A version of this ran in the Tuesday December 15, 2009 Longmont Times-Call
The Longmont City Council has an important decision to make in the near future: what to do about the Longmont Fair Campaign Practices Act (LFCPA). Whatever honeymoon the new council enjoys will probably come to a screeching halt regardless of how they move forward on this. Inaction is not an option because of their 7-0 vote to end the lawsuit between the city and multiple plaintiffs (including myself) over the LFCPA, and the terms of that probable settlement.
This was a good first step as it was clear the city would eventually lose this case, might as well stop the financial bleeding now. Hopefully they will continue this thought process of ending the costly and losing litigation in the cases with Firestone and the Times-Call. It will hurt a little bit now, but much more later if these pointless cases continue.
Options in this LFCPA matter:
- Put the ordinance on hold while it is rewritten to reflect the Federal judge’s preliminary injunction (Independent Expenditures, electioneering changes, etc)
- Dissolve the LFCPA and the Election Committee (EC) completely and hit the “reset” button
Cold hard truths
Let’s face some facts: This entire exercise starting in early 2008 was a tool of the now deposed “bloc”, with some outside help and cheerleading by Richard Juday and some loyal bloc mouthpieces. It was a direct shot at Gabe Santos and the Longmont Association of Realtors (LAR) because of their (completely legal) $5,000 contribution to him. LAR is also a plaintiff in this lawsuit, currently the legal bill to settle this case is $75,000! That’s what the City of Longmont will dish out to settle this case, and that bill goes up every day. Thank you “Bloc et al“!
I believe most on the Election Task Force had the right idea (that’s been tossed around for years) to decriminalizethe election code, but some members of that task force and city council wanted to go way too far, coming up with the monstrosity we’re now stuck with. It’s an ordinance that a federal judge and the Election Committee’s legal counsel and prosecutor have told them repeatedly has some possible unconstitutional aspects to it. And now we must deal with it.
The Election Committee
I’m the only member of the public that has attended every single Election Committee (EC) meeting, other than some of the members themselves. It’s a shame that current city councilmembers didn’t witness these meetings, but probably a blessing that the general public didn’t witness them. These meetings ranged from excruciating, to interesting, to embarrassing – and I’m not just talking about the committee members, but also witnesses and complainants. Far from a high point in Longmont’s history, take my word for it.
Some of the members at times showed blatant bias and favoritism, complete ignorance of the LFCPA, or both. The financial cost to the city (special counsel and prosecutor) was in the thousands, while the fines levied were barely in the hundreds. The EC should be stripped of all enforcement actions involving violations and fines– and if there’s still some version of an election code, just be tasked with amending it as necessary and then be dissolved. This has turned into the kangaroo court I had predicted it would because of some, not all, of the members and their actions.
What to do with the LFCPA
This ordinance has been a monumental failure.
- It hasn’t lowered the amount of contributions as desired, there was more money contributed.
- It didn’t lessen outside forces getting involved in our election, it increased them.
- It didn’t produce a fair and unbiased body to deliberate possible violations.
- It invited a huge and costly lawsuit to the City of Longmont.
- It got regional attention for its unconstitutionality.
- It echoes the disastrous McCain/Feingold federal campaign law and the headaches that has brought us.
- It will more than likely be used as case law and precedent for other lawsuits against municipalities with similar intentions.
Luckily we can fix the mistakes of the past, but city council should not wait too long. We’re under more of a microscope than some people may realize, we need to do this quickly, and right. End this fiasco, and put this ordinance temporarily or permanently out of its misery. Or at least severely overhaul it. Give us something we can be proud of, and not embarrassed over.