CO's Recall Elections a Referendum on National Gun Control

If there were any further evidence needed that Colorado’s state-lawmaker recall elections scheduled for September 10 were from the start a proxy national battle over gun policy, that evidence came yesterday, when campaign finance reports in the races came due. The reports included major donations from New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg, California entrepreneur Eli Broad and the National Rifle Association.

Bloomberg and Broad are the big money behind the national group Mayors against Illegal Guns and its No More Names project, an effort to reduce gun violence formed in reaction to the 2012 Newtown school shootings.

According to the Colorado Secretary of State records, Bloomberg gave $350,000 and Broad $250,000 to Taxpayers for Responsible Democracy to support state Senators John Morse and Angela Giron. The two Democrats are battling to keep their seats after supporting gun-control measures last spring and drawing fierce criticism from gun-rights groups around the state and the nation.

The National Rifle Association gave $108,000 to its local Committee to Restore Coloradan’s Rights. That money has largely been spent on radio, television and billboard ads supporting the recall and Republican candidates Bernie Herpin, who is running against Morse, and George Rivera, who is running against Giron.

“People nationwide understand the importance of this election, they are donating from out of state because they care about gun safety,” said Morse’s campaign manager Christy Le Lait. “Everybody understands this is a question of whether we’ll move forward towards making our country a safer place or move backwards.”

Le Lait said news of the national contributions shouldn’t overshadow local support. also couched the influence and scale of the big donations saying, “We do have national money on our side, but we also have almost 10,000 individual donors and over 72 percent of our money is from within Colorado.”

Taxpayers for Responsible Democracy, has given a whopping $270,000 to Giron’s campaign and $150,000 to Morse’s. The group has taken in over $700,000 to date

Big dollar special-interest spending has also flowed into the pro-recall camp.

Americans for Prosperity, a conservative politics group funded mostly by the oil-billionaire Koch brothers, has launched media campaigns in the recall districts against Morse and Giron that must run to the tens of thousands of dollars at least. That spending doesn’t have to be disclosed.

Nonprofit Free Colorado, funded by Magpul industries, now faces a cease and desist order from the Morse and Giron campaigns over a series of expensive ads that the lawmakers argue are baseless.

The local-but-national quality of the elections, has been underlined every week since they were announced. They made national headlines and drew big names and big money, but have also been plagued by a host of amateur-hour legal tangles and administrative blunders. Parties revolved in and out of courtrooms doors all month on a host of parallel issues tied to statutory and constitutional and rulemaking mixups and oversights, casting blame in every direction.

In Colorado, mail elections and early voting have been popular for years and same-day registration is now the law. But the recalls have been reduced to mandatory all-in-person elections. Printed ballots mailed to overseas voters may or may not be useable. The current ballot, with its multiple questions, has been ruled unconstitutional. Questions hang in the air with less than two weeks to go before Election Day.

Clerks in El Paso and Pueblo Counties, where the elections will be held, have said the elections they will have to run remind them of races conducted in the early 1990s.

Recall election historian Joshua Spivak tried to put the confusion in perspective.

“It’s amazing how many ways there are to mess up a simple recall election — and this isn’t anywhere near the worst I’ve seen.”

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