Luis Toro

Clear The Bench Colorado wins judgement against “frivolous, groundless, vexatious” complaint by “Colorado Ethics Watch” (CEW, pronounced “sue” – it’s what they do), awarded “tens of thousands” in legal fees

Clear The Bench Colorado wins!

Yes, it’s still more than three months until the judicial retention elections in November, when Colorado citizens will be able to exercise their right to vote “NO” on the three remaining ‘unjust justices’ of the Colorado Supreme Court’s incumbent ‘Mullarkey Majority’ who have declared their intent to allow themselves to be held accountable (minus, of course, Chief Justice Mullarkey herself, who last month announced her intent to resign rather than be held accountable by voters in the November elections).

Earlier today, however, Clear The Bench Colorado won a stunning victory when Administrative Law Judge Robert Spencer not only dismissed the frivolous, groundless, and vexatious “complaint” by self-proclaimed watchdog (actually, attack dog) “Colorado Ethics Watch” (CEW, pronounced “sue” – it’s what they do)which we have been predicting for weeks – but also ordered CEW to pay ‘tens of thousands’ in attorney’s fees to Clear The Bench Colorado because the complaint was so completely without merit.  Face The State broke the story earlier today (“Self-styled ethics watchdog ordered to pay ‘tens of thousands’ to judicial-reform campaign“):

For the second time in its four-year history, the group Colorado Ethics Watch has watched one of its trademark ethics complaints backfire after it was ordered to pay attorneys’ fees to one of its targets. An administrative law judge today threw out the group’s claims against Clear The Bench Colorado, an issue committee that seeks to oust three state Supreme Court justices on this November’s ballot.

The monumental nature of Clear The Bench Colorado‘s victory in this case – particularly the award of attorney’s fees – is difficult to overstate.  It is rare (indeed, almost unheard of – though not totally unprecedented) for attorney’s fees to be awarded to the defendant in this type of case, as Face The State had pointed out in an earlier article (“Judicial-reform group lashes back at ‘frivolous, groundless’ complaint“):

Attorneys fees are awarded sparingly by Colorado judges, largely because those requesting the sanction must prove opposing counsel pursued legal action knowing they had little chance of prevailing or failed to do basic research before filing.

The award indicates that the judge not only thought that CEW’s case (or “complaint”) was bad – he thought it was SO bad that he took the unusual step of slapping CEW with the entire bill (which, as noted, runs into the ‘tens of thousands’).

CEW’s attacks against Clear The Bench Colorado fit an ongoing pattern of unsuccessful, politically motivated “ethics” complaints designed to distract, disorient, and sling mud in the (vain) hope that something might stick.  Ultimately, they don’t care if they win or lose the case (their lopsided loss-win ratio bears this out), since their priorities are (1) smear, (2) frame the media debate and gain attention, (3) divert resources & attention, (4) intimidate, and (5) maybe (if they get lucky) occasionally win a case.  As many publications noted at the time, CEW’s attack was just another cheap political stunt.  Even the Secretary of State’s office called CEW Director Toro’s statements “disingenuous” (which is a polite way of saying, ‘lying through your teeth’).

Sadly, “Colorado Ethics Watch” (CEW, pronounced “sue” – it’s what they do) doesn’t seem to know when to quit.  Even after being definitively slapped down, CEW Director Luis Toro announced his intent to file an amended or “supplemental” complaint and continue CEW’s harassment of the judicial accountability group Clear The Bench Colorado.  And why not?  It’s not as if they’re spending their own money – not only are they well-funded by Colorado’s own “4 horsemen” – multi-billionaire activists Tim Gill, Jared Polis, Rutt Bridges, and Pat Stryker (as documented in the excellent book  The Blueprint by former Rep. Rob Witwer & 9News Reporter Adam Schrager) but also by their parent organization in Washington D.C. (with a reported 2008 revenue of $1.35M – that’s million).  That’s if they’re even spending money at all – apparently Toro’s co-attorney (Aaron Goldhamer of Sherman & Howard, LLC) is working the case pro bono (donating his time, and the firm’s resources, for free).  Perhaps Sherman & Howard clients might wish to ask about how their money is being spent?

Even with all that money, power, and legal talent (when mentioning “talent”, I’m talking about Goldhamer, and other attorneys working behind the scenes – not Toro, who’s pretty much a legal hack, not even capable of doing the most basic legal research before attacking) lined up against Clear The Bench Colorado –  we still win!

Comes from doing the right thing (as previously noted, CTBC registered in a timely manner, fulfilling all reporting requirements, in accordance with the Secretary of State’s guidance and established campaign finance regulations and procedures) – but still, score one for the underdog!

It should come as no surprise that the allies of those on the courts abusing the constitutional rights of Colorado citizens would themselves attempt to abuse the courts to achieve their goals.  What may have come as a surprise to CEW is that this time, the good guys fought back – effectively.

Fortunately, they can be stopped – by citizens with the courage to fight back.  Show your support today – stand up to unethical attorneys and sleazy solicitors, and contribute to help provide the resources for Clear The Bench Colorado to prevail against what are ultimately attacks on YOUR freedom.  Also, since sweet success is the best revenge – spread the word about why the four (er, three remaining) incumbent justices of the Mullarkey Majority (Michael Bender, Alex Martinez, Nancy Rice, and soon to be minus Chief Justice Mary Mullarkey) deserve a “NO” vote in November (and why CEW has been sicced on Clear The Bench Colorado to cover for special interests who benefit from keeping them on the bench).  Remember, they need YOUR approval to continue taking away your constitutional rights: your right to vote on tax increases, your right to defend your home or business from against eminent domain abuse, your right to fair representation in government, and your right to enjoy the benefits of the rule of law, instead of suffering under rule by activist, agenda-driven “justices.” Support Clear The Bench Colorado with your comments (Sound Off!) and your contributions - and exercise your right to vote ”NO“ on retaining these unjust justices on the bench for another 10-year term!

