Following the Money: Amendment 71
This November Coloradans will not only vote for a new President, but we will also decide on several ballot measure questions. Many of these ballot measures deal with complex subjects that engender passionate debate and discussion. While disagreement is a necessary part of discourse, problems arise when one side of an issue has access to enormous financial resources and the opposition does not. As long as special interest groups can spend unlimited money in lieu of gaining real support from the people, our system will always favor the wealthiest side of an issue. At Cleanslatenow.org we are dedicated to creating a democracy that is free from the political inequities that plague a system financed by unlimited, untraceable money.
One way we can push back against these special interest groups is to follow the money being spent for or against these ballot measures. Our goal isn’t to take sides, but to illuminate the unequal fundraising methods and potential motives behind some of the ballot measures.
First up is Amendment 71. This amendment would amend Colorado’s constitution in order to, wait for it, make it more difficult to amend the constitution. Here’s how- In Colorado one way we can amend our constitution is to collect roughly 98,000 signatures from registered voters over a 6 month period. If that is done successfully the ballot measure question is placed on the ballot for the people to decide. If a majority of voters (50% +1) vote yes, the amendment is adopted. Amendment 71 would make this process more difficult in two ways. First, it would require that 2% of the total signatures be collected from all 35 of the Colorado Senate Districts; secondly, it would require 55% of votes for an amendment to be successful (except when the vote is to repeal a part of the constitution).
There are certainly people who believe in this amendment. You may even be tempted to think there are huge amounts of people supporting it because the committee currently sending out supportive mailers has so far raised $28 million dollars. The truth is that wide-ranging public support is not why they were able raise so much money. Who is really behind this effort? All you have to do is follow the money.
The committee with the big money supporting this amendment is called “Protecting Colorado’s Environment, Economy, and Energy Independence”. Let’s take a look at their top donors. These donors represent 92% of the $28 million raised. To see the source of these figures for yourself, visit the Colorado Secretary of State’s page here.
|ANADARKO PETROLEUM CORP||$10,665,235.00|
|NOBLE ENERGY INC||$9,115,235.00|
|WHITING OIL & GAS CORPORATION||$1,550,000.00|
|BAYSWATER EXPLORATION & PRODUCTION||$1,525,000.00|
|COLORADANS FOR RESPONSIBLE ENERGY DEVELOPMENT||$556,605.00|
|SYNERGY RESOURCES CORPORATION||$450,000.00|
|EXTRACTION OIL & GAS||$400,000.00|
|PIONEER NATURAL RESOURCES||$300,000.00|
Remember that current requirement for Constitutional amendments that requires 98,000 signatures before they can even make that ballot? It turns out that collecting enough signatures to pack a Broncos game is no small feat, especially if the effort is made up of people who don’t have millions of dollars to spend. In fact, it is so difficult that several potential amendments dealing with the oil and gas industry didn’t collect enough signatures to make the ballot. These amendments would have restricted the practice of hydraulic fracturing (fracking) in various ways. While they weren’t successful in getting on the ballot, let alone passing, what they DID do is scare the daylights out of the oil and gas industry. The reason so many oil and gas companies (many from outside of Colorado) want to make our constitution more difficult to amend is because they want to make it harder for anti-fracking amendments to pass. It’s really that simple.
Whether or not you think the oil and gas industry should be subject to additional regulations, or whether you believe the constitution should be more difficult to amend or not, the injustice here is the fact that the voters of Colorado don’t have $28 million dollars to spend to wage an equally persuasive campaign.
The real discussion we need to have on this issue won’t happen if one side has an oil and gas financed megaphone capable drowning out all opposition. This industry is using its enormous financial reserves to push a ballot measure on Coloradans who don’t have access to the same financial resources. This is what democratic inequality looks like and this is a prime example of why all of us have to invest in fixing the way we finance our political campaigns.
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