May 31, 2008

Ritter's Money Grab Gets Shut Down

A Judge in Denver has ruled unconstitutional Gov. Ritter's "freezing" of property tax valuations as a violation of the Constitutional Amendment known as TABOR.

For the reasons set forth above, the Court concludes that SB-199 isunconstitutional, as measured by the standards of TABOR. Accordingly, the CourtGRANTS Plaintiffs’ request for Declaratory Judgment on this issue, and enters this Orderfinding that SB-199 is unconstitutional. . . .

Further, due in large part to the express statement contained in TABOR § (1),which mandates that these enforcement actions “shall have the highest civil priority ofresolution”, this Court hereby determines that there is no just reason for delay of entry ofJudgment and directs entry of JUDGMENT . . .

Remarkably, the Court itself gave the reason for its judgment:

However well-intentioned and commendable the purpose and consequences of SB-199, this Court must be concerned only with enforcement of the Colorado Constitution. While this Court candidly expresses its concern as to the resulting consequences of this decision, it must nonetheless perform its duties in a manner consistent with its oath to uphold the Constitution.

Imagine that.

Then try to imagine a world in which that last sentence is unnecessary, because it is taken for granted that a judge would "perform its duties" in a Constitutional Manner.

Be warned: this is only round one.

Ritter's spokesman, Evan Dreyer, said the state will appeal the ruling to the state Supreme Court and also ask for a stay of the ruling, so that the state can continue to collect revenue from the mill levy freeze in the next fiscal year.

"It's not a surprise," Dreyer said. "We knew all along that this was going to be decided by the Supreme Court regardless of what happened at the district court level."

Just round 1. But, at least, our side--the small government side--won.

I would expect the CO Supremes to find in the public school section of the Constitution ample justification for overturning this judgment. Something about "compelling interests" and so forth.

Just a guess.

April 24, 2008

Bill Ritter: Tough on SPAM

From today's Rocky Mountain News:
Gov. Bill Ritter on Wednesday signed into law the Spam Reduction Act, which provides state enforcement authority similar to federal authority against unwanted e-mails.
To Ritter's credit, Spam Reduction is an act of bipartisan goodwill, a positive headline needed to take attention away from a serious $300,000 campaign finance violation.

Bill Ritter Spam

Bill Ritter (invoking classic Monty Python): "I don't like Spam!"

Cross posted at Mount Virtus

April 22, 2008

Formal Complaint Filed in Bill Ritter's $300,000 Campaign Finance Violation

The Denver Post reports today the latest in Gov. Bill Ritter's campaign spending problems:
The complaint, from Rep. Kent Lambert, R-Colorado Springs, prompts the process for reviewing campaign-finance violations. Without the complaint, it is unclear whether the Secretary of State's Office could have begun a formal inquiry.

"There are some very specific rules you've got to follow," Lambert said of campaign-finance laws. "This seemed to violate at least several of them and needs to be investigated further."

Last week, Ritter, a Democrat, announced that his former campaign manager, Greg Kolomitz, wrongly used inaugural funds to pay off more than $200,000 in campaign debt and also overpaid himself by about $83,000.
At the least, Bill Ritter's six-figure violation represents a case of grossly poor management. The investigation that follows today's formal complaint will reveal whether there's anything even more serious to be found.

Cross posted at Mount Virtus

April 21, 2008

Denver Post Echo: Bill Ritter Campaign Violation Shows Poor Management

Last week I wrote here:
If this is the kind of oversight Bill Ritter gives to his own campaign funds, what does that say about his ability to manage how billions of taxpayer dollars are spent?
Following up on the same story about a six-figure campaign finance violation, today the editors of the Denver Post write:
The buck stops at the governor's office, and if anything this mess again raises questions over his management skills.
The Post concludes:
We think Coloradans deserve to know exactly how the misspending came to pass. Ritter so far has been open about the process, but it's in his best interest to make sure these remaining questions are answered in full and public ways.
That's about as nicely as it can be put.

Gov. Bill Ritter let a major abuse of his inaugural fund for campaign purposes go for more than a year before he caught on. That he's being open and honest about it now inspires only the smallest of confidence. The State of Colorado is not in good hands.

April 16, 2008

Pro-Business Ritter: Oh, Did I Mention This?

That I'm actually going to be charging Colorado businesses MORE in tax this year.

What, you didn't see the story? Perhaps that's because it was buried on page 2 of the business section.

That's why we're here.

It was pitched as part of a pro-business legislative package. Now it seems that a key part of Gov. Bill Ritter's agenda will create more losers than winners in the corporate community. . .

It was Rep. Douglas Bruce who ferreted out the harsh truth about the bill. Quizzing Todd Herreid of the Colorado Legislative Council staff, Bruce let it be known that the council used Department of Revenue information and estimated 70 percent of Colorado corporate filers would pay more in taxes, somewhere between $25 million and $50 million in the aggregate. The remaining 30 percent get the savings.

Oh, well. I suppose the Governor can still be said to be 30% pro-business.

What Was All That Money Doing in Ritter's Inaugural in the First Place?

The problems with Gov. Bill Ritter's $200,000-plus in misspent inaugural committee funds raises more questions beyond his apparent gross lack of oversight.

In total, about $300,000 in inauguration funds were spent on campaign expenses. Campaign manager Greg Kolomitz returned the $83,250 that was paid to himself and his company, leaving roughly $217,000 still improperly spent.

But a question I have yet to see answered is why so much money was needed in Ritter's inaugural fund in the first place. Seems quite extravagant.

A quick trip back in time to the tenure of Colorado's last Democratic governor, Roy Romer, hints at a sharp contrast. From the January 3, 1991, edition of the Colorado Springs Gazette (no direct link available):
In 1987, Romer's inaugural ball cost taxpayers $10,000 to $15,000, said Romer spokeswoman Cindy Parmenter.

She said the 1991 inauguration will cost under $6,000, compared to 1987's total cost of $25,000. "The first time we had to spend money on staff, telephones and things we already have," she explained.
I know there's such a thing as inflation, but not enough to account for $300,000 in spending. The questions I have yet to see answered are: 1) How much did Bill Ritter's inaugural committee raise? 2) How much did Bill Ritter's inaugural committee spend on legitimate expenses? 3) Why was so much money needed in Bill Ritter's inaugural committee? What cost so much at the inaugural party?

Maybe some inquisitive journalist out there can find the answers. In the meantime, the Bill Ritter Democrat seems like a far more extravagant (and irresponsible) figure than the Roy Romer Democrat.

Cross posted at Mount Virtus

April 15, 2008

Huge Campaign Finance Violation Raises Questions about Ritter's Public Oversight

Whoops! Gov. Bill Ritter's campaign warchest is facing a serious violation to the tune of nearly a quarter million dollars:
Gov. Bill Ritter paid more than $200,000 in campaign expenses out of his inaugural account in violation of campaign-finance laws, his office announced today as March disclosures come due.

Ritter has put up his home as collateral on a $200,000 loan to repay the misspent funds, his staff said.

Former campaign manager Greg Kolomitz — who also oversaw the inaugural fund — is to blame, said Jim Carpenter, Ritter's chief of staff.

Ritter took responsibility for loose oversight, and the matter is now in the hands of the secretary of state and the Denver district attorney, staff said.
If this is the kind of oversight Bill Ritter gives to his own campaign funds, what does that say about his ability to manage how billions of taxpayer dollars are spent?