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Publish Date: 8/31/2006

Candidates not in favor of campaign-finance rules


DENVER — The two major-party candidates for secretary of state — Republican Mike Coffman and Democrat Ken Gordon — both suggested Wednesday that enforcement of controversial new campaign-finance rules should be postponed.

But later Wednesday, Secretary of State Gigi Dennis, who issued the regulations earlier this month, said: “I am not aware of any reason they should be delayed.”

Nor does she intend to resign, despite Colorado Democratic Party chairwoman Pat Waak’s demand that Dennis step down.

“This wasn’t done with the intent to hurt one party over another,” Dennis, a Republican, said in an interview.

According to one of the new rules, members of certain organizations, such as labor unions or trade associations, must individually give their consent before any of their dues can be donated to political campaigns.

Democrats have particularly attacked that regulation. It would restrict unions’ abilities, for example, to make campaign contributions through small-donor committees.

On Wednesday morning, Gordon convened a news conference to call on Dennis to delay the effective date of her rules until after the election.

“We would not expect a business to get permission from all of their shareholders before the business participates in political activity,” Gordon said in a statement. “Why should we expect small-donor committees to operate under a different set of rules?”

Coffman said in an interview that he agrees with what he called the “paycheck protection” rule, but such a change should be debated and adopted by the Legislature, rather than promulgated by the secretary of state.

“I just don’t think it was her place to do it,” Coffman said.

But Dennis noted that Amendment 27, a campaign-finance reform measure Colorado voters approved in 2002, gives her the authority to make such rules.

“Testimony during the public rulemaking hearing said the proposed rules would not be burdensome,” Dennis said.

Gordon, though, questioned Dennis’ motivations in issuing the rule.

“In this case, Secretary of State Dennis took input from only Republican Party leaders and made partisan changes to the rules,” Gordon said.

State Democratic chairwoman Waak on Monday called Dennis’ new rules a “blatant manipulation of Colorado election rules to benefit their candidates, in direct defiance of legislative will.”

Dennis called Waak’s demand for her resignation “absurd,” and said “You can’t agree with your elected officials 100 percent of the time.”

Dennis said most of the membership organizations’ new report-filing responsibilities stemming from the new rules might not even take effect until after the election, when those labor unions, small-donor committees and other affected organizations have to file their required annual reports to her office.

John Fryar can be reached by e-mail at jfryar@times-call.com.

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