Colorado Supreme Court: Unions Get a Pass from Electioneering Laws

Are Coloradans awakened yet to the union takeover of Colorado? On this site, I’ve covered Big Labor’s controlling influence on the legislature (last year’s House Bill 1072) and on Gov. Bill Ritter (union “partnership” executive order, anyone?). One that hasn’t received as much play is the unions’ controlling influence on the Colorado Supreme Court.

What, you say?

There’s hardly any other way to explain the Court’s 5-2 ruling yesterday that the teachers union is exempt from certain campaign finance restrictions in the state constitution.

This is a major issue of political and legal importance to the state, but I was unable to find any coverage in either of today’s major Denver dailies. The only coverage I know of is in the Fort Collins Coloradoan. The Coloradoan has had a local interest in the case since it originated from evidence uncovered that the Colorado Education Association (CEA) and its local affiliate Poudre Education Association (PEA) had coordinated extensively with the 2004 campaign of then-candidate Bob Bacon (D – Fort Collins). Bacon, thanks to the CEA’s help, today represents Fort Collins in the state senate.

Reports the Coloradoan:

Colorado law, like that in many other states, prohibits labor unions from making political contributions. Following Bacon’s victory in 2004, Fort Collins residents Wayne Rutt and Paul Marrick filed suit alleging the PEA and its parent organization, the CEA, violated those prohibitions.

“It is unfortunate that the Supreme Court chose to overturn a well-reasoned, and unanimous, decision by highly experienced appellate judges,” Rutt and Marrick said Monday in a written statement. “At the end of the day, the court’s critics have been proved correct. This was a political decision, by a political court, to help their political allies – the unions. Despite this ruling, we will continue our fight to keep illegal and improper union influence out of our elections and our public schools.”

The Coloradoan also included some thoughts I shared on the topic:

“I would certainly think that there is a danger in this type of ruling,” DeGrow said. “It’s a victory for union clout and union power over clean elections. From what I have seen, there is an abundance of evidence that the PEA coordinated activities with a state senate campaign and to us that would seem to be a violation of the intent of (campaign laws).”

Justices Nathan Coats and Allison Eids [sic] dissented from the majority ruling.

“By exempting the union activities in this case from the article’s prohibition of expenditures by membership organizations, the majority necessarily gives its blessing to these kinds of partisan campaign efforts by paid union staff, even if those efforts are clearly coordinated with political candidates,” Coats wrote.

The state supreme court has just sent a clear signal that it’s okay for Big Labor to coordinate with (overwhelmingly Democrat) political candidates, allowing their campaigns to outsource the cost of electioneering activities to be covered by general union dues collected from members.

More clearly than ever, unions are on the advance in Colorado – and this time at the expense of fair elections and individual rights. We might be able to vote out the governor and the legislators who are pushing Big Labor’s agenda, if we could overcome the unions’ now-open electioneering advantage.

But what about the judicial branch?

We’d all do well to listen more carefully to a watcher’s consistent call for legal ethics reform in Colorado. Making it easier to recall state judges would be one place to start.


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