Court upholds injunction on Colo. campaign rule
DENVER – The Colorado Supreme Court has upheld a decision by a judge to put a hold on most of a voter-approved ban on some political contributions, siding with unions and nonprofit groups that challenged it as unconstitutional.
The high court agreed with Denver District Judge Catherine Lemon that provisions of Amendment 54 are unconstitutionally overbroad, vague and violate equal protection.
The court said Monday the amendment cannot be fixed because removing the unconstitutional sections leaves it meaningless. The court said the entire amendment must be purged from the Colorado Constitution and sent the case back to the judge.
Lemon last year imposed a preliminary injunction on the campaign finance restrictions of Amendment 54, which bars anyone tied to businesses that hold at least $100,000 in no-bid government contracts from contributing to political candidates.
It also barred all unions that negotiate for government workers from making campaign contributions and required that the state publish a list of all companies that were awarded contracts without going through a bidding process.
The amendment was approved by 51 percent of the voters in 2008.
Lemon said the measure violated unions’ constitutional rights of freedom of speech and equal protection under the law by banning political contributions by any political committee created or controlled by a covered union while not prohibiting contributions by political committees that are created or controlled by businesses.
“We knew from the beginning Amendment 54 possibly had some constitutional issues. The Supreme Court’s decision was not unanticipated,” said Mike Saccone, spokesman for Colorado Attorney General John Suthers.
Lemon’s ruling came in a lawsuit by plaintiffs including unions, The Children’s Hospital and others who sought to block the state from enforcing the law.
“The authors of Amendment 54 tried to silence political speakers they don’t like, but they ran into a little roadblock called the First Amendment and, fortunately for all of us, they have failed,” said Mark Grueskin, an attorney for some of the plaintiffs.