Colorado Capitol Report

Union Small-Donor Committees Target Key Legislative Races

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State Policy News

Union Small-Donor Committees Target Key Legislative Races

The attention of both political parties is now laser-focused on a small number of legislative “swing” districts.  These important legislative races will determine whether or not the 2017 and 2018 sessions of the Colorado General Assembly will be “business friendly.”

Under Colorado’s campaign finance laws, an individual can contribute $50 per calendar year to a small-donor committee (SDC).  The Secretary of State’s web site lists 135 SDCs, including CACI’s The CACI Prosperity Fund.

Why is this important?  A small-donor committee can give up to $4,850 to a state legislative candidate over the two-year election cycle.

A regular political committee, such as CACI’s Colorado Business Political Action Committee, however, can only give $400 to each candidate over the two-year election cycle.

Consequently, small-donor committees—especially for unions–can play an outsized role in key races because of a unique provision of Colorado’s campaign finance law that governs them.

Amendment 27

In 2002, Colorado voters approved Amendment 27, a campaign-finance “reform” initiative pushed mainly by Common Cause.  Here’s what Colorado Common Cause used to say about Amendment 27 on its Web site:

2002 Statewide Campaign Finance Reform. Colorado Common Cause led the campaign to author, qualify and pass Amendment 27, a strong, comprehensive initiative that limits campaign contributions and spending and ensures full disclosure of the money spent to influence our elections. Amendment 27 passed overwhelmingly with 66% of the vote

The provision benefiting unions directly contradicts, however, the claim of Colorado Common Cause that Amendment 27 provides for “full disclosure of the money spent to influence our elections.”

The $19.99 Contribution: Give Often (Anonymously)

A union member can, of course, give $50 to his or her union’s SDC per calendar year.  The contribution in that person’s name is reported to the Colorado Secretary of State by the SDC.

Amendment 27 and Colorado campaign finance law, however, requires an individual contribution of less than $20 to be reported to the Secretary of State–but the contributor need not be identified.  And the contributor can make as many $19.99 contributions as she or she wants and still not be identified.

How does this provision benefit unions?  An automatic payroll deduction for a union member of $19.99 will go to the union’s SDC, which has to report each $19.99 contribution that each of its members makes in this manner for each reporting period.  Again, the union does not have to report who gives a $19.99 contribution.  Some unions report each $19.99 contribution; others just lump them together and attribute the total to a specific number of union “members.”

Consider the possibility.  One union member could theoretically give $519.74 in a calendar year to his or her union’s small-donor committee, assuming that there are 26 bi-weekly pay periods in the year, by having $19.99 deducted from each paycheck.  And the union member would never be identified.

Multiply the $519.74 by the number of union members in Colorado who participate in such payroll-deduction schemes for their union’s SDC, and the money quickly snowballs into a massive pot for unions to direct to into key races to support union-friendly candidates.

Unions–using the automatic payroll deduction mechanism for their members—are now pouring thousands of dollars from their small donor committees into the key legislative races to advance their interests in the 2017 and 2018 legislative sessions.

Example: Colorado Professional Fire Fighters Small Donor Fund

The Fire Fighters SDC (Secretary of State ID# 20033651407) began this two-year election cycle with $117,191 in the bank.  It has since raised $71,540.  It has spent $89,900 on contributions to legislative candidate committees and other expenses.

Here’s how the Fire Fighters SDC has used the $19.99 provision as reported to the Secretary of State in is periodic filings this year:

  • June 16th, $5,726.03 from 4,300 members,
  • July 22nd, $21,696.01 from 4,300 members, and
  • August 17th, $29,431.03 from 4,400 members

Here are more union SDCs:

  • Public Education Committee, Colorado Education Association.  The SDC began the election cycle with $42,562, has raised $109,050 and has spent $151,315.
  • Colorado American Federation of Labor & Congress of Industrial Organizations Nonpartisan SDC.  This SDC began with $15,105, has raised $16,910 and has spent $24,820.
  • Plumbers Local 3 Small Donor Committee.  This SDC began with $19,288, has raised $9,728 and has spent $21,500.
  • AFT Colorado Federation of Teachers, School, Health and Public Employees SDC.  This SDC began with $300, has raised $46,300 and has spent $46,300.
  • Sheet Metal Workers SDC.  This SDC began with $16,588, has raised $21,645 and has spent $30,059.
  • Colorado State Conference of Electrical Workers SDC.  This SDC began with $101,409, has raised $49,155 and has spent $84,889.
  • Pipefitters Local 208.  This SDC began with $25,074, has raised $17,228 and has spent $13,610.
  • Colorado WINS.  This SDC began with $7,376, has raised $24,987 and has spent $2,100.
  • Plumbers & Pipefitters Local 58.  This SDC began with $20,150, has raised $20,730 and has spent $19,850.
  • United Food & Commercial Workers Local 7.  This SDC began with $100, has raised $84,825 and has spent $84,025.
  • Service Employees International Union Local 105.  This SDC began with $5,560, has raised $65,000 but had not spent any funds as reported for the last filing period.

