(for video of the full three-hour forum on energy, immigration, and elections, click here.)
Moderator: Please expand on your approach to campaign finance and what legislation you would support ss governor to increase transparency in campaign finance.
Greg Lopez (R)– "It’s funny how our government has evolved, specifically when it comes to elections. We all feel like our voice is no longer heard. Our voice is always lost in the masses of noise. And every time we try to pass legislation, every time we try to create transparency, there is somebody out there that wants to do something different [inaudible]. That’s why today you have a lot of individuals that are running and funding their own campaigns. That’s why a lot of individuals are not able to [inaudible] they may be the right candidate with the right vision and the right attitude. My campaign – there are 64 counties in the state of Colorado. I ask for $64 from people who contribute to my campaign. That’s $1 for every county. Campaign finance is something that we all need to be worried about. Because it is true -- oftentimes if the individual allows him to be bought out by his contributors, it will happen. I will leave you with this. You want to test the character of a man? Give him power."
Eric Underwood (D)– "I actually support public financing for campaigns. We need to take money out of campaigns and we need to take it out right now, because it comes to a point where, who are you beholden to, right? I’m proud to say I do not have a PAC. One of my Democratic rivals does. This campaign is going to be a challenge of ideas, not who can raise the most money. Who has the best vision for Colorado. So while I support campaign, reupping our campaign finance laws and public support of them, I also would like to empower regular everyday citizens who want to run for governor. We need to encourage people who have visions as well, because what happens is, we get people running who are just trying to run for the next seat. They were elected State Rep, they were elected to State Senate, and they’re just trying to get one more notch on their political resume. I’m running for governor of Colorado because I have a clear vision for Colorado and an actual plan for Colorado. So we need to clean it up. Public support for finanincing reform laws is the way to do it."
Matthew Wood (U) – "When we’re talking about campaign finance, you find a lot of issues that arise with that. I’ve read studies that show if somebody is running for office and they believe that somebody has contributed to their campaign, they’re more willing to meet with them and talk with them than if they believe they have not. I’m not saying that’s how everybody runs, but it’s even a subconscious thing that people have. One of the things that I’ve made for a standard for myself is that I’m actually going this alone. I’m not accepting any contributions. Whether or not that’s a smart idea, time will tell. The main thing I want to do in running for governor is to improve the state. I see a lot of people especially on this ballot that are running. I see a lot of people raising money for their campaigns, and it’s ultimately going to come down to one person that gets the job. So in order to accomplish my goal in improving Colorado, even if, let’s say, the election is unsuccessful, what I’m asking people to do is if they support what I’m trying to do, I want them to support local organizations or local businesses, so that way Colorado benefits regardless. If you want an example, really quick before I run out of time, the one I’m promoting right now is a small one in Grand Junction, it’s a non-profit called Project Light. They’re working on trying to prevent teen suicde. That’s a big thing in the area, so I want to [inaudible]." [Moderator: Support increased transparency?] "Absolutely."
Noel Ginsburg (D) – "I believe this is one of the biggest challenges to our democracy. I think it’s a challenge right here in Colorado. We have candidates on both sides of the aisle that have said they will spend up to $10 million – in one case up to $30 million – to win this race. I don’t believe having the thickest wallet should determine who is the next governor of Colorado. So what I would do is the following. First, I don’t believe we need to have races that last for two years. I would propose a one year campaign, giving us six months prior to the primary. Second I would restrict the amount of money that could be spent on statewide races to three million. Something that Cary [Kennedy] recommended in a letter earlier this week. The problem is if any of us agree to that without all of us, then we are at a severe disadvantage. We shouldn’be be having races that spend a hundred million that cold be better spent in our schools or on roads. Second, I would take a voluntary pledge to not self-fund more than $300,000. And finally, I would support public financing for political campaigns to ensure that money doesn’t decide who the best candidate is. We have to change this. I will tell you that after sitting down with Bill Ritter, who told me that the people who contributed to his I.E., over $8 million, they came knocking on his door three months after he was elected saying, 'This is what I want.' That is not the way our elections should run. That is not the way money should flow in our state." [ Moderator: Support transparency?] "Total transparency."
Mike Johnston (D) – "This topic is very simple, very straightforward. I’m the only candidate, I think, in this race that’s committed to these three things. One is absolutely no PAC money from any source ever. I didn’t take it when I ran in 2010, when I ran in 2012, I’m not taking it now. Second is, no self-financing, right? You ought to be able to get support from the people who want to support you, not from your own wallet. And the third is no special interest dollars. I’ve committed to to all three of those things. I think everybody should do that. Because what you’re going to have is a situation where – you’re stuck with Citizens United. Citizens United means we have coproations who can spend lots of money and you have folks who can spend lots of money on their own. So if you take your own campaign pledge and someone else spends their own $10 million, all you’re going to leave is a race to decide who wants to buy the governorship and who would have the capacity to be able to do that. I don’t think that’s what [inaudible] I think the commitment ought to be that there should be no PAC money of any sort, no special interest money, and no self-finanicng. One of the questions is, would you return PAC money? Yes, I return checks all the time. When you’re the chair of the Senate Finance Committee, checks just show up all the time in your office from organizations who want to get favors. As quickly as they show up, I put them back in the envelope and send them back. Because that’s tnot the way this operation works. It’s not the way government should work. I only take money from people. Because people are actual voters who actually care about the issues, and I think that makes the biggest impact. I think that’s the way the state ought to go. I’ve supported the transparency we have now. I think Colorado should be the most progressive state in the country on what we show, what we share. I think we can do that hereon campaign finance."
