DENVER (AP) – A super PAC created by Colorado’s Republican Party to accept unlimited campaign contributions is legal as long as it doesn’t coordinate with the party, a state court said in an opinion released Thursday.
The Colorado Court of Appeals found that nothing in Colorado or federal law prevented the state GOP in 2014 from creating an independent spending committee that isn’t subject to spending limits that apply to political parties.
The committee, then called CORE, supported the 2014 campaigns of state and local Republican candidates. A Denver district court judge declared the arrangement was legal.
Colorado Ethics Watch, a watchdog group, challenged the ruling, arguing the state Fair Campaign Finances Act barred the party from creating the committee. It said the party would have undue influence on the super PAC’s actions.
Super PACs can solicit and spend unlimited amounts of money. They were created after the 2010 Citizens United decision by the U.S. Supreme Court, which lifted federal limits on contributions to and expenditures by independent political organizations. Super PACs can spend as they see fit to try and sway voters, but they cannot coordinate their spending with candidates.
In Thursday’s ruling, the appeals court found that under Colorado’s constitution, “a political party is a person who may establish an independent expenditure committee,” or super PAC, that can collect contributions without coordinating with any candidate for office.
It noted that the legislature, after Citizens United, had the opportunity to create limits on contributions for independent spending committees but didn’t do so.
“We do agree that this is a problem of the legislature’s making and that the legislature can fix it,” said Luis Toro, director of Colorado Ethics Watch. The group was considering its options after the ruling, Toro said.
A Jan. 15 super PAC filing with the secretary of state’s office shows that in the current election cycle it had received about $61,000 in donations, spent more than $153,000, and had a negative balance of more than $88,000.
Its first executive director, Tyler Harber, received a two-year prison sentence in Virginia last year for illegally coordinating campaign contributions between a super PAC and a 2012 Virginia congressional campaign.
Harber’s contract with Colorado Republicans ended after the 2014 election. There has been no suggestion his departure was related to the Virginia case.
– By JAMES ANDERSON, AP Writer
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