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Our view: Is Colorado’s secretary of state dodging transparency?

Recently, the Colorado Springs Gazette and its sister site, Colorado Politics, asked, under the state Open Records Act, for a complete copy of the Colorado secretary of state’s electronic lobbying disclosure database, a searchable compendium of who lobbies for whom in Colorado.

The information must be disclosed by law and furnished by the office of the secretary of state.

You can see why this is important. Even if one is agnostic about getting money out of politics, or skeptical about the feasibility or wisdom of somehow undoing the Supreme Court’s Citzens United ruling, everyone except some lobbyists and lobbyers thinks lobbying should be transparent. So does the law.

But currently, if you lobby the state Legislature on behalf of an oil and gas company, an internet service provider or the office of the secretary of state itself (yes, state agencies employ lobbyists to lobby the state, which is like this dog we know that chases its tail, but more expensive), what Colorado Politics found was, we cannot necessarily see what you’re up to.

“Last year, Colorado’s legislators passed a law requiring more immediate lobbying activity disclosures and ordering the creation of a working group aimed at increasing the overall transparency of the state’s online lobbyist registration and activity tool,” the site reported. “But after multiple meetings of the working group and a technical adjustment to allow the more immediate lobbying reporting required by the new law, basic problems with the system persist, preventing the ability to look up electronic registrations and lobbying activity records for at least some of those required to file the disclosures.”

So Colorado Politics requested the database behind the faulty online system.

The secretary of state’s office denied it, citing a Colorado law “that references a federal law about cyber security threats ...

“In response to follow-up requests, the Secretary of State told Colorado Politics that it possesses no documents that explain how providing a copy of a database makes the agency vulnerable to cyber security threats. Other state agencies provide complete copies of databases, which is required by Colorado law, without invoking a cyber security exemption. Other states provide complete copies of their campaign finance and lobbying databases as well.”

This is a sorry pass. Colorado Secretary of State Jena Griswold was elected in the 2018 blue wave, defeating incumbent Wayne Williams. Williams had done a fine job in his first term but it was Griswold’s argument that she alone would protect Colorado data from federal intrusion that seemed to sway voters, along with the “D” next to her name.

Now her office is contending that a state law referencing a federal cyber security law keeps it from being able to supply information it possesses which is critical to the public’s understanding of how state government operates.

That smells like a dodge.

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