More question radio ad funding

Two more groups want to know who is supplying the money for radio ads blasting Referendums C and D, the twin measures on the November ballot.

Colorado Common Cause and the League of Women Voters held a news conference Wednesday, saying in a statement that keeping the names secret is “profoundly disrespectful to the people of Colorado.”

They were referring to $391,000 of radio ads bought by the Independence Institute, a conservative think tank.

Independence Institute President Jon Caldara said he doesn’t have to reveal the donors because the ads are educational and don’t explicitly ask listeners to vote no on Refs C and D.

“We haven’t crossed any lines,” Caldara said. “We are fulfilling our education mission by informing Coloradans that Referendum C is in fact a tax increase.”

Whether Ref C is a tax increase is a matter of opinion.

Referendum C would suspend state spending limits for five years, allowing lawmakers to spend an estimated $3.7 billion that otherwise would be refunded to taxpayers. Referendum D would let the state borrow up to $2.1 billion against that money to start road and school construction right away.

Ref C is a proposal passed by the Democratic-controlled legislature and endorsed by Republican Gov. Bill Owens, University of Colorado President Hank Brown and hundreds of civic and community organizations. Opponents include most Republican legislators, both GOP gubernatorial candidates and the Independence Institute, a local free-market think tank.

“There is no place in Colorado politics for secret money,” said Peter Maysmith, executive director for Colorado Common Cause.

He supports a complaint filed by the Yes on C&D campaign committee asking an administrative law judge to force disclosure of the donors to the Independence Institute’s media buy. That complaint is expected to get a hearing in September.

Maysmith noted that the Colorado Court of Appeals last year upheld a ruling that a brochure to promote a bond election in Highlands Ranch violated campaign laws because it had the effect of urging voters to support the initiative, even though it never said so explicitly.

Common Cause and the League of Women Voters also want the Washington, D.C.-based FreedomWorks to disclose any donors behind its campaign to defeat Referendums C and D.

The two groups unveiled maps of Colorado’s media markets, saying the Independence Institute will spend $270,696 in metro Denver, $43,350 in Colorado Springs and Pueblo, $36,120 in Grand Junction and $40,463 in the northern Front Range on the ads.

They said they got the numbers from Yes on C&D officials who got them directly from the radio stations.

“Public confidence in the fairness and openness of our electoral process is a key ingredient in making our system work,” said Kaye McGann, legislative director of the League of Women Voters of Colorado. “It doesn’t matter what side you’re on with Referenda C and D. The precedent being set by the Independence Institute threatens the principle of transparent elections . . . and the integrity of the electoral process.”