Trial Lawyers

CACI and its business allies are usually on the opposite side of the political fence when it comes to legislation.  Individual-membership associations like the Colorado Trial Lawyers Association also can take advantage of SDCs to further their political interests.  The CTLA’s SDC began the two-year election cycle with $58,811, has raised $24,150 and has spent $25,000.

The CACI Prosperity Fund

The CACI Prosperity Fund supports a small number of pro-business legislative candidates in key races.  Any individual can contribute to CACI’s small-donor committee, The Colorado Prosperity Fund.  Please mail personal checks for $50 made out to The Colorado Prosperity Fund to the CACI Office to the attention of Dan Pilcher.

CACI Urges Members to Oppose Minimum-Wage Hike

Amendment 70 would raise the state minimum wage to $12 per hour by 2020.  CACI opposes Amendment 70.

The current minimum wage is $8.31, which is the result of a 2006 ballot initiative approved by the voters.  The Federal minimum wage is $7.25.

The backers of the measure, Colorado Families for a Fair Wage, comprise some 35 organizations that include labor unions, liberal/progressive think tanks and social/economic-justice organizations.

Despite the name of the issue committee, however, much of the $1.708 million of funding for Colorado Families for a Fair Wage to date has come from out-of-state liberal/progressive organizations and unions, according to the latest filing with the Colorado Secretary of State.  The committee has spent $1.119 million.

The reason, obviously, is that the Democratic Party at both national and state levels has enthusiastically embraced increases in state, local and Federal minimum wages not just as a policy objective but, particularly in Colorado, as a strategy to increase Democrat voter turnout.

CACI opposes the measure for several reasons, including the following:

  • An increase in the state minimum wage should be statutory in nature and debated by the legislature and not enshrined in the State Constitution, where it will be virtually impossible to change;
  • The measure interferes with the “private right to contract” between a worker and an employer; and
  • Important sectors, such as hospitality, will likely be adversely affected if companies, especially small ones with thin profit margins, are not able to pass the increased labor costs on to their customers.

Consequently, CACI strongly urges its members to contribute to an issue committee that has been formed to oppose Amendment 70.

The issue committee is called Keep Colorado Working.  The committee’s registration number with the Colorado Secretary of State’s Office is 20165031488.  An issue committee can accept unlimited amounts from individuals, corporations and non-corporate business entities.  Contributions to Keep Colorado Working will be filed with the Secretary of State’s Office and, therefore, will become public.

CACI members should send contributions to:

Keep Colorado Working
2318 Curtis Street
Denver CO 80201

CACI members with questions about contributions to Keep Colorado Working should call Katie Behnke or Austin Metsch at the Starboard Group at 720.524.7332

CACI members with questions about the minimum-wage issue should contact Loren Furman, CACI Senior Vice President, State and Federal Relations, at 303.866.9642.

Contribute to Campaign to Defeat Amendment 69, the $25 billion, Single-Payer, Health-Care Plan

A public-private coalition is working to defeat Amendment 69, the November ballot initiative that would create a quasi-public, single-payer health-care plan that would impose a $25 billion tax on employers, workers, and taxpayers.

Called “Coloradans for Coloradans,” the campaign organization’s co-chairs include Colorado State Treasurer Walker Stapleton and former Democratic Governor Bill Ritter.  The organization is backed by a coalition of business organizations, public officials, and community and civic leaders.

In November, the CACI Board of Directors voted to oppose Amendment 69 just days after Secretary of State Wayne Williams qualified the ballot initiative for the November ballot.

CACI urges its members to contribute to Coloradans for Coloradans. Contributions can be mailed to:

Coloradans for Coloradans
1660 Lincoln Street
Suite 1800
Denver CO 80624

Contribution can also be wired electronically to Coloradans for Coloradans.

CACI members who have questions about contributing to Coloradans for Coloradansmay email Katie Behnke or call her at 303.807.4583.

Coloradans for Coloradans is an issue committee, #20165030100, registered with the Colorado Secretary of State’s Office.  An issue committee may receive unlimited contributions.