Former Colorado Secretary of State Bernie Buescher told a roomful of Garfield County Democrats Monday during their annual Martin Luther King Jr. Day Dinner that campaign finance disclosure in America is “completely, irretrievably broken,” according to the Aspen Times.
Keynoting the event in Glenwood Springs, Buescher, a Democrat ousted by Republican campaign finance attorney Scott Gessler in November, cited his previous stint in the Colorado state House as a representative from Mesa County as a prime example of what’s wrong with the system.
A well-respected moderate known for reaching bipartisan solutions (and mentioned as a likely speaker of the House), Buescher says he was outspent by a ratio of $1.6 million to $260,000 in his unsuccessful 2008 race. He was ultimately beaten by Republican Laura Bradford. Most of the money pumped into the campaign came from anonymous 527 political groups, Buescher said.
“And to this day, I don’t know who those folks were,” he said. “The rules for disclosure are completely ineffective. We need a new system of disclosure.”
State Sen. Morgan Carroll, a longtime champion of cleaner elections, recently told The Colorado Independent she is working with state Rep. Lois Court in the House to push for better disclosure laws in the state.
The Secretary of State’s Office, largely hobbled in how it can investigate violations and enforce existing rules, could become the mechanism for change, Buescher told Democrats Monday. He said that if a political committee buys advertising in a Colorado campaign, it should be required to register the name of someone on the committee. Then voters would have a little better idea of who’s behind an anonymous campaign.
Buescher also supports requiring corporations to reveal to shareholders how much is being spent on campaign contributions.
Carroll also wants similar requirements for 501(c)4 nonprofit “social welfare” groups that are allowed to conduct up to 50 percent of their business on political activities. But such groups, especially on the right, are expected to put of a fierce fight on that front.
Buescher Monday said an announcement on his future plans will be forthcoming soon, but he added he will not be working in the administration of new Gov. John Hickenlooper.