Raise the Bar is the Issues Committee supporting Amendment 71. Here are the latest contributions and expenditures from that organization*:
Contributions to Raise the Bar
PCEEEI gave an additional $1,000,000 to Raise the Bar – for a total of $2,000,000
Total contributions so far: $4,158,838.00
$3,123,400.00 Oil and Gas
$151,250.00 big ag
$130,000.00 real estate
$100,000.00 hotel and hospitality
$45,000.00 for profit healthcare
$3,744,150.00 Total of largest contributors
Total expenditures to date: $2,991,023.47
$915,175.81 SIGNATURE COLLECTION
$2,590,935.81 Total of largest expenditures
*All contributions and expenditures reported above were obtained from the Colorado Secretary of State web site.
Amendment 71: the corporately-financed initiative designed to eliminate the citizen’s right to initiative.
Probably the most important historical fact we should recognize when discussing Amendment 71, dubbed Raise the Bar by its corporate sponsors, is that the people’s right to the initiative, or citizen driven legislation, was added to our constitution by an overwhelming vote of the people in 1910, 76 percent voting in favor. This was the era of trusts and corporate monopoly.
Its purpose was to provide citizens with a powerful constitutional right to deal directly with an unresponsive or corrupt government. The courts have said it gave the people the first right to legislate, a right superior even to the legislatures. Understandably, it has never been popular with the ruling class, no matter the time frame.
Many think 2016 is 1910 revisited, with corporate control at every level of government an ugly reality. The people’s right to initiative is a troublesome impediment to corporate control.
Indeed, the millions of dollars in corporate money funding 71 suggest how important the 1 percent think elimination of our right to the initiative is. They know from experience they can buy the government, but the people are another matter. They can be unruly. They can demand reform. They can even initiate it, but only if they have the right of initiative.
- Half-truths and outright lies by the corporate interests funding Amendment 71
Assertion: The initiative process in Colorado is too easy.
Reply: This is the biggest of the many whoppers being circulated by the ruling elite who simply don’t like the people having a direct say in government and law making via the initiative process.
Fact: The state constitution has been amended 48 times by citizen initiative in the 116 years since the initiative was added to the constitution in 1910. On average, this comes to less than one amendment every two years. By comparison, the legislature has amended the constitution, following the approving vote of the people, 83 times.
In 2014, no constitutional initiatives were passed in Colorado. Indeed, though 145 initiatives were filed with the state, only 4 got the requisite signatures to get on the ballot, but none were approved by the people. Easy it is not.
By comparison, the legislature, drafts over 600 bills in each legislative session, with about half becoming law. Generally speaking, the initiative is available to the people as a remedy, only every other year, the even numbered election years.
More than one commentator has said that when a large number of initiatives are introduced in any election year, it is primarily an indication of discontent with the political system and its leaders. If there were a national initiative in this election season, their numbers would undoubtedly be in thousands.
- We’re wrecking the constitution
Assertion: The Colorado Constitution is being destroyed by the “mob’s” impulses to change it on a whim.
Reply: As demonstrated above, the legislature has asked for more changes in the constitution than have the people, almost 2 to1. But in neither case should this be a cause for alarm. We should treat our constitution as a living document, one that must be modified to reflect the needs of the people as those needs develop. We should not treat it as a religious relic that only the high priests of government have access too.
- We need to make it harder to keep the riff raff out
Assertion: We have the easiest initiative process of any state.
Reply: not true, another lie. Our signature requirements are somewhat lower than many states, but the length of time we are given to get those signatures is among the shortest. Statutorily, we are given 6 months to get the requisite signatures, presently about 120,000 registered voters. This number includes a 20 percent surplus as a fail safe against official challenges. Additionally, single-subject challenges, submitted by opponents to the state supreme court, can effectively become a pocket veto reducing the signature gathering time to as little as 90 days to collect 120,000 signatures.
By comparison, some states have greater signature requirements, but the length of time given to record those signatures can be up to two years. If we were to use the ratio of signatures required to the time allotted to gather those signatures, Colorado’s requirement would be among the most stringent, punitive even.
