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Denver– On the eve of the three-year anniversary of the Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision, one that opened the campaign spending floodgates, two state-based groups reported that too many in Colorado’s Congressional delegation have done too little to respond to Amendment 65’s call for campaign spending reform. Amendment 65, which passed in November with an overwhelming 74% of the vote and winning with voters in every county, instructed Congress to pass a constitutional amendment that would allow for campaign spending limits.
“Amending the constitution to stop the flow of secret and unlimited money is an ambitious job and we recognize that it will take time. Unfortunately, some members of the Colorado delegation don’t seem to have a clear plan for fulfilling the mandate of the voters.” said Elena Nunez, executive director of Colorado Common Cause and one of the proponents of Amendment 65. “On Election Day, the voters’ instructions were clear. We are hopeful that the entire delegation will take themseriously. It’s hard to imagine members of Congress completely ignoring the will of over two-thirds of their constituents.”
According to the YesOn 65 coalition of the nine members of the Colorado Congressional delegation, Congressman Ed Perlmutter has been the most active in responding to Amendment 65’s instructions. He not only signed on as a cosponsor to two constitutional amendments that would address campaign spending limits, he also joined the Election Reform Taskforce and cosponsored the DISCLOSE ACT, which addresses campaign spending transparency.
Senator Michael Bennet sponsored a constitutional amendment in the previous Congress, encouraged the IRS to be more active in ensuring campaign spending vehicles are not engaging in tax fraud and cosponsored transparency legislation such as the DISCLOSE ACT. Senator Udall, Representative DeGette and Representative Polis have all cosponsored the DISCLOSE ACT as well and just this week, Representative Polis cosponsored a trio of campaign finance bills intended to reduce the influence of big money groups by encouraging more small contributions, extending public financing to Congress and increasing transparency.
The coalition is still waiting for complete reporting from Senator Udall and Representatives DeGette, Coffman, and Gardner.
For a complete list of the Colorado delegation's responses, click here.
“I think everyone in Colorado’s delegation empathizes with the voters’ frustration with the flood of outside spending,” said Danny Katz Director of the non-partisan advocacy group CoPIRG, the other proponent of Amendment 65. “But voters don’t want empathy, they want action. They sent that message with Amendment 65. They’re looking for leaders who will give Colorado the tools to curb unlimited contributions and spending and I don’t think they’ll appreciate members who sit on their hands or throw up their hands and say nothing can be done.”
At the event, CoPIRG released updated campaign spending data from their new report, Billion Dollar Democracy, which shows the impact big money had on the 2012 election. Co-authored with Demos, the report’s findings include:
- It took just 32 billionaires and corporations, giving an average of $9.9 million apiece to Super PACs, to match every single dollar that small donors gave to the Romney and Obama campaigns.
- For two of the 10 most active Super PACs, corporate donations accounted for a large portion of the funds, making up 18 percent of Restore Our Future and 52.6 percent of FreedomWorks for America’s total contributions.
- Groups that do not disclose the source of their funds paid for nearly half of all television advertising in the presidential race.
In addition, CoPIRG released new campaign spending data for the 2012 Colorado House races including:
- Outside groups spent more than $5.5 million on House races with 98% of it coming from groups registered outside of Colorado.
- Super PACs, the newly created groups that can raise and spend unlimited funds in elections, spent over $3 million on Colorado federal elections. Nationwide, Super PACs raised 86% of funds from an elite set of ultra-wealthy donors and businesses giving $100,000 or more.
- Dark money groups accounted for 33.66% of all outside spending in Colorado House races. These groups do not disclose the source of their funds, hiding critical information from voters about who is behind the advertising and what interests are backing which candidates.
“This election showed that when wealthy people and big corporations are allowed to contribute as much as they want, they let the dollars flow. Their money buys them million dollar megaphones and the rest of us, who can’t contribute big bucks, are drowned out,” said Katz. “The people spoke. It’s time for Congress to take action.”
Over the next few weeks, the coalition will be delivering giant signs that have the county by county breakdown for Amendment 65 to each member of Congress to ensure they remember Colorado voters’ instructions. The coalition will also watchdog each member and ensure the entire delegation is moving forward in implementing the will of the people.
“Colorado counties split when it came to the presidential race but they were unanimous when it came to getting big money out of our elections,” concluded Nunez. “We all expect action.”
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