Colorado Campaign Finance, Initiative 27 (2002)

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The Colorado Campaign Finance Initiative, also known as Initiative 27, was on the November 5, 2002 ballot in Colorado as an initiated constitutional amendment, where it was approved. The measure limited the amounts and types of political contributions that could be made and received. It affected candidate, political party and political committee contribution regulations.[1]

While the measure has not been specifically overturned, its provisions limiting corporation and labor union contributions would likely be found unconstitutional after the U.S. Supreme Court ruling in the case of Citizens United v. FEC.

Election results

Colorado Amendment 27 (2003)
Approveda Yes 890,390 66.50%

Election results via: Colorado Secretary of State (P.144-155)

Text of measure

The language appeared on the ballot as:[1]

Shall there be an amendment to the Colorado constitution concerning campaign finance, and, in connection therewith, reducing the amount of campaign contributions that persons may make to candidate committees, political committees, and political parties; establishing contribution limits for small donor committees; prohibiting candidate committees and political parties from making or accepting certain contributions; restricting the amount of contributions political parties and political committees may accept from certain sources; limiting contributions and expenditures that may be made by corporations or labor organizations; creating voluntary campaign spending limits; providing for a periodic adjustment of contribution and voluntary spending limits; specifying the treatment of unexpended contributions; requiring the disclosure of information about persons making electioneering communications above a specified amount; defining electioneering communications as certain near-election communications that unambiguously refer to a candidate and are targeted to voters; and incorporating into the constitution existing statutory provisions, with amendments, regarding definitions, deposits of contributions, limits on cash contributions, notice and disclosure of independent expenditures, reporting of contributions and expenditures, civil penalties, and duties of the secretary of state?[2]


Following a January 21, 2010 5-4 U.S. Supreme Court ruling in the case of Citizens United v. FEC, Colorado Republicans announced that they planned to challenge the state's state's campaign finance law.[3][4] According to the SCOTUS ruling, the limits on corporate and labor union contributions were unconstitutional.[5][6]

On November 9, 2010, the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled in "Sampson v. Buescher" that Amendment 27 imposed an unconstitutional burden on the rights of free speech and association as it applied to small Issue Committees (groups formed with "a major purpose of supporting or opposing any ballot issue or ballot question," as contrasted to groups supporting or opposing candidates in contested elections). However, the court did not overturn the amendment.[7]



Major supporters of the amendment included:


Supporters argued:[8]

  • The amendment will curb election costs and negative campaign ads by setting spending limits between $65,000 for state house candidates and $2.5 million for the governor candidates. This allows public offices to be more accessible to average citizens.
  • The amendment limits large contribution from wealthy special interests by setting contribution limits of $200 per election for legislative candidates and $500 per election for statewide candidates.
  • The amendment will end corporations buying access and influence by prohibiting direct contributions from corporations and labor unions.
  • The amendment will create more open elections by requiring full disclosure of funding sources for groups running political ads.
  • The amendment will encourage better citizen participation and more equal voice by limiting contributions to small donor committees to $50 per person.



Major opponents of the amendment included:


Opponents argued:[9]

  • Campaign finance regulation in other states shows that it gives incumbents an advantage in elections.
  • The amendment will "lessen competition, entrench incumbents, and needlessly limit political rights."

Path to the ballot

In November of 1996, voters in Colorado passed Colorado Campaign Finance Act. The act created contribution limits to candidates, voluntary spending limits, bans on direct contributions from corporations and labor unions, and stronger disclosure requirements. The act was challenged in federal courts, but largely upheld. Despite the ruling, the Colorado legislature essentially dismantled the law in 2000. This led supporter of campaign finance regulation to push for a constitutional amendment, which would become the 2002 ballot question, Amendment 27.[8]

See also

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