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Colorado Takes Steps to Limit Influence of Money in Politics

Overturning the U.S Supreme Court's 2010 Citizens United ruling could require a constitutional amendment. (DonkeyHotey/Flickr)
Overturning the U.S Supreme Court's 2010 Citizens United ruling could require a constitutional amendment. (DonkeyHotey/Flickr)
January 21, 2019

LAKEWOOD, Colo. – As the nation marks the ninth anniversary of the U.S. Supreme Court's Citizens United decision, Coloradans are making strides to limit the influence of money in politics.

Last week, the city of Lakewood lowered campaign contribution limits, banned contributions from corporations and increased transparency for municipal elections.

In November, Denver voters passed similar reforms.

Amanda Gonzalez, executive director of the open government group Colorado Common Cause, says these steps are necessary to ensure that big money doesn't drown out the voices of everyday Coloradans.

"Government should reflect the interests of the average Coloradans, not special interests, and that, of course, is the concern around the influence of money in politics and the effects that Citizens United had," she states.

The 2010 Supreme Court decision, citing previous court precedent, ruled that political spending is a form of protected speech under the First Amendment, and said the government can't get in the way of corporations spending money to influence elections.

Overturning the decision would require a constitutional amendment.

Gonzalez notes the high court has not ruled out putting a spotlight on so-called dark money, to expose special interests paying for political ads.

"The Supreme Court has resoundingly said that disclosure and transparency are absolutely something that the people can ask for,” she points out. “Those are opportunities in a post-Citizens United world to make sure that we still have a good understanding of what's happening in our elections."

A bill introduced this month in the U.S. House of Representatives would require disclosure of dark-money contributions, and provide qualifying candidates with a 6-to-1 match on small donations.

Last year, according to the group Clean Slate Now, at least 10 cities, counties and states passed significant campaign finance reforms.

Eric Galatas, Public News Service - CO