Court rules against Gessler campaign change

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DENVER (AP) -- An appeals court says Secretary of State Scott Gessler overstepped his authority by raising a financial disclosure threshold for political groups and that the change violated state law.

The Colorado Court of Appeals issued the ruling Thursday, affirming a lower court's decision.

At issue was a change from Gessler's office to raise the financial disclosure threshold for political groups from $200 to $5,000.

Opponents argue that raising the threshold would make it easier for political groups to avoid disclosing financial interests for ballot initiatives.

Gessler maintained that his aim was to bring state campaign-finance laws in line with a federal appeals court ruling. A Gessler spokesman says the state is leaving itself open to expensive constitutional challenges, but that the secretary has not decided whether to appeal the latest decision.

Gessler also waived tens of thousands of dollars in campaign disclosure fines for three men who pushed three ballot initiatives to cut taxes and restrict the state's finances in 2010.

Jeff Gross, Louis Schroeder, and Russell Haas racked up more than $20,000 in late fees each for failing to file campaign finance disclosures after a judge's order. Colorado Public radio reports Wednesday that the trio asked Gessler for a waiver that reduced their fines to $50 each.

The three men argued they did not know who spent the money to get the initiatives on the ballot.

Gessler says the fines would financially hurt the men and discourage activists from being involved in politics. But Gessler detractors say his action undermines disclosure rules.

The ballot initiatives failed.

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