Midweek Update – more harassment from Colorado Ethics Watch (CEW, pronounced “sue” – it’s what they do) vs. Clear The Bench Colorado

The politically motivated attack (er, “complaint”) by complaint factory “Colorado Ethics Watch” (CEW, pronounced “sue” – it’s what they do) against Clear The Bench Colorado reached a new low this week when CEW (pronounced “sue” – it’s what they do) Director Luis Toro attempted to file a subpoena (appearance to testify) for a date on which he knew in advance of filing that the subject (Clear The Bench Colorado Director Matt Arnold) would be unavailable due to performance of military service out of state.  Such behavior is utterly despicable and beneath contempt – and may constitute harassment and breach of legal ethical standards.

How did CEW (pronounced “sue” – it’s what they do) Director Luis Toro know this in advance of filing?  Simple – because we told him, at the conclusion of nearly three hours of being harangued in a deposition this Monday (mentioning that I would be out of town the following week for my annual military training obligation).  Toro’s co-counsel Aaron Goldhamer (of Sherman & Howard, LLC) graciously expressed his thanks for my service, while Toro was conspicuously silent (apparently, my hearing was insufficiently acute to pick up on the gears grinding behind his beady little eyes as he devised his next opportunity for harassment).

For those of our readers who have never experienced the dubious pleasure of being the subject of a legal ‘deposition’ (hopefully most of you), allow me to briefly describe the process (somewhat akin to an EPW interrogation, but without forced sleep deprivation (other than any prep time) or stress positions, (other than wearing a coat & tie).

Like an interrogator, the opposing attorney gets to ask all the questions.  Often the attorney will ask the same question, repeatedly (perhaps changing the phrasing, or putting it in a different context) in an attempt to catch (or create) an inconsistency in the response.  The respondent is not allowed to challenge the line of questioning, or ask “why do you want to know?” (although the respondent’s attorney may raise objections as to relevance and scope of particular questions or line of argument).  Also like an interrogation, the respondent can be compelled to answer (albeit by legal, rather than physical, force).

Going through CEW’s interrogation (er, deposition) was an interesting experience. CEW (pronounced “sue” – it’s what they do) Director Luis Toro did indeed spend a lot of time asking questions to which he already knew (or had previously received) the answer; over the course of the deposition, his frustration with my consistent responses (including documented references) became increasingly apparent.  Toro then resorted to the ol’ “restate the answer the way I want it” game (“So what you said was X” when the actual statement was Y or Z).  I called him on this trick on several occasions and stated my objections to his attempts to put (false) words in my mouth (wonder how Toro’s tactics will sit with the judge reviewing the transcript?). Toro also attempted on several occasions to “go fish” for information outside the scope of what was allowable in the deposition. When he did, my attorney (I have possibly the best campaign law attorney team in the state – Scott Gessler and Mario Nicolais – in my corner) challenged Toro, who backed down each time he was invited to “call the judge” to resolve the dispute. (In poker, that’s referred to as “calling his bluff”).

The bigger picture here, however, is the abuse of campaign finance rules and regulations via suits and “complaints” by a secretly funded attack group (CEW, pronounced “sue” – it’s what they do), unaccountable to the public, with a pattern of filing frivolous, groundless, and vexatious lawsuits and “complaints” against grassroots groups and citizen initiatives in an attempt to deny popular participation in civic activity.  Attacks such as these – abusing the courts and the legal “complaint” process to drive up the cost of civic participation – further tilts the balance in favor of entrenched big-money interests and violates the constitutional rights of citizens to exercise free speech (particularly in the political arena, where those protections are most precious).

CEW’s attacks against Clear The Bench Colorado fit an ongoing pattern of unsuccessful, politically motivated “ethics” complaints designed to distract, disorient, and sling mud in the (vain) hope that something might stick.  Ultimately, they don’t care if they win or lose the case (their lopsided loss-win ratio bears this out), since their priorities are (1) smear, (2) frame the media debate and gain attention, (3) divert resources & attention, (4) intimidate, and (5) maybe (if they get lucky) occasionally win a case.  As many publications noted at the time, CEW’s attack was just another cheap political stunt.  Even the Secretary of State’s office called CEW Director Toro’s statements “disingenuous” (which is a polite way of saying, ‘lying through your teeth’).

So why is “Colorado Ethics Watch” (CEW, pronounced “sue” – it’s what they do) still in business, despite their abysmal success rate in winning judgments? Shouldn’t they have run out of (other peoples) money by now?

Not when the “other people” funding CEW (pronounced “sue” – it’s what they do) include multi-billionaire activists Tim Gill, Pat Stryker, Jared Polis, and Rutt Bridges – facilitated by political operatives Al Yates and Mark Grueskin – and a host of other well-heeled  attorneys and politically-connected powerhouses who’s identities are kept secret because CEW won’t open their financial records to public scrutiny (in contrast to the open financial records of citizen-led accountability efforts such as Clear The Bench Colorado). Operating at the edges of public awareness (skirting transparency, public accountability, and the ragged edges of campaign finance and other laws), groups like CEW (pronounced “sue” – it’s what they do) coordinate their actions towards advancing the “progressive” agenda statewide (with significant success so far; read The Colorado Model (by Fred Barnes) and, more recently, The Blueprint (by former Rep. Rob Witwer & 9News Reporter Adam Schrager) for an analysis of the success of these groups in Colorado – and beyond).

Unfortunately, even when they lose, they win – by tying up time & talent, diverting resources, and discouraging honest people from participation in the civic arena.  Groups such as the grossly misnamed “Colorado Ethics Watch” (CEW, pronounced “sue” – it’s what they do) are a blight on the body politic, an insult to everyone who believes that citizens should be able to speak freely.

Fortunately, they can be stopped – by citizens with the courage to fight back.  Show your support today – stand up to unethical attorneys and sleazy solicitors, and contribute to help provide the resources for Clear The Bench Colorado to prevail against what are ultimately attacks on YOUR freedom.  Also, since sweet success is the best revenge – spread the word about why the four (er, three remaining) incumbent justices of the Mullarkey Majority (Michael Bender, Alex Martinez, Nancy Rice, and soon to be minus Chief Justice Mary Mullarkey) deserve a “NO” vote in November (and why CEW has been sicced on Clear The Bench Colorado to cover for special interests who benefit from keeping them on the bench).  Remember, they need YOUR approval to continue taking away your constitutional rights: your right to vote on tax increases, your right to defend your home or business from against eminent domain abuse, your right to fair representation in government, and your right to enjoy the benefits of the rule of law, instead of suffering under rule by activist, agenda-driven “justices.” Support Clear The Bench Colorado with your comments (Sound Off!) and your contributions - and exercise your right to vote “NO” on retaining these unjust justices on the bench for another 10-year term!

