Disclosure, not new restrictions, belong in campaign finance law

We have no problem with key provisions of a bill now in the Colorado Senate that attempts to redraw Colorado’s campaign finance law in light of a U.S. Supreme Court decision early this year that overturned many limitations on corporate and labor-union campaign spending.

Those key provisions in Senate Bill 203 would require corporations or unions to register with the Secretary of State’s office within 48 hours of any independent expenditures in excess of $1,000 they have that are used to advocate in behalf of or against a political candidate in this state.

That makes a great deal of sense. We have long argued that maximum disclosure should be the main tool in campaign-finance reform. Since the U.S. Supreme Court said labor unions and corporations can legally spend unlimited amounts in elections so long as they don’t give directly to candidates’ campaigns, it makes sense to establish disclosure rules for that sort of spending.

Where we have a problem is with another provision that seeks to prohibit spending by corporations which are more than 50 percent owned by foreign investors. It’s far from certain that measure will hold up to Supreme Court scrutiny. Furthermore, as The Denver Post noted, there are any number of corporations with a significant presence in Colorado and an interest in its political future, for which majority ownership is by citizens of other countries.

Lose the foreign-ownership provision — and examine the issue further over the next year — and SB 203 could be passed before the end of the legislative session this month.


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