DENVER — The press release from the Colorado Secretary of State’s office Thursday afternoon was short and seemingly dry, announcing a “declaratory order” related to campaign finance.
But the decision explained therein, which gives the Colorado Republican Party the green light — well, maybe more of a yellow light, in fact — to form its own Super PAC, could re-balance the political scales in a state where party officials, especially on the right, have been increasingly impotent at fighting the growing influence of ideologically-driven factions and organizations that have pushed the state GOP too far to the right to be acceptable to independent voters.
Deputy Secretary of State Suzanne Staiert writes in the ruling that “a political party may form an independent expenditure committee … and may raise funds in any amount from any permissible source.”
“The Secretary of State’s opinion released today confirms our position that Colorado law allows the Colorado Republican Party to form an independent expenditure committee and raise funds in any amount from any permissible source,” said state GOP Chairman Ryan Call.
“The voice of the Republican Party has been drowned out for far too long by outside liberal special interest groups, and now the Party has the ability to express it’s independent voice in support of its candidates and conservative principles.”
The party had asked for the guidance in December as it sought to put together its own committee that could take unlimited contributions.
Right now, the party can only accept contributions of up to $3,400 per calendar year from individuals; state parties cannot accept any contributions from corporations and groups.
That’s become a huge problem since the Supreme Court’s 2010 Citizens United ruling, which has allowed unlimited contributions for some groups — groups whose influence has quickly surpassed that of state parties or individual campaigns.
“Spending by outside special interest groups and labor unions has dominated Colorado politics for far too long, leading to two liberal governors and Democrat majorities in the legislature that have ignored the needs and priorities of Coloradans,” Call told FOX31 Denver Thursday night.
“The Secretary of State’s opinion allows the Colorado Republican Party to raise the funds needed to compete on an equal playing field with these outside groups and independently support our candidates and communicate the Republican Party’s message of individual freedom and opportunity to the citizens of our state.”
While the guidance from the Secretary of State’s office isn’t binding in a court of law, it could give the Colorado Republican Party validation enough to build a more robust fundraising machine — a machine, Democrats point out, that would likely be challenged in court.
“While it’s always interesting to hear the Secretary’s opinion, especially on matters where he admits he lacks jurisdiction, I’m eager for this to be settled law,” said Colorado Democratic Party Chairman Rick Palacio. “So until the 10th Circuit or the Supreme Court take up this issue, political parties, and grassroots republicans and democrats are left in limbo and unable to compete on a level playing field with special interest groups.”
The party would be able to appoint the fund’s managers, which is why grassroots activists — the very groups who have essentially hijacked control of the Republican brand and its nominating process from the party establishment in recent years — are so opposed to the idea in the first place.
If the state GOP does form its own Super PAC, it would only spend funds to support the Republican general election nominee as chosen by voters in the primary election, according to Call.
Funds would not be spent to influence contested party primaries and only on state and local elections, not federal races.