Midweek update: more on Clear The Bench Colorado rebuttal of the frivolous, groundless, and vexatious attack (er, “complaint”) pursued by “Colorado Ethics Watch” (CEW, pronounced “sue” – it’s what they do)

The politically motivated attack (er, “complaint”) by leftist lawsuit machine “Colorado Ethics Watch” (CEW, pronounced “sue” – it’s what they do) against Clear The Bench Colorado hit a snag this week when the administrative law judge refused to hear CEW’s motion for summary judgement in isolation (which was an underhanded move by CEW attempting to put only their side of the story before the judge).

Instead, both CEW’s motion and the Clear The Bench Colorado cross motion for summary judgement (used, as in this case, “where no genuine issues of material fact exist and the the moving party is entitled to judgement as a matter of law”) will be considered together, one argument set against the other.  (For those interested in the legalese, the competing motions – along with a brief synopsis – were published by Law Week Colorado Wednesday, “Clear The Bench Asks Judge To Dismiss Complaint“).

Caught flatfooted, CEW has asked for an additional 10 days to prepare their response, and has also requested to “depose” (basically, question or interview) Clear The Bench Colorado Director Matt Arnold as well.  Since the facts of the case are not in dispute, CEW’s request for deposition is obviously just a “fishing expedition” for more information and another attempt to waste my time – no problem, I’ll be sure to charge them my full billable rate for however much time they consume.

Yesterday’s Face The State profiled the case and provides an excellent overview and context of the complaint, our response, the perspective of the Secretary of State’s office, and the record of “Colorado Ethics Watch” (CEW, pronounced “sue” – it’s what they do) of filing (and frequently losing) attacks disguised as “ethics” complaints.  The article (“Judicial-reform group lashes back at ‘frivolous, groundless’ complaint“) notes that Clear The Bench Colorado has scrupulously followed all campaign finance rules, regulations, and guidance issued by the Secretary of State’s office, citing in our defense

memos dated over a year ago from the Secretary of State’s Office that advised the group to file as an issues committee. CEW alleges judges standing for retention are similar to candidates seeking elected office; but the Secretary of State and CTBC agreed since the voters are asked a yes or no question on keeping a judge, retention is a political issue, not a contested election involving candidates. The motion for dismissal says Ethics Watch pursued the complaint entirely for political gain and to gin up bad press, with a disregard for the law and the facts.

“[Ethics Watch] absolutely didn’t do any homework, and that’s why we’re asking for sanctions,” said attorney Mario Nicolais, who represents Clear The Bench. “There are very basic things you have to do as a lawyer before you file a complaint.”

As previously noted, the Secretary of State’s office slammed CEW’s complaint and CEW Director Luis Toro as “disingenuous” (basically, a polite way of saying “lying through your teeth”) since they were well aware of the fact that Clear The Bench Colorado had been ruled an Issue Committee (not, as CEW would prefer, a “political” committee subject to much more stringent fundraising limitations), confirming

Ethics Watch had a seat at the table throughout the summer, including at meetings where judicial retention committees were discussed. “Either Toro just plain forgot about this advisory panel meeting or he’s being disingenuous in his comments because Ethics Watch was represented at [the June 18, 2009] meeting and participated in this discussion.”

So why – when CEW clearly knows better that the law is not on their side – file the complaint at all?

“They’re using a lawsuit as an offensive weapon against Clear The Bench Colorado to drain their resources, to tie them up in court, to divert them,” [CTBC attorney] Nicolais said.

Hmmm… sounds pretty much ‘frivolous, groundless, and vexatious’ to me.  Will the judge agree?

Attorneys fees are awarded sparingly by Colorado judges, largely because those requesting the sanction must prove opposing counsel pursued legal action knowing they had little chance of prevailing or failed to do basic research before filing. Nicolais believes those criteria are met here.

If the administrative judge does order Ethics Watch to pay up, it wouldn’t be the first time: In 2007, CEW, then operating as Colorado Citizens for Ethics in Government, was ordered to pay attorneys fees to the Committee for the American Dream as a result of filing what the court called “groundless” litigation. In that case, as is alleged in the current complaint against Clear The Bench, the judge concluded CCEG “engaged in no other pre-filing investigation” than a cursory review of online records. The judge rebuked CCEG attorney Chantell Taylor for filing the bare-bones complaint in hopes she would uncover additional evidence in depositions and discovery. The fees were awarded “in the absence of any evidence to support CCEG’s key allegations.”

Will history repeat itself?  We think it might – stay tuned for breaking developments!

Meanwhile – Colorado voters can prepare to make their own history this November.  Inform yourself about why the four (er, three remaining) incumbent justices of the Mullarkey Majority (Michael Bender, Alex Martinez, Nancy Rice, and soon to be minus Chief Justice Mary Mullarkey) deserve a “NO” vote in November (and why CEW has been sicced on Clear The Bench Colorado to cover for special interests who benefit from keeping them on the bench).  Remember, they need YOUR approval to continue taking away your constitutional rights: your right to vote on tax increases, your right to defend your home or business from against eminent domain abuse, your right to fair representation in government, and your right to enjoy the benefits of the rule of law, instead of suffering under rule by activist, agenda-driven “justices.” Support Clear The Bench Colorado with your comments (Sound Off!) and your contributions - and exercise your right to vote “NO” on retaining these unjust justices on the bench for another 10-year term!