A 2% approval on Amendment 71–a requirement in each of the state’s 35 senatorial districts before an initiative could even get on the ballot–is a poison pill for citizens with limited resources. Frankly, 71 is nothing more than a corporately-financed initiative designed to eliminate the people’s right to initiative.
- Motive for making it harder
Assertion: the initiative process must be made harder.
Reply: This assertion is perhaps revelatory as to motive. Never have the people been asked by 71’s proponents how the initiative process might be made better, more efficacious, only how can it be made harder? By that they mean harder to use.
That it is already very hard is borne out by the fact that in 2014 no initiatives were passed in Colorado and only 2 nationally. The national corporate effort to undermine the initiative process by making it harder in each of the 24 states with the rights of initiative is bearing fruit for the 1 percent.
- The initiative process is overused
Assertion: the initiative process is ruining the constitution.
Reply: many of the most important reforms in state government have come by means of the initiative. Among them are the GOCO funds for protecting public lands; term limits; the sunshine laws that open up government meetings and documents to public oversight; home rule; the right of recall. (Admittedly, home rule and the sunshine laws have taken a beating from the legislature and the courts.)
Most of these could not have come from the legislature where faction and pettiness have become the rule. With the exception of two initiatives dealing with gay rights, which have been overturned by the courts, the following are all the constitutional initiatives approved in the past 30 years, 1986 to 2016, with the rate of approval by the voters.
- The decriminalization of recreational marijuana use (2012) 55%
- Colorado delegation to support U.S. constitutional amendment to limit campaign spending and contributions (2012) 74%
- Increased gaming allowed, with most new tax revenues going to local junior colleges (2008) 58%
- Prohibition against sole source contractors making political party contributions (2008) 51%
- Limits on gifts to elected officials, Standards of Conduct (2006) 62%
- Increased minimum wage (2006) 53%
- Tobacco tax increase, revenues to support health care (2004) 61%
- Campaign finance reform (2002) 66%
- Medical use of marijuana (2000) 53%
- Increase school funding, tied to the rate of inflation (2000)52%
- Voluntary Congressional term limits (1998) 50%
- Strengthen trust responsibilities on state land (1996) 51%
- Banning certain methods of trapping and poisoning for the recreational taking of wildlife (1996) 52%
- Tax limitations-voting (TABOR 1992) 53%
- Lottery revenues for parks, open space (GOCO 1992) 58%
- Term Limits (1990) 70%
- English as the official language (1988) 64%
There is a clunker on this list, the people are not always right, they can be flat out ugly and spiteful, but still there are none on the list as dreadful and damning as the federal Dred Scott decision. Not even close.
Generally, what we see are citizen attempts to foster good government, recognize and deal with existing realities (marijuana use), and find public funds to support public schools and the environment. Some might even assert most would not have been necessary had the legislature done its job.
You will notice also that roughly half of the initiatives passed in the past 30 years would not meet the super majority requirement of 55 percent approval rate contained in 71 and therefore would not be the law of the state.
It is probably also worth mentioning that the corporate proponents of 71 will not have to meet the 55 percent requirement they want to set for the rest of us either.
- Outside money is taking over the state
Assertion: the constitution is becoming the dumping ground for outside interest legislation.
Reply: Amendment 71 is supported and funded by the political elite. This includes the governor. He has openly condemned outside money being used to advance special interest legislation via the initiative. This is hypocrisy at its most blatant, for 71 is being financed largely by outside corporations, oil and gas primarily, who do not like the people trying to protect their health and property interests, to say nothing of their rights as sovereigns, for as set out in our state constitution:
“All political power is vested in and derived from the people; all government, of right, originates from the people, is founded upon their will only, and is instituted solely for the good of the whole. from whom all government of right derives its powers.”
The governor is apparently unfamiliar with the Preamble, and the corporate interests behind 71 would obviously like to muzzle forever the Preamble’s lofty language.
The extent outside corporate money is propping up Raise the Bar is illustrated in the latest reporting to the Secretary of State. It shows that on 9/08/2016, Raise the Bar received $1 million dollars from Protecting Colorado’s Environment, Economy, and Energy Independence. PCEEEI is the creation of the oil industry. Its biggest contributors are Anadarko and Noble energy. They have each given $5 million and both are headquartered in Texas. The $1 million received from PCEEEI in early September is roughly equal to all other contributions up to that time. Expect more, much more.
