Amendment 75 aims to close loophole in Colorado’s campaign finance law | VailDaily.com

Amendment 75 aims to close loophole in Colorado’s campaign finance law

Editor's note: This is one in a series of articles about the 13 statewide measures on this year's ballot. Find more election coverage at http://www.vaildaily.com/election.

EAGLE COUNTY — Depending on who you ask, Amendment 75 is either a matter of fairness or a way to allow still more money into state elections.

In short, the amendment attempts to cut the campaign spending advantage held by wealthy candidates. If a candidate puts more than $1 million of his or her own money into a campaign, then individual contributors to other candidates for the same seat would be able to put five times the current limit — $1,150 — toward those candidates.

Former State Sen. Greg Brophy, a Republican from the eastern Colorado town of Wray, is one of the lead backers of Amendment 75. He said the amendment is an attempt to level the playing field.

Brophy, a farmer as well as a political consultant, noted that Republican gubernatorial candidate Victor Mitchell put more than $3 million into an unsuccessful primary campaign.

Democratic gubernatorial candidate Jared Polis put roughly $11 million of his own money into his primary campaign. In total, he's put $18.3 million of his own money into the campaign.

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His Republican opponent, Walker Stapleton, as of August had raised about $2.4 million. About $1 million came from Stapleton.

Brophy said it's simply impossible to be outspent by that margin and remain competitive in a statewide race.

"If someone's willing to spend $20 (million) or $30 million, you can't compete with $5 (million) or $6 million," Brophy said.

The current limits, along with the self-funding exemption, stem from Amendment 27, a 2002 amendment championed by Common Cause Colorado. That amendment passed with more than 65 percent of the vote.

Common Cause Colorado Outreach Director Caroline Fry said that group opposes Amendment 75 because it will put still more money into campaigns. The goal, she said, is less-expensive political campaigns.

"Americans have expressed time and time again they want a reduction of money in politics," Fry said, adding that Amendment 75 "isn't going to fix anything."

But, Fry added, there are no easy answers to the Amendment 27 loophole allowing wealthy candidates to self-fund their campaigns. She noted that the U.S. Supreme Court has ruled that limits on self-funding are unconstitutional.

"Until we change that, there's no one magic bullet," Fry said.

Vail Daily Business Editor Scott Miller can be reached at smiller@vaildaily.com or 970-748-2930.