Clear The Bench Colorado rebuts frivolous, groundless, and vexatious “Colorado Ethics Watch” (CEW, pronounced “sue” – it’s what they do) complaint, moves for summary judgement and attorney’s fees

“If you can’t argue the message, attack the messenger…” (Anonymous)

Political allies of the incumbent Colorado Supreme Court justices subject to a (non) retention vote this November are increasingly showing frustration at their inability to counter the message (and growing momentum) of the judicial accountability movement spearheaded by Clear The Bench Colorado.  Therefore – in the fashion used since time immemorial by those lacking a good counterargument  - they’ve resorted to attacking the messenger.

Most recently, the Denver Post facilitated an attack on the concept of citizen-led judicial accountability by publishing a guest commentary (written by a career politician) called “Criticism of retiring Judge (sic) Mullarkey unfair” which characterized any critique or assessment of judicial performance outside of the lawyer-and-political-insider-dominated Judicial Performance Review Commission as “attacks” and “over-the-top charges.”   Fortunately – although the Post has refused to publish a rebuttal piece submitted by Clear The Bench Colorado (possibly they remain committed to defending the interests of their largest renters – yes, the Colorado Supreme Court rents office space from the Denver Post – over the public interest in fairly reporting the news) numerous citizens lambasted this view as antithetical to the ideals of our democratic republic, where citizens reign supreme (not politicians) and have the right to criticize.

An even more direct attack on Clear The Bench Colorado (and the notion of citizens holding our state Supreme Court justices accountable to their oath to uphold the Constitution) was launched last month (May 5th) when the notoriously mis-named “Colorado Ethics Watch” (CEW, pronounced “sue” – it’s what they do) filed a spurious “campaign finance complaint” in a politically motivated and baseless attack.  CEW’s attack – particularly since they obviously spent more time in crafting the press release than in researching and drafting the complaint – showcased the hollowness and desperation of the incumbent justices’ political allies.

CEW’s attack against Clear The Bench Colorado fits an ongoing pattern of unsuccessful, politically motivated “ethics” complaints designed to distract, disorient, and sling mud in the (vain) hope that something might stick.  Ultimately, they don’t care if they win or lose the case (their lopsided loss-win ratio bears this out), since their priorities are (1) smear, (2) frame the media debate and gain attention, (3) divert resources & attention, (4) intimidate, and (5) maybe (if they get lucky) occasionally win a case.  As many publications noted at the time, CEW’s attack was just another cheap political stunt.  Even the Secretary of State’s office called CEW Director Toro’s statements “disingenuous” (which is a polite way of saying, ‘lying through your teeth’).

Now – after several underhanded attempts by CEW to badger and harass Clear The Bench Colorado (although I had to laugh when being “served”) and a last-minute attempt to sneak in a motion for summary judgement to categorize CTBC as a “political” committee, the CEW complaint received a strong rebuttal in a cross motion for summary judgement & request for attorney’s fees filed Monday afternoon.

Based on the facts (undisputed by both parties), CEW’s complaint “could not prevail” as a matter of law.  CTBC registered in a timely manner, fulfilling all reporting requirements, in accordance with the Secretary of State’s guidance and established campaign finance regulations and procedures.  As noted in the rebuttal,

CEW self-consciously chose to file a complaint againstClear the Bench without alleging all the elements necessary to establish that CEW was a political committee. (As argued below, CEW’s approach is grounds for sanctions.)

Additionally, the guidance of the Secretary of State’s office was completely clear:

Here, the Secretary knew the facts underlying Clear the Bench’s registration… it knew Clear the Bench’s purpose included advocating against the retention of justices. Furthermore, the Secretary not onlyintended that Clear the Bench act in a certain manner, but it also required Clear the Bench to act in a certain manner. Specifically, the Secretary prohibited Clear the Bench from registering as a political committee and notified Clear the Bench to register as an issue committee.

As previously noted, “Colorado Ethics Watch” (CEW, pronounced “sue” – it’s what they do) was aware of the facts, but chose to proceed with an attack anyway – just the kind of unethical, underhanded behavior that gives lawyers a bad name.  This time, it may end up being an expensive mistake for CEW:

CEW is liable for attorney fees, because the complaint is frivolous, groundless, and vexatious. Under C.R.S. § 1-45-111.5, an administrative court may impose sanctions for a frivolous, groundless, or vexatious claim. “A claim is frivolous if the proponent can present no rational argument based on the evidence or law in support of the claim. A claim is groundless if the allegations in the complaint, while sufficient to survive a motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim, are not supported by any credible evidence.” Finally, a vexatious claim “is one brought or maintained in bad faith to annoy or harass, and may include conduct that is arbitrary, abusive, stubbornly litigious, or disrespectful of truth.”

Granted, the bar is set high for recovery of attorney’s fees – in this case, CEW’s behavior was so low that it’s a realistic (even likely) prospect.

It should come as no surprise that the defenders of those on the courts abusing the constitutional rights of Colorado citizens would themselves attempt to abuse the courts to achieve their goals.  What may have come as a surprise to CEW is that this time, the good guys fought back – effectively.

Stand with Clear The Bench Colorado in defense of your constitutional rights – hold the rulers of our highest courts accountable to the law.  Exercise your right to vote “NO” on the 4 (er, now 3) ‘unjust justices’ of the Colorado Supreme Court’s “Mullarkey Majority” (Justices Michael Bender, Alex Martinez, Nancy Rice, and Chief Justice Mary Mullarkey) who need YOUR approval to continue taking away your constitutional rights: your right to vote on tax increases, your right to defend your home or business from against eminent domain abuse, your right to fair representation in government, and your right to enjoy the benefits of the rule of law, instead of suffering under rule by activist, agenda-driven “justices.” Support Clear The Bench Colorado with your comments (Sound Off!) and your contributions - and exercise your right to vote “NO” on retaining these unjust justices on the bench for another 10-year term!

CEW and Colorado “not-so” Independent continue tag-team “disingenuous” spin on campaign finance reporting, continuing baseless (and erroneous) attacks on Clear The Bench Colorado

First they ignore you; Then they ridicule you; Then they attack you; Then you win.”      Mohandas K. (Mahatma) Gandhi

Clear The Bench Colorado is firmly within the 3rd phase of Gandhi’s aphorism; following the filing earlier this month of an unfounded “campaign finance complaint” by notorious leftist attack group “Colorado Ethics Watch” (CEW, pronounced “sue” – it’s what they do) “picked up” as “news” primarily by the left-wing propaganda outlet Colorado “not-so” Independent, the CEW/CnsI tag team continues to spin any related news developments into yet another attack on Clear The Bench Colorado.

