Secretary of State: Colorado GOP can form fundraising Super PAC

Colorado GOP Chairman Ryan Call.

Colorado GOP Chairman Ryan Call.

DENVER — The press release from the Colorado Secretary of State’s office Thursday afternoon was short and seemingly dry, announcing a “declaratory order” related to campaign finance.

But the decision explained therein, which gives the Colorado Republican Party the green light — well, maybe more of a yellow light, in fact — to form its own Super PAC, could re-balance the political scales in a state where party officials, especially on the right, have been increasingly impotent at fighting the growing influence of ideologically-driven factions and organizations that have pushed the state GOP too far to the right to be acceptable to independent voters.

Deputy Secretary of State Suzanne Staiert writes in the ruling that “a political party may form an independent expenditure committee … and may raise funds in any amount from any permissible source.”

“The Secretary of State’s opinion released today confirms our position that Colorado law allows the Colorado Republican Party to form an independent expenditure committee and raise funds in any amount from any permissible source,” said state GOP Chairman Ryan Call.

“The voice of the Republican Party has been drowned out for far too long by outside liberal special interest groups, and now the Party has the ability to express it’s independent voice in support of its candidates and conservative principles.”

The party had asked for the guidance in December as it sought to put together its own committee that could take unlimited contributions.

Right now, the party can only accept contributions of up to $3,400 per calendar year from individuals; state parties cannot accept any contributions from corporations and groups.

That’s become a huge problem since the Supreme Court’s 2010 Citizens United ruling, which has allowed unlimited contributions for some groups — groups whose influence has quickly surpassed that of state parties or individual campaigns.

“Spending by outside special interest groups and labor unions has dominated Colorado politics for far too long, leading to two liberal governors and Democrat majorities in the legislature that have ignored the needs and priorities of Coloradans,” Call told FOX31 Denver Thursday night.

“The Secretary of State’s opinion allows the Colorado Republican Party to raise the funds needed to compete on an equal playing field with these outside groups and independently support our candidates and communicate the Republican Party’s message of individual freedom and opportunity to the citizens of our state.”

While the guidance from the Secretary of State’s office isn’t binding in a court of law, it could give the Colorado Republican Party validation enough to build a more robust fundraising machine — a machine, Democrats point out, that would likely be challenged in court.

“While it’s always interesting to hear the Secretary’s opinion, especially on matters where he admits he lacks jurisdiction, I’m eager for this to be settled law,” said Colorado Democratic Party Chairman Rick Palacio. “So until the 10th Circuit or the Supreme Court take up this issue, political parties, and grassroots republicans and democrats are left in limbo and unable to compete on a level playing field with special interest groups.”

The party would be able to appoint the fund’s managers, which is why grassroots activists — the very groups who have essentially hijacked control of the Republican brand and its nominating process from the party establishment in recent years — are so opposed to the idea in the first place.

If the state GOP does form its own Super PAC, it would only spend funds to support the Republican general election nominee as chosen by voters in the primary election, according to Call.

Funds would not be spent to influence contested party primaries and only on state and local elections, not federal races.

5 comments

  • Kris KW

    This article neglects to mention the Democrats have been doing this sort of thing since 2004. Despite Republicans winning nationwide in 2004, they lost in Colorado. The legislature historically had been Republican basically since WWII. In 2004, Democrats took control of the legislature. How they managed to pull this off was brilliant… and kinda creepy.

    Long before the Citizen’s United case, “Campaign Finance Reform” had already made the conventional tactic of mid-sized donations to candidates and parties obsolete. Small businesses were basically shut out of the process but big business and big labor was quick to find out how to use these new laws to their advantage. Rather than donating to the candidate or party, a big donor now donates to a 501(c)4 or 527, a group that is technically separate from the party or candidate.

    Given the choice, I prefer the old system. A candidate or party that is seen “going negative” will often be punished by voters for doing so. If a 527 goes negative, well you can’t really blame the candidate or party since they aren’t running it.

    The tactic the Colorado Dems used in 2004 was essentially the same as the tactics Republicans used to “Swiftboat” Dem Presidential candidate John Kerry. The “Swiftboat Veterans for Truth” group was a 527 funded by wealthy conservatives.

    In 2004, there were basically 4 wealthy Colorado Democrats (Jared Polis, Tim Gill, Patricia Stryker and Rutt Bridges) who got together and pumped millions into various 501(c)4 and 527 groups. Jared Polis also used his money to run for office. Legislative races normally don’t get much attention so big “sugar daddy” donors get much more bang for their buck. A few thousand dollars can be all it takes to flip a very tight legislative race. Pretty cheap compared to donating to a Senate, Gubernatorial or Presidential race.

    The “Gang of 4″ as these 4 wealthy Democrats are known, still contributes heavily to 527′s and 501(c)4 groups and the Colorado Democrats have, in recent cycles, vastly outspent Republicans. It’s not unusual these days to see Colorado Dems outspend the GOP by 8 to 1

    It sounds like the Colorado GOP is finally trying to come up with a plan to fight back. It’s worth noting that apart from the lopsided campaign financing, the Dems complained that the GOP legislature was doing a rotten job at serving the people of Colorado. Dems decried the fact that the GOP only ever talked about “gays and guns” while our college cost were soaring and our schools were failing. No doubt this also contributed to the 2004 takeover. What’s depressing is in the last session, it was the DEMOCRATS who were bringing up ridiculous legislation and grandstanding about “gays and guns” while our colleges and schools still struggle.

  • OGRE eXposed

    This article is about dumb, dumb and dumber. You have Palacio who doesn’t understand that the legal issue has nothing to do with federal law and that the 10th circuit can’t overturn Supreme Court precedent. You have Ryan Call who thinks this committee was established in good faith and not to protect Establishment candidates. And then you have Eli Stokels. You decide who is dumb, dumb, and dumber.

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