A University of Denver panel recognizes that money will always find a way to flow into campaigns, and rather than do so in the dark, the panel recommends embracing unlimited contributions while adopting greater transparency.
Removing limits on political contributions to candidates and political parties is one of 14 recommendations made by the University’s Strategic Issues Program, which studied and discussed campaign reform for more than a year before releasing its report, “Money, Elections and Citizens United: Campaign Finance Reform for Colorado.”
“When addressing the issue of campaign finance, reforms need to accommodate an environment where unlimited political contributions and spending are the dominant reality,” says panel chair James Griesemer.
The panel of 19 business, community and academic leaders drawn from across the state worked together to provide recommendations for campaign finance reform in Colorado and at the national level. During its process, the panel heard 13 presentations from state, national and international campaign finance experts, including Colorado Secretary of State Scott Gessler; Andrew Romanoff, former speaker of the Colorado House of Representatives; Paul Ryan, senior legal counsel for the Campaign Legal Center; and Allen Dickerson, legal director for the Center for Competitive Politics. Panel members also reviewed a wide range of written materials and held extensive discussions on the impact of money on elections in Colorado and the nation.
The panel’s report, released on Nov. 12, provides a practical approach to campaign finance policy and focuses on three key areas: money in elections, expanded disclosure and leveling the playing field. Among the specific recommendations:
• Enact legislation that removes limits on political contributions to candidates and political parties. If necessary, propose constitutional initiatives.
• Adopt a limited state income tax credit for individual political contributions made to candidates and parties.
• Require nonprofit organizations to offer donors the ability to choose whether they want contributions to be used for political advocacy.
• Require that nonprofit organizations disclose the names of all individuals who have chosen to allow contributions for political activity.
• Require that corporations making contributions with their own funds disclose the names of the CEO and directors. Closely held organizations must report the names of the principal owners.
• Create an active disclosure list publicizing major direct and indirect contributors to candidates and issue committees.
• Increase the threshold for itemized reporting from $20 to $200.
“We hope that the work of the panel and the ideas presented in this report will stimulate an informed discussion among citizens and their elected representatives, one that can improve the electoral marketplace and strengthen our democracy,” says University of Denver Chancellor Robert Coombe.
A copy of the full report, along with video presentations from experts who provided information to the panel, is available at www.du.edu/issues.