The most recent example turned up in an article published earlier today by the Colorado “not-so” Independent previewing the scheduled signing by Governor Ritter of “three influential bills into law Tuesday” (“influential bills?”  where did the CnsI reporter learn to write?) in which the reporter really had to stretch to create a connection with which to attack Clear The Bench Colorado:

Another bill will require campaign issue committees to disclose the same donor information as candidate committees. Colorado Ethics Watch recently highlighted the topic in pointing out possible problems of mis-categorization, arguing that issue committee Clear the Bench Colorado, which is asking Coloradans to vote supreme court justices off the bench, is about candidates not any one issue, and that it should be confined to candidate finance restrictions. Ethics Watch says the practice of non-disclosure of large donations to judicial campaigns could allow criminals to purchase safe judicial havens. The new bill would require disclosure.

One problem: the bill in question (HB10-1370) does not mean what the reporter thinks it means. (Inconceivable!)  ”Donor information” is NOT a subject of the bill at all; the “Disclosure Requirements” included in the bill simply refer to formalization of a mandate to include the name of the sponsoring Issue Committee on any communications in order to avoid “perception of purposefully anonymous interests attempting to influence the outcome of the election”:

1-45-108.3. Issue committees – disclaimer.  (1) AN ISSUE COMMITTEE MAKING AN EXPENDITURE IN EXCESS OF ONE THOUSAND DOLLARS ON A COMMUNICATION THAT SUPPORTS OR OPPOSES A STATEWIDE BALLOT ISSUE OR BALLOT QUESTION AND THAT IS BROADCAST BY TELEVISION OR RADIO, PRINTED IN A NEWSPAPER OR ON A BILLBOARD, DIRECTLY MAILED OR DELIVERED BY HAND TO PERSONAL RESIDENCES, OR OTHERWISE DISTRIBUTED SHALL DISCLOSE, IN THE COMMUNICATION PRODUCED BY THE EXPENDITURE, THE NAME OF THE ISSUE COMMITTEE MAKING THE EXPENDITURE.

Clear The Bench Colorado has ALWAYS – even in the absence of any formal requirement to do so – included the name of the organization (along with contact information, including our website) on all of our communications, because we believe in and practice transparency and integrity (full disclosure). Clear The Bench Colorado has never felt the need to hide behind “anonymous interests attempting to influence the outcome of elections… through the expenditure of large sums of money.”

Ironically, the integrity and transparency of the Clear The Bench Colorado movement to restore accountability to our judiciary contrasts markedly with “the practice of non-disclosure of large donations to judicial campaigns [which] could allow criminals to purchase safe judicial havens” exemplified by the recent formation of the 501(c)4 organization formed by former justice Dubofsky and Democrat lawyer Grueskin to defend incumbent Colorado Supreme Court justices in response to the growing momentum and resonance of Clear The Bench Colorado, as that organization does NOT have to disclose sources of funding to the public.  They are completely unaccountable.

Strangely, “Colorado Ethics Watch” (CEW, pronounced “sue” – it’s what they do) seems to have no issue with the “expenditure of large sums of money” to influence judicial elections by such anonymous, unaccountable organizations.

It is time for “We The People” to restore accountability to our judiciary - exercise your right to vote “NO” this November on the four ‘unjust justices’ of the Colorado Supreme Court’s “Mullarkey Majority”- (Justices Michael Bender, Alex Martinez, Nancy Rice, and Chief Justice Mary Mullarkey) who need YOUR approval to continue taking away your constitutional rights: your right to vote on tax increases, your right to defend your home or business against seizure via eminent domain abuse, your right to be fairly represented in the legislature and Congress, and your right to enjoy the benefits of the rule of law, instead of suffering under rule by activist, agenda-driven “justices.”  Help to support Clear The Bench Colorado with your comments (Sound Off!) and your contributions – and vote “NO” on giving these unjust justices another 10-year term!

Clear The Bench Colorado Director Matt Arnold discusses Colorado Supreme Court on the John Caldara Show May 12th

Need more reasons why voting “NO” on the four Colorado Supreme Court justices up for re-election this year are the MOST important votes you can cast in this very important year for Colorado Politics?

Clear The Bench Colorado Director Matt Arnold discussed the impact of Colorado Supreme Court rulings leading to a massive expansion of government power (at the expense of YOUR constitutional rights) and vastly increased taxation (such as the “Mill Levy Tax Freeze” property tax increase, the “Dirty Dozen” tax increases and of course the Colorado Car Tax (er, “vehicle registration fee”) increase, along with the dominant role of the Colorado Supreme Court in determining the boundaries of our legislative districts (at both the State and Federal level) – deciding how YOU will be represented in Congress and in the Colorado Legislature – on the Jon Caldara radio show Wednesday May 12th.

Clear The Bench Colorado Director Matt Arnold also discussed the recent formation of a heavily-funded (but unaccountable to the public) organization formed specifically to defend incumbent judges as a counter to the growing momentum and success of Clear The Bench Colorado in raising public awareness of the issue of judicial accountability, as well as the “cheap political stunt” of the groundless “campaign finance complaint” filed by the left-wing attack group “Colorado Ethics Watch” (CEW, pronounced “sue” – it’s what they do) and the Colorado Secretary of State office’s characterization of the CEW complaint and CEW Director Luis Toro’s comments as “disingenuous” (which is a polite way of saying, “lying through his teeth”).

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The Colorado Supreme Court – and particularly, the Chief Justice – exercises enormous power (”clout”) over the lives of Colorado citizens.  The current majority has repeatedly demonstrated that it does not exercise this power with restraint or consideration for your constitutional rights – ruling consistently against individual protections and in favor of expanded government power.  Upholding tax increases (such as the “Mill Levy Tax Freeze” property tax increase, or the “Dirty Dozen” new tax laws) imposed without the required vote of the people, enabling taxes to be collected under the guise of “fees” (such as the Colorado Car Tax), expanding eminent domain abuse to seize people’s property, and grabbing the (legislative) power to draw up voting districts (aided by the recent “Mary-mandering” bill) – this court is acting like rulers, with you as the subjects; re-writing the laws, instead of upholding them.

