Posts Tagged ‘Clear the bench Colorado’

Largest campaign finance violations in Colorado history!

November 2, 2010

Contact Matt Arnold: director@clearthebenchcolorado.org or 303.995.5533.

On Thursday, Clear the Bench Colorado – Political Action Committee filed, pro se, a campaign finance and electioneering complaint against the “Know Your Judge” consortium: the Institute for the Advancement of the American Legal System (“IAALS”), Colorado Bar Association (“COBAR”), Colorado Judicial Institute (“CJI”) and the Colorado League of Women Voters (“LWV”).

In this complaint, Clear the Bench Colorado alleges that both collectively as the “Know Your Judge” group and as individual organizations, these groups have engaged in electioneering communications through print, radio and television advertisements as well as on their website – in violation of campaign finance laws, which would have subjected them to the same guidelines to file as a political committee (and the same contribution and expenditure limits) with the Secretary of State’s office as were followed by Clear The Bench Colorado.

Tens of thousands of dollars have been spent by these organizations with no accountability or transparency, in sharp contrast to Clear the Bench Colorado – which has followed the ever-changing law to the letter – while conducting similar political advocacy activities.

In a clear example of “what’s good for the goose should be good for the gander,” Clear the Bench Colorado simply wants these organizations held to the same legal standard as is everyone else in the state.

Unlike the frivolous, groundless, and vexatious complaint filed by “Colorado Ethics Watch” (CEW, pronounced “sue” – it’s what they do) against Clear the Bench Colorado back in May, this lawsuit has a solid legal basis (in part, due to the ruling against CTBC, ironically enough).  View our website, www.clearthebenchcolorado.org, to read the complaint in its entirety and for updates.

If Clear the Bench receives a favorable judgment, these organizations will be subject to fees ($50 per day that they didn’t file) as well as fines of 2-5 times the contribution totals above and beyond the $525 contribution limit of a political committee (which, since these groups spent at least $85,000, will add up to a hefty sum).

This would be the largest campaign finance violation penalty in the history of Colorado – dwarfing the previous record by some 30 times…

These groups, with armies of accountants and lawyers at their beck and call, should (and do) know better.  Apparently, they thought that they could get away with violating the law, since CTBC’s resources (and ability to challenge) have been strained almost to the breaking point.  However, they messed with the wrong guy…

Clear The Bench Colorado may be the underdog in this fight – but it’s not the size of the dog in the fight that matters, but the size of the fight in the dog.  CTBC doesn’t have armies of attorneys and accountants on call – but CTBC is… an Army of One.

‘Army of One’ takes on Colorado Legal establishment

October 29, 2010

‘Army of One’ takes on Colorado Legal establishment

Campaign finance and electioneering complaint filed against “Know Your Judge” consortium

 

Contact Matt Arnold: director@clearthebenchcolorado.org or 303.995.5533.

This afternoon, Clear the Bench Colorado – Political Action Committee filed, pro se, a campaign finance and electioneering complaint against the “Know Your Judge” consortium: the Institute for the Advancement of the American Legal System (“IAALS”), Colorado Bar Association (“COBAR”), Colorado Judicial Institute (“CJI”) and the Colorado League of Women Voters (“LWV”).

 

In this complaint, Clear the Bench Colorado alleges that both collectively as the “Know Your Judge” campaign and as individual organizations, these groups have engaged in electioneering communications through print, radio and television advertisements as well as on their website – in violation of campaign finance laws, which would have subjected them to the same guidelines to file as a political committee (and the same contribution and expenditure limits) with the Secretary of State’s office as were followed by Clear The Bench Colorado.

 

Tens of thousands of dollars have been spent by these organizations with no accountability or transparency, in sharp contrast to Clear the Bench Colorado – which has followed the ever-changing law to the letter – while conducting similar political advocacy activities.

 

In a clear example of “what’s good for the goose should be good for the gander,” Clear the Bench Colorado simply wants these organizations held to the same legal standard as is everyone else in the state.

