Colorado's new anti-corruption law

More Clean Government stories: here

Unions enraged by voters, will sue to protect corruption

Confusion surrounds the constitutionality of the Clean Government Amendment (otherwise known as Amendment 54), which was approved by Colorado voters on Nov. 4. There were 10 amendments on the ballot and only two passed. One of them, Amendment 54, says that contract-holders of significant no-bid business with the government cannot contribute to political campaigns. (The other was Amendment 50, on gaming revenues and community college funding.)

No-bid contracts are awarded without the government putting the contract out to bid, i.e., the work is awarded to a contractor that the county commissioner, for instance, has done business with in the past. This has potential for kickbacks, as in, "If you give me this government contract, I will contribute to your campaign." The people understood the abuse and, even with our opponents spending an estimated $30 million to defeat us, the people approved the Clean Government Amendment while rejecting most of the other amendments.

We applaud The Post's position in its Nov. 7 editorial that "reining in such 'pay to play' practices is a legitimate objective." However, the principal point in the editorial was incorrect: The Clean Government Amendment does not restrict political contributions of union members. It only restricts the principal contract-holder — the union itself, to use the context of The Post's example, or the owner of Joe's Paving, to use another example. The Clean Government Amendment is tailored to the abuse and only restricts the contributions of the principal players who contribute to political campaigns to ensure future business for themselves.

Related video: "Clean Government Amendment"

The Clean Government Amendment defines the contract-holder, the person affected by the amendment, as "persons that control 10 percent or more shares or interest in that party; or that party's officers, directors or trustees; or, in the case of collective bargaining agreements, the labor organization and any political committees created or controlled by the labor organization."

There is nothing vague in this definition (as The Post asserted) and we were careful to tailor the amendment to control only the people or entities that abused and benefited from the old system. As the amendment concerns unions, it only affects the union's coffers and leaves the union members, even its leaders, free to contribute as they did before.

Amendment 54 does not restrict the political contributions of all family members of anyone remotely associated with a no-bid contract. (The Post used the brother-in-law of a union janitor as an example.) That would probably be unconstitutional — if it were true. The amendment restricts immediate family members only when the contract-holder is using them as a pass through for the contract-holder himself. We would have been naïve to have allowed a loophole to allow Mr. Big to contribute to the county commissioner through his wife (with a wink). However, any family member of Mr. Big still has the right to donate to any political campaign.

The firefighters, nurses, teachers, and police of Colorado who serve us every day will not be silenced or denied their right to actively participate in the political process. They may lobby, contribute to, and work for any campaign of their choice. The voters did not fall for this propaganda spread by our opposition before, nor will we let their attorneys win by spinning these misconceptions in the courtroom.

The people want to stop the politicians, contractors and unions from taking advantage of their relationships and money to work the system. Those in power do not like such restrictions. But the people have spoken, and we are confident that the judges will uphold their will. Such carefully tailored amendments that express the will of the people are seldom overturned.

- Robert M. Liechty (rliechty@ crossliechty.com) is an attorney who helped draft the Clean Government Amendment.


No comments:

Related Posts with Thumbnails