Be a citizen, not a subject - exercise your right to vote “NO” this November on the four ‘unjust justices’ of the Colorado Supreme Court’s “Mullarkey Majority”- (Justices Michael Bender, Alex Martinez, Nancy Rice, and Chief Justice Mary Mullarkey) who need YOUR approval to continue taking away your constitutional rights: your right to vote on tax increases, your right to defend your home or business against seizure via eminent domain abuse, your right to be fairly represented in the legislature and Congress, and your right to enjoy the benefits of the rule of law, instead of suffering under rule by activist, agenda-driven “justices.”  Support Clear The Bench Colorado with your comments (Sound Off!) and your contributions – and vote “NO” on giving these unjust justices another 10-year term!

Colorado Secretary of State’s Office Responds to Colorado Ethics Watch Complaint, Slams CEW Director Toro as “Disingenuous”

Despite the best efforts of the “progressive” spin machine (aided and abetted by pretend news organization the “Colorado Independent”), developments in the spurious “campaign finance complaint” by notorious leftist attack dogs “Colorado Ethics Watch” (CEW, pronounced “sue” – it’s what they do) against the grassroots judicial accountability organization Clear The Bench Colorado continue to blow up in the attack group’s face.

After several publications noted the complaint’s complete lack of merit and characterization as a “cheap political stunt” (since Clear The Bench Colorado followed the Colorado Secretary of State’s guidance in filing (correctly) as an Issue Committee), the fake journalists (actually paid propagandists) of the Colorado Independent shifted the spin (and attack) to the Colorado Secretary of State’s office.  In an article basically accusing the nonpartisan, professional staff at the SOS’s office of sheer incompetence (“SOS Staffers gave bad advice to Clear The Bench“), “Independent” writer John Tomasic attempts to spin coverage of the CEW complaint away from the facts of the case to highlight CEW Director Toro’s charge that “SOS staffers… provided demonstrable bad advice” to Clear The Bench Colorado.

Toro’s baseless accusation – and the Colorado Independent’s shoddy “reporting” – drew the ire of the unjustly accused staffers at the Colorado Secretary of State’s office.  In a strongly worded response sent to the Independent (obtained by Clear The Bench Colorado sources), the office fired back, debunking both the basis of the CEW complaint and CEW Director Toro’s playing fast and loose with the facts in the complaint and in his public statements (characterizing his comments as “disingenuous”, which is a polite way of saying “lying through your teeth”):

As we discussed on the phone, attached is a copy of the agenda for the Campaign Finance Advisory Panel from June 18, 2009. The second topic on this particular agenda deals specifically with judicial retention committees. This advisory panel is comprised of people like Martha Tierney, Mark Grueskin, Ryan Call and Richard Westfall, not to mention groups like Ethics Watch, League of Women Voters and Common Cause. The goal is to vet rulemaking and identify campaign finance issues before they become big legal issues. In fact, members mostly raise key issues and are encouraged to do so.

I have to take issue with Toro’s review of events related to this decision. Either Toro just plain forgot about this advisory panel meeting or he’s being disingenuous in his comments because Ethics Watch was represented at that meeting and participated in this discussion. To insinuate that our staff makes these kinds of policy decisions in a vacuum is simply not fair or accurate. We find this advisory panel to be incredibly useful in reviewing and discussing policies.

All attempts by CEW and the “Independent” to spin the facts aside – the Secretary of State’s office carefully considered the facts, invited debate and discussion (with participation from a variety of groups across the political spectrum, including “Colorado Ethics Watch”) and reached the considered conclusion that Clear The Bench Colorado should file as an Issue Committee.  Case closed.

Now more than ever - stand with Clear The Bench Colorado in defense of your constitutional rights. Exercise your right to vote “NO” on the 4 ‘unjust justices’ of the Colorado Supreme Court’s “Mullarkey Majority” (Justices Michael Bender, Alex Martinez, Nancy Rice, and Chief Justice Mary Mullarkey) who need YOUR approval to continue taking away your constitutional rights: your right to vote on tax increases, your right to defend your home or business from against eminent domain abuse, your right to fair representation in government, and your right to enjoy the benefits of the rule of law, instead of suffering under rule by activist, agenda-driven “justices.” Support Clear The Bench Colorado with your comments (Sound Off!) and your contributions - and exercise your right to vote “NO” on retaining these unjust justices on the bench for another 10-year term!

Former Colorado Supreme Court justice (and current full-time activist) Jean Dubofsky & Democrat Party lawyer Mark Grueskin roll out the big bucks to counter Clear The Bench Colorado

Coming close on the heels of a spurious “campaign finance complaint” by notorious leftist attack yap dogs “Colorado Ethics Watch” (CEW, pronounced “sue” – it’s what they do) against the grassroots judicial accountability organization Clear The Bench Colorado, the announcement this weekend (at the Colorado Bar Association board of governors meeting) of a well-funded group formed specifically to counter the growing momentum and success of Clear The Bench Colorado in raising public awareness of the issue of judicial accountability in Colorado provides a nice ironic twist.

(The COBAR even claimed – with a straight face – to be “neutral” on the Clear The Bench Colorado campaign, despite placing “Item No. 13, [Executive Director] Chuck Turner’s report on the status of the “Clear the Bench” campaign on the agenda.”)  Neutral?  Rrriiiiiiggghhhttt…

The story was broken in an article posted by Law Week Colorado earlier today (“Dubofsky said to plan response to Colo. Judge Non-Retention Campaign“):

Former Colorado Supreme Court Justice Jean Dubofsky and Democratic Party lawyer Mark Grueskin are forming a nonprofit group to educate voters about the judicial performance evaluation process in light of an anti-retention campaigned led by Clear The Bench.

