Rocky repeated claim that Dennis changed some campaign finance rules "at the urging of Democrats" -- but failed to note involvement of Republicans
Research ››› ››› MEDIA MATTERS STAFF
In an article about Secretary of State Gigi Dennis's (R) recent changes to state campaign finance rules, the Rocky Mountain News repeated Dennis's assertion that Democrats proposed some of the rule changes without noting that Republican attorneys reportedly proposed several of the controversial rules first. The article, by reporter Lynn Bartels, did not say which rules Democrats supposedly requested.
An August 31 Rocky Mountain News article about Secretary of State Gigi Dennis's (R) recent changes to state campaign finance rules repeated Dennis's assertion that Democrats proposed some of the rule changes without noting that Republican attorneys reportedly proposed several of the controversial rules first. The News article, by reporter Lynn Bartels, did not say which rules Democrats supposedly requested. A previous News article by Bartels reported that one of Dennis's new rules "was taken verbatim" from a recommendation by attorneys for Republican gubernatorial candidate Bob Beauprez's campaign, the state Republican Party, and the Republican-backed Trailhead Group.
As the August 31 News article reported, "Dennis touched off a furor among Democrats when she ruled that groups that use membership dues for political activities must first get written authorization from each member." The same article noted the criticisms of state Senate Majority Leader and Secretary of State candidate Ken Gordon (D-Denver), who said of Dennis, "[I]n this case, I believe she succumbed to pressure from strong partisan advocates in her party."
In the paragraph immediately after Gordon's statement, the News article reported that "Dennis said she listened to advocates in both parties, and some rule changes she made were at the urging of Democrats." The News offered no substantiation for Dennis's claim and did not explain to which rules Dennis was referring.
The Denver Post reported on August 24 that "Dennis made controversial changes to Colorado campaign-finance rules after requests from lawyers who work for the state GOP, gubernatorial candidate Bob Beauprez and a powerful Republican political committee." According to the Post, Beauprez attorney Scott Gessler "acknowledged politics played a role" in his request for the rule changes:
Lawyer Scott Gessler, who does work for Beauprez and his campaign, and attorney John Zakhem, who counsels both the GOP's Trailhead Group political committee and the state Republican Party, said they made the in-person requests to Dennis on behalf of themselves, not a client.
But Gessler acknowledged politics played a role.
"It was not my sole motivating factor to help Bob Beauprez, but was I conscious of it? Yes," he said. "The rules are riddled with exceptions that help out Democratic constituencies."
The Post article also reported that Gessler and Zakhem "proposed requiring groups to get written permission from each member to transfer dues to a political or small-donor committee" and that the requirement "was adopted in its entirety by Dennis."
Similarly, an August 25 News article by Bartels stated, "Secretary of state records show that two Republican attorneys who represent the state party, the GOP gubernatorial candidate and the most influential GOP political committee, asked Dennis earlier this year to change the rules." The article added, "The language in one new provision was taken verbatim from a recommendation by GOP attorneys John Zakhem and Scott Gessler."
Dennis issued the revised campaign finance rules August 2, prompting a lawsuit from a coalition of unions, private citizens and state Rep. Michael Cerbo (D-Denver). In addition to the rule that requires written consent to use membership dues for political campaigns, the new rules change the definition of a campaign contribution and require political committees to affirm under penalty of perjury that campaign contributions came from "permissible" sources. According to an August 23 Denver Post article:
Currently, the state constitution allows people to volunteer their time for political candidates or groups without it being considered a campaign contribution. Dennis' new rules, however, define those volunteer activities as "services provided solely on the basis of time" such as bookkeeping and legal advice or a volunteer representing a firm or corporation.
The other two new rules affect organizations that are involved in politics. Those groups that have membership dues must get written permission from each member to transfer the dues to a political or small-donor committee. Additionally, political committees must "declare, under penalty of perjury" that they believe all contributions received are from permissible sources, such as legal residents. This includes contributions received from membership dues.
From Bartels's August 31 Rocky Mountain News article, "Dem hopeful urges finance-rules delay":
Dennis touched off a furor among Democrats when she ruled that groups that use membership dues for political activities must first get written authorization from each member.
Although the rule applies to all groups, Democrats in particular use dues to fund small-donor committees to aid Democratic candidates.
"The secretary of state should be a neutral, nonpartisan referee on election issues," Gordon said.
"I served with Gigi Dennis in the legislature and by the standards of the Colorado General Assembly she was not particularly partisan.
"However, in this case, I believe she succumbed to pressure from strong partisan advocates in her party," he said.
Dennis said she listened to advocates in both parties, and some rule changes she made were at the urging of Democrats.