DEVNER — Citizens United must comply with Colorado’s campaign finance disclosure laws if it makes the documentary it plans to make about progressive political groups here slated for promotion and release in the months leading up to Election Day in November, the secretary of state’s office ruled Thursday.
Deputy Secretary Suzanne Staiert, standing in for Secretary Scott Gessler who is running for Governor, announced the decision in the wake of a hearing on the topic earlier this week.
Citizens United filed a petition this spring asking to be exempt from the state’s campaign finance disclosure rules.
Colorado Ethics Watch and Common Cause both filed opposition to the request. They said the famous conservative-politics messaging organization’s project, which is expected to reference incumbent Governor John Hickenlooper and other politicians running for office, does not qualify under the journalism exemption it cited.
Staiert agreed, declaring that “Citizens United’s upcoming film on advocacy groups in Colorado falls squarely within the definition of electioneering communication.”
In Colorado, electioneering communications produced for an audience that includes voters and that name candidates two months before an election.
Staiert exceptions to the finance rules include print media, broadcast facilities and organizations engaged in their “regular course of business,” like a copy shop that prints campaign fliers as a service. She concluded her office lacks any broader authority to issue Citizen’s a “press exemption.”
“We applaud the Secretary of State for doing the right thing,” said Ethics Watch Director Luis Toro in a release yesterday.
“Citizens United is a political operation like many others that routinely comply with Colorado’s disclosure laws. As the Supreme Court said in the case that bears Citizens United’s name, the public has a right to know who is spending money to influence their vote as an election nears. If corporations are going to be allowed to spend unlimited money to influence elections, it is necessary that voters know which corporations are funding these thinly-disguised attack ads.”
[Image from Joao]