Office of Legislative Legal Services - Dan L. Cartin, Director
 
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Ethics Tutorial - Colorado General Assembly

- Use of state resources - 12 of 25

Background

The General Assembly, as an institution, is prohibited from making any contributions to a campaign involving the nomination, retention, or election of a person to a public office and from expending public moneys or making contributions to urge voters to vote for or against a ballot measure.  See, Section 1-45-117 (1) and (4), C.R.S. This prohibition applies to the staff and resources of the General Assembly.  A legislator may expend up to $50 of public moneys "in the form of letters, telephone calls, or other activities incidental to expressing his or her opinion" on a ballot measure.  Thus, an expenditure of public moneys in this context generally includes utilization of legislative staff, equipment (phones, computers, copiers, etc.), and materials (paper, office supplies, postage, etc.).  A legislator, as an elected official, can express a personal opinion on and may expend personal funds, make contributions, or use personal time to urge electors to vote in favor of or against a ballot measure.  Additionally, the employee policies for the Colorado House of Representatives and Senate contain limitations  and prohibitions on the use of legislative resources in election campaigns.

Hypothetical

Use of state resources to arrange town hall meeting and campaign event

It's mid-session and you realize that several of the most controversial bills of the session will be coming before the body for consideration in the next few weeks.  You are interested in holding a town hall meeting in your district to discuss these important issues with your constituents.  Your home community will be celebrating its annual Chipmunk Days in two weeks and your staff has encouraged you to take advantage of that time to hold a town hall meeting at which you could also do some campaign fundraising.  Your legislative aides are ready to prepare automatic phone calls to your constituents regarding the upcoming town hall meeting in your district and, using your state-issued laptop, to reach out to possible campaign contributors regarding the event.

Question

May you use legislative staff and state equipment during regular business hours at the state capitol to generate automated telephone calls to your constituents regarding a town hall meeting on legislative issues as well as for campaigning?
Select Yes, it is appropriate to use legislative staff and state resources, including phone service at the capitol and state-issued laptops, during regular business hours to arrange a town hall meeting since the meeting will, in addition to campaign fundraising, address important legislative business.
Select No, the use of state resources, including legislative staff, phones, and computers, for campaign or political purposes is strictly prohibited.
Select Yes, so long as the total expenditure on staff time, stationery, and legislative equipment usage does not exceed $50.
Select No, because "robocalls" are not legal in Colorado.


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Last updated: 09 OCT 2015


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