DENVER – Citizens United is suing after the Colorado Secretary of State’s Office ruled a movie the conservative group is producing falls under state campaign laws.
The Virginia-based group sued Secretary of State Scott Gessler in federal court in Denver on Thursday, saying it deserved the same free-speech protections as traditional media and liberal documentary filmmakers. Citizens United is finishing a movie called “Rocky Mountain Heist” about those it says have influenced Colorado’s political swing to the left over the past decade.
In June, Deputy Secretary of State Suzanne Staiert ruled the group must disclose the movie’s financiers.
Citizens United president David Bossie told the Denver Post the organization is fighting on the same principles that won before the U.S. Supreme Court in 2010 after the Federal Election Commission said a movie about Hillary Clinton was “electioneering communication.” He added that the group would argue the federal decision should supersede state election laws.
Citizens United claims in the lawsuit that the United States and Colorado constitutions prevent the government from discriminating against free-speech rights based on the identity of the speaker, and that disclosing exactly who is speaking – in the form of funding – is a violation.
“We filed this lawsuit to vindicate Citizens United’s First Amendment right to engage in political expression and media activities on the same terms as other media entities,” said attorney Ted Olson, who represented George W. Bush in Bush vs. Gore to end the 2000 recount.
“Colorado’s campaign-finance laws impose burdensome reporting and disclosure requirements on Citizens United and other speakers engaged in political discourse in the weeks preceding an election, unless the speakers happen to own a newspaper, magazine or radio or television station,” he said.
Gessler’s spokesman Rich Coolidge referred to Staiert’s earlier ruling that the “forthcoming documentary is an electioneering communication,” which would require disclosure.