Exhausted Coloradans try to limit political ads

(CBS News) COLORADO - The Supreme Court's Citizens United ruling two years ago unleashed a record flood of political spending this year.

With four weeks still to go, more than half a billion dollars has been spent on ads, eclipsing the total spent four years ago. Some voters in Colorado are fed up.

In Colorado alone, $47 million in five months has been spent by the Obama and Romney campaigns and groups supporting them.

But come November, people here will be able to tell the rest of the nation just how they feel about enduring all those TV ads.

The group Common Cause got Amendment 65 on the Colorado ballot. If passed, the state's congressional delegation would be required to propose an amendment to the U.S. constitution limiting campaign contributions and spending.

Elena Nunez, executive director of Colorado Common Cause, said her group sought to fight the Supreme Court Citizens United ruling because "the result is a democracy that really distorts the voice of ordinary people in favor of those who can write multi-million dollar checks."

While billionaires might argue that they have the same rights of freedom of speech of anybody else, Nunez said: "Free speech certainly protects our rights to say what we want, but it shouldn't give people the right to shout louder than the rest of us."

The unlimited ad spending started after the U.S. Supreme Court's 2010 ruling that restrictions on campaign contributions were also restrictions on freedom of speech.

Citizens United, the group which won the Supreme Court case, opposes the Colorado initiative.

A statement provided by the group to CBS News reads: "What the Colorado referendum does is chill free speech and gives incumbent politicians an inherent advantage."

Although Colorado voters are expected to pass the referendum by a big margin, public opinion consultant Eric Sondermann provides a reality check.

"It has no binding effect. It's simply what I call a postcard to Congress," Sondermann said.

That means the ad barrage will continue, as will the debate: Is this kind of unlimited spending free speech at its best...or at its worst?

  • Barry Petersen

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