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ACP Not Relishing Role As Colorado Major Party

DENVER (AP) - The American Constitution Party vaulted to major party status in Colorado thanks to the gubernatorial candidacy of former Republican Rep. Tom Tancredo. But the party, which supports a U.S. Constitution rooted in Biblical law, says it's fed up with the bureaucracy of being a major player in state politics -- and besides, it can't afford it.

With only 4,134 members, the ACP has had to create a 21-member central committee, elect an executive committee and set up party committees in each of Colorado's 64 counties. In exchange, the party gets a place at or near the top of the ballot in the next gubernatorial election in 2014.

"We keep asking Secretary of State Scott Gessler what's the benefit of being a major party. We get a higher position on the ballot, but if that's the only thing, it's not worth it," said Amanda Campbell, the ACP's treasurer and an executive board member.

Being a major party brings major responsibilities, like filing detailed campaign finance reports, hiring lawyers to interpret complicated state and federal reporting requirements, and holding primaries and caucuses.

But according to the secretary of state's website, the ACP had just $817 in the bank as of April 15. Campbell said the party stopped collecting dues because all party members are now allowed to vote and it wouldn't be fair to only dues-paying members.

"To do a mailing would cost $2,000, money we don't have because we don't have member dues anymore," Campbell said.

The party was formed in 1992 as the U.S. Taxpayers Party and changed its name in 1999 to the Constitution Party. Colorado's party renamed itself the American Constitution Party.

It calls for a strong national defense, opposes nation-building abroad, wants to abolish federal pay and pensions for members of Congress and holds that parents, not government, have the authority and duty of educating their children.

The Colorado party's problems began when Tancredo left the GOP and signed on as the ACP gubernatorial candidate last year. Tancredo lost to Democrat John Hickenlooper, but his second-place finish made the ACP a major party under state law. Republican Dan Maes, a tea party favorite, got 11 percent of the vote -- just above the 10 percent threshold needed to keep the GOP's status as a major party.

Tancredo brought in money -- but to his own campaign, not the ACP. Campbell said the party collected several hundred dollars, while Tancredo got more than $680,000 in direct campaign contributions.

Tancredo has since rejoined the GOP.

"This is a challenge they chose to undertake. They should see this as an opportunity," Tancredo said.

Campbell said Gov. Hickenlooper promised to consider ACP members for state boards and commissions, but that hasn't happened.

"There are no current vacancies on the Colorado Commission on Aging, which is the only state board or commission that requires membership from major political parties," said Hickenlooper spokesman Eric Brown. "Anyone can apply to participate on one of the more than 300 state boards and commissions."

The ACP may be stuck for another four years. Gessler said there is no statutory authority for a party to give up major party status and that the Legislature would have to change the law to allow anyone to withdraw. Campbell said the party won't ask for any change because that would cost taxpayers.

- By Steven K. Paulson, AP Writer

(Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press.  All Rights Reserved.)

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