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Following Money Behind Colorado's Ballot Battles

Industry groups topped individual contributors in Colorado's ballot battles over health care, cigarette taxes and constitutional amendments. (Pixabay)
Industry groups topped individual contributors in Colorado's ballot battles over health care, cigarette taxes and constitutional amendments. (Pixabay)
November 1, 2016

DENVER – Coloradans for Coloradans, the group working to defeat Amendment 69 on the statewide ballot, a measure that would create a universal health-care system, raised five times more money than the initiative's proponents, according to new analysis by Clean Slate Now.

Jon Biggerstaff, the executive director of the watchdog group said most of the money opposing 69 has come from insurance companies that could lose customers if the amendment passes.

"The way we have our system set up right now, any corporation that thinks it might cost them money, they can come in with millions of dollars and defeat it, or support a measure that makes them more money," he explained. "And so it's not a very equal system. That's the main inequity that we're trying to highlight."

He said more than 98 percent of the $4 million raised to defeat Amendment 69 came from corporations, PACs and other interest groups. Coloradans for Coloradans received fewer than 400 separate donations, while Colorado Care, the group sponsoring the measure, raised less than a million from some 4,000 contributors.

The Indiana-based health-insurance company Anthem, which posted profits of $2.5 billion last year, ponied up a million dollars to stop Colorado Care. Biggerstaff said whether you support or oppose the move to establish a single-payer health system in the state, the debate over 69 has not taken place on an even playing field.

"Corporations who of course have access to much larger financial reserves than a person does typically, they can now exercise the same right as a person," he said. "So if money equals speech and they have a lot more money, then they essentially have more free speech than the individual."

Oil and gas companies invested heavily to pass Amendment 71, an effort to make it more difficult, for example, to put anti-fracking measures onto future ballots. Amendment 72, to increase cigarette taxes and fund health initiatives, received $2 million from health-related groups. Altria, the company behind Phillip Morris and other tobacco products, contributed more than $17 million in opposition.

Eric Galatas, Public News Service - CO