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Colorado Vote a Message on Gun Rights and Campaign Finance

Today many of our neighbors in Colorado celebrate a victory for gun rights and civics, as two state senators who voted in favor of new restrictive gun laws were successfully recalled from office yesterday. These are the first two recalls in Colorado history. These recalls will not overturn the new gun laws, but send a clear message to the anti-gun crowd that even “purple” swing states like Colorado are not going to embrace new gun restrictions without a fight.

The New York Times reports that “gun-control advocates far outspent their opponents.” In a breakdown by the Denver Post, it was around 6:1 anti-recall versus pro-recall spending. Both recalls were successful.

Wait, what?

In a post-Citizens United world, we’re frequently told that corporations, affluent people and super-PACs “control our elections” by buying lots of advertisements urging people to vote their way on candidates and ballot issues. The underlying message is that this money is not merely influential, but controlling. There’s nothing to base this on except the presumption that people are sheep, but you’ll never hear supporters of campaign finance “reform” admit that. Nevertheless, facing 6:1 spending, the pro-gun voices were supposed to be “drowned out.”

So we can add the Colorado recalls to the list of evidence to the contrary. Especially in Colorado towns outside of Denver (these recalls centered around Colorado Springs and Pueblo), all the outside spending in the world cannot overcome campaign activity within the community. Citizens often are influenced far more by door-to-door canvassing (by actual neighbors, not out-of-towners) or letters and opinion editorials in the local paper, or a conversation at the local barber shop or in the grocery aisle than by paid advertisements. Money is important in any election, but it’s not determinative, revealing Citizens United fearmongers are the equivalent of Chicken Little.

Many elections right here in Wyoming further illustrate the point. In a particularly huge spending disparity, Democrat candidate for House District 07 (Laramie County) Joe Fender outspent Republican Sue Wilson $47,219 to $9,293 in the 2012 election. Wilson won the election with nearly 62 percent of the vote. Even more evidence is sure to arise from Wyoming in the coming 2014 election cycle.

One would think progressives would celebrate such triumphs over money in politics:

Tuesday’s low turnout was a result of efforts by the NRA, the Koch brothers and other right wing groups…”

Oh, well.

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