A Denver judge took Colorado Secretary of State Scott Gessler to task Tuesday for changing the contribution and spending thresholds of a state campaign finance law governing issues committees, according to the Denver Post
An obviously angry District Court Judge Bruce A. Jones accused Gessler at a hearing on the matter of exceeding his authority by moving to amend the state constitution based on his own interpretation of a recent federal appeals court ruling.
Jones strongly admonished Gessler, saying he wasn’t “some roving do-gooder” who could just unilaterally raise the reporting threshold for issues committees from $200 to $5,000. That was something, he said, that would have to be decided by state lawmakers.
“He’s deciding he’s going to amend the constitution,” Jones said. “I don’t even think I can do that, and I’m charged with a lot more authority to interpret and apply the constitution than [Gessler] is.”
The comments came during a hearing on a lawsuit brought by the public-watchdog groups Ethics Watch and Common Cause. The lawsuit accuses Gessler of altering state campaign finance rules to protect issues committees.
According to the Post, Gessler changed the reporting requirements for issues committees after a small group complained in a lawsuit that the $200 threshold was too burdensome.
The case went all the way to the 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, which decided in favor of the group but gave no instructions on changing the law.
A spokesman for Gessler’s office told the Post it cost the state about $610,000 to defend the reporting requirement through all the court proceedings. He said Gessler decided to raise the threshold to $5,000 in hopes of avoiding future court challenges.
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