DU Weighs In on Fixing Campaign Financing

November 2013

Anyone who’s been following politics for the past several years knows how dramatically the Supreme Court’s 2010 Citizen’s United ruling has affected the American political process. (Individual political beliefs dictate whether one thinks the case’s resolution—which allowed corporations and other organizations to use their own funds to advocate for or against specific political candidates or causes—was positive or negative.)

Now the University of Denver has published a report that seeks not to eliminate Citizens United, but to recognize it as the new reality and offer solutions for how to work with it. The study, “Money, Elections, and Citizens United: Campaign Finance Reform for Colorado,” was compiled by the 2012-13 DU Strategic Issues Panel, a nonpartisan group of “accomplished Colorado citizens with varying backgrounds,” and is designed to offer solutions to campaign finance issues that could be implemented here or elsewhere, or even nationally. (Among the contributors were Secretary of State Scott Gessler, Colorado COP chairman Ryan Call, Common Cause president Bob Edgar, and former Speaker of the House Andrew Romanoff.)

The report starts with the premise that the outside money being spent on the political process is increasing and unlikely to stop, that public disclosure of campaign contributions remains crucial, and that what’s still missing is a system that creates a “reasonably level playing field” for everyone involved. It details the history of campaign financing and discusses many of the recent developments in an arena that has, over the past few decades, redefined the way campaigns are funded and run.

The authors of the wonky but readable 52-page report are careful to stress that their recommendations are “interrelated and best considered as a group.” Among their contentions is that any campaign finance reform efforts must assume that the proliferation of money will continue; that they should strive for transparency and inclusion of all interested parties; that they should advocate for full disclosure of direct and indirect contributors; and that Colorado should adopt a “limited state income tax credit” for individual political contributions.

Although it’s difficult these days to see our current political system as anything but broken, thoughtful efforts such as these show how it’s never too late to make improvements to our democratic process—and more importantly, how bipartisan cooperation remains a virtue rather than a four-letter word.

—Image courtesy of Shutterstock

Follow 5280 articles editor Luc Hatlestad on Twitter at @LucHatlestad.