Council majority acts to hide campaign contributions

Scott Gessler

 

The Longmont City Council majority of Mayor Bryan Baum and Council Members Gabe Santos, Katie Witt, and Alex Sammoury adopted an amendment to the Longmont Fair Campaign Practices Act that shields the first $5,000 in contributions to issue committees from disclosure to the public. These members of Longmont’s governing body accepted the rule adopted by Scott Gessler, Colorado Secretary of State, despite the fact that Gessler has been sued for exceeding his authority in rule-making and violating the Colorado Constitution.

Council Members Sean McCoy, Brian Hansen and Sarah Levison refused to support the amendment.

Baum, Santos, Witt and Sammoury leave no doubt about their collusion with Gessler, a collusion that began when Gessler and local Republican operatives sued the City of Longmont over Longmont’s Fair Campaign Practices Act. That suit resulted in the elimination of 19 words that had existed since 2001. The suit was brought as part of a strategic plan to remove Karen Benker from office and to insert radicalism into the governing of the City of Longmont.

To settle that suit, the council majority that was elected in 2009 paid $68,000 to Gessler. This decision, described as a “settlement,” had the consequence of enriching Gessler ahead of his run for political office.

Gessler sought the office of Secretary of State in order to manipulate elections in Colorado and he began his quest in Longmont. He has, since taking office, attempted to join the cabal of states governed solely by Republicans who are in the process of enacting legislation that suppresses voter turnout and disenfranchises those voters who are most likely to vote for Democrats.

The following is the speech I gave to the council during the Public Hearing on Second Reading of that ordinance.

On May 3rd I addressed this council on the subject of Longmont’s Fair Campaign Practices Act amendment regarding issue reporting and Secretary of State Scott Gessler’s rule-making on the subject.

I stated, “It is extremely suspect whether he even has the authority to do this. Law is made by legislatures and signed by governors. Secretaries of State are simply and only charged with carrying out law. Certainly they are free to offer opinions. But that is as far as they can go. They are not a legislature of ONE.”

On May 13th Gessler’s decision to set the threshold for issue committee reporting at $5,000 and to shield the first $5,000 of contributions and expenditures from disclosure became official.

The rule raises the threshold from $200, as defined in the Colorado Constitution. The Court of Appeals has already held that the Secretary of State has no authority to promulgate rules that add, modify or conflict with constitutional provisions.

On June 9th Colorado Common Cause and Colorado Ethics Watch filed suit against Secretary of State Scott Gessler.

The suit asserts that “The Secretary has exceeded his authority to administer and enforce campaign finance laws by dramatically increasing the constitutional threshold for regulation of issue committees. Purportedly in response to a decision of the Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals on an as-applied challenge to campaign finance disclosure provisions of article XXVIII [28]of the Colorado Constitution, the Secretary adopted a rule that nullifies provisions of the Colorado Constitution and duly enacted statutes and replaces them with weaker disclosure rules enacted by the Secretary.”

Colorado statutes provide that “Any agency action that is arbitrary or capricious, contrary to a constitutional right, in excess of statutory authority, an abuse of discretion, unsupported by the record or otherwise contrary to law shall be held unlawful and set aside.” The plaintiffs ask the Court to set aside the Secretary’s unlawful action.

Luis Toro, Executive Director of Colorado Ethics Watch said, “The Secretary is under the mistaken impression that he has authority to rewrite campaign finance laws, not merely make rules to enforce those laws. Disclosure thresholds are clearly not within the authority of the Secretary of State to change.”

Jenny Flanagan, Executive Director of Colorado Common Cause concluded that “If allowed to be enforced, this rule would make it even easier for issue committees to get a measure on the ballot while never disclosing who is behind this measure and how they are spending money to influence voters.”

This city council is prepared to adopt the very provisions that are now being challenged in court. It would be prudent of this council to abandon this amendment until the matter is resolved in the courts.

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