Financial Issues Dog Second Colorado Egg-As-Person Campaign

Wendy Norris

The peculiarities on Personhood Colorado campaign's recent financial disclosure form may be an oversight by fledgling activists...or a much more cynical attempt to thwart public accountability by a well-oiled theocratic political machine.

Wendy Norris is a freelance writer based in Denver, Colorado, and covers the Rocky Mountain West for Rewire.

One doesn’t often encounter political campaigns that take a
vow of poverty but Colorado "personhood" supporters have blazed
virgin trails before. But that pledge may already be as tarnished as a forgotten
purity ring.

 

At an Aug. 25 press conference at a Denver area post
office
, ultra-conservative religious activists kicked off another state
ballot measure as a thinly veiled attempt to ban abortion, hormonal
contraception, in-vitro fertilization and stem cell research by amending the
state constitution to provide legal rights to fertilized eggs. Supporters
boldly proclaimed Personhood Colorado would be the first all-volunteer campaign
in the state’s history.

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That low-rent promise was delivered in the group’s third
quarter campaign finance report filed with the Colorado Secretary of State on
Oct. 9.

The campaign’s cash-on-hand balance was a modest $864.93
after paying a non-itemized expenditure of just $2.55 over the three months
when the group was preparing for its ballot hearing and cranking up its
petitioning process.

To place the constitutional amendment on the November 2010
ballot Personhood Colorado must collect 76,074 valid signatures by Feb. 15. A
steep order for a group that has raised very little money and spent less than
the price of a fancy pants cup of coffee.

More curiously though, the third quarter expenses racked up
to mail call-to-action letters and petitions to a reported thousand campaign
volunteers who previously worked on the defeated 2008 personhood ballot measure
at the much-ballyhooed summer press conference remain unknown and undisclosed.

There was no record of photocopying, envelope purchases or
postage expenses on the financial report. Though the group’s Web site and
subsequent news stories are replete with photos of volunteers happily collating
packets and hauling tubs brimming with stamped envelopes into the post office.

Attempts to reach the 2010 ballot co-sponsors Gualberto
Garcia Jones, director of Personhood Colorado, and Leslie Hanks, a long-time
Colorado Right to Life activist, to determine who covered the estimated $1,000
cost of the mailing were not successful.

The peculiarities on Personhood Colorado campaign’s recent
financial disclosure form may very well be an oversight by fledgling activists.
Or it could point to a much more cynical attempt to thwart public
accountability by a well-oiled theocratic political machine.

If, in fact, the undeclared outreach effort expenses were an
oversight, it wouldn’t be the first time personhood activists have failed to
fully report their financial activities.

Personhood Colorado’s predecessor, Colorado for Equal
Rights, amended half of its 13 total reports filed during the active campaign
season to account for omitted donations and expenditures. The 2008 group led by
Kristi Burton, a then-19-year-old law student who launched the
first-in-the-nation ballot measure, was levied a small fine for campaign
finance violations
for skirting the rules after a Colorado blogger lodged a
formal complaint.

In addition to the reporting snafus, the parallels between
the two groups are remarkably similar. Both were founded in June — Burton’s
campaign launched in 2007 and Garcia Jones teamed up with Hanks in 2009. And
while both got off to a slow fundraising start, Burton raised $2,400, or four
times more than Garcia Jones by the end of third quarter reporting period.

Garcia Jones, a former legal adviser to the anti-abortion
fundraising powerhouse American Life League, was recruited to the renewed
Colorado effort by Hanks and anti-abortion activists Keith Mason and Cal
Zastrow.

Mason, from Wichita, Kan., and Michigan resident Zastrow
moved to Colorado to work on the 2008 campaign with Burton. Following a 73-27
electoral drubbing at the polls, the duo founded Personhood USA in June 2009 to
launch multiple state efforts to pass constitutional amendments in 2010. Burton
is not officially involved with the renewed effort but has been feted by
American Life League as a rising star
in the movement.

The new suburban Denver-based national group is organized as
a 501c4, an advocacy-oriented federal tax-exempt nonprofit organization, and is
not required to report its financial backing until January 2011 — months after
the election. A loophole in Colorado law does not require this particular
strain of political nonprofit to report its activities to state compliance
officials. When state legislators cracked down in 2007 on campaign abuses by IRS-designated
527 nonprofit organizations that ranged from allegations of money laundering to
deceptive advertising, political activists flocked to the less monitored c4
organizations.

And it’s this uncoordinated nature of federal and state
campaign reporting rules that creates fertile territory for shadowy activities
and less than timely accounting to the public.

Luis Toro, senior counsel for Colorado Ethics Watch,
explained that state campaign finance rules on expenditures for issue campaigns
are murky at best. A new law to clamp down on petition circulation abuses
by issue committees was closely monitored by the statewide watchdog group after
allegations were raised in court that a variety of 2008 ballot groups were
defrauding voters on the actual intent of the proposed law in order to compel
them to sign petitions.

But serious transparency problems remain.

There is no legal requirement to either acknowledge or track
funds from so-called "friendly allies" outside the confines of the
state-based ballot groups’ own books.

