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County defends campaign rules

Jeremy Heiman

Common Sense Alliance treasurer Jeffrey Evans asked the Pitkin County commissioners Wednesday to announce publicly that campaign-finance provisions in the county’s home rule charter are unconstitutional.

The commissioners refused, saying that Pitkin County voters have several times supported mandatory disclosure of campaign contributions and expenditures.

“What I’m looking for is an acknowledgement that that section of the charter cannot be enforced,” Evans told the board.

His request comes on the heels of a state Supreme Court ruling last week upholding the alliance’s refusal to divulge its campaign spending and contributors.

Commissioner Mick Ireland noted that the charter has been amended on the subject of campaign contributions by county voters three or four times, and the board backs the voters. “We have an obligation to support the will of the people,” Ireland said. “Pitkin County’s voters want to know who’s spending money.”

Commissioner Dorothea Farris also defended the county charter, saying, “One of the reasons to have a home rule charter is to protect the wishes of the community.” There ought to be a legal way to do this, she added.

Evans persisted. “It would be a good gesture on the part of the county commissioners,” he said, “to let the people know that Pitkin County is not a sovereign state.”

He told the board he thinks it’s time they make a statement to the electorate that people can spend whatever they want on issue campaigns.

Evans’ group refused to submit monthly statements revealing the names of contributors to the group’s ballot campaign in 1998. The alliance challenged the application of Colorado’s Fair Campaign Practices Act after Pitkin County filed a complaint against the group.

County Attorney John Ely alleged the Common Sense Alliance violated reporting procedures required under the Fair Campaign Practices Act as an issue committee. The county believed the alliance had become an issue committee through its activities on several rail-related ballot questions.

In a 5-2 ruling, the Colorado Supreme Court determined that the alliance was not an issue committee and, therefore, not obligated to report its spending and contributors on campaigns for ballot initiatives.


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