Colorado Rates Low on Independent Campaign Spending, but 527s Excluded

At first glance, independent spending in Colorado’s 2006 state elections appears to have been minimal, according to a study released today by the National Institute on Money in State Politics.

But the study excludes spending by so-called 527 groups – nonprofit political organizations organized under the Internal Revenue Services Code 527.

More after the jump…According to the Independent Expenditures 2006″ study (PDF):

“In Colorado, independent expenditures totaling $383,535 were spent on candidates. These expenditures amounted to very little compared to the $19.3 million raised by candidate committees during that cycle.”

The report cites spending by the National Rifle Association Political Fund and the Colorado Leadership Fund on behalf of GOP gubernatorial candidate Bob Beauprez and other Republican candidates. Chris Cox, who’s affiliated with the NRA, and former U.S. Sen. Bill Armstrong spent more than $32,000 of their own money supporting GOP candidates. And the Service Employees International Union kicked in more than $29,000 to support Gov. Bill Ritter and other Democratic candidates.

But the total of $383,535 in independent expenditures from these groups was likely a drop in the bucket compared with similar spending by 527s.

As we reported last month, one GOP 527, Progress Colorado (funded by another 527, the Trailhead Group), spent more than $793,000 on state races in just the last month before the November election. That’s just one of at least a half dozen 527s that actively poured money into supporting or opposing various candidates for governor and the legislature in 2006.

Linda King, operations director for the institute, said those filings apparently weren’t included in the database researchers ordered from the Colorado Secretary of State at a cost of $560. “If they had filed with the state, the state didn’t send them to us,” King said.

Part of the issue might be confusion surrounding independent expenditures and electioneering reports. The latter cover spending made in the 60 days before a general election. But there’s no way to tell if the spending is independent or coordinated with a campaign, King said.

Colorado and California ranked among the top two states for such disclosure, according to King’s separate report, “Indedent Disclosure: Public Access to Independent Expenditure Information at the State Level” (PDF).

“It’s one of the states with the best laws and the best disclosure, and there are still holes… There’s still a long way to go.”

These reports are just more information for Colorado’s Campaign Finance Disclosure Task Force to consider as it tries to come up with a more accessible and more efficient system for both the public and candidates. The group’s next meeting is at 5 p.m. Aug. 9.