Ballot measures' sponsors appeal order to divulge financial backers

July 27, 2010

The sponsors of three controversial measures that opponents say could cripple Colorado’s economy have appealed a judge’s order that they disclose who contributed money and services to get the issues on the ballot.

In a filing with the state Court of Appeals, the sponsors allege that the administrative law judge who presided over the case, as well as the individuals who made the original complaint, engaged in “flagrant misconduct.”

The appeal added, “The weaving of wild speculative theories about unknown contributions in kind by unknown persons, and other distractions from the fact that there was NO evidence appellant ‘accepted’ over two hundred dollars.”

Denver Administrative Law Judge Robert Spencer ruled in June that three sponsors should have formed issue committees and reported expenditures and contributions related to Amendment 60, Amendment 61 and Proposition 101.

Dan Hopkins, a spokesman for a coalition of civic and business leaders opposed to the ballot issues, said in an e-mail that the appeal is simply another effort to hide who’s financing the measures.

“It appears that the whole point of the appeal is for the true backers of the three measures to hide in the shadows and remain anonymous until after the election,” he said.

Spencer assessed $2,000 fines against each of the three proponents. He also found that evidence in the hearing showed they were working in concert with Colorado Springs resident Douglas Bruce.

Bruce has refused to appear for a deposition in that case. His refusal is now the subject of a pending contempt-of-court hearing in Denver brought by the Colorado Attorney General’s Office.

Eight professional petition circulators who gathered thousands of signatures for the three measures lived in a house on Boulder Street in central Colorado Springs owned by Bruce, Secretary of State’s Office records show.

The individuals ordered to pay the fines were Louis Schroeder, a Greenwood Village resident and one of the two proponents of Amendment 60; Russell Haas, a Golden resident and one of two proponents of Amendment 61, and Jeff Gross, a housepainter from Kersey and one of two proponents of Proposition 101.

Schroeder and Haas did not return phone calls Tuesday. Gross could not be reached for comment.

Under the state Constitution, rulings from administrative law judges can be appealed to the state Court of Appeals. Among other allegations, the proponents of the ballot issues maintain they did not receive a speedy hearing, that their constitutional rights were violated and that they were found liable for violations for which they had never been charged.

In an apparent reference to Mark Grueskin, the lawyer who brought the campaign finance complaint, the appeal stated, “Appellee publicly admitted repeatedly that he did not have evidence of liability of proponents at the time he filed the case, but filed a case to ‘find out’ who was ‘behind the petitions.’ Filing a case without evidence is an abuse of process.”

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