PCEEEI reportedly spent about $13 million in outside corporate money to help defeat two citizen led anti-fracking initiatives this past year, but, despite the boat loads of money thrown at defeating them, it was only by the skin of their teeth. Preliminary polling shows that they would have passed had they made the ballot.
Now you start to see the urgency of the corporate actions to get 71 passed.
So as it turns out, the political elite we see doing paid TV adds bemoaning the takeover of the state initiative process by outside interests are right. Their friends and benefactors are taking over the state, and with their help.
- The Initiative Process Unfair to Rural Colorado
Assertion: Rural folks aren’t being treated equally
Reply: one person, one vote is a time honored and foundational principle of democracy. Weighing votes by geographic location has never been considered in a statewide election and shouldn’t be now. Try and apply 71’s requirement of geographic approval in each of the state’s 35 senatorial districts to a state wide election, say governor. The governor would first have to get 2 percent approval of the registered voters in each district before he could even get on the ballot; thus creating a double election requirement, a real gotcha. Rural preference for the initiative tally has been tried in Nebraska and ruled unconstitutional for obvious reasons.
Oh, and should we mention that the proponents could not even assure anyone that they got approval of 2 percent of the voters in each of the districts as they would require of the rest of us?. This requirement would however make it much easier to target an initiative that wealthy interests did not like. All they need do is throw money at a couple of districts to make sure there wasn’t 2 percent approval. And perhaps that’s its real purpose.
- Statutory Initiative should be used instead of Constitutional
Assertion: the statutory initiative needs to be used more.
Reply, this may be the only statement from the corporate backers of 71 with any factual basis. It should and would be used more often by the people if they did not face the threat of the statute being overturned the next year by the legislature. If the legislature were to guarantee a statutory initiative a life of at least 5 years without repeal or meddling then it might be used more. If the signature requirements were simultaneously lowered this too might encourage statutory initiatives. But as long as the requirements are what they are today, the people will take the constitutional route. The effort and costs are just too great to do otherwise.
Twice in the past the state legislature has attempted to meddle with the people’s right to the initiative. Twice the U.S. Supreme Court has told them, in the strongest terms, hands off; for the initiative is a fundamental constitutional right that only the people can change.
How ironic it is that a consortium of corporates with politicians from both parties in tow, are trying to use the right of initiative to take that right away from the people. A sincere public conversation is needed on how to make the initiative process more useful for everyone, for it has become extremely difficult to use, with bureaucratic roadblocks numerous and punitive by design. Only the wealthy can negotiate its shoals with any certainty.
Vote no on 71 and demand a public conversation on how to make the initiative more useful and still provide the public with a needed control on unresponsive or corrupt government.
If 71 passes the public will be locked out, with the corporations and their stooges in government holding the only key
It’s never a good idea to limit the people’s rights in a democracy, for as Tom Paine remarked correctly, “The strength of government and the happiness of the governed” is sustained only when the common people have freedom to “mutually and naturally support each other.”
One of the first instruments of mutual, democratic support in Colorado is the initiative, or the right of the citizens to write law. But this essential right is threatened by a proposal from rich and powerful interests who would suppress it with proposed constitutional amendment 71, called Raising the Bar. They are fast about the business of trying to make a case for radical change where none exists. They claim that we-the-people have gone mad and are destroying their constitution by adding new amendments to it, willy-nilly. As a result the state constitution isn’t as lovely as it could be if it were treated as a religious relic.
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: MAY 3, 2016
Yesterday the Colorado Supreme Court ruled against the rights of the people in Longmont and Ft Collins. In so doing they ruled against the rights of all Colorado citizens to legislate on matters dealing with oil and gas development.
Under our state constitution, the right of citizens to legislate, Article V, has been termed a first right, superior even to that of the legislature’s. The Court ignored this right in its decision.
The citizens in those cities, by means of direct popular vote, had attempted to postpone or ban oil and gas drilling within their city limits because of overriding public health and safety concerns. These concerns are universally recognized as legitimate except in some political circles
The court also ruled that citizens have no inalienable rights as guaranteed in our Bill of Rights because the legislature had preempted those rights in the Oil and Gas Conservation Act. By this legislation, those rights belong to a small state agency, the COGCC, that works primarily to encourage oil and gas development.
