Thursday, November 17, 2011

Judge: Gessler overstepped authority

Posted By on Thu, Nov 17, 2011 at 5:44 PM


Apparently, being Secretary of State doesn't give you the right to chuck voter-approved amendments to the Colorado constitution.

Who knew? Certainly not Scott Gessler, whose self-issued absolute power was reined in today by a Denver district judge.

Gessler had raised the disclosure threshold for contributions to political issue committees from the voter-approved $200 to $5,000, cutting down on transparency in elections. Turns out, that was illegal.

Here's the word from Ethics Watch:

Finds that Secretary of State “went beyond his authority”

A Denver district court judge today agreed with Common Cause and Ethics Watch that Secretary of State Scott Gessler overstepped his authority in changing campaign finance limits for political issue committees.

Judge A. Bruce Jones ruled that Gessler does not have the authority to raise the disclosure threshold for political issue committees from $200 to $5,000. The Secretary of State’s rule would have made it much easier for political groups to avoid disclosing financial interests behind a ballot initiative. Last year, Douglas Bruce tried to hide his involvement in three extreme initiatives that would have limited local governments from handling their own financial future.

Voters approved the $200 limit when they passed a constitutional amendment in 2002.

In the ruling ,the Court said that the rule “focuses on changing the contribution and expenditure amounts contained in the constitution. In doing so, the Secretary went beyond his authority.”

Colorado Common Cause Executive Director Elena Nunez said, “Voters have said time and again that they want transparency in political campaigns. This ruling affirms Colorado’s strong disclosure laws by rejecting the Secretary of State’s rules.”

Ethics Watch Director Luis Toro said “We expected all along that the Court would agree that the Secretary of State has no authority to change disclosure thresholds that were set by Colorado voters in a constitutional amendment. In the event the Secretary chooses to appeal, we are confident this ruling will be upheld.”

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