Rich Coolidge, spokesman for the Colorado Secretary of
State, confirmed that issue committees are not subject to the same disclosure
laws as candidates, who face much more stringent rules on reporting independent
expenditures made by outside groups that can affect an election. Likewise,
there are no monetary limits on the amount of contributions issue committees,
such as Personhood Colorado, can accept from donors.

Case in point: Twelve days before Election Day 2008, the
lobbying arm of the American Life League dumped $200,000 into the Colorado for
Equal Rights campaign to push Amendment 48. Yet, other than an obscure major
donor report, the contribution never appeared on any of the campaign’s
financial reports.

The lack of accountability on who is truly financing the
reinvigorated personhood ballot efforts raises concerns that money could again
pour into the state from well-heeled national anti-abortion groups
without full disclosure to the voting public.

It goes without saying that national activists are again
using Colorado and other states as electoral proving grounds to challenge Roe v Wade since federal legislative
efforts have been fruitless.

"Now with Personhood Colorado, affiliated with
Personhood USA, we’re again seeing national interests at play," said
Monica McCafferty, a spokesperson for Planned Parenthood of the Rocky
Mountains, a leading opponent of last year’s attempt to pass the first state
personhood measure.

"Coloradoans should question if
Personhood Colorado really has the state’s best interest in mind. Access to
affordable health care is already tough enough for Colorado families. If the
initiative makes it on the 2010 ballot, Colorado voters will once again be
asked to weigh in on a deceptively worded ballot measure – written by
extremists with ties beyond Colorado – that would restrict or threaten access
to health care."

News Politics

Clinton Campaign Announces Tim Kaine as Pick for Vice President

Ally Boguhn

The prospect of Kaine’s selection has been criticized by some progressives due to his stances on issues including abortion as well as bank and trade regulation.

The Clinton campaign announced Friday that Sen. Tim Kaine (R-VA) has been selected to join Hillary Clinton’s ticket as her vice presidential candidate.

“I’m thrilled to announce my running mate, @TimKaine, a man who’s devoted his life to fighting for others,” said Clinton in a tweet.

“.@TimKaine is a relentless optimist who believes no problem is unsolvable if you put in the work to solve it,” she added.

The prospect of Kaine’s selection has been criticized by some progressives due to his stances on issues including abortion as well as bank and trade regulation.

Kaine signed two letters this week calling for the regulations on banks to be eased, according to a Wednesday report published by the Huffington Post, thereby ”setting himself up as a figure willing to do battle with the progressive wing of the party.”

Charles Chamberlain, executive director of the progressive political action committee Democracy for America, told the New York Times that Kaine’s selection “could be disastrous for our efforts to defeat Donald Trump in the fall” given the senator’s apparent support of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP). Just before Clinton’s campaign made the official announcement that Kaine had been selected, the senator praised the TPP during an interview with the Intercept, though he signaled he had ultimately not decided how he would vote on the matter.

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Kaine’s record on reproductive rights has also generated controversy as news began to circulate that he was being considered to join Clinton’s ticket. Though Kaine recently argued in favor of providing Planned Parenthood with access to funding to fight the Zika virus and signed on as a co-sponsor of the Women’s Health Protection Act—which would prohibit states and the federal government from enacting restrictions on abortion that aren’t applied to comparable medical services—he has also been vocal about his personal opposition to abortion.

In a June interview on NBC’s Meet the Press, Kaine told host Chuck Todd he was “personally” opposed to abortion. He went on, however, to affirm that he still believed “not just as a matter of politics, but even as a matter of morality, that matters about reproduction and intimacy and relationships and contraception are in the personal realm. They’re moral decisions for individuals to make for themselves. And the last thing we need is government intruding into those personal decisions.”

As Rewire has previously reported, though Kaine may have a 100 percent rating for his time in the Senate from Planned Parenthood Action Fund, the campaign website for his 2005 run for governor of Virginia promised he would “work in good faith to reduce abortions” by enforcing Virginia’s “restrictions on abortion and passing an enforceable ban on partial birth abortion that protects the life and health of the mother.”

As governor, Kaine did support some existing restrictions on abortion, including Virginia’s parental consent law and a so-called informed consent law. He also signed a 2009 measure that created “Choose Life” license plates in the state, and gave a percentage of the proceeds to a crisis pregnancy network.

Regardless of Clinton’s vice president pick, the “center of gravity in the Democratic Party has shifted in a bold, populist, progressive direction,” said Stephanie Taylor, co-founder of the Progressive Change Campaign Committee, in an emailed statement. “It’s now more important than ever that Hillary Clinton run an aggressive campaign on core economic ideas like expanding Social Security, debt-free college, Wall Street reform, and yes, stopping the TPP. It’s the best way to unite the Democratic Party, and stop Republicans from winning over swing voters on bread-and-butter issues.”

Roundups Politics

Campaign Week in Review: Trump Selects Indiana Gov. Mike Pence to Join His Ticket

Ally Boguhn

And in other news, Donald Trump suggested that he can relate to Black people who are discriminated against because the system has been rigged against him, too. But he stopped short of saying he understood the experiences of Black Americans.

