AURORA | A compromise to remedy Mayor Mike Coffman’s unprecedented legal challenge of the city’s most recent campaign finance rules passed the Aurora City Council on a 8-1 vote Monday.
An Arapahoe County judge issued an injunction earlier this year siding with Coffman and his conservative-leaning legal team at the Public Trust Institute that argued the city law is unconstitutional.
Coffman claimed that because he has an active candidate committee — despite having two years left in his term — the rules unjustly forbid him from working to elect like-minded candidates and supporting ballot initiatives.
Councilmember Juan Marcano, and former Councilmember Nicole Johnston, who championed the local legislation last year, said the intent of the rules were to mirror state and federal campaign finance rules, not prevent candidates from doing normal campaign activities like endorsing each other, making donations and volunteering.
Court records show that Arapahoe County Judge Peter Michaelson issued an order in Coffman’s case on May 28.
“The most egregious part of the new law, that I’m challenging, strips me of my right to organize and lead campaigns for or against local ballot questions even when I’m not up for re-election and even when the local ballot question is not on a general election ballot when there are no municipal candidates on the ballot,” Coffman said in a statement posted to Twitter after launching the lawsuit. “Not only in this blatantly unconstitutional, but it has virtually nothing to do with campaign finance reform.”
The new revision is a compromise between the city’s outside legal counsel and Coffman’s lawyers, Marcano said. Mostly, the new version includes extensive definitions and a clearer picture of what candidates can and cannot do.
Despite months of controversy, the measure passed without comment from neither members of council nor Coffman.
A six month timeline has also been implemented into the ordinance to prevent candidates from electioneering before formally launching a campaign.
Similar instances have been center stage in other recent elections.
Political spectators and election watchdogs said in 2017 that Walker Stapleton stretched state election law when he was a special guest at a private fundraiser for Better Colorado Now, a PAC organized by Republican fundraisers and a long-time adviser of Stapleton, before announcing his bid.
After becoming a candidate, the PAC formally recognized its support for Stapleton.
Since then, the state has updated language in its campaign finance laws to close loopholes that made Stapleton’s fundraising through a friendly IEC possible.