Amendment 54 would bar political donations from union officials’ kin

A so-called “clean government” initiative that would snuff out political contributions given by certain labor unions has a little-known clause targeting the immediate family members of union officials and supporters.

If passed by Colorado voters and made into law, Amendment 54 would prohibit both unions and sole-source contractors with the state from giving to political campaigns, and the law even applies to various family members of union officers.

The text of the initiative actually includes “domestic partners” under the definition of family members:

“Immediate family member” means any spouse, child, spouse’s child, son-in-law, daughter-in-law, parent, sibling, grandparent, grandchild, stepbrother, stepsister, stepparent, parent-in-law, brother-in-law, sister-in-law, aunt, niece, nephew, guardian, and 1 domestic partner;

Joel Heinemann, president of the Littleton Firefighter Association located in the Denver area, has been working to oppose Amendment 54, and says he’s worried about how the measure may be interpreted into law.

“It includes language that includes relatives, so it wouldn’t just affect me, it would affect anyone related to me, and politicians would have no idea who to take money from,” Heinemann told The Colorado Independent while being interviewed last week. “They’re going to need fingerprints and a retinal scan before they can take a dime from anybody. It’s just a mess.”

On top of that, Heinemann worried about whether his two children would be eligible for state scholarships after Amendment 41, an “ethics in government” initiative, was passed by voters in 2006, prohibiting the giving of certain gifts to public employees.

Just this week — nearly two years after Amendment 41 was approved by voters — a state panel found that indeed, scholarships of any amount would be permitted under the the law’s provisions.

Erin Rosa was born in Spain and raised in Colorado Springs. She is a freelance writer currently living in Denver. Rosa's work has been featured in a variety of news outlets including the Huffington Post, Democracy Now!, and the Rocky Mountain Chronicle, an alternative-weekly in Northern Colorado where she worked as a columnist covering the state legislature. Rosa has received awards from the Society of Professional Journalists for her reporting on lobbying and woman's health issues. She was also tapped with a rare honorable mention award by the Newspaper Guild-CWA's David S. Barr Award in 2008--only the second such honor conferred in its nine-year history--for her investigative series covering the federal government's Supermax prison in the state. Rosa covers the labor community, corrections, immigration and government transparency matters. She can be reached at erosa@www.coloradoindependent.com.

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