A Paul Tiger guest opinion
The Longmont Fair Campaign Practices Act requires that candidates and committees report to the city clerk. The clerk publishes this information online, and looks for errors in math, dates or anything glaringly wrong.
The problem is that the LFCPA provides opponents of issues committees or candidates a method of launching attacks on credibility and accountability. Those under attack face paying for a legal defense, whereas the real plaintiffs only intending to harass, get city paid bulldogs.
There has been a chilling effect on running for office and challenging issues. Local politically active voices are concerned that freedom of speech could have a fine attached, and no longer be free.
LFCPA cannot remove candidates already confirmed for the ballot, but it can work as an aide in a smear campaign.
De-regulate it. Make reporting voluntary. Let candidates and committees report on their own websites or give them to the press, if they choose. Let the people on the ballot be directly accountable to voters. Would you vote for someone who would not post their own campaign’s financial reports? That is ultimately the business of the press and the voters.
The only reason it has been the business of government is to employ a prosecutorial loss leader. Government leaders, who fight tooth and claw to maintain control over elections, justify the methods as ‘justice being served’.
Let a candidate or committee present their reports directly to the public, via the internet or whatever means develop. Constituents can check figures and dates as well as the city. Correct and precise reporting can only benefit the candidate, while fumbling and blatant misrepresentations will hurt them at the polls. It should not be the business of the city to broadcast report status, or punish the participants of the electoral process.
Each year the state or city adds or subtracts more and less to and from campaign finance reform. The result hasn’t been reform at all. Instead we have overlapping rules of confusion for candidates, and nearly no oversight of political committees. This reform has been costly to government and has had a deleterious effect on elections.
The comprehension and reporting requirements are for candidates and committees alone. Their relationship is with the voters, not with the incumbent administration. It is not necessary for the government to interpret campaign finance reform (CFR) reports for the voters. Quite simply, the clerk puts the report online, which any candidate or committee could do themselves. Errors or questions about a posted CFR report should be answered or corrected by the candidate or committee, and not directed to the clerk.
Currently, governments that enforce CFR levy charges and even fines, before or during the election cycle. This effects elections. Even if charges are proven false, the election will have been affected by government interference in the process.
Violations of CFR cannot remove candidates from the ballot, nor can it remove them from office after election. Therefore, CFR is the primary tool of opposition groups using government as the hammer. It may well be the tool of an incumbent administration to cast dispersions on new comer challengers.
CFR’s chilling effect is in treating candidates and political activists as criminals. It levels the playing field by dozing it clear.