Colorado Common Cause hands out awards, lauds bi-partisanship

Chris Kennedy, who is running for a House seat from Lakewood, attorney Martha Tierney and Sen. Jack Tate at a Common Cause event lunch Thursday. (SOS photo)
Chris Kennedy, who is running for a House seat from Lakewood, attorney Martha Tierney and Sen. Jack Tate at a Common Cause event lunch Thursday. (SOS photo)

The invite from attorney Martha Tierney took me by surprise: “Friend, I would be delighted if you would join me at my table in support of Colorado Common Cause for a Champions for Democracy luncheon and fundraiser.”

As a journalist, I tangled over the years with Tierney and Common Cause on several issues, including Amendment 41, the ethics measure that is less than crystal clear, and ballot proposals that limited campaign-finance donations, which critics said just drove the money underground.

And so I e-mailed Tierney, the attorney for the Colorado Democratic Party, to say that if I had been put on that list by mistake I totally understood. To my surprise, she actually had invited me.

The program for Colorado Cause's lunch today.
The program for Colorado Cause’s lunch today.
The event Thursday at the Denver Consistory was a reminder of the good work Common Cause does do.

“As many of you know who have been longtime supporters of Common Cause, our first campaign in the 1970s was working to pass the Sunshine Law,” said Elena Nuñez, the executive director of the group.

Nuñez lauded Republican Colorado Secretary of State Wayne Williams for convening a group to study how the state’s open records laws can be updated to reflect strides in technology. An open-records bill introduced in the 2016 died after stakeholders said it was flawed.

“And that’s one of the keys to our success, we’re able to work with our partners, even when we don’t initially agree, to find common ground,” she said. “Working together we’ve made great strides to reclaim our democracy and we have great opportunities ahead with your support we can work toward a government that truly is of, by, and for the people.”

Read moreColorado Common Cause hands out awards, lauds bi-partisanship

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.

Read moreSecretary of state turns to Colorado legislature after court ruling