Congress Shall Make No Law...
12:00 PM
Just how complicated are campaign finance laws?

So complicated that even the government doesn’t understand them. guy-wrapped-in-red-tape


As remarkable as that conclusion may sound, my colleague Robert Frommer has a piece in the Denver Post demonstrating exactly that.


The piece tells the story of “Clear the Bench,” an independent grassroots organization that came together to oppose the retention of four Colorado Supreme Court justices.  The group tried in good faith to comply with the campaign finance laws, and even asked the agency charged with enforcing those laws what it was supposed to do.  Nevertheless, when Clear the Bench spoke out, they found themselves hauled into court by their political opponents, charged with failing to register as the proper kind of political committee.  Ultimately, after a year and a half of litigation, a court agreed, and gave Clear the Bench 20 days to register as the correct kind of committee.


The problem?  As Frommer notes:


The court’s ruling was wrong.


Clear the Bench wants to independently advocate against the retention of certain Colorado Supreme Court justices. Under Colorado law, the group should be an independent expenditure committee, which, unlike a standard political committee, does not have contribution limits. But no one involved in this dispute—not Clear the Bench, its accusers, or even Colorado campaign finance officials or the special administrative court—understood this.


The fact that something like this could happen in any area of the law is frightening enough.  But something is particularly wrong when the laws regulating political speech are so complicated that everyone involved in a legal dispute—lawyers, elections officials, and judges—fails to understand them.