In the recent election, Colorado’s Amendment 49, which I supported, lost. It would have prevented government from withholding a portion of the income only of government employees for transfer to unions. Meanwhile, Amendment 54, which I opposed, won. Unless it is overturned in court, it will prohibit certain government contractors from making certain campaign contributions, which I regard as a violation of free speech. I was surprised by this outcome, so I asked Jon Caldara about it at the November 13 Independence Institute banquet. (Caldara heads the Institute.) We also discussed Christopher Buckley, mill levies, and campaign finance laws. Following is a lightly redacted transcript of our discussion.
Jon: By the way, congratulations on ten years of the Colorado Freedom Report.
Ari: …and congratulations to you for a decade at the II. … So I was disappointed that 49 lost. We have some idea of why that lost. Why do you think 54 won and that lost?
Jon: For two reasons, and two reasons only. One, in Colorado, people who write the proposals don’t write the title language, the Title Board does. They had superb, wonderful Title Board language. 49 had awful language, and we have no control over that. Secondly, they had two million dollars behind them, which was enough to get the word out. 49 had [practically] nothing.
Ari: Well, thanks for doing that. Is there going to be any follow-up effort to do that statutorily, through another initiative…
Jon: I would like to, but of course this legislature is bought and sold by the unions, these are the same ones who wanted to change the Labor Peace Act… So it’s not going to happen statutorily.
Ari: …so there might be a follow-up, but there’s no specific plan. … So here’s my next question. Christopher Buckley. What happened there?
Jon: It didn’t work out. But he’ll be back. Christopher is likely going to come back and join us for the Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms party. Since he did such a great job with Thank You for Smoking and is such a humorist we thought that might be a better fit.
Ari: The word around the campfire is that you dumped him when he endorsed Obama.
Jon: I wasn’t happy when he endorsed Obama, but we found I think a more appropriate place to use him at an II event.
Ari: What else [should we look for] over the coming year?
Jon: I think we ought to keep an eye on the mill levy freeze [See Benjamin DeGrow’s article] lawsuit, because, my guess is that in two to three weeks we will have a ruling from the Supreme Court to see if our lower court ruling stands or not.
Ari: Another thing you’re in court over is the campaign finance alleged violations. Where is that?
Jon: In fifteen days from now we’ll find out… Briefly, the campaign against 47, the right to work, decided to also campaign against our initiative, but did not disclose so on the Secretary of State’s disclosure forms. That’s a blatant violation of election law, and I’m not a big fan of election law, but if it’s there you need to follow it.
Ari: I was actually thinking of the previous thing… Aren’t you still involved with the Referendum C case?
Jon: No, we won that handily… We were completely exonerated — of course, three days after the election was over.
Ari: Well that is an interesting tension. Some people on the right are simultaneously using and complaining about the campaign finance laws. Where should we be headed about that as far as free speech is concerned?
Jon: As a free speech issue, we should change Amendment 27, which is now Article 28 of the state constitution, and allow free speech. If we can’t do that, we should make sure that the campaign finance laws aren’t just a slam dunk for unions and liberal special interests, but that other groups can use them to their advantage as well.
Ari: In other words, they’re not selectively enforced, so long as they are enforced.
Jon: Absolutely… They made the rules, we can still win.
See the collected posts about the Independence Institute’s 2008 banquet.