Judge delivers written injuction of ‘clean government’ Amendment 54
Friday, July 17, 2009 at 8:53 pm
Denver District Judge Catherine Lemon delivered her written preliminary injunction of Amendment 54 this afternoon. The judge decided in favor of plaintiff’s at a hearing June 23 to enjoin, or suspend, the law made by the amendment, which came as the result of a controversial ballot initiative that supporters said was aimed at limiting or preventing pay-to-play corruption in Colorado.
The Judge ruled, however, that the aims were too muddled to pass as law. She said that the sloppy language of the amendment placed too high a burden on people it sought to govern. She also described the way the amendment targeted unions as “curious and problematic.”
Passed by 51 percent of Colorado voters last November, Amendment 54 restricted campaign contributions by government contractors and their relatives. The amendment’s conservative backers, including Independence Institute President Jon Caldara, billed it as a move to fight corruption, but opponents argued it targeted labor unions unjustly and that the murky law the amendment created and the harsh penalties it put in place unnecessarily chilled participation in the political process across the board.
Amendment 54 is Unconstitutionally Vague.
The First Amendment demands “specificity in a law so that individuals may assess the
burden on their rights to free speech and free association and make informed decisions before acting.”
The language, “to cease making, causing to be made, or inducing by any means, a
contribution, directly or indirectly, on behalf of the contract holder or on behalf of his or her immediate family member and for the benefit of any political party or for the benefit of any candidate for any elected office of the state or any of its political subdivisions” in section 15 is impermissibly vague.
Amendment 54’s Ban on Contributions by Public Sector Unions and their Political Committees is Unconstitutional.
The inclusion of public sector collective bargaining agreements within the definition of
sole source government contracts is curious and problematic; they simply do not fit formally or functionally with the rest of the amendment or its asserted state interests. There is no evidence of any real or perceived threat of corrupt influence of public officials with authority over the award of collective bargaining agreements.
unlike a business, which can avoid the prohibitions of Amendment 54 by refraining from sole source contracting, a public employee union cannot escape Amendment 54’s contribution ban, except by refraining from fulfilling its basic mission: the exclusive
representation of public employees.
“It’s not a close case,” said Lemon from the bench in June after hearing four hours of closing arguments.
“Where First Amendment freedoms are involved, the state has got to [demonstrate] a compelling interest. All we’ve got here is a presumption of corruption and there is no case law to support restricting First Amendment rights based on presumption.”
Lemon further agreed that the amendment unconstitutionally attacked the rights of organized labor in particular.
“It’s obvious from the language of the amendment … that unions have had their rights to participate in the political process completely obliterated and not based on any conduct but simply because of their status as unions, simply because of who they are.”
The state Supreme Court will likely rule on the Constitutional questions raised in the case that led to the injunction.
The case against the amendment was argued by Mark Grueskin, Doug Friednash and former state Supreme Court Justice Jean Dubofsky.