surprise and delight, the Denver Post published an editorial in support of the rule change: Minor players, major burden. I loved this part:

Common Cause and Ethics Watch insist that Gessler has no authority to rewrite the reporting rules and that he must continue enforcing the law as it exists — with a threshold of $200. If they’re right, however, it means that small issue groups that conclude the law is trampling on their rights will have to sue just like the group in Parker to get out from under it.

The prospect rankles Gessler. “The cost of entry to the political system shouldn’t be a lawsuit,” he says. “The court created ambiguity about when campaign finance law applies and when it doesn’t. People have First Amendment rights and they deserve guidance on what they can and cannot do.”

Yes, Yes, Yes!

(3) Yesterday, the Denver Post published two letters in response to that editorial. Here’s the one by Ari Armstrong:

Thank you for your editorial supporting the secretary of state’s rule exempting small issue groups from complying with onerous campaign laws. As the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals found, and as I have personally experienced, the previous rules violate people’s rights of free speech and association.

Under those rules, to speak out for or against any ballot measure spending more than $200, one must first register with the state, learn 100 pages of dense legalese, comply with difficult reporting requirements, and then still risk getting sued by the likes of Colorado Ethics Watch. This chills speech.

Moreover, the right of free speech entails the right to speak anonymously — a right many of our nation’s Founders invoked in debating the Constitution. Consider such heated issues as abortion, immigration, gay rights, and guns. Voters have every right to ask for disclosure, but not to force it, and to vote accordingly.

Be sure to check out Ari’s op-ed on this topic too.

The other letter was written by Jenny Flanagan of Colorado Common Cause. (She testified at the hearing, much to my disgust.) You can read it here.

(4) On the national front, Steve Simpson of the Institute for Justice published another op-ed in the Wall Street Journal: John Edwards Is Not a Criminal. His view: “The real issue is not that prosecutors are pursuing a creepy guy who appears corrupt under laws designed to prevent the appearance of corruption. It’s that we have criminalized efforts to get candidates elected in the first place.” Exactly!

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