During a broadcast of Colorado Inside Out, Dave Kopel of the Independence Institute blasted "so-called campaign finance reform," which he said accentuated "the influence of Democratic billionaires" in Colorado politics. But he did not mention the influence of the Republican-backed Trailhead Group, founded by multimillionaires Bruce Benson and Pete Coors.
During a discussion on the December 1 broadcast of KBDI Channel 12's Colorado Inside Out about the effect of the recently passed Amendment 41, Rocky Mountain News media critic and Independence Institute research director Dave Kopel claimed that the political watchdog group Common Cause helped implement "so-called campaign finance reform, which turns out to cripple the political parties and be heavily biased towards accentuating the influence of Democratic billionaires" in Colorado politics. In response to host Peter Boyles' question -- "Aren't there any Republican billionaires in this?" -- Kopel responded that "there certainly could be, but the ones who are activated and engaged and bought the statehouse for the Democrats are the -- Pat Stryker, Tim Gill, Jared Polis." However, Kopel failed to note the political influence of the Republican-backed campaign organization the Trailhead Group, which was founded by Gov. Bill Owens (R), oil multimillionaire and former Colorado Republican Party chairman Bruce Benson, and multimillionaire and former Republican U.S. Senate candidate Pete Coors of the Coors Brewing Company family.
In his criticism of "so-called campaign finance reform," Kopel apparently was referring to the Common Cause-sponsored Amendment 27 -- approved by voters in 2002 -- which capped campaign contributions and set campaign spending limits. Amendment 41, also sponsored by Common Cause and passed by voters on November 7, prohibits elected officials and government employees from accepting monetary or nonmonetary gifts worth more than $50.
The "Democratic billionaires" Kopel referred to in criticizing Common Cause are contributors to so-called 527 groups, tax-exempt political organizations that can receive unlimited contributions for political campaigning activities. As the News reported in a January 9, 2006, article about the Democratic takeover of the state legislature in 2004, "Four wealthy Democrats helped fund attack ads against Republicans, who were caught napping when it came to fundraising." In order to compete with the fundraising efforts of the "[f]our wealthy Democrats," Republicans, who, according to the News, "have been wide awake since that 2004 shocker, have beefed up their efforts, including forming a new '527 committee,' the Trailhead Group, headed by [Alan] Philp." According to a November 17 News analysis of 2006 campaign funding, "Democratic 527 groups had raised $10.8 million, compared with $6.4 million for Republican campaigns."
(Colorado Media Matters' funders include organizations backed by Gill and Stryker.)
As Colorado Media Matters has noted (here and here), Colorado Secretary of State Gigi Dennis in August changed campaign finance rules at the urging of lawyers for Trailhead Group, the Republican Party, and Republican gubernatorial candidate Bob Beauprez's campaign. The Denver Post reported August 24 that "Republican Secretary of State Gigi 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, records show. The attorneys filed documents with Dennis' office in February requesting limitations on the campaign activities of some traditionally Democratic groups, such as unions and small-donor committees." An August 23 Post article reported that Dennis claimed, "The rules I adopted further the intent of transparency and openness the voters asked for with the adoption of Amendment 27."
From the December 1 edition of KBDI Channel 12's Colorado Inside Out with host Peter Boyles:
BOYLES (to Kopel): All right, go ahead. You're up on this one.
KOPEL: Common Cause, the creators of Amendment 41, have probably done more in the past several years to harm Colorado's Constitution than everybody else combined in the previous century and a quarter of statehood. They're the ones who got this constitutional amendment on to get the money out of politics and so-called campaign finance reform, which turns out to cripple the political parties and be heavily biased towards accentuating the influence of Democratic billionaires in politics. Rather than reducing the influence of money in politics, it actually increased substantially --
BOYLES: Aren't there any Republican billionaires in this?
KOPEL: You know, there certainly could be, but the ones who are activated and engaged and bought the statehouse for the Democrats are the -- Pat Stryker, Tim Gill, Jared Polis. And they -- the Common Cause legislation gives them an even larger, disproportionately great influence than they would have under a system when there were no restrictions on people giving 500 dollars, or 1,000 dollars, or 5,000 dollars. To support free speech, when you give money to pay for a candidate to get his message out, that's participating in the dissemination of political speech, and something that under the First Amendment, properly interpreted, is at the heart of our constitutional system.