The Colorado Supreme Court rendered a decision this week that no doubt pleases many residents in the Four Corners area of Colorado, us included.
The court held that the finalized reapportionment plan for the state is not sufficiently attentive to county boundaries, and that the Colorado Reapportionment Commission did not adequately show that a less drastic alternative could not have satisfied the hierarchy of constitutional criteria set forth in Colorado law. The court returned the plan to the commission for further consideration, modification and resubmission, with a deadline of 5 p.m. Dec. 6.
Challenges were made to a limited number of the proposed changes to House and Senate districts. Among these was a challenge made by Southwest Colorado Citizens for a Constitutional Map and Club 20. The challenges to the Adopted Plan with which the court agreed were those that involve a common theme: that the plan does not pay sufficient respect to county boundaries, and because it failed to minimize city splits in Colorado Springs.
Our 59th House District was affected by the proposed change, in that Cortez was to be moved to a district with Montrose and Telluride, and part of San Miguel County would move to the 59th. A county was split, contrary to the outcomes established in the hierarchy of law and the notion of a community of interest was seriously skewed by the notion that Pagosa, Ignacio, Durango and Bayfield share common interests with Telluride, separated from them by discernible geographic, economic and cultural boundaries.
We await a new plan, with the hope that the Four Corners mistake will be rectified along with others.
Now, if only moves could be made in another area related to elections. That area: campaign finance reform. Changes must be made by legislators, so hope for any progress is limited.
There is room to complain about court decisions that open the door to vast, legal corporate spending in the election process. One can debate whether or not corporations are “individuals,” but it is difficult, once that determination is fixed, to argue that different rules should apply to different individuals.
The focus, therefore, must be on transparency. Currently, donations to political campaigns are limited and must be transparent if they go to campaigns or to the Super Pacs that support campaigns. Donations to so-called “issue groups,” however, are not limited and are not transparent.
The law requires contributors to candidates and Super Pacs to be identified. Issue groups are not required to reveal their contributors, thus, we have Super Pacs that support candidates or political campaigns — pacs directly connected to the candidates — funneling money from issue groups with the requirement that they reveal only the issue group that made the donation, not the individual contributors who provided the funds.
It is a slick way around the transparency that would allow investigation of the connection between large campaign donations and subsequent legislative largess, denying, as it does, access to the information needed to connect the dots — to link the money with favors that follow.
Our legislators need to close this loophole. Contributors to issue groups must be identified.
Further, some way must be devised to inhibit the flow of outside money to state and local elections. During the last major election cycle we spotted a trend, even here in southwest Colorado: money was spent by pacs and issue groups in support of candidates for state office — on advertising neither requested nor approved by some candidates. Colorado legislators should come up with a way to deal with the influx of this kind of money, from any and all sources, and return control of local and regional election finance to the voters and candidates who participate in the process.