A press release yesterday from Colorado House Democrats announces the passage of new bills to require more disclosure from so-called “dark money” organizations paying for political campaign advertisements–sometimes with no information whatsoever as to their origins:
HB17-1261 ensures that voters know who is paying for mass election communications by requiring “paid for by” disclaimers on all electioneering materials.
“In the name of good government and transparency in our elections, this is a simple bill that allows Colorado voters to know who is paying for the mailers that show up in their mailbox,” said Majority Leader Becker, D-Boulder.
“To recast Matthew 6 and Luke 12, ‘Where your treasure is, there your ‘name’ shall be also,’” said Rep. Bridges.
HB17-1262 closes a crucial gap in reporting requirements between the date of the primary and 60 days before the general election. The bill applies the same disclosure requirements throughout the campaign—from before the primary and continuing up to the general election.
“Extending the window for required electioneering disclosures by three months is a modest fix to ensure Colorado voters know who is spending money to influence their vote,” said Rep. Bridges, D-Greenwood Village. “Together, these bills bring dark money into the light. In Colorado we call that being a straight shooter and Colorado voters deserve nothing less.”
But as the Grand Junction Sentinel’s Charles Ashby reports, Republicans just don’t think the voters care who’s paying:
Republicans in the Colorado House questioned the need for two political campaign reform measures that Democrats were pushing Tuesday…
The second bill requires all campaigns and issue committees to file campaign finance reports every two weeks throughout the summer between the June primaries and the November election. Under current law, those biweekly reports are only required within 30 days before a primary and 60 days before a general election.
…Rep. Tim Leonard, R-Evergreen, said that measure doesn’t help the public learn anything about their elections.
“This is not for the general public,” he said. [Pols emphasis] “This is for the political wonks that want to know who’s spending what money where, on what groups, so that (they) can counter back with the amount of money that (they’re) watching being spent.”
So yes, it’s true that “political wonks” are generally the first people who examine and report the contents of fundraising reports. But that doesn’t change the obvious fact that all such political information is most certainly intended for “the general public,” either through direct consumption or via news reports and alerts from political activist groups.
In every battle over campaign finance laws, there are two principal battlefields: limits on contributions, and disclosure of spending. We can debate the question of limits on donations all we want, but generally disclosure–not limits, just information–is not something most people would consider controversial.
But for Republicans in the Colorado legislature, it seems to be a real problem.