Colorado Education Association v. Rutt, 184 P.3d 65 (Colo. 2008)

Question: Does the Colorado Constitution permit unions to financially support a candidate’s campaign?

What the Constitution Says: The Colorado Constitution forbids both contributions and expenditures, of all kinds, by labor unions or corporations advocating the election or defeat of a candidate (p. 83).  See Colo. Const. art. XXVIII, § 3(4)(a).  The Colorado Court of Appeals said that unions made illegal contributions when they coordinated their activities with a candidate’s campaign in this case (p. 69).

The Mullarkey Justices Disagree: Chief Justice Mary Mullarkey, Justice Michael Bender, Justice Alex Martinez, and Justice Nancy Rice said that the union campaigning; e.g., paying for campaign literature and supplies, food and drink, precinct maps, voter lists, and supplying paid workers merely involved communication to union members and their families to promote union purposes and assist union members in promoting their own interests and activities (p. 78). 

Two Justices Criticize the Mullarkey Justices: The two dissenting justices reproached the Mullarkey Justices for not respecting a clear constitutional prohibition against union campaigning (p. 82).  By excusing the use of general union funds to organize, administer, and supervise campaign efforts (including acquiring and providing partisan campaign materials for distribution by union members) as being nothing more than “communication solely to [union] members and their families”, the majority nullified the Campaign and Political Finance Amendment to the Constitution (p. 83).

What Does the Mullarkey-Bender-Martinez-Rice Decision Mean for You? It looks like the Mullarkey Justices made a policy or political decision favoring unions and allowing them to directly support and finance candidates’ campaigns.

Additional Information and References

Read the entire published opinion: Colorado Education Association v. Rutt. (No. 06SC559)