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Money in politics: Denver campaign finance rules targeted for update

Author: Adam McCoy - August 14, 2017 - Updated: August 14, 2017

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Denver Clerk and Recorder Deb Johnson, left, and Denver elections director Amber McReynolds. (Alton Dillard/Denver Elections via Lynn Bartels on SOS.state.co.us)

If money could talk, its voice would arguably be deafening in politics. In the interest of added transparency for money in municipal elections, Denver election officials have proposed some changes to the city’s campaign finance rules.

The proposed revisions to campaign contribution regulations in local politics would refine and add some key terms in its law; establish a structure for reporting campaign ads (TV, radio, etc.) from candidates or outside groups and, for the first time in Denver, institute fines for candidates who fail to file campaign finance reports on time, city Director of Elections Amber McReynolds said. The changes are expected to be rolled out for the 2019 election cycle.

McReynolds said a discussion about modernizing city campaign finance rules started after the 2015 municipal election cycle. Nonpartisan watchdog group Colorado Ethics Watch, the Mayor’s Office, City Council members and the city auditor, among others, collaborated on the changes.  

There has been occasional confusion among candidates regarding campaign finance regulations, McReynolds said. The goal is to make the law as clear as possible.

“We want to make sure the process is fair for the candidates, but also transparent to the public and media,” McReynolds said of the proposed updates.

Under the proposed changes, candidates would be fined $50 for every day they are late in filing campaign finance reports. Per current rules, there is no real accountability for candidates filing late, McReynolds said. Unless an opponent files a complaint over a candidate submitting late, there isn’t a mechanism for election officials to use to compel candidates to file on time.  

The update would also alter filing deadlines and require candidates report contributions more often during non-election years. The platform that candidates use to file reports would be revamped to be more “user-friendly and transparent,” McReynolds said.

“Voters need to have access to that information so they can make an informed decision come election day,” she said.

The proposal will go before the City Council’s Finance and Governance Committee before full City Council consideration.

Adam McCoy

Adam McCoy

Adam McCoy covers Denver-area politics for Colorado Politics.


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