‘Pay-to-play’ ban axed — for now — in Colo.

Yesterday, a Denver district judge temporary halted a so-called “pay-to-play” ban preventing certain state contractors from donating to state campaigns, according to a story today in The Denver Post.

Groups, including those in the business and labor communities, have criticized the ban as an unconstitutional infringement on the rights of Coloradans to participate in politics.

Judge Catherine Lemon agreed with opponents of Amendment 54, who argued the measure was “confusing, discriminatory and in violation of free-speech rights.” The case will now head to trial.

From the story:

The amendment prevents anyone tied to an entity that receives a no-bid government contract greater than $100,000 from giving to political parties or candidates at any level.

Plaintiffs complained that vagaries in the language left would-be contributors afraid of donating, even if the rules might not apply to them.

“In my mind, it’s just not a close case,” Lemon said after hours of arguments. “When First Amendment freedoms are involved, the state has got to come forward with evidence of a sufficiently important (threat).”

Everyone has an interest in their government — contractors, doctors, teachers, etc. — and there’s no justifiable reason to give people unequal First Amendment rights. The proper way to combat the possibility or perception of undue influence by state contracters is a transparent bidding process and vigilance on the part of the press and the public. The answer is not arbitrarily restricting the First Amendment rights of citizens.

The Center for Competitive Politics is now the Institute for Free Speech.