Phil Doe, Environmental Director for Be the Change said: “If your ears don’t prick up at this decision, then you need a good ear doctor. Cut away the lofty language used to disguise greed and plunder, and what the court said is that we have no inalienable rights when it comes to oil and gas development. The legislature took those rights and gave them to their true friends on 16th Street. This will not stand. The power structure can only steal from us if we let them.”
Barbara Mill-Bria, Be the Change’s president said: “This may be a long hot summer. You can’t vote against the interests of the people over and over again without blowback. The people are not happy waking up to find an oil rig in their back yard and being told they have no real say in the matter. This is the opposite of democracy.”
Wes Wilson, Science Advisor, Be the Change, said: “You know, at some point people will start to understand that we’ve been sold a bill of goods. Less than two percent of the state is in incorporated cities and towns. Is there nowhere that Little Timmy and Maria are to be allowed to play without the threat of a gas well spewing poison on them. Hell, apparently every acre in the state is up for grabs. And the Supreme Court is in on the job.”
Dan Leftwich, attorney for Be the Change said: “Article V of the Colorado Constitution was amended in 1910 because the people were concerned about the corrupting influence of special interests in state government. That is the situation Colorado citizens are encountering today as special interests use the state’s power to preempt local communities from protecting their health, safety and the environment. In Article V, the people reserved the power to pass legislation of every character, independent of the general assembly, precisely to put such decisions beyond the reach of the state. These fundamental rights cannot be preempted because they are superior to the powers of the legislature, the executive branch, and the municipal governments in which these initiatives were enacted. These rights were not presented to the Supreme Court because the voters were not represented there, only the municipal governments that were opposed to these initiatives from the beginning. As a result, the Court’s opinions issued today are not controlling precedent where the people’s right of initiative is raised as a defense. Today marks a new chapter, not the end of these disputes.”
Contacts: Dan Leftwich, 720-212-0831(office), 720-470-7831 firstname.lastname@example.org
Phil Doe, 303 949 6986, email@example.com
Today, Be The Change Environmental Director Phil Doe testified in favor of Colorado HB 1310, which holds operators liable for oil and gas operations in the state. Below is Phil’s testimony:
We strongly support HB 16-1310.
Fracking is a dangerous industrial activity. A recently published scientific study, only five days old, gives added muscular support to this widely held and demonstrable assertion.
Reviewing nearly all the peer reviewed research papers on fracking published between 2009 and 2015, the authors of this new study found that:
1. 685 papers on the various health and safety aspects of fracking had been published in peer-reviewed scientific journals.
2. 84% of public health studies contain findings that indicate public health hazards, elevated risks, or adverse health outcomes;
3. 69% of water quality studies contain findings that indicate potential, positive association, or actual incidence of water contamination;
4. and 87% of air quality studies contain findings that indicate elevated air pollutant emissions and/or atmospheric concentrations.
This study did not treat seismicity directly, but it still gives added compelling evidence, if any were needed, of the danger associated with fracking, one of which this bill addresses. Moreover, HB 1310 moves in the direction of sanity and supports our state constitution’s admonition in the Bill of Rights concerning political power and to whom it rightfully belongs:
“All political power is vested in and derived from the people,… originates from the people, is founded upon their will only, and is instituted solely for the good of the whole.”
The Oil and Gas Conservation Act is an abuse of this constitutional guiding principle, and this is really what I came here to say, for it steals away the people’s right to self determination and bestows it ignominiously on the oil and gas industry. If this were not true, if this had not been done, you would not have the growing rebellion by citizens in cities and towns threatened by fracking, and you would not have this bill before you today.
In summation, I implore you all to review a decision made by your legislative predecessors. They gave the COGCC the right of preemption. In so doing they took away the rights of the people to self-determination on all matter oil and gas. They acted unlawfully, unconstitutionally, in my opinion, for they effectively revoked the constitutional guaranteed right of the people to legislate directly through the initiative process, Article V–The right to determine by popular vote what is best for their city, neighborhoods, and, yes, even state.
