Colorado voters soundly reject proposal to equalize candidate spending
November 7, 2018
Colorado voters appeared to overwhelmingly reject a constitutional amendment that could help those running against wealthy candidates.
In statewide results late Tuesday, Amendment 75 was being soundly defeated by a 66 percent to 34 percent margin. Garfield County voters were rejecting the measure 68 percent to 32 percent with 85 percent of the returns in.
Depending on who you ask, Amendment 75 was either a matter of fairness or a way to allow still more money into state elections.
The amendment was an attempt to cut the campaign spending advantage held by wealthy candidates. If a candidate put more than $1 million of his or her own money into a campaign, then individual contributors to other candidates for the same seat would be able to put five times the current limit of $1,150, or $5,750, toward those candidates.
Former State Sen. Greg Brophy, a Republican from the eastern Colorado town of Wray, is one of the backers of Amendment 75. In an October interview,
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Brophy said the amendment was an attempt to level the playing field.
That field was particularly tilted in this year's gubernatorial race.
Democratic candidate Jared Polis put roughly $11 million of his own money into his primary campaign. In total, as of September, he had put $18.3 million of his own money into the campaign.
Republican Walker Stapleton as of August had raised about $2.4 million. About $1 million came from Stapleton.
As of the most recent reporting period, Polis' campaign
http://tracer.sos.colorado.gov/PublicSite/SearchPages/CandidateDetail.aspx?Type=CA&SeqID=37447 had spent about $22.7 million. The Stapleton campaign
http://tracer.sos.colorado.gov/PublicSite/SearchPages/CandidateDetail.aspx?Type=CA&SeqID=38811 had spent about $3.7 million.
Brophy said it's simply impossible to be outspent by that margin and remain competitive in a statewide race.
"If someone's willing to spend $20 (million) or $30 million, you can't compete with $5 (million) or $6 million," Brophy said.
The current limits, along with the self-funding exemption, stem from Amendment 27, a 2002 amendment championed by Common Cause Colorado. That amendment passed with more than 65 percent of the vote.
Common Cause Colorado Outreach Director Caroline Fry said in October that group opposes Amendment 75 because it will put still more money into campaigns. The goal, she said, is less-expensive political campaigns.
"Americans have expressed time and time again they want a reduction of money in politics," Fry said, adding that Amendment 75 "isn't going to fix anything."
But, Fry added, there are no easy answers to the Amendment 27 loophole allowing wealthy candidates to self-fund their campaigns. She noted that the U.S. Supreme Court has ruled that limits on self-funding are unconstitutional.
Vail Daily Business Editor Scott Miller can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 970-748-2930.