AURORA | An Arapahoe County District Court judge has granted a preliminary injunction in favor of Aurora Mayor Mike’s Coffman challenge of a local campaign finance law that aims to add transparency to city elections through limiting candidate coordination with so-called dark money fundraising mechanisms.
Court records show that Arapahoe County Judge Peter Michaelson issued an order in Coffman’s case on May 28. A request for a copy of the order sent to an Arapahoe County court clerk Tuesday morning is pending.
The lawsuit, which was filed in March on behalf of Coffman by the conservative-leaning Public Trust Institute law firm, argued that parts of local campaign finance laws violate free speech, though drafters of the law say that wasn’t their intent.
In the lawsuit, Coffman argued that a piece of the law that bans “coordinated expenditures” is too broad and that “if a committee uses any consultant, fundraiser or volunteer that is also used by another committee, then every expenditure of those committees is ‘coordinated.’”
Coffman, while not up for election this year, is still considered a candidate by law because he still has an active campaign committee. That means he couldn’t coordinate with other committees or candidates, notably, he previously said, Dustin Zvonek, Coffman’s former Congressional press secretary, who is running for an at-large seat.
Drafters of the ordinance said Coffman’s reading of the law wasn’t their intent. Councilmember Juan Marcano previously told the Sentinel the goal of the law wasn’t to step on the First Amendment, rather align local campaign finance law with state and federal rules.
Marcano and other city council members have actively endorsed and contributed to candidates for city office and said the new law doesn’t preclude them from doing so.
Both state and federal campaign finance laws prohibit candidates from working with funding sources that directly benefit themselves. The intent of the local ordinance was that municipal candidates could not be on the board of a committee that would directly benefit them, bill sponsors said.
Marcano said Tuesday he hadn’t spoken with council members yet, but he planned to tighten up language in the ordinance as soon as possible, as the injunction voids the rule. The rest of the law, which determines fundraising reporting and donation caps, is still active and enforceable.
“These extreme rules are designed specifically to deny me the fundamental right to publicly support candidates or ballot initiatives,” Coffman said in a statement via the Public Trust Institute. “I’m grateful that the Court has granted an injunction suspending these rules while our lawsuit to have them declared unconstitutional continues.”