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Strategic Issues Program

Campaign Finance

Money, Elections and Citizens United: Campaign Finance Reform for Colorado

Summary of Recommendations

The panel's conclusions and recommendations are interrelated and are best considered as a group. In some cases, adopting one recommendation alone could cause more harm than good. For example, allowing unlimited contributions to parties and candidates without instituting thoroughgoing disclosure requirements such as those recommended herein could adversely affect the campaign finance environment rather than improve it.

The Reality of Unlimited Money
The panel concludes that future campaign finance reforms need to accommodate an environment where unlimited political contributions and spending are the dominant reality.

A Marketplace of Ideas
The panel concludes that campaign finance policy in Colorado should be grounded on the principle of creating an effective marketplace of ideas, one that facilitates the free flow of information and encourages broad participation in the electoral process.

Individual Disclosure
The panel supports the emphasis on personal responsibility for political speech provided by the Colorado Constitution, and recommends that the principle of disclosure at the individual level guide campaign finance policies in Colorado and the nation.

Hidden Contributions
The panel recommends that all 501(c)(4), (5) and (6) organizations engaging in the political process in Colorado, whether Colorado-based or not, offer their donors the ability to choose whether they wish to allow their contribution to be used for political advocacy purposes.

The panel recommends that, wherever domiciled, every 501(c) (4),(5) and (6) organization involved in political activity in Colorado be required to disclose the names of all individuals who have chosen to allow their contributions to be used for political advocacy.

Multilevel Disclosure
The panel recommends that the Colorado legislature adopt a policy of multilevel disclosure of direct and indirect contributors to candidate and issue campaigns, parties, independent groups and other organizations engaged in the political process in Colorado.

Anonymous Leadership
The panel recommends that corporations, unions or other organizations making a political contribution with their own funds be required to disclose the names of the chief executive officer and directors for reporting by the receiving entity, and that closely held organizations also report the names of principal owners.

Active Disclosure of Major Contributors
The panel recommends that Colorado adopt a process of active disclosure to publicize lists of major direct and indirect contributors to candidate and issue committees, political parties, independent expenditure groups and other entities involved in the political process.

Refining Disclosure Policies
The panel recommends that all political contributions be reported, but the threshold for itemized reporting in Colorado be increased from $20 to $200 and indexed for inflation.

The panel recommends that major contributor reporting apply to elections held in both even- and odd-numbered years.

The panel recommends that Colorado's reporting and disclosure requirements for independent expenditure committees be at least as rigorous as those applicable to candidate and other political committees, including timely major contributor reporting.

The panel recommends that all Colorado campaign finance regulations apply to elections at all levels of government within the state, including elections held by home rule units of government.

Marginalization of Candidates And Parties
The panel recommends that the Colorado legislature enact necessary legislation and/or propose necessary constitutional initiatives to remove limits on political contributions to candidates and political parties.

Public Financing
The panel recommends that Colorado adopt a limited state income tax credit for individual political contributions made to candidates and parties.