Colorado watchdog group Colorado Ethics Watch today filed a campaign finance complaint against Clear the Bench Colorado, a committee dedicated to the ouster of four state Supreme Court justices in the retention election this fall. The complaint filed with the Colorado Secretary of State’s office alleges Clear the Bench violated state campaign finance law by registering as an issue committee rather than a political committee.
Issue committees, which are usually formed to advocate for or against ballot initiatives, have no contribution limits; political committees, which expressly advocate for or against candidates, have a contribution limit of $525 per person. Ethics Watch says Clear the Bench should have to register as a political committee because judges in retention elections are considered candidates under Colorado’s Amendment 27.
Clear the Bench advocates against retaining Chief Justice Mary Mullarkey and Justices Michael Bender, Alex Martinez and Nancy Rice. The group was formed shortly after the high court ruled the state’s mill-levy freeze does not violate the Taxpayers Bill of Rights, a decision that angered many TABOR supporters. Ethics Watch estimates Clear the Bench could face fines of $8,500.