By Peter Marcus, DENVER DAILY NEWS
A federal appellate court ruling yesterday that found a Colorado voter-approved amendment limiting campaign contributions from small groups to be unconstitutional may set a precedent for issues groups across the country.
The ruling was first reported in The Denver Post.
The 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled yesterday that six homeowners who fought a 2006 annexation question in Parker did not violate disclosure requirements when it raised more than $200.
Colorado voters in 2002 established campaign finance limitations for small groups of two or more that raise more than $200. The so-called No Annexation group in Parker raised about $1,000.
The three-judge panel ruled yesterday that government cannot impose campaign finance limits on such small groups.
Attorneys for the group had argued that “there’s no distinction between a little group and a large group spending money.” Attorneys had also argued that the group’s First Amendment right was violated by government attempting to limit their free speech through the Colorado law.
The ruling yesterday is the first in the nation that links the First Amendment to reporting requirements for issues committees. The decision sets up a precedent for other cases, which means its possible that the ruling will be taken to the U.S. Supreme Court.
Colorado Ethics Watch said yesterday that the ruling could lead to more litigation.
“Today’s ruling invites federal court litigation whenever citizens attempt to exercise their right to know who is spending money to influence ballot issue elections,” said Luis Toro, director of Ethics Watch. “By failing to articulate a standard for determining when an issue committee is large enough to be regulated, today’s decision actually increases uncertainty about disclosure laws in ballot issue campaigns.”