Taking aim at ‘massive secret political spending’

By Alex Burness

COLORADO INDEPENDENT

Those seeking to limit the influence of money in Colorado politics can only do so much.

Reformers would love to limit campaign expenditures, for example, but the U.S. Supreme Court has ruled that states can’t impose any mandatory limits on how much candidates and outside groups spend, nor can they change the fact that tax-exempt “527” political groups and independent expenditure committees can accept virtually unlimited contributions and conceal much about where their money comes from.

That’s how, in 2018, Colorado ended up with a governor who dropped more than $23 million in personal cash on his race, and saw its most heated ballot issue, Prop. 112, drown in a 50-to-1 spending deluge by oil and gas industry interests over anti-fracking activists. It’s how nearly a quarter of a billion dollars was spent overall on the past election, shattering the previous state record.

But while reformers are relatively powerless to stop big money, campaign finance experts say there’s significant opportunity to increase transparency in elections, so that citizens can at least be better informed about who’s trying to tip the scales.

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