Dubofsky’s and Grueskin’s move to form a 501(c)4 organization was disclosed Saturday at the semi-annual meeting of the Colorado Bar Association board of governors. The name of the group wasn’t revealed.

The formation of this organization is certainly an interesting development in light of the baseless complaint filed by “Colorado Ethics Watch” (CEW, pronounced “sue” – it’s what they do) bemoaning the “potentially unlimited funds” that could flow to Clear The Bench Colorado due to the Secretary of State’s office having designated Clear The Bench Colorado as an Issue Committee.

Unlike Issue Committees – which must operate under the disclosure requirements of Colorado campaign finance law, providing transparency of funding and expenditures – the 501(c)4 organization formed by Dubofsky and Democrat lawyer Grueskin does NOT have to disclose sources of funding to the public. They are completely unaccountable.

Will “Colorado Ethics Watch” file a complaint against this shadowy organization for the “corrupting influence” of the huge sums of money it will expend in support of the retention of incumbent Colorado Supreme Court justices?

Don’t hold your breath.

“Colorado Ethics Watch”, the “Colorado Independent” (which is an anything but “independent” left-wing propaganda mouthpiece, tasked with providing a veneer of “news” coverage respectability to political spin and mudslinging attacks), and now the latest (as yet un-named) addition of the shadowy Dubofsky/Grueskin Colorado Supreme Court incumbent protection group, are all part of the network of left-wing (“progressive”) organizations known as the “Colorado Democracy Alliance” (CoDA), formed to dominate all aspects of Colorado government. Operating at the edges of public awareness (skirting transparency, public accountability, and the ragged edges of campaign finance and other laws), these groups coordinate their actions towards advancing the “progressive” agenda statewide (with significant success so far; read The Colorado Model (by Fred Barnes) and, more recently, The Blueprint (by former Rep. Rob Witwer & Reporter Adam Schrager) for an analysis of the success of these groups in Colorado – and beyond).

In a way, I suppose it’s flattering – all of these groups and resources (and massive amounts of money) arrayed against little ol’ me: Underdog (er, Clear The Bench Colorado).

Not bird nor plane nor even frog…

Now more than ever - stand with Clear The Bench Colorado in defense of your constitutional rights. Exercise your right to vote “NO” on the 4 ‘unjust justices’ of the Colorado Supreme Court’s “Mullarkey Majority” (Justices Michael Bender, Alex Martinez, Nancy Rice, and Chief Justice Mary Mullarkey) who need YOUR approval to continue taking away your constitutional rights: your right to vote on tax increases, your right to defend your home or business from against eminent domain abuse, your right to fair representation in government, and your right to enjoy the benefits of the rule of law, instead of suffering under rule by activist, agenda-driven “justices.” Support Clear The Bench Colorado with your comments (Sound Off!) and your contributions - and exercise your right to vote “NO” on retaining these unjust justices on the bench for another 10-year term!

Friday Funnies – Clear The Bench Colorado celebrity spokespup contributes to Gulf Coast oil spill cleanup efforts

Whew!  The Clear The Bench Colorado crew has had a busy week… time for a humor break.

First, a quick recap of “the week that was”:

Although the “Mary-mandering” bill to enable the legislature to abdicate its constitutional responsibilities for Congressional redistricting to the courts advanced out of the House (where a legislator’s use of the term “Mary-mandering” to – correctly – describe the bill in floor debate raised a bit of a stir) to the Senate this week, it has not (yet!) come to a final vote.  Perhaps just as well, since many of our legislators appear to have little knowledge of how the judges who will be taking over for them in exercising this important responsibility are appointed to the bench.

Fortunately, despite legislative ignorance (and willingness to turn over responsibility to others), there are some good judges out there who apparently believe in exercising their proper role of applying and upholding the law – as a 3-judge panel on the Colorado Court of Appeals overturned the University of Colorado’s illegal ban on licensed concealed carry.

Finally, on the same day (May 5th) as hearing the good news that the Colorado Court of Appeals ruled in favor of upholding state statute, Clear The Bench Colorado received the even better news of an attack (er, “Campaign Finance Complaint”) by the ludicrously misnamed “Colorado Ethics Watch” organization (CEW, pronounced “sue” – it’s what they do).  We’ve enjoyed watching CEW’s “cheap political stunt” and “pathetic political ploy” (as noted by other respectable new organizations) backfire, as their complaint is laughably baseless and without legal merit – and we can think of no greater endorsement of our actual ethical compliance and political effectiveness  (they are scared, aren’t they?) than being attacked by this completely discredited smear group.  (Have they actually ever won a case?)

But on to more important things…

Clear The Bench Colorado celebrity spokespup Nola has been following the news about the oil spill threatening her birthplace (New Orleans) along with the rest of the Gulf Coast with increasing concern.  Witnessing another episode of government ineffectiveness (that time, predominantly city & state government failures – along with a less-than-stellar Federal response – this time, despite lessons learned from Katrina and improvements to our response capabilities, an even worse Federal government failure to act) she decided that she would step up as a private citizen to do her part.

dsc_1714nolaasks Nola asks, “what are YOU doing to help our country?”

Nola went in for a trim in order to donate her most prolific resource (hair!) to help save the Gulf Coast.  She also collected the hair trimmings of countless canine companions to send in to help – contributing to help form some of the most effective (and eco-friendly) oil-absorptive measures ever designed & used: the “Oil Spill Hair Mat” (for more information on this citizen-designed innovation, and now you can help, check out the “hair mats info” page here).

Become an informed, involved, and active citizen (Nola does her part; can you do less?).  Conduct your own evaluation of ANY official (including judges) asking for your vote, based on how (and whether) they follow the Constitution and uphold the rule of law.  Better informedYes, you can exercise your right to vote “NO” on the four ‘unjust justices’ of the Mullarkey Majority (Michael Bender, Alex Martinez, Nancy Rice, and Chief Justice Mary Mullarkey) who need YOUR approval to continue taking away your constitutional rights: your right to vote on tax increases, your right to defend your home or business from eminent domain abuse, your right to fair representation in legislative districts, and your right to enjoy the benefits of the rule of law, instead of suffering under rule by activist, agenda-driven “justices.”  Support Clear The Bench Colorado with your comments (Sound Off!) and your contributions – and vote “NO” on retaining these unjust justices in the upcoming November elections!

