Fed Judge: No press exemption for Citizens United in Colorado

DENVER – Judge Brooke Jackson issued a curt decision today refusing to issue a federal injunction that would have allowed Citizens United to air and advertise a documentary on Colorado politics ahead of the November elections without disclosing funding behind any advertising related to the movie.

Citizens United lawyer Ted Olson argued that Colorado’s disclosure laws unfairly privilege the press by not requiring them to disclose who funds reporting. He said Citizens United should either be given a press exemption as well or that no such exemption should exist.

“I am not convinced,” wrote Jackson, denying the group an election-cycle disclosure exemption while the larger case works its way through the courts.

As it now stands, Citizens United is free to air and advertise their documentary, “Rocky Mountain Heist,” which is expected to be highly critical of incumbent Democrats, specifically Governor John Hickenlooper. But the group will have to tell Colorado voters who funded advertisements for the film within two days of making an ad buy.

Citizens United can still appeal Jackson’s order to the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals, steering the case in the direction of the U.S. Supreme Court and likely stirring up a larger legal conversation over what freedom of the press means and who it should apply to.

Peg Perl, an attorney at nonprofit Ethics Watch Colorado, has been watching the case with interest. She noted that Jackson actually pointed to Citizens United’s first Supreme Court case in defending his decision today.

Jackson said the Supreme Court was forced to balance two interests in the first Citizens United case — “the interest of political speakers and the interest of their audience, the electorate.” In deciding to allow corporate entities to spend without limits on campaigns, the Court also held that voters have the right to know the identity of the spenders.

“This transparency enables the electorate to make informed decisions and give proper weight to different speakers and messages,” reads that Supreme Court decision.

Perl said Jackson’s decision today was a strong statement in favor of what Coloradans said they wanted when they put disclosure requirements into the state constitution in the first place.

Update: Citizens United has officially announced that they will appeal today’s decision. “We plan to pursue an immediate appeal to the Tenth Circuit so that Coloradoans [sic] can view this important film and Citizens United can exercise its First Amendment freedoms unencumbered by the burdens of Colorado’s discriminatory disclosure requirements,” said Citizens United President David N. Bossie in a release.

[ Photo by Barbara K. Iverson ]


  1. The Colorado Law is one that Our Nation should adopt. Democracy needs transparency to remain vibrant. Speech should be free but freedom means accountability also. Not someone hiding behind a wall of secrecy or “dark” money buying speech as we have in our politics.

    My video is now on YouTube. It is a political satire, entitled “Washington Money Talk”. Here is the link;

  2. […] Never enough “freedom” for corporate persons –> Citizens United is now challenging disclosure laws. Tessa Cheek reports for the Colorado Independent that Citizens United’s lawyer, Ted Olson — who argued Bush v. Gore on George Bush’s behalf — argued that the group should be able to air an ad/documentary bashing Democrats without disclosing who paid for it, or it will “unfairly privilege the press by not requiring them to disclose who funds reporting.” […]

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