Colorado Supreme Court Affirms “Magic Words” Requirement
Today, the Colorado Supreme Court ruled that Colorado’s Amendment 27, passed in 2002, permits 527 groups to spend unlimited funds in support of state candidates, simply by avoiding so-called "magic words" such as "vote for" or "defeat.” Colorado Ethics Watch had filed the original campaign finance complaint against Senate Majority Fund (SMF) and Colorado Leadership Fund (CLF) on September 10, 2008, alleging that the two "527" political organizations acted as political committees, subject to registration requirements and contribution limits, when they raised money and paid for television and print ads supporting various state legislative candidates in the 2008 election cycle. Ethics Watch also alleged that the two groups failed to file independent expenditure disclosures for the ads.
The court’s ruling focused on the language of Amendment 27, which the Court believed was intended to give a narrow definition to the word “expenditure.” which in turn is used to define political committees subject to contribution limits and “independent expenditures” subject to disclosure requirements.
“We are clearly disappointed and still believe that voters who passed Amendment 27 meant to strengthen Colorado disclosure and contribution laws,” said Luis Toro, Director of Colorado Ethics Watch. “The opinion does leave open the possibility of strengthening Colorado’s campaign finance laws in the future, and it emphasizes that Amendment 27 anticipates stronger regulation of spending in the time periods just before an election. Our fight against secret money in Colorado elections will continue.”