Two organizations have sued Secretary of State Scott Gessler, with claims that he weakened Colorado’s campaign-finance laws when he issued a rewrite of the state’s rules earlier this year and that he did not have authority to do so.
“Coloradans fought for the right to know who is spending money to influence their votes,” said Elena Nunez, executive director of Colorado Common Cause, which filed the lawsuit in Denver District Court along with Colorado Ethics Watch. “As we approach an election expected to have record spending, Secretary Gessler’s rules rewrite will leave Coloradans in the dark.”
The lawsuit didn’t come as a surprise for Gessler, who fired back, calling the organizations “the same secretive, unaccountable, taxpayer-subsidized groups” that have sued him before. Why me makes the status “taxpayer-subsidized group” a pejorative is unclear.
Among the new rules challenged in the lawsuit is one which would effectively repeal Colorado’s reporting statute for political groups known as 527s. Another rule raises the contribution-and-expenditure threshold for issue-committee reporting to $5,000, from the previous threshold of $200. It is hard to see how these increases, which essentially raise the curtain of secrecy for these political activists, helps shine the light on election spending.
The lawsuit is not the only jab made at Gessler in the last few weeks. During the final week of March, State Democratic Party chairman Rick Palacio called on voters to “consider all avenues necessary” to remove Gessler from office, saying he has put his political agenda above Coloradans’ right to vote.
The statement came hours after the secretary of state testified against a bipartisan bill that would have ensured more than 300,000 inactive voters receive a mail ballot for the November election. Gessler argues that the bill would cause “massive confusion” months before a presidential election, and he disputed supporters’ arguments it would cut costs. A Republican-controlled House committee then killed the bill.