CSA secures favorable call from the secretary of state
Political gadfly Jeffrey Evans has found his way around the state’s campaign disclosure laws – again – with the apparent blessing of the Colorado secretary of state.
The Common Sense Alliance, a Redstone-based issues committee best known for opposing efforts to build a valleywide commuter rail system, has set up separate committees – Common Sense Against the RTA and Common Sense Bond Opposition – to campaign against two transportation-related ballot questions in the November election.
According to a Sept. 22 contribution and expenditure report filed with the county clerk and recorder, the Common Sense Alliance donated $1,500 to Common Sense Against the RTA. Evans maintains that the parent group – Common Sense Alliance – is not obligated to name its contributors even though their money will be used in a political campaign by Common Sense Against the RTA.
“We can raise money for the Common Sense Alliance and use it for anything we want,” Evans said.
But County Commissioner Mick Ireland, who often finds himself opposing Evans on a number of issues, isn’t buying it. “I think he’s trying to get around the state’s disclosure law, and it’s really slimy,” Ireland said.
Both County Attorney John Ely and private attorney Tim McFlynn, who is a board member and spokesman for the legal advocacy group Public Counsel of the Rockies, have said they plan to look into whether the donation is a violation of the state’s disclosure rules.
“I want to find out what they’re up to,” Ely said. “I would think that the spending would fall under the law and they would have to disclose their sources.”
The law Ely is referring to is House Bill 1472, passed this year under the sponsorship of Russell George. It was drafted after the state Supreme Court ruled the state’s campaign disclosure rules do not apply to groups like Common Sense Alliance.
The new law reads: “An issue committee means: Two or more persons who are elected, appointed, or chosen, or have associated themselves for the purpose of accepting contributions and making expenditures to support or oppose any ballot issue …” And it requires disclosure of contributions and expenditures once the committee spends more than $500 on the ballot issue or question.
So it would appear that the Common Sense Alliance would have to disclose the sources of the $1,500 contribution it made to Common Sense Against the RTA. But Evans and his attorney have secured an opinion from Secretary of State Donnetta Davidson’s office that exempts the Common Sense Alliance from disclosing its funding sources when it makes a contribution from its general fund to campaign committees like Common Sense Against the RTA.
In his five-page opinion, Deputy Secretary of State William Hobb makes it clear that a multi-purpose issue committee like the Common Sense Alliance need not disclose its funding sources as long as it remains out of the direct campaign for a particular ballot question. “The committee is never required to report the original amount and source of such non-earmarked funds, so long as it makes a reasonable, good-faith determination upon receipt that such funds were not `for the purpose of supporting or opposing a ballot issue or ballot question,'” Hobb writes.
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