Tackling Dark Money in Political Campaigns

(March 15) –Majority Leader KC Becker and Reps. Jeff Bridges, Mike Weissman and Chris Kennedy introduced four pieces of legislation this afternoon to strengthen Colorado’s campaign finance rules on election-related spending.

“These bills will close loopholes and increase transparency in Colorado campaign finance law to level the playing field and ensure Colorado voters have a stronger voice than the donors,” said Majority Leader Becker, D-Boulder.

The first bill brings additional transparency to Colorado elections by closing a crucial gap in reporting requirements between the primary and two months before the general election. Colorado Ethics Watch estimates that, in 2016, more than $1.9 million in undisclosed campaign spending fell through that gap. HB17-1262, sponsored by Majority Leader Becker and Rep. Bridges, closes that gap and applies the same disclosure requirements throughout the campaign—from before the primary to the general election.

“While we need real change at the federal level, we’ve never waited on Washington to do what we can do on our own here in Colorado,” said Rep. Bridges, D-Greenwood Village. “Coloradans deserve to know who is spending money in our elections, what they’re spending it on, and where their money comes from. They also deserve to know when a flier shows up in their mailbox, who paid for it—which is what my other bill does.”

His second bill, Taking Responsibility for Campaign Ads, ensures that voters know who is paying for any mass electioneering communications.  HB17-1261, also sponsored by Majority Leader Becker, requires “paid for by” disclaimers on all electioneering materials.

HB17-1259, Eliminating Shadow Committees, updates Colorado law to clarify that candidate-controlled committees are subject to the same contribution limits to as candidate committees—the very limits that voters approved by an overwhelming two to one margin.

“Coloradans of all parties, or no party at all, are tired of the growing influence of money in politics,” said Rep. Weissman, D-Aurora. “Voters have a right to be especially upset with the uptick in ‘Super PACs’ and other supposedly independent entities that, in fact, are closely related to particular candidates. The bill I am introducing will limit this kind of activity in Colorado.”

Contribution Limits for County Candidates, sponsored by Rep. Kennedy, limits individual contributions to county candidates to $2,500 per cycle with proportional limits for partnerships, political committees, small donor committees, and political parties. The bill, HB17-1260, maintains the prohibition on corporate contributions.

“All three of us sponsoring bills today were first-time candidates last year, and we learned first-hand what it takes to build roots in the community and to try to build a campaign with small, local donations,” said Rep. Kennedy, D-Lakewood, referring to the three freshman legislators. “We need to level the playing field so that every candidate competing for office has to put in the work to build connections in the community just like the three of us did, so that it’s the ideas that matter most, the quality of the candidates that matters most—and not their connections to donors.”

Speaker Crisanta Duran assigned the bills to the House State, Veterans & Military Affairs Committee.

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