Cary Kennedy (D) – "Big money in politics is threatening our democracy. It’s threatening our democracy at the state level, at the federal level, at the local level, and I think passing campaign finance reform at the federal level is simply one of the most important things that we can do. As a candidate for governor I have called for a cap on spending for each of the candidates -- there are a lot of them running for governor – of three million dollrs, because you really don’t need any more money than that to reach the voters in this election. I also called on all the candidates for governor not to accept money from corporate PACs and corporate lobbyists. In 2015 there was over $40 million spent on lobbying in our state capitol. Those are businesses who see spending that $40 million as a smart investment. Because it’s ogoing to increase theiy’re profit. They’re going to get legislation that will increase their market share or reduce their regulations or get them the favorable tax subsidy. The governor of Colorado represents everyone and should not be accepting money from people who are lobbying in the Capitol for private corporate interests, and I call on all of the candidates in this reace to accept that pledge."
Jared Polis also particapted in the forum, but he left the forum before this question was asked.
Given the legacy in the overlapping districts where we are today of elected leaders like Lois Court (HD6, SD31), Pat Steadman (SD31), Irene Aguilar (SD32), Ken Gordon (HD6, SD35), Andrew Romanoff (HD6), and Paul Kashmann (Council District 6) who ran their campaigns and served in office without taking special interest money, what is your stance on taking special interest money for your campaign as opposed to relying on contributions from individuals and prioritizing the public interest over the special interest?
"I’m only taking money from individuals in my campaign, I’m running a small budget, low-dollar campaign, because I think in a safe Democratic seat there’s no need for excessive fundraising to make this a race of resources. I think the best use of our time is actually to let the public fund campaigns that they believe in and not have private interest groups come in and fund them and make people feel like the reason they’re getting elected is because they’re backed by one source or another. I think publicly funded campaigns would be one of the best ways to restore the public’s trust in the democratic system and allow them to feel like their voice isn’t being drowned out by dollar signs. I think campaigns should stick to individual contributions or local organizations vs. large dark money or independent expenditures."
"Thank you for the question. I have taken a few PAC checks from leadership funds from elected leaders. I don’t see a problem with some of this stuff. I think Colorado has good limits on campaign funds – they can only give you $400. Small Donor Committees, if you’re talking labor unions and stuff like that, where they pool their money together, I don’t see a big problem with that. It costs money to run a campaign. You have to pay for a website, literature, staff, and pay them a living wage to live in Colorado. I think our big issue is the dark money and the independent expenditures where unlimited amounts of money pour into races, like we saw in the school board races where you have $200,000 campaigns for an unpaid position. I don’t think it takes people a lot to see where that stuff is going."
"This is an interesting question. Thank you for asking. I do not believe all PACs are equal. I am a big supporter of women’s rights, so if Blue Flower wants to support me and make a contribution, I would take the money. However, I do believe in more transparency, especially on the independent expenditure side, and as well on the PAC side. We do need to see where the money is coming from and how it’s influencing our elections. Me, personally, I would love to sit here and say that I’m not taking PAC money. However, this is a big race. There are six of us. One of us is already over the $100,000 mark. So for me to sit here and say I’m not going to take PAC money would be to cut myself off at the knees. It’s great to talk about the changing the system, but you can only do that once you’re inside the system. You can’t do it from the outside."
"I think one of the greatest tragedies in constitutional law was the Citizens United decision. I think in a world where Citizens United is the norm and IEs can spend unlimited money on races, we’ve got to move toward a system of publicly funded elections. Beyond that, I think, in the interim period, where Citizens United is still the law of the land, we actually need to be raising campaign finance caps rather than lowering them. The reason for this is because at least that way money is coming into the system in a transparent way where you can look it up on the Secretary of State’s website, rather than having the majority of money in campaigns being spent by corporations, interest groups, lobbyists, through outside vehicles that we can’t even track until the mail shows up. So publicly funded elections is Goal No. 1, but in the absence of that, I think we need to be finding more ways to get legitimate money into the system where we as voters can see where it’s coming from, where it’s going to."
"My campaign fully endorses moving to publically funded elections COUPLED with small-dollar contribution matching for individuals. This is one of three major tenets in my platform. Please read ElectPeterSmith.org/issues to learn more.
"My campaign is the strongest supporter of CleanStateNow’s initiatives in the District 32 senate race. One of my opponents has fundraised 90% out of state funds through lawyers and company executives to the sum of over $100,000. My other opponent uses his family establishment Democratic Party ties to forgo PAC and special interest regulations by accepting personal donations from PACs like Latino’s lead and other 501c3s.
"I am the ONLY major candidate in this race to have accepted campaign spending to prove a point that there is too much money in our elections. Advocating for publically funded elections with a matching program for small donors is one of the three main tenets of my campaign and I am the only person educating the voters about the need for campaign finance reform. I also, after careful studying, pledge now to sponsor any legislation that fits the parameters of any of the solutions on CleanSlate’s Money and Issues page.
"You will not achieve the goal of campaign finance reform if you endorse candidates that happily accept donations from all walks of life and who are a member of the donor elite and Harvard Ivy League donor class. Join me. Fight with me on this issue. Bestowing your endorsement upon me will guarantee a fierce ally in the Colorado state legislature that will be all ears when you need one, and an ally that is willing to go to the floor with the controversial reforms that my opponents will not."
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