Anti-rail group refusing to file campaign report, again
As the November election approaches, the Common Sense Alliance is once again playing the role of conscientious objector to campaign-spending laws.
Last Tuesday marked the first filing deadline for groups to report campaign activity for or against ballot questions that will appear in the Nov. 2 election. It was a date that came and went without word from the active anti-rail association.
Common Sense Alliance and Citizens for a Livable Valley are the two primary organizations lobbying on Initiative 200, which asks city voters if they would support spending up to $20 million on a light-rail system.
Citizens for a Livable Valley has so far collected $9,250 and has spent $2,910 on newspapers ads promoting the passage of question 200.
Some notable contributors include: $5,000 from the Aspen Skiing Co.; $500 from City Councilman Jim Markalunas; $50 from Pitkin County Commissioner Leslie Lamont; $50 from Commissioner Mick Ireland; $1,000 from local attorney and county Open Space Board member John Starr, who is also a co-owner of The Aspen Times; and $300 from Charlie Tarver, a local business owner and member of the county Planning and Zoning Commission.
Common Sense Alliance, which is awaiting a ruling from the Colorado Supreme Court on its refusal to file campaign-finance reports for last November’s election, has again refused to disclose its campaign activities.
The group has not filed anything with the city clerk revealing its contributors or how much it has spent on newspaper ads, radio spots and sponsorship of programs/speakers focused on “the truth about rail” for the upcoming election.
Jeffrey Evans, Common Sense Alliance spokesman, maintains that until a decision is made by the state court, the group is relieved of the reporting requirements by a federal stay. Local officials say, however, they have seen no legal documentation of such a stay.
While the group awaits the court ruling, no voluntary disclosures will be made, Evans said.
“It’s a total waste of time. People know who we are. It would be totally irrelevant. The ads speak for themselves,” Evans said.
But public officials – even the two city councilmen who helped put question 200 on the ballot – contend that knowing whose money is behind the message is an important part of keeping politics on a even playing field.
“They’re spending tens of thousands of dollars and we don’t even know who they are,” added Mayor Rachel Richards.
“The irony is that Common Sense Alliance seems to feel that they’re the only ones with the right to put on a ballot question. They obviously don’t think elected officials have that right. They’re trying to recall the county commissioners for not doing exactly what they want and suing us for the same thing. It’s a real control issue,” Richards said.
Councilmen Tom McCabe and Tony Hershey, who were both endorsed by Common Sense Alliance in last May’s election, helped the organization put Initiative 200 on the ballot through a citizens initiative. However, neither McCabe nor Hershey support the group’s refusal to file.
“I don’t know if it’s unconstitutional or not but I feel everyone should play by the same rules. I think if everybody else is revealing his contributors, Jeffrey should, too,” McCabe said.
For Mayor Richards, the anti-rail group’s refusal to disclose its contributors and spending goes beyond a philosophical objection.
“If you look at the landscape, Common Sense Alliance has spent tens of thousands of dollars telling people to reject rail, but never once articulated what to do instead,” Richards said.
Councilman Jim Markalunas isn’t pleased by the alliance’s latest refusal to file, but he isn’t surprised, either.
“It’s true to form,” Markalunas said. “But what I want to know is, if they really believe in something why can’t they come forward about who they are?”
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