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Newspaper Article

    C, D foes face complaints

    BY Jim Hughes
    08/23/2005
    by Jim Hughes on 8/23/05.

    The Vote Yes on C and D campaign has accused two Vote No groups of hiding their finances from public view as they campaign against the two budget-reform referendums, in violation of state elections law.

    One complaint targets FreedomWorks, a Washington, D.C.-based conservative advocacy group, accusing it of failing to register with the state and disclose its finances. The second complaint alleges that a so-called issue campaign committee created by the Colorado Club for Growth has filed incomplete financial disclosures.

    Proponents of the budget-reform proposal also have accused the Independence Institute think tank of violations in radio ads.

    Coloradans deserve to know who is trying to influence the outcome of November's election, Vote Yes campaign spokeswoman Katy Atkinson said.

    "This is a stealth campaign," she said. "They don't think Coloradans deserve to know who's funding that."

    Officials with both groups denied any wrongdoing. They accused Atkinson's campaign of trying to change the subject from what opponents call an unpopular $3 billion tax increase.

    If approved by voters in November, the referendums would temporarily suspend surplus refunds owed to taxpayers under the state Taxpayer's Bill of Rights and raise the base from which future spending is calculated. Proponents contend the fix is necessary to help the state recover from the recession and invest in roads, schools and health care.

    Nonpartisan state legislative analysts have estimated that passage of the measures would cost the average taxpayer $491 over five years.

    Local FreedomWorks organizer Beth Skinner - also a freelance senior fellow for the Independence Institute - said the group is not required to file with the state because it is involved in campaigns in several states - not just this one.

    "If they seriously want to spend time (filing complaints) instead of focusing on the issue of Referendum C being a tax increase, then that's certainly their prerogative," she said "I think, really, they probably have better things to do."

    The new complaints were filed with the secretary of state's office as a leading anti-tax advocate, Grover Norquist, was visiting Colorado from Washington raising money for local Republicans.

    He said Monday that he has decided against spending money in the Vote No campaign because he believes the referendums will fail even without his help.

    "The case for the tax increase is so weak that I'm less concerned that it will pass," he said.

    Staff writer Jim Hughes can be reached at 303-820-1244 or jhughes@denverpost.com.