The Supreme Court’s decision in the Citizens United v. FEC case has rendered 24 state election laws unconstitutional. The 5-4 ruling in favor of Citizens United reversed a provision of the McCain-Feingold act that prohibited any electioneering communication—defined as advertising via broadcast, cable or satellite that is paid for by corporations or labor unions. Many states have acted fast to counter corporations’ ability to spend endless amounts of money to influence elections by passing laws that force disclosure of all independent expenditures in near real time. The Sunlight Foundation Reporting Group has decided to report what each of these states is doing to respond to the highly-contested ruling. Today we’re featuring Colorado, the third state in our series:
Bill: SB 203
Colorado is one state among many that has had to repeal certain state election laws due to the Citizens United case. Colorado, like South Dakota, had laws prohibiting independent expenditures for both labor unions and corporations. The state has now passed laws requiring disclosure of any independent expenditure and is making those disclosures available to the public.
The new law forces organizations to disclose independent expenditures within 48 hours of the money being spent. The ad must contain a statement that gives the full name of the person paying for it. The law also requires organizations to create a separate account where money to be used for independent expenditures is kept. The name on the account should identify the purpose of the money in it.
The person spending the money also has to identify in writing which candidate the ad is intended to support or oppose, but it is unclear whether or not this will be in the disclosures available to the public.
The act is an attempt to offset the ruling that is intended preserve free speech rights, yet is considered by some to sway the power of influence to businesses with lots of money. Language within the bill itself says, “the public [. . .] is best served by full and timely disclosure of campaign contributions and independent expenditures.” The bill also says disclosure is, “necessary for the immediate preservation of the public peace, health and safety.”