Pitco takes up gauntlet over election spending
Pitkin County has formalized its resolve to defend its laws on campaign contributions and spending.
The Pitkin County Commissioners voted 5-0 Wednesday to fund litigation to defend the county’s home rule charter against a legal challenge. The board also supported a motion by Commissioner Mick Ireland directing County Attorney John Ely to pursue litigation against current and past violators of the county’s campaign funding disclosure laws.
The constitutionality of charter provisions limiting individual contributions and spending and calling for disclosure has been attacked in a lawsuit filed in federal district court in Denver by the Common Sense Alliance, a local political group. Election records show that the CSA did not comply with the campaign contribution rules in recent elections.
The motion directs Ely to prepare a case to defend the county’s limitations on campaign contributions and spending and dedicates $75,000 from the county budget to the effort.
But it also directs Ely to suspend enforcement of the charter’s campaign finance provisions temporarily, as called for in an injunction filed with the CSA suit.
Ireland said it’s apparent there were numerous violations of the county’s disclosure laws in this summer’s recall campaign against him. In at least four instances, there were material misrepresentations in finance reports filed by the Committee to Recall Mick Ireland, he said. He complained that the Common Sense Alliance, a group that has publicly opposed several public transit proposals in the area, is not accountable to its own contributors.
“It’s simply patently incredible that the money is being sent to be used strictly at the discretion of Jeffrey Evans,” Ireland said.
He also complained that a group called the Pitkin County Builders Association, which bought several half-page newspaper advertisements in the August recall election, never registered as a political organization with the county and never filed contribution and spending reports.
Ireland said the county shouldn’t be afraid to defend its charter, which has been supported by county voters in three elections since 1980.
“History is full of decisions by the Supreme Court which were wrong and were later reversed,” he said.
The county’s spending limit is $1 per registered voter and the limit on contributions is $500 per person. The CSA is opposing two transportation-related questions on the November ballot, and it has sought the injunction to allow for fund raising beyond the county limits.
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