DENVER Coloradans will vote without knowing for sure who is behind four of the nine questions on the ballot.
The two candidates to be Colorados top election official have different ideas about what to do about the situation.
The people who put Amendments 60 and 61 and Propositions 101 and 102 on the ballot have never filed campaign-finance reports to show who paid for the petition signatures that qualified the measures for the ballot.
Opponents have their suspicions. Detractors of Proposition 102 say the official campaign, Safe Streets Colorado, is a front for bail bondsmen. The initiative would require monetary bonds for many criminal defendants.
Colorado Ethics Watch filed a complaint against Safe Streets Colorado, which did not begin reporting fundraising after proponents turned in 170,000 petition signatures. A hearing on the complaint is scheduled Monday one day before the election and long after many voters have cast their ballots.
A case against three tax-cutting initiatives is moving even slower. Opponents of ballot measures 60, 61 and 101 recently filed a complaint against Active Citizens Together, a nonprofit group affiliated with anti-tax activist Douglas Bruce. A judge will not schedule a hearing on that complaint until two days after the election is over.
Opponents filed their original complaint in January. Bruce used legal maneuvers to avoid testifying in the case until this month. A judge found him not guilty of contempt of court in September but ordered him to testify.
The complaint against Active Citizens Together is based in part on testimony Bruce gave during a sworn deposition. The complaint claims that ACT paid between $100,000 and $200,000 to a professional petition firm, Kennedy Enterprises, and that Bruce received petitions from the firm and stored them in his house.
Active Citizens Together has not responded to the complaint.
The state of affairs has left Colorado voters without knowledge they need to make an informed decision about the initiatives, said Secretary of State Bernie Buescher.
Buescher, a Democrat, is running for re-election against Republican Scott Gessler. His office oversees elections and campaign-finance reporting.
I think there ought to be stronger penalties for repeated failure to file campaign-finance reports, Buescher said.
The current penalty is a $50 a day fine.
Buescher also noted that his office does not have the authority to start investigations of campaign-finance violations. Unless a citizen files a complaint, no one will investigate alleged abuses.
Buescher thinks some state agency although not necessarily his office should be able to start investigations.
Gessler opposes the idea.
It would allow campaigns to run ads that say, So-and-so is under investigation for campaign-finance violations. So what happens is the secretary of states office becomes a political football, Gessler said.
The law says that any committee that spends $200 on a ballot initiative must report it to the secretary of state. But it is filled with loopholes.
The law is not clear about when nonprofit groups like Active Citizens Together have to report their donors and spending. Nonprofit groups with a major purpose of political work should report their campaign spending, Buescher said.
Active Citizens Together has sent out mail pieces in favor of initiatives 60, 61 and 101, but it has not reported anything to the secretary of state. Neither has the Pretrial Justice Institute, a nonprofit group that opposes Proposition 102.
I think thats where the Legislatures going to have to step in and define what a major purpose is, Buescher said.
Gessler thinks the laws dont need to be changed.
I think what we need is a little bit better enforcement of the law, Gessler said.