Scott Gessler calls for fewer limits on campaign finance -- to protect free speech
At least that's the argument of Colorado Secretary of State Scott Gessler, who, in a speech yesterday, said he would like to see fewer limitations on campaign finance, arguing that reform efforts generally have failed.
"I tend to be a free-speech absolutest.... We as humans, as Americans, have God-given rights to speak our mind," Gessler said at a University of Denver panel on campaign finance. "When you restrict people, and government shouldn't do that...you are violating the First Amendment and you're harming our society greatly."
He added, "And practically, I don't think it works."
This speech from Gessler, a Republican and Colorado's chief election officer, was delivered just weeks after the close of the presidential election, which resulted in millions of dollars spent in this key swing state.
Sam Levin Scott Gessler at DU yesterday.
The comments also come on the heels of Colorado voters overwhelmingly passing Amendment 65 -- a measure that calls for Colorado's congressional delegation to support limits on spending at the federal level. This measure -- which was overshadowed by Colorado's successful pot measure -- is symbolic, since governments can't restrict political spending at the state level.
As we reported, more than 70 percent of residents in Colorado from counties across the state voted in favor of A65, and its proponents say the message against excessive spending in politics is clear.
But Gessler, who has gotten a lot of attention this election cycle for his controversial anti-fraud iniaitives, says efforts to limit campaign spending have been unsuccessful. The more governments try to restrict this kind of spending, he believes, the more they will be interfering with basic constitutional rights.
"The world we live in is the one shaped by campaign finance regulations," said Gessler, who has taught election law at the University of Colorado and the University of Denver. "In Colorado...the people who have supported campaign finance regulations have gotten almost everything they wanted."
He was referring to Amendment 27, which passed in 2002 with the stated aim of curbing special interests in elections. The measure sets limits on contributions to candidates and was designed to encourage more candidates to run by restricting the extent to which corporations can influence races.
"Campaign finance regulation [is], in my view, very intensive, sometimes very intrusive," Gessler said. "And...in many ways, on its own terms, it has failed as a system.... It has created harms and costs here that have distorted our political process in a way that does not serve democracy well."
Continue for more from Gessler's speech and response from his critics.