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Colorado Ethics Watch: $1.9 Million Unaccounted for During 2016 Campaigns

by Lynn Marie Morski, published

Rising distrust in our political system is due in large part to a lack of transparency in several aspects of government.

In Colorado, several organizations have taken up the cause of increasing transparency. Colorado Ethics Watch, a nonpartisan nonprofit, has been working for over 10 years in keeping the government accountable to the people it represents through government ethics work and attempting to decrease the influence of money in politics.

Colorado Ethics Watch conducted a study last year that showed $1.9 million was spent on campaigns in Colorado between the 2016 primary and the date at which funds spent on advertising must be disclosed.

They called this the “disclosure gap,” as the sources of the funds spent during this period remain unknown to the public.

Currently, Colorado Ethics Watch is working with Colorado Common Cause and Denver City officials to draft legislation to modernize the city campaign finance code that would introduce more full and frequent disclosure requirements for candidates, PACs, and other outside groups in municipal elections.

The group is drafting a measure that will be introduced as an ordinance to be passed through city council at the end of the summer.

Peg Perl, senior counsel for Colorado Ethics Watch, pointed out that an increase in outside spending on candidates’ campaigns has led to a need to update Denver’s finance laws, which were written in the 1990s.

In regard to how they plan to update the laws, Perl said:

“We are looking at a comprehensive modernization of the laws to increase public disclosure by city candidates, PACs and other outside groups, as well as practical issues like making campaign information easier for voters to find and digest.”

Author's note: The article has been updated to reflect the fact that Colorado Ethics Watchdog is not a part of the Unrig the System coalition as the original publication suggested.


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