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Campaign Finance Reform Initiative

Campaign Finance Reform Initiative


The Campaign Finance Reform Initiative was adopted by City of Boulder electors in 1999 and was implemented for the first time in the 2001 Municipal election. Key goals in implementing the initiative are:

  • To make the process as simple to use as possible.
  • To make the process as simple to administer as possible.
  • To ensure that there are thorough controls over public funds used to fund City Council campaigns.
  • To provide easy, timely resident access to key financial information about City Council campaigns.

Who Is Impacted By CFR Initiative

Although many people think of campaign finance reform as public funding for City Council candidates, the impact is actually much broader. The key aspects of the CFR Initiative and those potentially impacted are:

  1. Contribution Limitations: Impacts all candidates for City Council, all official candidate committees and all unofficial candidate committees. (Contribution limits apply whether or not a candidate receives public matching funds.)
  2. Public Financing for City Council Candidates: Impacts candidates for City Council who qualify and apply for public matching funds and their official candidate committees. (Candidates are not required to apply for public funding.)
  3. Independent Expenditures: Impacts any natural person or other entity (corporation, organization, unofficial candidate committee, political committee, etc.) that makes an expenditure of greater than $200 to support or oppose a candidate or candidates in a City Council election.

Text of CFR Initiative

This section contains the actual text of the Campaign Finance Reform Initiative that was passed by Boulder electors in 1999. (Please keep in mind that an ordinance was adopted by City Council in July of 2001 that changed some provisions of the Initiative. These changes were necessary to accommodate court rulings made following the Initiative’s passage. Section 5 of the CFR Initiative, covering independent expenditures, has changed as a result of the ordinance.) Now, therefore, be it ordained that:

  1. LEGISLATIVE INTENT. To assure the public that:
    (a) excessive campaign costs and large contributions do not cause corruption or the appearance of corruption in the election process;
    (b) large campaign contributions will not be used to buy political access or to influence governmental actions;
    (c) access to large amounts of money will not be a prime requirement for participation in the political process.
  2. CONTRIBUTION LIMITATION. No candidate for city council, or candidate committee, shall solicit or accept any contribution, including any “in-kind” contribution, that will cause the total contributions from any person, as defined in the B.R.C.,1981, to exceed one hundred dollars with respect to any single election to that candidate. The recipient of any contribution which would cause the total amount of contributions to a candidate from a single person to exceed one hundred dollars shall promptly return any such excess to the donor.
    (a) The city will allocate and provide matching funds, up to fifty percent of the expenditure limit as herein defined, to any city council candidate who meets the eligibility requirements set out in Paragraph 4 below. The expenditure limit shall be set at fifteen cents, per registered city voter as of the day after the date set by state law for the purging of registration records of the election year. This limit shall be adjusted based on changes in the Consumer Price Index (all items) of the U.S. Department of Labor, Bureau of Labor and Statistics, for the statistical area which includes the city, in an amount equal to the percentage change for the preceding two years. Only actual currency or its equivalent shall be matched with public funds. Neither loans nor in-kind contributions nor amounts exceeding one hundred dollars from the candidate’s personal wealth shall be eligible for matching funds.
    (b) After meeting the eligibility requirements, any candidate may request matching funds from the city no more frequently than once per week in amounts no less than five hundred dollars . The final request for matching funds must be submitted to the city no later than fourteen days before the election, but may be for less than five hundred dollars.
  4. ELIGIBILITY FOR MATCHING FUNDS. A candidate who meets the following requirements shall be eligible to receive matching funds:
    (a) The candidate raises at least ten percent of the expenditure limit from individual contributors. No more than twenty-five dollars of each contribution may be counted toward the ten percent, and
    (b) The candidate signs a contract with the city committing to the following:
    (1) Agrees to limit his or her expenditures to fifteen cents per registered voter of the city as of the day after the date set by state law for the purging of registration records of the election year. This limit shall be adjusted based on changes in the Consumer Price Index (all items) of the U.S. Department of Labor, Bureau of Labor and Statistics, for the statistical area which includes the city, in an amount equal to the percentage change for the preceding two years.
    (2) Agrees to contribute to his or her campaign no more than twenty percent of the expenditure limit from his or her own personal wealth;
    (3) Agrees to return at least fifty percent of any unexpended funds to the city, but not more than the matching funds received, and
    (4) Agrees to treat any carryover funds from a previous campaign as funds from the candidate’s personal wealth, subject to the limits of such funds.
    (a) Any person, as defined in the B.R.C.,1981, making an independent expenditure in excess of two hundred dollars shall deliver notice in writing of such independent expenditure, as well as the amount of such expenditure, and a detailed description of the use of such independent expenditure, within twenty-four hours after obligating funds for such expenditure. Such notice shall be delivered to all candidates in the affected race and to the city clerk. The notice shall specifically state the name of the candidate or candidates whom the independent expenditure is intended to support or oppose. Each independent expenditure shall require delivery of a new notice.
    (b) Any person making an independent expenditure in excess of two hundred dollars shall disclose in the political message produced by the expenditure, the full name of the person, the name of the registered agent, the amount of the expenditure, and the specific statement that the advertisement or material is not authorized by any candidate. Such disclosure shall be prominently featured in the potential message.
    (c) Expenditures by any person on behalf of a candidate for public office that are coordinated with or controlled by the candidate or the candidate’s agent shall be considered a contribution to the candidate and subject the candidate and the contributor to any applicable penalties contained in this ordinance.
    (d) “Independent expenditure” means payment of money by any person for the purpose of advocating the election or defeat of a candidate, which expenditure is not controlled by, coordinated with, or made upon consultation with any candidate or any agent of such candidate. “Independent expenditure” includes expenditures for political messages which unambiguously refer to any specific public office or candidate for such office, but does not include expenditures made by persons, other than political parties and political committees, in the regular course and scope of their business, including political messages sent solely to members.
    (a) The city council is empowered to create an advisory committee and other enforcement procedures as it deems appropriate to implement this ordinance.
    (b) The city attorney shall enforce all provisions of this ordinance.
    (c) Any registered elector of the city may bring a civil action including without limitation an action for injury, and may sue for injunctive relief to enjoin violations or to compel compliance with this ordinance consistent with (d), below, provided such person first files with the city attorney a written request for the city attorney to commence action. The request shall include a statement of grounds for believing a cause of action exists. The city attorney shall respond within ten days after receipt of the request indicating whether the city attorney intends to file a civil action. If the city attorney indicates in the affirmative and files suit within thirty days thereafter, no other civil action for the same violation may be brought unless the action brought by the city attorney is dismissed without prejudice.
    (d) Any candidate or candidate committee who knowingly accepts a contribution in excess of one hundred dollars or exceeds the expenditure limit in violation of the contract with the city and this ordinance is liable in a civil action initiated by the city attorney or by a registered elector of the city for an amount up to five hundred dollars or three times the amount by which the contribution or expenditure limit is exceeded, whichever is greater.
    (e) In determining the amount of liability, the court may take into account the seriousness of the violation and the culpability of the defendant.
  7. ADOPTION. No later than ninety calendar days after the adoption of this ordinance, the city council shall, by ordinance, incorporate the provisions of this measure in Title 13, B.R.C., 1981, and make any and all necessary conforming changes to said title in order to carry out the provisions of this measure and, specifically, including the enforcement and penalty provisions.
  8. If any section, subsection, sentence, clause, phrase or portion of this ordinance is for any reason held invalid or unconstitutional in a court of competent jurisdiction, such portion shall be deemed a separate, distinct and independent provision and shall not affect the validity of the remaining portions thereof.