CO Sec of State Defies Constitution, Overturns Transparency Election Laws

06/17/2011 03:05 pm ET | Updated Aug 17, 2011

Colorado Sec. of State Scott Gessler has already embroiled himself in controversy when he tried to remain employed with his former partisan Republican elections law firm even as he was sworn in as secretary of state.

Now, Gessler has decided to unilaterally overturn the state constitution, specifically amendment 27, which stipulates any spending on elections over $200 must be reported to the secretary of state. Now he has decided that a political committee for efforts like personhood amendments or anti-labor laws can spend up to $5,000 without reporting who they are or where they came from -- somewhat copying on a smaller scale the Citizens United decision.

Fortunately, Colorado Ethics Watch and Common Cause are filing a lawsuit to stop this in it's tracks. I spoke to Luis Toro of Colorado Ethics Watch about this case.

(Crossposted at Huffington Post and Square State)

One of his (Scott Gessler's) first acts in office [was] to try to raise the disclosure level [for a political committee] from $200 to $5000...

We don't think the secretary [of state] has the authority to do that. Amending the constitution is something the people of Colorado get to do. It's not done by the secretary of state passing a rule to say "I now decree that where [the constitution] says $200 it's now $5000.

Under the existing law you have to say who gave you the money, and it's supposed to be US citizens... it could be international money... but you don't need to go that far to see that this is a bad rule [because] you see all the time out-of-state money influencing Colorado elections.

Recognize this: $5000 can fund a website, orchestrate press releases, train staff and rent office space. Additionally, it could conceivably allow multiple political committees to fund multiple $5000 campaigns without disclosing who they are or what motives they have.

And Colorado has been a testing ground for many laws passed in other states. Our 2010 election year was the year the 'personhood' amendment was test-marketed. Now you are seeing that amendment on ballots in numerous states for the 2012 year.

It's a dangerous loophole to let this out-of-state and possibly out-of-country money come in to Colorado and influence our elections without us knowing who they are.

Thanks Colorado Ethics Watch and Common Cause for filing and, hopefully, stopping this power grab by Secretary of State Gessler -- who is once again proving the Republicans have no shame in their quest to attain more power despite what laws they have to overturn.