Such an abridgement of rights cannot stand, for as Tom Paine correctly observed in the Rights of Man, “The strength of government and the happiness of the governed” is sustained only when the common people have freedom to “mutually and naturally support each other.”
Also, I would like to invite your attention to a very recent legal review of the whole initiative process and how the state has acted illegally to thwart the peoples right to direct democracy. The author is attorney Dan Leftwich. His brilliant paper can be found at : http://minddrivelegal.com/blog/
Be the Change
A few days ago, the Denver Post published an editorial – Colorado oil and gas bill deserves defeat – that urged legislators to defeat HB1355, which decrees that “local governments can determine where new industrial activities occur within their jurisdiction through zoning ordinances and resolutions.” In response, Be The Change’s Environmental Advisor – Wes Wilson – wrote the following letter:
The Post’s editorial board deliberately and doggedly continues to ignore health damages from fracking. Dr. Lisa McKenzie and her colleagues at the Anschutz Medical School demonstrated that living next to oil and gas wells in Colorado increases the chances of birth defects.1
Dr. Theo Colborn’s careful year-long study of toxic emissions from drilling found cancer-causing benzene, methyl chloride, and a host of other toxic gases that harm health.2 These toxic emissions were ubiquitous even among properly operating wells.
Governments must act to protect public health and safety, for these are its highest functions. Clearly, in satisfying these overarching concerns, government can and must restrain mineral rights development when health and safety are threatened. County commissions and city councils have the authority to restrict gravel mining to comply with their zoning rules to preserve property values and protect publlc safety. The regulation of the oil and gas industry must be subject to the same standards. Moreover, a takings claim under the 5th amendment would be difficult to demonstrate given the industry’s track record of being able to drill horizontally from to 2 to 3 miles out. Moreover, a claim of takings would be impossible to make given the present depressed price for oil and gas. These prices make fracking uneconomic and have much of this heavily leveraged industry sliding into default and bankruptcy. There is little likelihood this trend will change in the near or mid term.
Oil and gas production contribute to climate change; their toxic emissions damage the health of those living nearby; and most of the organic compounds that make Colorado’s Front Range unable to comply with federal ozone standards come from oil and gas operations. The editorial board at the Post must stop bobbing like an Ostrich, tell the people of the dangers associated with fracking, or lose its right to be a voice of the people. It has no right to lie, repeatedly, as a public voice. As a voice of corporate interests, it of course does.
1 Lisa McKenzie, et. al. Birth Outcomes and Maternal Residential Proximity to Natural Gas Development in Rural Colorado, http://ehp.niehs.nih.gov/1306722/
2 Colborn, et. al., An Exploratory Study of Air Quality near Natural Gas Operations, http://endocrinedisruption.org/assets/media/documents/HERA12-137NGAirQualityManuscriptforwebwithfigures.pdf
Wes Wilson, Environmental Advisor
Be The Change USA
A few weeks ago, Be The Change’s Environmental Director, Phil Doe, testified in support of Representative Joe Salazar’s bill – HB-1310 – which shifts the balance of rights in split estates from mineral owners to the surface owners. The bill holds oil and gas operators strictly liable for damage to the health of the surface owner, to the land, and to earthquake damage caused by deep well injection. The bill has passed the Colorado House and now moves to the Republican-controlled Senate.
We very much support HB 1310. It is deeply needed. It moves in the direction of sanity and supports our state constitution’s admonition in the Bill of Rights concerning political power and to whom it rightfully belongs:
“All political power is vested in and derived from the people,… originates from the people, is founded upon their will only, and is instituted solely for the good of the whole.”
The Oil and Gas Conservation Act is an abuse of this constitutional guiding principle, for it gives away the people’s right to self determination and bestows it ignominiously on the oil and gas industry. If this were not true, if this had not been done, you would not have the growing rebellion by citizens in cities and towns threatened by fracking, and you would not have this bill before you today.
I spoke at the Greeley city council meeting the other night. I was there to support the people’s right to determine what was best for the “good of the whole.” The city council, by a 5-2 vote, voted for what was best for the property rights of a small fracking company headed by recent School of Mines graduates loaded down with speculative money from Wall Street.