 

Unlike the frivolous, groundless, and vexatious complaint filed by “Colorado Ethics Watch” (CEW, pronounced “sue” – it’s what they do) against Clear the Bench Colorado back in May, this lawsuit has a solid legal basis (in part, due to the ruling against CTBC, ironically enough).  View our website, www.clearthebenchcolorado.org, to read the complaint in its entirety and for updates.

 

If Clear the Bench receives a favorable judgment, these organizations will be subject to fees ($50 per day that they didn’t file) as well as fines of 2-5 times the contribution totals above and beyond the $525 contribution limit of a political committee (which, since these groups spent at least $85,000, will add up to a hefty sum).

 

These groups, with armies of accountants and lawyers at their beck and call, should (and do) know better.  Apparently, they thought that they could get away with violating the law, since CTBC’s resources (and ability to challenge) have been strained almost to the breaking point.  However, they messed with the wrong guy…

 

Clear The Bench Colorado may be the underdog in this fight – but it’s not the size of the dog in the fight that matters, but the size of the fight in the dog.  CTBC doesn’t have armies of attorneys and accountants on call – but CTBC is… an Army of One.

 

Denver Post endorsesClear The Bench Colorado!* sort of…

October 16, 2010

 

Denver Post endorsesClear The Bench Colorado!*

(*Well, sort of…  one editor (of 5 total), endorsing 2 out of 3 recommendations plus all of the analysis, pretty much adds up to one endorsement.  Fun with fractions!)

Contact Matt Arnold: director@clearthebenchcolorado.org or 303.995.5533.

 

On Wednesday October 13th, the Denver Post, in what is the closest thing to an official position on the three Colorado Supreme Court incumbents (justices Michael Bender, Alex Martinez, and Nancy Rice) seeking an additional 10-year term on this year’s ballot the newspaper is likely to take, endorsed two of the three recommendations advanced by Clear The Bench Colorado.

The editorial (“No clean sweep of justices“) endorsed the “compelling indictment of Michael Bender and Alex Martinez” but differed with Clear The Bench Colorado’s recommendation on Justice Rice.

Reasonable people can disagree on whether Justice Rice deserves another 10 years on the bench (CTBC’s analysis of her opinions in key constitutional cases shows a split result, leaning narrowly towards non-retention; Attorney General John Suthers had also earlier endorsed a “retain” vote on Justice Rice while advocating a “do not retain” vote on Justice Michael Bender and Justice Alex Martinez, as well).

Most importantly, the Denver Post editorial strongly complimented the Clear The Bench Colorado Evaluations of Judicial Performance analysis as a superior resource to the sham “Blue Book” reviews:

“In every election, voters go to the polls with virtually no knowledge of the judges up for retention – thanks to the nearly useless evaluations issued by the state’s judicial performance commission. So voters do owe Clear the Bench Colorado their thanks for actually offering substantive analysis.”

 

The ultimate responsibility – and authority – rests with the voters.  Clear The Bench Colorado urges all Colorado citizens to become informed about how the Colorado Supreme Court has aided and abetted assaults on their rights (and wallets!) with a consistent pattern of not following the Constitution where it doesn’t agree with their own personal agenda – and drawing the necessary and logical conclusions.

As a Citizen, you DO have the right to vote “NO” on these incumbent Colorado Supreme Court justices as they seek an additional 10-year term this November.  Clear The Bench Colorado urges Colorado voters to exercise their rights on the ballot this November.

Clear the Bench Colorado Press Release

October 7, 2010

Clear The Bench Colorado invites comparison: our Evaluations vs. the ‘Commission on Judicial Performance’ “reviews”

Contact Matt Arnold: director@clearthebenchcolorado.org or 303-995-5533

Clear The Bench Colorado invites comparison: our Evaluations vs. the ‘Commission on Judicial Performance’ “reviews”

Colorado voters are being subjected to a barrage of big-money, special-interest advertising on judicial retention elections this year – as decried in editorials from the New York Times and other media sources across the country, as well as in other news coverage statewide.Special-interest groups are spending tens (if not hundreds) of thousands of dollars attempting to influence Coloradans to vote their way on the question of whether to retain incumbent judges (including three incumbent Colorado Supreme Court justices facing “stiff opposition” as they seek an additional 10-year term in office).

