An Arapahoe County District Court judge last week blocked portions of an Aurora campaign finance reform measure from going into effect in a case that featured the mayor accusing his own city of targeting him through law.
Mayor Mike Coffman sued the city in March over a measure passed late last year that would bar officeholders in Aurora from organizing campaigns on behalf of candidates or ballot issues.
“…the Court rejects the argument that association between candidates fights the appearance of impropriety and, or actual corruption,” District Court Judge Peter F. Michaelson wrote in the preliminary injunction on Friday. “To make that conclusion would require the Court to accept the dubious premise that incumbents are all corrupt and only self-funded candidates, or those with support from outside the community and without the need to associate with existing elected officials, are pure.”
The campaign finance measure, which the City Council passed late last year, limits individual donations to a candidate or his or her political committee to $400 per election cycle in a ward race and $1,000 in an at-large or mayoral race, and there are no limits to self-funded campaigns.
Coffman said he agreed with these aspects of the measure but believes the prohibition on officeholders organizing, maintaining or controlling a political or issue committee was written with him in mind.
“These extreme rules are designed specifically to deny me the fundamental right to publicly support candidates or ballot initiatives,” Coffman said in a statement. “I’m grateful that the court has granted an injunction suspending these rules while our lawsuit to have them declared unconstitutional continues.”
The ordinance came to be after Coffman, a Republican and former U.S. congressman, won the 2019 mayor’s race after raising $700,000 in a campaign that saw a million dollars pour in.
“There’s nothing in the First Amendment that excludes mayors or other elected officials from speaking out on elections or publicly backing political candidates,” said Dan Burrows, Public Trust Institute’s Legal Director, a nonprofit law firm representing Coffman in his fight against the city.
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