Colorado Common Cause honors democracy champions

Colorado Common Cause held its Champions for Democracy lunch today in Denver, attracting members and others interested in Colorado civics. From left to right, attorney Scott Martinez, Amber McReynolds, executive director of National Vote at Home Institute and Coalition, Roy Wardell, who joined the national Common Cause organization when it was founded in 1970, and Amanda Gonzalez, the executive director of Colorado Common Cause. (SOS photo)

A 77-year-old man who was a charter member of Common Cause when it formed in 1970 became emotional today when he was honored by the Colorado chapter of the grassroots organization.

Roy Wardell, who now lives in Platteville, was a graduate student at the University of Wisconsin in 1970 when he saw an ad in the Capital Times about being a “member of the people’s lobby.” And so he signed up.

Since then, Wardell has served on the board of Common Cause in Minnesota and in Colorado, starting in 2009 through the beginning of this year.

“I am so proud of what Common Cause does,” Wardell said, when he gained his composure. “Don’t miss a chance to support the kind of work Common Cause does.”

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A text, not an app. Who knew? Not me.

Global Mobile President Jim Snyder, left, and CEO Lee Durham, right, flank Colorado Secretary of State Wayne Williams at today’s National Association of Secretaries of State conference. (SOS photo)

One of my more memorable moments as the press person for Colorado Secretary of State Wayne Williams came last summer when I asked my intern to proofread a proposed release with the headline, “There’s an app for that.”

Julia Sunny scanned the release and said, “But it’s not an app.”

What? Sure it was. Coloradans could simply text the word “Colorado” or “CO” to “2Vote” (28683) on their smartphones, and then open the link to the SOS’ online voter registration and election information site.

“It has to be an app,” I said. “We recorded Wayne in a video talking about an app.”

“It’s not an app,” Sunny repeated.

I was reminded of that unfortunate moment today when I met Lee Durham, the chief executive officer of Global Mobile, a Georgia-based company that developed the texting service. Global Mobile execs were at National Association of Secretaries of State, which is holding its winter conference in Washington, D.C.

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Secretary of state turns to Colorado legislature after court ruling

The Secretary of State's is looking for a legislative solution to a campaign finance ruling.
The Secretary of State’s is looking for a legislative solution to a campaign finance ruling.

UPDATE: The Denver Post’s editorial board weighed in the problem.

The Colorado Secretary of State’s office will ask for legislative help on a campaign finance issue after the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals refused its request to “execute us or set us free.”

In two separate rulings, the most recent one last week, the court has concluded that Colorado’s regulatory framework for setting up what is known as an issue committee is so cumbersome it violates free speech and is unconstitutional. But the rulings — which cover activities under four secretaries of state — apply only in the context of the two cases that were filed.

“The secretary is better served seeking help from the institution best equipped in our governmental system to solve the problem – the Colorado legislature,” the three-member panel of judges wrote in its March 2 decision.

Voters in 2002 approved a constitutional amendment that set the contribution-and-expenditure threshold for issue committees at $200. An issue committee is any group of two or more people formed to support or oppose a measure that has collected or spent more than $200 in its effort.

One legislative proposal under discussion would still require issue committees to register with the Secretary of State once $200 had been raised, but detailed reporting wouldn’t kick in until $5,000 is raised.

“The devil’s in the details,” Luis Toro, director of Colorado Ethics Watch, said, when asked what his group thought of the suggestion.

The most recent court case involves the Coalition for Secular Government, which formed to advocate against various statewide “personhood” issues on the ballot that critics said would ban abortion. Its activities triggered issue-committee reporting requirements under Colorado law, and the group was fined for not filing timely reports.

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