Our view: Change in campaign finance reporting law needed | SteamboatToday.com

Our view: Change in campaign finance reporting law needed

We commend the Steamboat Springs Board of Education for its unanimous endorsement of a new bill working its way through the state legislature that is intended to increase transparency and reporting of spending on odd-year elections — most notably, local school board elections in Colorado.

Our view

It's high time archaic standards for school races are fixed

Steamboat Today reported April 11 that the school board passed a resolution in support of House Bill 16-1282. The Colorado House passed HB 16-1282, which would correct this irrational policy, by a vote of 65-0 this week, and it has been introduced to the Senate and assigned to committee.

If signed into law, it would align school election campaign finance reporting with the Fair Campaign Practices Act. That would correct the current situation, which requires that registered campaign committees file only two contribution reports — one in mid-October and a second the following January.

The current campaign finance reporting rules for odd-year elections mean voters missed a chance to weigh the influence of large donors before casting ballots. They also prevented newspapers from making full reports on campaign contributions in a timely manner.

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In contrast, the rules for even-numbered election years require that most campaign committees — beginning in early September — must file public reports on contributions and spending every two weeks, giving voters the opportunity to see who is influencing elections.

It's an important issue, both statewide and here in the Steamboat Springs RE-2 School District, because increasingly, large amounts of money — some would say irrational amounts of money — are being spent on behalf of candidates for school boards in districts both large and small.

This very issue arose in the wake of the 2015 Steamboat Springs School Board election, when we didn't learn until more than a month after the November election that a Front Range political committee spent as much as $40,000 on campaign materials supporting school board candidates Margie Huron and Michelle Dover, both of whom were ultimately successful in their races.

The candidates professed they had no advance awareness the campaign materials were being circulated on their behalf. And that brings to mind attack mailers circulated without their knowledge by Super PACs on behalf of both Republican and Democratic candidates for the state legislature here in 2014. At least in that case, the candidates and voters were aware of them in October.

We look forward to HB 16-1282 being signed into law.

At issue

Rules for reporting contributions to school board races are out of alignment

Our view

It’s high time archaic standards for school races are fixed