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Campaign finance initiative makes November ballot

Author: Marianne Goodland - September 4, 2018 - Updated: September 24, 2018

campaign finance reformFormer state Rep. BJ Nikkel of Loveland and former state Sen. Greg Brophy of Wray show off the record 212,000 petition signatures for initiative #173. Photo courtesy of Stop Buying Our Elections

The last of the statewide ballot measures awaiting review — a campaign finance initiative — cleared the Colorado Secretary of State’s Office Tuesday, making it a baker’s dozen of questions voters will be asked to decide in November.

The measure is a constitutional amendment on campaign finance, initiative 173, backed by former state Rep. BJ Nikkel, R-Loveland, and former state Sen. Greg Brophy, R-Wray.

Sponsors turned in a record 212,332 signatures, with 98,492 required to make the ballot. Of the signatures submitted, 136,328 were deemed valid.

Initiative 173 is known as “Stop Buying Our Elections.” Its funders are unknown.

If adopted by voters, the measure would change certain campaign finance limits for candidates running for state-level office — governor, secretary of state, attorney general, state treasurer and members of the Colorado General Assembly.

Currently, the state limit on donations is $400 per election cycle for the state House and Senate and $1,150 for the statewide offices. The measure would amend campaign finance limits established in Amendment 27, approved by voters in 2002.

According to Brophy and Nikkel, when a candidate puts $1 million or more into his or her own campaign, the campaign contribution limits for everyone else in the same race “go up five times, so you can raise enough money to compete with the millionaire or billionaire trying to buy the election.”

The measure targets candidates wealthy enough to fund their races with millions of dollars, like this year’s gubernatorial nominees, Democrat Jared Polis and Republican Walker Stapleton, as well as businessman and former state Rep. Victor Mitchell, the Douglas County Republican who lost to Stapleton in the primary. Polis has so far put $12.875 million into his campaign, while Stapleton has ponied up just over $1 million, and Mitchell spent nearly $5 million on his race..

The amendment’s effects would also be triggered by certain independent expenditure committees that back specific candidates, Brophy said — such as Frontier Fairness, which supported Democratic gubernatorial candidate Mike Johnston and took in $2 million in contributions from billionaire Michael Bloomberg.

Of the other dozen ballot measures now set for November, four are statutory, two seek changes to the state constitution and six are constitutional amendments that were referred by the General Assembly.


  • setback measure for oil and gas would mandate that new oil and gas development, including fracking, be a minimum distance of 2,500 feet from occupied buildings and other areas designated as “vulnerable.”
  • A measure on payday loans would cap the charges on payday loans to a yearly rate of 36 percent and would eliminate all other finance charges and fees associated with payday lending.
  • transportation measure that would increase sales tax, and
  • transportation measure to authorize bonds, paid for with existing state revenues.


The six measures referred by the General Assembly:

  • Amendment V, lowering the age requirement for legislators from 25 to 21 years old,
  • Amendment W, election ballot format for judicial retention elections,
  • Amendment X, change the definition of industrial hemp from constitutional to statutory,
  • Amendment Y, congressional redistricting,
  • Amendment Z, legislative reapportionment and
  • Amendment A, prohibiting slavery and involuntary servitude

Marianne Goodland

Marianne Goodland

Marianne Goodland is the chief legislative reporter for Colorado Politics. She's covered the Colorado General Assembly for 20 years, starting off in 1998 with the Silver & Gold Record, the editorially-independent newspaper at CU that was shuttered in 2009. She also writes for six rural newspapers in northeastern Colorado. Marianne specializes in rural issues, agriculture, water and, during election season, campaign finance. In her free time (ha!) she lives in Lakewood with her husband, Jeff; a cantankerous Shih-Tzu named Sophie; and Gunther the cat. She is also an award-winning professional harpist.