Two recent events that shifted the ground under Colorado’s sprawling candidate field for governor have lent scrutiny to the rules governing how money is raised and spent in Colorado’s gubernatorial elections.
First was the recent unexpected mic-drop exit of Democratic Congressman Ed Perlmutter — a move that stunned political observers. The formidable campaigner, and a perhaps a front-runner in the race at the time, abandoned his bid in part because of Colorado’s low campaign contribution limits that make it hard to battle against a self-funding candidate.
Second was Republican State Treasurer Walker Stapleton revealing a strategy that cribs from the playbook of his second cousin Jeb Bush’s presidential campaign and highlights an increasing nationalization of state politics. Stapleton, who has not filed paperwork to run for governor, might be holding off doing so in order to raise money for a Super PAC-type group that is not bound by Colorado’s low limits, according to a story in The Denver Post. He can only do that as long as he does not remain an official candidate for governor.
In Colorado, candidates for governor can raise a total of $1,150 per person for their primary and a general election— a limit that is significantly lower than the national median for state campaign contribution limits. The national medium for such limits is $3,800.
Pete Quist, research director at the Montana-based National Institute on Money in State Politics, says, “For a state with relatively low limits like Colorado, opponents of low contribution limits would argue that it makes it difficult for candidates to raise enough money to get their message out against a largely self-funded opponent.” He added, “Supporters would argue that lower limits help keep elected officials from feeling beholden to large contributors and make the election process more representative of small donors.”
Still, while the limits on how much people can give vary by state, one aspect does not: In any state a candidate for governor can self fund a campaign without any limits at all. That’s because of U.S. Supreme Court decisions that ruled restricting spending would be restricting free speech.
Regardless of Colorado’s low limits— or how how some candidates choose to find ways around them— the 2018 race for governor is likely to become the most expensive in state history.
Bill Kottenstette is the new director of school choice for the state department of Education. Kottenstette came to the ed department from Compass Montessori, a charter school in Jefferson county, where he had been its executive director. He also has worked in charter schools in Denver. He recently sat down with Chalkbeat Colorado to talk about his new job and the future for charter schools.
Kottenstette said the state must hold all schools, including charter schools, accountable and continue to push for better quality.
He also addressed the controversy over the term school choice, saying that, “We’ve avoided a lot of controversy at the national level. My optimism is that we in Colorado can stay in that space. The way we do that is really honoring our commitment to following best practices and say we’re about kids, we’re about making sure all kids have a great opportunity in their schools. And when we’re going to hold people and institutions accountable for quality and effective outcomes, that level of divisiveness goes away because people can see progress.”
A recent report from the Bureau of Justice Statistics shows that 54 percent of the nearly quarter of a million people who said they were victimized in recent years chose not to file a formal complaint with the authorities.
A Colorado-based anti-hate-crime organization called the Matthew Shepard Foundation is trying find out why, asking Denver residents this very question.
In the past six months, the effort has produced only 15 responses, not all of which appear to be crimes. But a nationwide dearth of data means even those few responses have value.
The foundation shared its data as part of ProPublica’s Documenting Hate project and agreed to make some of the responses public. The anonymous responses offer glimpses into the mix of forces at work when victims are deciding what to do: confusion about the definition of hate crimes; skepticism of the commitment by law enforcement to aggressively investigate; fear of retaliation.
A Hispanic woman walking through her neighborhood wrote that she felt sexually harassed by passengers in a passing car. “Working or walking?” she said they asked her. She didn’t call the cops. “It is just expected that women have to deal with this and it is a fact of our lives,” she wrote. “On a more logistical level,” she added, “I did not get the license plate number.”
A gay woman with short hair reported that another woman tried to bar her from entering the women’s room at a McDonald’s, believing she was transgender. It was “pointless to report,” she said.
A number of the respondents did call the police, to mixed effect. A gay, black man at a rally against President Donald Trump’s travel ban said a passenger in a passing vehicle threw an egg at his face. When he contacted the Denver Police Department, he says, the dispatcher seemed unsympathetic. He reported, “No police officer came to my assistance, although I felt I was in distress.”
Another gay man said he was followed around a store by an angry man who yelled homophobic slurs at him. “I refuse to allow anyone to attack me like this, so I reported it,” he wrote. He went on to say, without further explanation, that when it was all over, he wound up being ticketed by the police for “disturbing the peace.”
In all, most of the people surveyed did not report incidents to the police.
“My take on the results mostly is that people are not reporting because they just don’t think the police are going to take it seriously enough, or they don’t think the incident went to that level,” said Stephen Griffin, who the foundation contracted with to implement the survey.
Christine Downs, a spokesperson for the Denver Police Department, said by email that even if a person doesn’t believe what happened to them was a crime, they should report the incident to the police.
Three national groups with footholds in Colorado are gathering Saturday at The Alliance Center in Denver for a public event they’re calling “Unrig the System: How we can fix Colorado politics.” Among the groups behind the event are Represent.Us, the Independent Voter Project, The Centrist Project and other organizations.
On Saturday at 1 p.m. at The Alliance Center at 1535 Wynkoop St, Denver, for an event open to the public, the three groups will converge to “focus on common sense reforms that will bridge the partisan divide, enact stronger anti-corruption laws, open up the voting process, end partisan gerrymandering, and improve the way we vote,” according to a news release.
Represent.Us is a national group focused on nonpartisan efforts to combat corruption at the local level in cities around the country through ballot measures. In Colorado, the group is currently working on a ballot measure in Denver for this November. The Democracy for the People Initiative “will require transparency and disclosure for campaign contributions and restrict corporate spending in local elections. In addition, it will create a publicly-funded small donor matching program for elections at the city level,” said the local group’s chapter in a statement.
The Independent Voter Project seeks to “reverse the trend toward dysfunction bred by an increasingly polarized political environment.” The Centrist Project, which recently moved its home base to Denver, is trying get unaffiliated candidates elected the state legislature next year to dilute the influence of political parties.
About 10 speakers will give talks on how to reform Colorado’s political system. The Unrig the System event will also include a workshop on citizen lobbying and a Q&A session with experts from the organizations that attend.
Find out more about these stories at ColoradoIndependent.com.