Scott Gessler calls for fewer limits on campaign finance -- to protect free speech
Gessler said that while supporters of campaign finance regulations want to fight corruption, get big money out of politics and curb outrageous spending, he feels limitations have had many negative consequences.
He noted that many groups and candidates have been forced to pay major fines in penalties due to late filings -- around $1.8 million total from December 2010 through last month in Colorado.
Photo by Christopher Morgan Protesters against big money at the Denver presidential debate in October.
Gessler argued that regulations haven't helped candidates focus on people instead of money, as some have hoped. "We have such small dollar limits that candidates spend a huge, inordinate amount of time because they have to fill an ocean one teaspoonful at a time."
Another of Gessler's arguments: Regulations have hurt smaller groups that struggle with the complicated processes required of them while allowing wealthy outside organizations to pour money into races and have a huge impact on elections. As a result, he thinks the actual candidates and the political parties have less influence in their own races.
In short, government should just stay out of the way, Gessler said.
He told us in an interview after the speech, "It's restricted candidates and restricted parties so heavily that they don't have the resources to do much of anything."
When we asked Gessler about the passage of Amendment 65, he dismissed the initiative.
"Amendment 65 is entirely symbolic, and because it's symbolic, it really didn't spur much of a debate," he said, adding, "I wasn't a fan of it."
Unsurprisingly, Danny Katz, director of the Colorado Public Interest Research Group, a statewide advocacy group and one of the proponents of 65, told us he fundamentally disagreed with Gessler's arguments.
"This concept that the size of your pocket should determine the amount of speech you have seems wrong to me," he said. "Money does not equal speech. If it did, then those with the deepest pockets would have more speech, would be entitled to more speech."
In regard to Gessler's comment that independent groups are having more influence because candidates are facing overly harsh restrictions, Katz replied, "If you're gonna have limits on candidates, but you're worried that they're then...not able to match the power of these outsiders, then limit the money and power of these outsiders."
He added, "Colorado spoke this last election.... We don't think our democracy works best when a few individuals have million dollar megaphones."
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