Depoliticizing Colorado’s Election and Campaign Finance Administration
September 12, 2012Dear Friends,Six years ago, Colorado Ethics Watch opened its doors as the first state-levelproject of Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW), dedicated tofighting for a cleaner Colorado government through hard-hitting legal actions andeducational outreach to the public.
We’ve earned a reputation for promoting ethics,
transparency and clean elections through our successful legal actions before theColorado Independent Ethics Commission, in campaign finance lawsuits before theOffice of Administrative Courts, in state court regulatory review lawsuits, and in local jurisdictions from Fort Collins to Colorado Springs to Garfield County and beyond.Despite our success in the courtroom, we know that working within existing
structures for accountability isn’t always enough.
Sometimes the system itself has so
much potential for abuse that holding one individual accountable won’t prevent the
next from misbehaving as well.
The Colorado Secretary of State’s role in campaign finance and election
administration is a perfect example. Of course, it is no secret that the currentSecretary of State, Scott Gessler, was the lawyer on the opposite side of several of ourhighest-profile campaign finance cases when he was a private attorney.
surprised that once in office, Secretary Gessler has continued to fight on behalf of thesame interests he represented as a private attorney, only this time with the authorityof the State of Colorado and the legal muscle of the Attorney General behind him.But it would be a mistake to believe that the problem is no larger than ScottGessler himself. He could say, with some justification, that his party affiliation washardly a secret when he ran for office. And while some Secretaries of State have tried
to place themselves above partisanship, there isn’t any formal structure in place to
require them to act in a nonpartisan way. Even a less partisan Secretary than Gesslermay be tempted to give in to pressure from his or her fellow party members to makedecisions calculated to give one side an advantage over the other in an election. The long-
term answer isn’t to change the
it’s to change the game
Partisan politicians who themselves are players in the political arena shouldn’t also
serve as the referee. Making control of the election machinery itself a prize to be wonby one party or another to gain an advantage in the next election can only increasevoter cynicism and alienation from a government that is supposed to work for thepeople. We hope this report will start a dialogue that leads to fundamental reform inthe way elections are managed in Colorado.Yours truly,Luis Toro