There’s just one problem with this narrative – and why you haven’t heard about it in the mass media.

All of this special-interest money is being spent in Colorado to prop up the judicial incumbents

Legal establishment special-interest groups are spending tens (if not hundreds) of thousands of dollars to convince Colorado voters that “all is well” with state courts – promoting the farcical rubber-stamp “reviews” conducted and published by the commissions on judicial “performance.”

Why are the “reviews” not a reliable source of information on judicial performance?

1. The “reviews” do not distinguish between good and bad judicial performance – and almost ALWAYS recommend a “retain” vote for the judges ‘reviewed.’ Colorado Commission on Judicial Performance Evaluations (CCJPE) Executive Director Jane Howell confirms that, over the decades-long history of the review process, Colorado Supreme Court justices “reviewed” by the commissions have received a “retain” vote 100% of the time.

(Similarly, Court of Appeals judges have also received a 100% “retain” recommendation, while all judges at other levels have received “retain” recommendations 99% of the time).

Even Fidel Castro and the late Saddam Hussein didn’t receive that level of “retain” votes!

(Although Colorado has plenty of good judges, at many levels – they’re not all that good.)

2. The “reviews” – published as a 5-paragraph narrative, only one paragraph of which even pretends to address actual judicial “performance” – provide very little substantive information on which to base an informed decision. The review criteria are shallow (“timeliness”, ‘orderliness’ and “demeanor”) rather than substantive and performance-based. The level of “evaluation” is more like a kindergarten report card (“Benny is punctual, keeps his area neat & tidy, and plays well with others” ) rather than a serious look at judicial performance.

A Denver Post guest commentary written by a former State Judicial Performance Commissioner provided an insightful critique of the current process several months ago.

3. The “reviews” provide NO information on how the justices actually voted in important constitutional cases – rulings which have had a tremendous (and highly negative) impact on Colorado citizens.

Where can voters get substantive analysis of the performance of Colorado Supreme Court justices?

Clear The Bench Colorado has conducted an exhaustive analysis of Colorado Supreme Court decisions addressing important constitutional issues of interest to the greatest number of Colorado voters.

We invite voters to compare and contrast our  Evaluations of judicial performance with the “reviews” perpetrated by the ‘performance’ commissions (and foisted upon voters, at great taxpayer expense and without opposing views, as is otherwise required by law for other ballot questions) in the “Blue Book.”

We are confident that discerning voters will find our  Evaluations of much greater value.

Voters deserve to be provided with more extensive, informative, and useful information on which to base their voting decisions.  “The high marks received by each justice through the system of evaluation in place” are NOT an endorsement of the justices, but rather  an indictment of the weakness and inadequacy of the judicial performance review process.  Despite the genuinely hard work and good intentions of the majority of the judicial performance review commissioners, the process (and end-products) are perhaps endemically flawed.

There has been a failure of real performance evaluation and a lack of analytical content in the write-ups for the voters.  If narratives provide meaningful information about how a justice has decided cases, there will be accountability and the system will work as it is designed to do.  Too often in the past, narratives have amounted to complimentary resumes instead of job performance evaluations.  Some commentators and observers have denigrated the narratives as a “rubber stamp” exercise for retaining judges.

The ultimate responsibility – and authority – rests with the voters.  Clear The Bench Colorado urges all Colorado citizens to become informed about how the Colorado Supreme Court has aided and abetted assaults on their rights (and wallets!) with a consistent pattern of not following the Constitution where it doesn’t agree with their own personal agenda – and drawing the necessary and logical conclusions.

 

Colorado tosses out it’s own Constitution!

September 30, 2010

Judge’s ruling against judicial reform group Clear The Bench Colorado undermines transparency, accountability in judicial retention vote

Judge’s ruling favors entrenched incumbents and big-money special interests

Contact Matt Arnold: director@clearthebenchcolorado.org or 303.995.5533.

