August 23, 2019

Update: Citizens United Action Wrap-up

And so begins the campaign finance fallout from the recent SCOTUS decision in Citizens United v. Federal Elections Commission.

Responding to interrogatories submitted by Governor Bill Ritter, the Colorado Supreme Court on Monday issued an opinion elucidating the interplay between Citizens United and the Colorado Constitution.

The court found that the two contested articles of the state constitution, Sections 3(4) and 6(2) of Article XXVIII, violate the First Amendment under Citizens United:

… to the extent that Colo. Const. art. XXVIII, § 3(4) makes it unlawful for a corporation or labor organization to make expenditures expressly advocating the election or defeat of a candidate, it violates the dictates of the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution. Similarly, it held that to the extent that Colo. Const. art. XXVIII, § 6(2) makes it unlawful for a corporation or a labor organization to provide funding for an electioneering communication, it violates the dictates of the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution.

In another local development, a Denver Post article reports that several members of the Colorado legislature hope to close current and potential disclosure loopholes in post-Citizens United campaign finance before the 2010 election cycle.

In more related news, the Texas Tribune this week reported the first-known appearance of a corporate-funded political ad in the wake of Citizens United. Incumbent state representative Chuck Hopson (R-Jacksonville) was the target of an adversarial political ad appearing in East Texas newspapers in the leadup to a recent Republican primary for Hopson’s legislative seat. While the move is an early test of Citizens United, the ads themselves seemed to play little or no part in the primary outcome: Hopson bested his fellow Republican opponents by 61 percent. Hopson’s GOP credibility came under fire last November when he jumped the Democratic ship and became a Republican while in still office. He is running for re-election on the GOP ticket, to the apparent chagrin of some Republicans, who view the ex-Democratic legislator and his newly minted GOP credentials with suspicion.

With its Citizens United decision, the nation’s high court overturned a century-old position barring direct corporate advocacy of candidates running for political office, and gave corporations and unions the green light to purchase political ads in the 60-day run-up to elections.

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