Money in Politics


What is Amendment 27?  


Coloradans support reform, and reform works. Amendment 27 is a constitutional amendment passed by the voters in 2002 that attempts to curb the influence of special interests. Amendment 27:

  • Curbs skyrocketing election costs and endless negative campaign ads. This law sets spending limits ranging from $65,000 for a state house seat to $2.5 million for the governor's race, so now elections will be about more than just fundraising, and average Coloradans will be able to run for office.
  • Stops huge contributions from wealthy special interests. Amendment 27 sets reasonable contribution limits--$200 per election for legislative candidates and $500 per election for statewide candidates- politicians will have to build support from a broad base of voters, not just the few who write big checks.
  • Ends corporations like Quest from buying access and influence. Teddy Roosevelt first championed banning corporate contributions nearly a century ago. This law bans direct contributions from corporations and labor unions.
  • Sheds the light on deceptive attack ads. So-called "educational committees" run misleading attack ads, but don't have to say who's paying for them. This law requires full disclosure of the money behind these attacks.
  • Encourages greater participation from ordinary citizens. Small donor committees accept contributions no greater than $50 per person. By allowing citizens to organize themselves, small donor committees give those making small contributions a greater voice in the electoral process through their strength in numbers.

Read the text of Amendment 27 here.

History Behind Amendment 27

In November 1996, the voters of Colorado showed their disgust with the system by voting overwhelmingly (66%) to adopt Amendment 15, a comprehensive campaign finance reform plan. This measure included mandatory low contribution limits to candidates from individuals and PACs, voluntary spending limits, a ban on direct contributions from corporations and labor unions (similar to the law in place at the federal level), and stronger disclosure requirements for campaign contributions.

It did not take long for the special interest opponents of campaign finance reform to launch public relations, legislative and legal attacks on the tough new law. Even before the law had taken effect the Act was challenged in Federal District Court by a variety of plaintiffs including the Colorado Republican Party, two state legislators and an assortment of political action committees. Colorado Common Cause and The League of Women Voters fought these efforts to dismantle the law through the courts by joining the case as amici.

After a lengthy trial, Federal District Judge Daniel Sparr upheld many of the provisions of the law, preserving the voluntary spending limits, the limitations to and from the parties, the enforcement mechanisms, reporting requirements and the ban on sneaky candidate to candidate transfers of money established by the FCPA. Unfortunately, the contribution limit provisions were stricken.

Shortly after that decision in August of 1999, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled on a Missouri case upholding contribution similar to those passed by the voters in Colorado (Nixon v. Shrink Missouri Gov't PAC, January 2000). The ruling was a clear and decisive victory for supporters of reform. Despite the Court's ruling in favor of reform, the special interests had no trouble convincing Colorado politicians to gut the law in the 2000 legislative session.

In response, Colorado Common Cause, the League of Women Voters, and others gathered and placed Amendment 27 on the ballot in 2002. Amendment 27 passed with 66% of the vote.