Larson targets disclosures on ad funding

DENVER – State Rep. Mark Larson, R-Cortez, and two other Republicans plan to push for a law that would punish campaign committees that dodge requirements to disclose their donors.

The move is a reaction to the campaign against referendums C and D, which will let the state keep five years’ worth of tax collections that otherwise would be refunded under current law.

The Golden-based Independence Institute and Washington, D.C.-based FreedomWorks are running a radio ad campaign against the referendums, which will be on the November ballot.

“There’s money being spent, but we have no idea who’s funding those advertisements,” said Larson, whose 59th District includes Durango.

The ads’ sponsors say the spots are educational, not a call to vote one way or another, so they don’t have to release a list of their donors.

But critics say they should have to play by the same rules as other campaign committees.

“We want to make sure, if this is a loophole, we close this loophole,” Larson said. “There’s a serious concern that a majority of the funding is coming from out of state.”

On Wednesday, Colorado Common Cause and the League of Women Voters held a press conference to disclose what they said is almost $400,000 worth of radio ads run across the state by the Independence Institute and FreedomWorks. The groups got their information from the Vote Yes and C and D Committee, said Pete Maysmith of Common Cause. The Vote Yes campaign has filed a complaint against the ads’ sponsors with the secretary of state.

Ethan Elion of the Independence Institute said the hubbub over the radio ads was a distraction from the real issue.

“The more time they spend on us, the less time they spend on trying to take people’s money away,” he said.

Larson will co-sponsor the bill when the Legislature returns in January with Sens. Ron Teck, R-Grand Junction, and Steve Johnson, R-Loveland. The bill will allow a district court to stop an issue committee from spending or receiving money if it intentionally does not file required reports, according to a press release from the trio.