Denver court rules against Gessler

Scott Gessler

Colorado Secretary of State Scott Gessler overstepped his boundaries earlier this year when he approved new campaign finance rules for small political-issue committees, a Denver court ruled Thursday.

Denver District Judge A. Bruce Jones said Gessler exceeded his legal authority when he approved new rules that require small issue committees to report campaign contributions and expenditures only after they’ve collected or spent more than $5,000.

State law, however, sets that limit at $200, a threshold established by Colorado voters in a constitutional amendment approved in 2002.

“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,” said Luis Toro, executive director of the left-leaning Ethics Watch, which filed a lawsuit against Gessler.

“In the event the secretary chooses to appeal, we are confident this ruling will be upheld.”

Gessler announced soon after the court’s ruling that he would appeal.

The secretary said he based his new rule on a 10th Circuit Court of Appeals decision last year over a group of homeowners in Parker, who were working to defeat an annexation issue.

That group spent about $2,300, but didn’t create a small issue committee to report its finances.

A three-judge panel of the federal court ruled in November 2010 that the homeowners shouldn’t be required to do so, saying reporting such small amounts for an issue committee in such a limited election shouldn’t be compared to that of an actual political candidate running for statewide office.

“Under Judge Jones’ ruling, we have one threshold for $200 and another threshold for ‘some other amount,’ ” Gessler said.

“With (Thursday’s) decision, we now have a conflict with the federal appeals court ruling, and Coloradans are left in the dark.”


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