DENVER — The Colorado Republican Party filed a lawsuit Thursday afternoon to seek court approval for its unprecedented effort to form an independent committee to raise unlimited funds to influence key state political races, FOX31 Denver is first to report.
The move comes a day after the state GOP filed registration paperwork to organize the committee, which wouldn’t be restricted by the same campaign finance rules that limit donations to the party itself.
Back in February, Deputy Secretary of State Suzanne Staiert issued a non-binding ruling that “a political party may form an independent expenditure committee … and may raise funds in any amount from any permissible source,” paving the way for the action taken this week.
The lawsuit, filed against Secretary of State Scott Gessler, is necessary in order to provide a clear court ruling support Staiert’s position so that the party’s independent political action committee is on firmer legal footing and able to impact races this fall, given the likelihood, the lawsuit states, of a challenge from Colorado Ethics Watch.
Interestingly, Gessler is now running for governor.
Forming a committee that can raise unlimited funds to be spent by the party is an effort by Colorado GOP Chairman Ryan Call to re-balance the scales so that the party can counter the increasing influence of outside groups, both on the left and the right.
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.
“Outside special interest groups are already lining up to spend millions to influence the race for Governor and win control of the state legislature,” Call told FOX31 Denver. “The formation of this independent expenditure arm will help balance the playing field, and will allow the Colorado Republican Party to express it’s own independent voice in support of its candidates and the conservative principles that will create opportunity and help working families in our state.”
While Call expressly refers to the need to counter the deep-pocketed Democratic groups that have been remarkably effective in engineering a statewide political takeover dating back to 2004, he’s also looking to combat the rise of more ideological Tea Party-styled groups on the right ranging from national groups like Heritage Fund and Club For Growth to the Colorado-based Rocky Mountain Gun Owners, which uses its own PAC to take out establishment Republicans with more conservative challengers in GOP primaries.
Colorado Democratic Party Chairman Rick Palacio applauded the suit.
“While we have different ideas on who is best fit to lead our state and our country, I support Chairman Call’s efforts to seek clarity in the law,” Palacio said.