Judge’s ruling against judicial reform group Clear The Bench Colorado undermines transparency, accountability in judicial retention vote

Judge’s ruling favors entrenched incumbents and big-money special interests

Late last Friday afternoon, Clear The Bench Colorado was stunned by the news that Administrative Law Judge Robert Spencer (as an executive branch employee, answerable to the governor and not subject to a retention vote himself) set aside the documentary evidence, testimony by Clear The Bench Colorado Director Matt Arnold along with the Elections Division director at the Colorado Secretary of State’s office AND the clear letter of the law to rule in favor of “Colorado Ethics Watch” (CEW, pronounced “sue” – it’s what they do) in what the same judge had earlier characterized as a “frivolous, groundless, & vexatious” attack (er, “campaign finance complaint”).

Despite reliance on over a year’s worth of guidance issued by the office of Secretary of State (as confirmed in numerous documents and in witness testimony provided in hearings on 15 September) reached after “numerous” internal policy meetings and much research that Clear The Bench Colorado was, is, and ought to be properly characterized as an “Issue Committee” under campaign finance rules; CTBC’s scrupulous compliance with all rules, regulations, and reporting requirements for over a year; and dismissal of CEW’s earlier complaint as “frivolous, groundless, and vexatious” – the judge changed course and found for CEW in their latest round of attacks, changing the rules in the final quarter of play.

Changing the rules at such a late date – mail ballots go out at the same time Clear The Bench Colorado has been directed to re-file as a political committee – and in direct contravention of the guidance upon which CTBC has relied for well over a year makes a mockery of the process of citizen civic engagement.  As noted by Clear The Bench Colorado lead attorney Scott Gessler,

“That’s just crazy, that ruling,” said Gessler. “What kind of crazy system is that, when you can’t trust what the Secretary of State tells you? [This ruling] means you have to hire a lawyer to do anything- to get involved at all in the political process.” (Colorado Independent, 9/25/2010)

From documentation provided by the office of Secretary of State:

Colorado campaign finance and Judicial retention

While judges are considered “candidates” for the purpose of campaign finance law in Art. XXVIII Sec. 2(2) of the Colorado Constitution, the question of the retention of a judge is a yes-or-no question.  Therefore, a committee organized for the purpose of advocating the retention or removal of a judge is advocating for a yes or no vote on that question, rather than advocating for the election or defeat of a candidate.  A committee organized for such a purpose is akin to a committee advocating for (or against) the recall of an elected official, which would register an issue committee under 1-45-108(6), C.R.S.  To that end, a committee established for the purpose of supporting or opposing the retention of a judge or judges is properly registered as an issue committee for campaign finance purposes.  Such an entity would not be considered a political committee, because political committees are established for the purpose of “support[ing] or oppos[ing] the nomination or election of one or more candidates” (Art. XXVII Sec. 2(12)(a)).  [emphasis added]

Adding insult to injury, the judge’s ruling is granting “Colorado Ethics Watch” (CEW, pronounced “sue” – it’s what they do) more time to pay Clear The Bench Colorado what they’ve owed since July than time for Clear The Bench Colorado to re-file under “political committee” status or to appeal the ruling.

Naturally, Colorado Ethics Watch” (CEW, pronounced “sue” – it’s what they do) is trumpeting the ruling as a great victory, declaring in a press release Friday:

“The law does not permit a wealthy few to unduly influence the judicial retention process through large contributions against judges and justices whose rulings they don’t like.  Ethics Watch prevailed today in setting precedent to keep big money out of judicial elections…”

Ironically, the ruling “achieves” the exact opposite: big-money special interests will now be more prone to attempt to influence judicial retention elections behind the scenes, using vehicles other than the open and accountable “Issue Committee” organization types such as Clear The Bench Colorado.

