Why I’m Going To Be On 20/20

Way back in the early part of 2006 our little unincorporated neighborhood of about 300 houses in Parker, Colorado was all abuzz over the efforts of two of our neighbors who thought it would be a good idea to annex into the town. After my husband and I studied the facts and talked to our neighbors, we decided we were against annexation for a variety of reasons, the most important to us being the huge sales tax increase we’d be hit with.

So, because we own a printshop and can make signs, we made a couple that said “No Annexation” and “Annexation is a permanent tax increase” and planted them in our front yard.

Our neighbors kept stopping by asking if we’d make some for them, so we did. Pretty soon the neighborhood was filled with these signs and it was pretty clear most everyone held the same opinion that we did.

The annexation was the talk of the neighborhood until June when the Town Council said they’d make their official decision about the annexation at their August meeting. As far as I was concerned, we were just waiting till August to hear what the town was going to do about the petition for annexation. So all was quiet in the ‘hood.

Until July, that is, when six of us, and our printshop, were slapped with a lawsuit by two of our neighbors, the two who were for the annexation. Among other things, they wanted us to “remove all signs and campaign material from sight” and give them the names of everyone we’ve ever talked to about the annexation.

They said we were not in compliance with campaign finance laws and we needed to register as an issue committee. I had no idea what that meant and I’d never even heard the phrase “issue committee” before.

These people live within a block or two of everyone they sued. I was baffled as to why they couldn’t just ring my doorbell, send me an email, pick up the phone, tape a note to my front door — whatever — to tell me they think we’re not in compliance with the laws. They could even send us a letter. After all, they’d sent letters to the entire neighborhood about the annexation — why not send one about campaign finance rules?

And then it hit me. They wanted to shut us up. The litigation was clearly an attempt to intimidate us.

We had no choice but to file as an issue committee despite the fact we didn’t think we were a committee, nor did we think this qualified as a “ballot issue” since it wasn’t on any ballot.

It fell to me to do the paperwork, and let me tell you, it’s no picnic. Many of my questions couldn’t even be answered on the first try by the Secretary of State’s office. It took a ton of time to register as an issue committee and file the financial forms, but after many, many hours of effort, I got it all set up.

During a local news interview, our opponents claimed they only wanted us to have to follow the rules, so you’d think they’d dismiss the suit as soon as we complied with their request, right?


My opinion was — and still is — they wanted us to shut up about the annexation so they refused to dismiss the litigation. They wanted to intimidate and harass us, but they also wanted to send a message to everyone else in the neighborhood.

The problem is, these campaign finance laws let them do just that. While unethical, unreasonable, unconscionable and just downright mean . . . it’s absolutely legal in many states — not just Colorado — for vindictive people to try to shut up anyone who disagrees with them by wrapping them in litigation. And that’s exactly what our two neighbors did to us.

These campaign finance laws need to be changed so no one can try to shut up the people who oppose them. After all, free speech — to me — is the free exchange of differing ideas and the right to voice them without the fear of harassment and intimidation.

What has happened to our society that people are so threatened by an honest difference of opinion that they can file suit against anyone who speaks with an opposing voice?

I think I should be able to stick a political sign in my front yard without my neighbors slapping a lawsuit on me. And I think you should be able to also.

In September of 2006, through a series of lucky coincidences, we were rescued by the Institute for Justice who filed a lawsuit on our behalf. Not against these horrible neighbors, but against the Colorado Secretary of State.

Our attorney Steve Simpson said, “Today in America, to speak about politics you need more than an opinion — you need a lawyer and an accountant. This endless red tape discourages political participation by making it harder than ever to make your voice heard. Political speech and participation is exactly what the First Amendment was designed to protect and that is exactly what Colorado’s law is suppressing. If two people spend more than $200 to distribute fliers or put up yard signs or other such activities that support or oppose a ballot issue, Colorado considers you an ‘issue committee’ and redefines your speech as campaign finance activities. If you do not register and comply with burdensome reporting requirements, anyone with a political ax to grind can sue you for violations of the campaign finance laws.”

Tomorrow I’ll tell you the outcome of our lawsuit against the Colorado Secretary of State, and the day after THAT I’ll tell you about the 20/20 interview and the air date. And finally, the segment that aired October 17, 2008.

Have you ever had your free speech rights stifled? What do you think of campaign finance laws? HAVE you ever even thought about campaign finance laws? When you think of campaign finance laws, what springs to mind?

12 thoughts on “Why I’m Going To Be On 20/20

  1. beckycc

    I asked our attorneys the same question, rilla! My understanding is that federal elections and local elections have different rules. Ours was not under the federal guidelines. (Besides, I hope you didn’t pay more than $200 for your Obama sign! Worth every penny, but still!) ;-D

    I also asked our attorneys why could newspapers take a stand on local issues and endorse candidates and such without having to become an issue committee. No good answer to that one. Seems we don’t get to use the same First Amendment rights that newspapers get.

    Yeah, it’s all part of the Big Brother Lewdness thang!

  2. Dana Fredsti

    Jeez louise, that’s just unbelievable. Both the idiotic law and the fact your neighbors would behave in such a tacky and underhanded fashion. Best of luck with all of this!

  3. beckycc

    Thanks, Dana. Every painful step of the way gives us a bit more vindication against these vile people. But until the law changes, it can continue to happen!

    Even if it were just that the Secretary of State has to inform folks of violations, rather than crazy, vindictive people who want you to shut up. At least THAT would be something!

    Every time I tell the story, though, I do have to stop and think …. Wait. Really? Did they REALLY do that to us? It’s too bizarre.

  4. Karen C

    I have to say that I’m with George….and you know, if that were the case — this would have all been over long ago!

  5. Vicki (the newsletter one)

    I live in Highlands Ranch, and I’ve had a McCain sign in my yard for a few weeks now. I have been expecting a letter from the HOA telling me I can’t just because there is, no doubt, SOME rule somewhere saying I can only have one there for a week or so. Hey, I had to have a letter of approval from the HOA to hang a wind chime!

    I’m so sorry you’ve had to deal with this kind of vindictive litigation.

  6. Charlotte

    This is a vile misuse of the law and I’m sorry you are going through this. Did you say you were a printer? Like Ben Franklin who used his presses to publish some nation-changing flyers? Wasn’t legal then, probably still not legal (unless you are a newpaper?), but effective.

  7. beckycc

    Karen and George … once again I’m forced to remind you that ALL charges were dropped against me in the public lewdness thing. Well, there’s still that restraining order but I’m hopeful we can work it out with Mr Clooney’s representatives.

    Vicki … I’m pretty sure HOAs like seeing McCain signs. After all, he was the one responsible for these horrendous laws! ;-D

    Morgan … we were SO lucky to have the Institute for Justice swoop in and rescue us. Otherwise, we would have been stuck with thousands of dollars in legal bills and I honestly think the vile, vindictive neighbors would have succeeded in shutting us up.

    Yes, Charlotte, we’re EXACTLY like Ben Franklin at our print shop! But instead of a newspaper, our problems started with a cheap little No Annexation sign made out of scraps!

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