The majority of the council, led by Mayor Tom Norton, asserted, tangentially, that the property rights of the few were superior to the rights of the many. Individual speculative profits trumped citizen issues of public health and safety, or the good of the whole, if you will.
The growing contempt for government we find in this country derives from decisions like that seen in Greeley the other night. The out of town speculator, pockets loaded down with out of town money got over two hours to make his case before the council. The citizens, armed only with their concerns, were given 3 minutes apiece.
Finally, I implore you all to review a decision made by your legislative predecessors. They gave the COGCC the right of preemption. In so doing they took away the rights of the people to self-determination on all matter oil and gas. They acted unlawfully, unconstitutionally, in my opinion, for they effectively revoked the constitutional guaranteed right of Home Rule, Article V, the rights of citizens to determine what is best for their city and neighborhoods when the issue is of dominant local concern. There is nothing more local than the threat of an oil well in your backyard, accompanied by the realization that the state has taken away your rights to petition the government. Really, as it now stands, your only option is to move. But who’d buy the property?
Phil Doe – Environmental Director, Bet The Change USA
DENVER— The following Local, regional and national organizations sent a letter today to President Obama calling on him to “keep federal fossil fuels in the ground” and cancel the Bureau of Land Management’s federal oil and gas lease sale slated for Nov. 12 in Lakewood, Colo., owing to concerns over runaway greenhouse gas pollution and the climate crisis: Continue reading
Following is a letter from Be The Change’s Board of Directors to the Colorado Public Utility Commission regarding Boulder’s bid to operate their own municipal utility grid:
November 2, 2015
To the Public Utility Commission:
Subject: PUC Hearing scheduled for November 4, 2015
In our opinion, the City of Boulder has every right to expect the PUC to hear its proposal to own and manage the utilities that serve its people. This right is a constitutional guarantee gained by the people from the Home Rule provision of the state constitution, Article XX, added by a vote of the people in 1902, and strengthened by amendment in 1912.
It came about because of legislative over reach. In a nutshell, the people of Denver thought that, with regard to internal matters, they should have the right to determine how local government worked on their behalf. The legislature thought otherwise. The people won. They should win in this case as well.
We point you in particular to Article XX, Section 6. It says in part that a city charter shall be its “organic law,” extending in scope to “to all local and municipal matters” and shall “supersede within said city or town any law of the state in conflict therewith.” One might argue, given the clear constitutional language guaranteeing self-determination for home rule cities, it would be unconstitutional for the PUC not to hear Boulder’s proposal.
Furthermore it is our understanding Boulder would like to move more quickly toward renewables, wind and solar, and away from the Clean Air, Clean Jobs Act’s dependence on switching from coal to natural gas for electrical energy.
Growing evidence suggests that, over the short term, natural gas may be accelerating climate heating, even more than CO2 from coal–because a unit of unburned or leaked natural gas traps over 100 times more heat in the atmosphere than an equal unit of CO2 from coal over a ten year span. The ten-year time horizon is thought critical to controlling other feedback loops, such as the thawing of methane sequestered in Arctic tundra.
If so much of the natural gas were not escaping into the atmosphere before being burned, this dire prediction would not be the case. But as Robert Howarth, Cornell University professor and chair of the Department of Ecology and Environmental Biology at Cornell University demonstrated in a peer reviewed scientific paper released only weeks ago, the leak rate from shale gas in particular is alarming and climate threatening.
His research shows the leak rate for fracked wells over their life cycle, from well to consumer, to be in the 12 percent range. He concludes, “There is no bridge fuel, and switching from coal to shale gas is accelerating rather than slowing global warming.”
He concludes by reminding people that the way out is through renewables, and that studies done at Stanford show that ”we can move from a fossil fuel-
driven economy to one driven totally by renewable energy sources (largely solar and wind) in a cost-effective way using only technologies that are commercially available today. The major part of the transition can be made within the next 15 years, largely negating the need for shale gas, with a complete transition possible by 2050.”
Boulder citizens and civic leaders seem to have anticipated Dr. Howarth’s conclusions and recommendations. We think it supremely important to this and future generations that you hear Boulder’s proposal for ownership and management of its utility. The language in Article XX of our State Constitution demands nothing less.
Be the Change
Be the Change
Be the Change