To no one’s surprise, Colorado’s liberal 527 network has argued that Colorado’s corporate contribution limits have been wiped out by Citizens United. Wait, what? That can’t be right, I must have meant Republicans are arguing this point. No, I had it right the first time.
Hold on to your seats folks, there is an amazing soft money political story unfolding that the mainstream media has not yet reported.
Accountability for Colorado, the Colorado Dem's 527 mothership that poured millions into Dem elections last cycle, submitted a brief arguing that Citizens United has invalidated Colorado’s corporate contribution restrictions. If their legal argument prevails, this completely changes the political landscape in Colorado. Accountability for Colorado’s argument that corporations can give unlimited funds to all political organizations in Colorado is clear, concise, and probably 100% correct. We just did not expect the Dem's soft money machine to make this argument, and so convincingly.
Here is the relevant portion of the Dem 527's brief:
Because Citizens United holds that independent expenditures do not corrupt or give the appearance of corruption as a matter of law, then the government can have no anti-corruption interest in limiting contributions to independent expenditure-only organizations. Id. at 696. “Independent Expenditure Committees” under SB 10-203 are such organizations–and the imposition of contribution limits upon them by application of Colo. Const. art. XXVIII would thus violate the First Amendment to the Constitution of the United States.
So why in the world would the biggest Dem 527 argue that Colorado’s corporate contribution limits are out the window? The answer is Accountability for Colorado (AFC) made a colossal campaign finance mistake last election cycle that has it literally fighting for its life and has every one of their donors sweating bullets right now. Essentially, Accountability for Colorado accepted millions of dollars in contributions that exceeded state constitutional contribution limits. So, they are forced with the choice: 1) pay the largest election law fine in Colorado history; or 2) sell your liberal soul and argue that Colorado no longer has corporate contribution limits for political organizations. The Dem 527 did not flinch, opted for door #2, and now must face the scorn of every anti-corporate liberal in the State of Colorado.
AFC better hope that their argument prevails in court, because under Article XXVIII, Section 10(1) of the state constitution, the penalty for each contribution limit violation “shall be” 2-5 times the amount the contribution exceeded the contribution limit.
The Secretary of State's reports show that AFC accepted individual contributions at hundreds of thousands of dollars a pop. In fact, they accepted one contribution after it became subject to the limits for $200,000! So, the fine for just that one violation “shall be” $400,000 to $1 million. And there are 84 violations!
As for collateral damage, there are numerous Dem donors who are sweating like a whore in church over the fact that they (unknowingly) made significant illegal contributions. There are a lot of in-house government affairs guys and gals out there right now just trying to muster up enough courage to walk into their bosses office and disclose the fact that their corporation gave contributions to the Colorado Dem's 527 that were tens of thousands or hundreds of thousands of dollars in excess of the state’s contribution limits.
We are content to sit back and watch the unbelievable crap-storm that is about to unfold on the other side of the aisle.