Donald Trump announced this week that he had selected Indiana Gov. Mike Pence (R) to join him as his vice presidential candidate on the Republican ticket, and earlier in the week, the presumptive presidential nominee suggested to Fox News that he could relate to Black Americans because the “system is rigged” against him too.

Pence Selected to Join the GOP Ticket 

After weeks of speculation over who the presumptive nominee would chose as his vice presidential candidate, Trump announced Friday that he had chosen Pence.

“I am pleased to announce that I have chosen Governor Mike Pence as my Vice Presidential running mate,” Trump tweeted Friday morning, adding that he will make the official announcement on Saturday during a news conference.

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The presumptive Republican nominee was originally slated to host the news conference Friday, but postponed in response to Thursday’s terrorist attack in Nice, France. As late as Thursday evening, Trump told Fox News that he had not made a final decision on who would join his ticket—even as news reports came in that he had already selected Pence for the position.

As Rewire Editor in Chief Jodi Jacobson explained in a Thursday commentary, Pence “has problems with the truth, isn’t inclined to rely on facts, has little to no concern for the health and welfare of the poorest, doesn’t understand health care, and bases his decisions on discriminatory beliefs.” Jacobson further explained: 

He has, for example, eagerly signed laws aimed at criminalizing abortion, forcing women to undergo unnecessary ultrasounds, banning coverage for abortion care in private insurance plans, and forcing doctors performing abortions to seek admitting privileges at hospitals (a requirement the Supreme Court recently struck down as medically unnecessary in the Whole Woman’s Health v. Hellerstedt case). He signed a ‘religious freedom’ law that would have legalized discrimination against LGBTQ persons and only ‘amended’ it after a national outcry. Because Pence has guided public health policy based on his ‘conservative values,’ rather than on evidence and best practices in public health, he presided over one of the fastest growing outbreaks of HIV infection in rural areas in the United States.

Trump Suggests He Can Relate to Black Americans Because “Even Against Me the System Is Rigged”

Trump suggested to Fox News’ Bill O’Reilly that he could relate to the discrimination Black Americans face since “the system [was] rigged” against him when he began his run for president.

When asked during a Tuesday appearance on The O’Reilly Factor what he would say to those “who believe that the system is biased against them” because they are Black, Trump leaped to highlight what he deemed to be discrimination he had faced. “I have been saying even against me the system is rigged. When I ran … for president, I mean, I could see what was going on with the system, and the system is rigged,” Trump responded.

“What I’m saying [is] they are not necessarily wrong,” Trump went on. “I mean, there are certain people where unfortunately that comes into play,” he said, concluding that he could “relate it, really, very much to myself.”

When O’Reilly asked Trump to specify whether he truly understood the “experience” of Black Americans, Trump said that he couldn’t, necessarily. 

“I would like to say yes, but you really can’t unless you are African American,” said Trump. “I would like to say yes, however.”

Trump has consistently struggled to connect with Black voters during his 2016 presidential run. Despite claiming to have “a great relationship with the blacks,” the presumptive Republican nominee has come under intense scrutiny for using inflammatory rhetoric and initially failing to condemn white supremacists who offered him their support.

According to a recent NBC News/Wall Street Journal/Marist poll released Tuesday, Trump is polling at 0 percent among Black voters in the key swing states of Ohio and Pennsylvania.

What Else We’re Reading

Newt Gingrich, who was one of Trump’s finalists for the vice presidential spot, reacted to the terrorist attack in Nice, France, by calling for all those in the United States with a “Muslim background” to face a test to determine if they “believe in sharia” and should be deported.

Presumptive Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton threw her support behind a public option for health insurance.

Bloomberg Politics’ Greg Stohr reports that election-related cases—including those involving voter-identification requirements and Ohio’s early-voting period—are moving toward the Supreme Court, where they are “risking deadlocks.”

According to a Reuters review of GOP-backed changes to North Carolina’s voting rules, “as many as 29,000 votes might not be counted in this year’s Nov. 8 presidential election if a federal appeals court upholds” a 2013 law that bans voters from casting ballots outside of their assigned precincts.

The Wall Street Journal reported on the election goals and strategies of anti-choice organization Susan B. Anthony List, explaining that the organization plans to work to ensure that policy goals such as a 20-week abortion ban and defunding Planned Parenthood “are the key issues that it will use to rally support for its congressional and White House candidates this fall, following recent setbacks in the courts.”

Multiple “dark money” nonprofits once connected to the Koch brothers’ network were fined by the Federal Election Commission (FEC) this week after hiding funding sources for 2010 political ads. They will now be required to “amend past FEC filings to disclose who provided their funding,” according to the Center for Responsive Politics. 

Politico’s Matthew Nussbaum and Ben Weyl explain how Trump’s budget would end up “making the deficit great again.”

“The 2016 Democratic platform has the strongest language on voting rights in the party’s history,” according to the Nation’s Ari Berman.