In fact, big-money legal establishment special-interest groups are already active this year in promoting a “retain” vote for judicial incumbents (including, prominently, the three Colorado Supreme Court justices appearing on the ballot this year).  They’re just significantly less honest about their intentions…

In a campaign that has been conspicuous for its LACK of big-money interests and “large contributions” (Toro is whining about two – TWO! – contributions exceeding $500), acting with complete transparency and absolute accountability to educate voters as to their right to hold judicial incumbents accountable for their performance in office, and to shed light on the records of judicial incumbents at the highest levels in order to provide substantive information on which voters can base an informed decision, CEW’s attacks (and the judge’s ruling in this case) do the Colorado electorate a great disservice.

CEW’s Toro is right about one thing: “Judges are… subject to corruption” via the influence of big-money special interests keeping them in office.

The expenditure of tens of thousands (if not hundreds of thousands) by legal establishment special-interest groups comprised of the very lawyers appearing before the judges they are supporting in office is much more likely to exert “undue influence” and raise the potential for “quid pro quo” corruption.

The Colorado Bar Association (COBAR) has already spent over $50,000 this last month (by their own admission) joining three other legal establishment special-interest groups (likely spending a similar amount, although the exact figures have not been made publicly available) in mounting an “education” campaign (electioneering without using the “magic words” of “vote yes” or “vote NO“) to prop up incumbent judges and justices.   In one month alone, they’ve spent more than CTBC has in a year.  Combined, these special interests are spending hundreds of thousands of dollars in television, radio, and print ads providing “nonpartisan information about the performance of judges seeking retention” that, curiously, ALL supports a “retain” vote.

Another effort, sponsored by prominent Democrat attorney Mark Grueskin and other partisan attorneys (the “Colorado Judiciary Project”) is also spending large amounts (again, because this group formed as a “social welfare organization” their expenditures are NOT publicly available) supporting the judicial incumbents before whom they argue cases.  Conflict of interest?  Nah!

Ironically, these legal special-interest efforts come on top of hundreds of thousands of taxpayer dollars used to produce and distribute the one-sided and shallow “evaluations” perpetrated by the (taxpayer-funded) commissions on judicial performance evaluation – which, again, advocate 100% of the time to “retain” Colorado Supreme Court justices in office.

NONE of these expenditures – hundreds of thousands of dollars to promote the retention of judicial incumbents in office – are transparent and accountable to the public.

Did Friday’s ruling really succeed in “setting precedent to keep big money out of judicial elections…”?

Hardly.   It just provided cover for the big money that’s already comfortably ensconced in the process – erecting additional roadblocks to shedding light on the fact, and restoring accountability to the judiciary.

Clear The Bench Colorado has been consistently open, honest, and above-board in educating the public, and has scrupulously followed the rules under Colorado campaign finance laws for well over a year.  Forcing CTBC to re-file under a different set of rules – changed in the final quarter – makes a mockery of justice.

Yet another reason that now more than ever – it’s time to Clear The Bench, Colorado!

http://www.clearthebenchcolorado.org/

“Clear the Bench Colorado”

November 1, 2009

Judicial arrogance is nothing new, yet this past week the Colorado Supreme Court established a new benchmark in being better than thou. From Mike Rosen at The Denver Post

The liberal majority on the Colorado Supreme Court has taken judicial chutzpah to a new level.

In a 4-3 decision last week, they overturned two lower court rulings and declared that, henceforth, unelected judges rather than elected legislators will determine how much money Colorado taxpayers must spend on K-12 education. The victorious plaintiffs in the case included the usual suspects: the teachers union and other educratic organizations.

This will encourage a spate of “adequacy” lawsuits which activists hope will mandate an additional $3 billion in school spending on top of the $4.7 billion we already spend. Given the current state of the economy, this is obviously money we don’t have.

Full Story

Actions and arrogance often lead to grassroots movements that seek to reign in such behavior. Be that The Tea Party, Gun Owners of America, or a new group in Colorado.

Clear the Bench Colorado is just such an organization. If you are from Colorado, or have an interest there click on the link. The Colorado Supreme Court is one of, if not the most partisan high state court in the country. The law should be above politics, period. If you think this doesn’t concern you, think again, because the same thing may be coming to your state soon!


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