Gessler’s $5,000 rule challenged by lawsuit

Two government-watchdog groups have filed a lawsuit against Secretary of State Scott Gessler, challenging a new rule that sets a higher threshold for when issue committees must file campaign finance reports.

The new rule, which the Republican secretary approved last month, requires committees supporting or opposing ballot questions to create a campaign finance account and begin filing periodic reports when they raise or spend $5,000.

The previous threshold was $200 set under Amendment 15, which was approved by Colorado voters in 1996.

“The secretary is under the mistaken impression that he has authority to rewrite campaign finance laws, not merely make rules to enforce those laws,” said Luis Toro, executive director of Colorado Ethics Watch, which filed the lawsuit along with Colorado Common Cause.

But Gessler said it wasn’t him who started it.

He said that happened late last year when a three-judge panel of the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled in a case that the threshold was so low it violated the freedom-of-association rights of a small committee battling an annexation attempt by the city of Parker.

Because the ruling didn’t, Gessler spokesman Richard Coolidge said the secretary of state had to come up with his own threshold.

Toro and Colorado Common Cause head Jenny Flanagan, however, said the ruling was limited only to plaintiffs in the case and did not declare Colorado’s $200 threshold unconstitutional.

Consequently, Gessler had no legal authority to set a new limit for everyone else, they said.


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