Election spending law could get tougher
Vail, CO Colorado
EAGLE COUNTY” Every year during election season hundreds of thousands of dollars are spent on campaigns by local political hopefuls in an effort to get your vote.
Where each and every one of those dollars ” down to the penny ” came from has to be reported to the state and made available for the public to review. If Eagle County voters approve a May 1 ballot question to become a home rule county, the county could write its own campaign finance laws.
The home rule charter does not address fair campaign practices, which means state law becomes local law, said Don Cohen, co-author of the home rule charter.
“Because our charter does not say anything about it, state law then comes into the picture as the law,” Cohen said.
Colorado law requires candidates running for any public office to account for who gave them money, and how much. The law also states that home rule counties can make their own laws on fair campaign practices.
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The Secretary of State’s office, which keeps an eye on fair campaign practices, interprets the law to mean that county boards of commissioners can ” without a vote of the people ” make their own law to get rid of the campaign finance reporting, said Heather Lemon, an Eagle-Vail attorney and member of the home rule commission.
“There’s a big difference, and that’s something that will have to be cleared up by the state’s attorneys,” Lemon said. “As it stands right now, if home rule passes candidates will still have to report their funds.”
Edwards residents Wendi Jameson said knowing who is giving money politicians is crucial.
“Politicians are so smooth and you have to wonder what they really stand for,” Jameson said. “Sometimes a good way to find out who and what they really are is to see who supports them. If they don’t have to show you that anymore, how will we be able to verify it?”
The chance reporting laws would be weakened is so remote that local second-home owner Evan Theks is not concerned by the possibility.
“Why on earth would any government do something like that,” Theks said. “The beauty of home rule is that citizens can put their own issues on the ballot, so even if the commissioners took away the funding report requirements the voters could repeal that decision.”
But just the possibility of county commissioners changing the rules is a real problem, said former commissioner Tom Stone, a staunch opponent of home rule.
“It’s a concern because the charter commission failed to adequately address it in the charter which could very possibly cause a problem in the future,” Stone said. “It should be a concern to everyone.”
Staff writer Alison Miller can be reached at 748-2928 or email@example.com.