CEW complaint against Clear The Bench Colorado noted as a “cheap political stunt” by news coverage, showcases desperation tactics of status quo defenders of Colorado Supreme Court

First they ignore you; Then they ridicule you; Then they attack you; Then you win.”      Mohandas K. (Mahatma) Gandhi

Clear The Bench Colorado has now officially graduated to the 3rd phase of Gandhi’s aphorism, after yesterday’s filing of an unfounded “campaign finance complaint” by notorious leftist attack yap dogs “Colorado Ethics Watch” (CEW, pronounced “sue” – it’s what they do).

The left-wing attack machine was arrayed in full force yesterday, in a concerted (coordinated?) barrage of allegations, insinuations, and misleading statements chock full of omissions – attempting to create an “echo chamber” effect for CEW’s slung mud by publishing CEW’s press release more or less verbatim in multiple venues as “news”.  The artificial echo chamber (echo-turf?) continued today with no less than two articles published in the Colorado Independent (formerly known as Colorado Confidential) (Campaign to replace state Supreme Court justices draws ethics complaint and “In a firey (sic) blog post Clear The Bench dismisses ethics complaint as politics“) along with a number of other websites & blogs barely worthy of mention.

Granted, it’s hard to take seriously a publication that can’t even spell “fiery” correctly [UPDATE: the headline has since been fixed, but the URL retains the original mis-spelling] but fortunately some real journalists (and reputable publications) have also picked up on the story.

Actually, the spurious CEW complaint was first brought to the attention of Clear The Bench Colorado Director Matt Arnold by a phone call from reporter Michael Roberts of Denver’s Westword alternative weekly seeking comment (proving that good investigative journalism still has ONE home in Denver print media).  Obviously attempting to steal a march (along the lines of Mark Twain’s quote “a lie travels around the world before the truth gets its boots on“), CEW issued a press release at the same time they dropped the complaint in the mail (and, after reviewing the complaint, it’s apparent that CEW spent more time on the press release than on the substance of the complaint – which is so baseless that it’s not even worth awarding a day in court).

Roberts’ Westword article this morning highlights the “pathetic political ploy” perpetrated by CEW, and notes that Clear The Bench Colorado followed the Secretary of State’s guidance in filing as an Issue Committee:

“When we were exploring the type of committee to file under, we asked the Secretary of State for guidance, and they recommended that we file as an issues committee. And we followed their guidance.”

Moreover, Arnold argues that “Colorado Ethics Watch knows about this.”

“They telegraphed their punch,” says Arnold, who hadn’t heard about the complaint until he was contacted by Westword. “Now that we’re becoming successful and starting to bring in larger amounts of dollars, they decided they’re going to go after us.”

Roberts closes his article by quoting Clear The Bench Colorado Director Matt Arnold’s statement that “it’s a clear sign of desperation — and a clear sign that they’re very concerned about the success of Clear the Bench Colorado.”

Another (reputable) publication covering the issue is the legal affairs journal Law Week Online.  After getting suckered into printing the CEW press release yesterday (and missing CTBC’s response due to a communications snafu), Law Week Online published a more balanced and comprehensive article this afternoon, getting the whole story both directly from Clear The Bench Colorado and from the Secretary of State’s office.  The Law Week article also highlights the nature of the CEW complaint as a “cheap political stunt” and confirmed the accuracy of our response:

“They [Ethics Watch] know very well that the Secretary of State issued guidance with Clear the Bench Colorado to file as an issue committee,” Clear the Bench director Matt Arnold told Law Week Colorado.

“This is a sign of desperation on their side. They are concerned that we are gaining momentum. They are concerned about the resonance and welcome we are receiving from Colorado citizens that are becoming aware of this very important issue.”

Clear the Bench posted a longer response to the complaint on its website.

Arnold’s claim that he received guidance from the Secretary of State’s office is substantiated [emphasis added] by an e-mail the office shared with Law Week, posted below. According to the e-mail, members of the Secretary of State’s campaign finance team rejected Clear the Bench’s original filing as a political committee on the grounds that its stated purpose of “Judicial Retention” was “too vague and would also classify them as an issue committee.”

Finally, Clear The Bench Colorado Director Matt Arnold was contacted by the Denver Post’s judicial beat reporter Felisa Cardona (who, back in February, wrote the front-page Post article noting that “Four Colorado Supreme Court justices face a tough vote in elections” as she follows the story.  It remains to be seen whether her bosses at the Denver Post will allow her to publish a follow-up article or if they’ll continue to favor the interests of their largest rent-paying tenant over the interests of truth and news coverage (the Post appears to remain stuck in Gandhi’s first phase – c’mon, guys, wake up and smell the story!).  [Ed. as of press time, not a peep from the Post]

So, to summarize: CEW’s latest attack fits an ongoing pattern of unsuccessful, politically motivated “ethics” complaints designed to distract, disorient, and sling mud in the (vain) hope that something might stick.  Ultimately, they don’t care if they win or lose the case (their lopsided loss-win ratio bears this out), since their priorities are (1) smear, (2) frame the media debate and gain attention, (3) divert resources & attention, (4) intimidate, and (5) maybe (if they get lucky) occasionally win a case.

Now more than ever - stand with Clear The Bench Colorado in defense of your constitutional rights.  Exercise your right to vote “NO” on the 4 ‘unjust justices’ of the Colorado Supreme Court’s “Mullarkey Majority” (Justices Michael Bender, Alex Martinez, Nancy Rice, and Chief Justice Mary Mullarkey) who need YOUR approval to continue taking away your constitutional rights: your right to vote on tax increases, your right to defend your home or business from against eminent domain abuse, your right to fair representation in government, and your right to enjoy the benefits of the rule of law, instead of suffering under rule by activist, agenda-driven “justices.” Support Clear The Bench Colorado with your comments (Sound Off!) and your contributions - and exercise your right to vote “NO” on retaining these unjust justices on the bench for another 10-year term!

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