Colorado News Connection

November 7, 2017Available files: mp3 wav jpg

Ballot Measure Targets Campaign Finance Rules for 2018 Elections

Eric Galatas

DENVER - As Coloradans cast their ballots today, a grassroots effort to limit the influence of big money in politics is setting its sights on Denver's 2018 election.

The Denver Election Division has cleared the way for an initiative called "Democracy for the People" to be included in next year's November ballot.

Owen Perkins, board president of the group CleanSlateNow Action, says if passed, candidates would not have to look exclusively to the wealthy and corporations for campaign funding.

"It provides matching funds for small-dollar donors who give to candidates who don't take special-interest money," he says. "So that candidates for elected office start to see the value of talking to their constituents and talking to regular voters, as opposed to hanging out with millionaires."

Perkins says the initiative would put a spotlight on anonymous "dark money" by requiring full disclosure on Super PAC contributions. He says from 2012 to 2017, almost $20 million was spent on municipal elections in Denver, but fewer than one-in-five of those dollars came from people who actually live in the city. The new rules also would lower maximum donations to be in line with state standards.

The measure would tap less than two-tenths of one percent of Denver's general fund to match campaign contributions and would apply to mayoral, city council and other candidates at the municipal level. Perkins says cities with public funding have seen more diverse candidates and elected officials who look like members of their communities, and up to 23 times greater participation by low-income residents.

"Every community that's enacted publicly financed campaigns has seen participation grow tremendously," he notes. "It makes it possible for people to run who don't have big bankrolls behind them."

If the initiative is approved by voters, Denver would join Seattle, New York and Los Angeles - as well as states including Arizona, Connecticut, Rhode Island and Maine - that have passed similar campaign finance reforms.