Secretary of state drops controversial proposed rule change

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— Secretary of State Gigi Dennis has decided to drop proposed changes to a campaign finance rule that led to a lawsuit by labor unions and prompted Democrats to accuse the Republican of partisanship in running the state's elections.

The rule requires membership organizations such as labor unions to annually get each member's permission before the groups could donate portions of dues to political committees. The Colorado Court of Appeals agreed with a trial judge that Dennis probably exceeded her authority in adopting the rule and said the plaintiffs likely would win their case at trial.

Over the objections of several unions who said Dennis was trying to extend the rule to anyone who contributed to small-donor committees, Dennis had proposed changing the rule to include voluntary contributions made simultaneously with membership dues payments. But after public hearings last week, Dennis dropped that proposal Tuesday.

Small-donor committees can make much larger contributions to candidates than individuals can make.

The secretary of state's office says the member-permission rule still stands for all organizations other than the two that sued to challenge it.

Deputy Secretary of State Bill Hobbs said the dispute over the proposed change was based on a misunderstanding, and that it would not have taken effect until after the November elections.

"A lot of people thought we were trying to do an end run around the Court of Appeals decision," Deputy Secretary of State Bill Hobbs said.

Dennis also said another proposal - allowing votes for a candidate who drops out of a race to count for his party's replacement - will expire in December. She said she agreed with critics that the issue should be decided by the Legislature.

"It seems un-American that any candidate can `receive' votes that were actually cast for somebody else," Adams County Clerk Carol Snyder said in a letter to Dennis.

As of Tuesday, there were no replacement candidates on the general-election ballot, Hobbs said.

Dennis also decided to make permanent another rule that would require "multipurpose issue committees," or groups that have functions other than campaigning for political issues, to disclose the identities of contributors who designate their donations for a political campaign. They would not have to disclose contributors who donate to the overall organization, however.

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