Denver Dailies Duel over Dennis’ Decision

This morning Rocky Mountain News editorial page editor Vince Carroll is indeed on point in his defense of embattled Secretary of State Gigi Dennis. After careful hearings and public deliberation, Dennis issued a series of rules on August 2 to clarify Colorado’s election laws, including a provision that membership organizations must ask their members’ individual written permission before using part of their dues in political campaigns.

Seems fair enough, right? While the principle behind the rule stands clear and strong, some have called the timing of its delivery into question. Some union bosses are used to automatically taking members’ money for political purposes and claim that having to ask permission of all their members would be an undue burden that would cause them “immediate and irreparable harm” in their ability to influence the election process.

The Colorado Education Association (CEA) and American Federation of Teachers (AFT)-Colorado, the state’s teachers unions, spearheaded a legal complaint against the Secretary of State. Their goal is to force a temporary injunction of the written permission rule and another rule that would require them to attest under penalty of perjury that all contributions received for politics came from U.S. citizens. On Friday, Denver Judge John McMullen agreed to issue an injunction on the former rule but not the latter.

The filing of an emergency appeal by the state attorney general’s office initiated a stay that kept the written permission rule in effect until midnight last night. Eleventh-hour legal wrangling extended the stay indefinitely, and now attorneys are scheduled to appear before the court of appeals next Tuesday.

In the meantime, unions and all other membership organizations are obligated to obtain members’ written permission before transferring their dues money into political committees. A hassle for union bosses yes, but a breath of fresh air for the rank and file who may not agree with the way their money is spent or may have no interest at all in supporting any political candidates. For now, the Secretary of State’s victory for individual rights still stands.

Said Carroll:

Colorado voters have said they want a level playing field in campaign fundraising and a transparent process. They’ve limited donations and said donor identities must be revealed. These principles aren’t necessarily wise but they’re embedded in the state Constitution.

Prior to Dennis’ rules, however, the operation of small-donor committees mocked these goals. Through such committees, unions shoveled worker dues into politics without the permission of those making the “contributions.” And thousands of these mythical “small donors” translated into big money.

So why the title? Mainly, because I couldn’t resist the alliteration. And yesterday, the Denver Post for the third (or fourth – I’m losing track now) time assailed Dennis’ motives without addressing the substance of the rule, a less balanced approach than Carroll presented. For the Post, one might guess the concern is more for the plight of the Democratic Party than for the political voices of individual Coloradans.

The Post and News clearly have different points of view on the issue. But what about your point of view? If you appreciate your individual rights being upheld, please make your voice heard by leaving a comment at


  1. says

    The issue here is much larger than any one rule. Gigi Dennis has also inexplicably required voting machines to be connected to a network on election day. And drafted a new rule allowing votes for one candidate to be transferred to another.

    In one case, her language was taken verbatim from recommendations made by GOP attorneys.

    She has dragged her heels on enforcing HB1149. It was her ruling that ended the GOP primary. And the SOS candidates from both parties have criticized her for overstepping her bounds.

    Under these circumstances, it is not unfair to say that Dennis is abusing her office to influence the outcome of the 2006 election.

  2. says

    Thanks for your comments: you have an interesting blog. While you may tend to see every public act through a partisan political lens (which is perfectly fine to do), your observation on this particular rule misses the point.

    The judge who ruled in the Sanger v Dennis case found cause to enjoin her rule but found nothing improper with the procedure et al.

    Is the rule outside her scope of authority? Maybe, though legal arguments have been made on both sides. Was the timing of the release unfair? Though procedurally and technically correct, one may concede that point.

    What then is the remedy? Delay the implementation of the rule until 2007.

    The bigger question to consider is this: Why does forbidding coercion in political fundraising harm the Democratic Party so much more than the Republican Party? What are the larger implications of this fact that
    should be considered?

    Feel free to keep up the glossy-eyed idealism for this year’s election, but be careful not to set your expectations too high.

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