Telling Legislator, “If You Vote for This Law, We’ll Try to Defeat You in the Next Election,” Forbidden in Colorado?

That’s what Colo. Rev. Stat. § 24-6-308 seems to say:

(1) No person engaged in lobbying shall: …

(h) Attempt to influence the vote of a covered official in connection with any pending matter by threat of a political reprisal, including without limitation the promise of financial support of, or opposition to, the covered official’s candidacy at any future election;

And “lobbying” is defined broadly, covering:

communicating directly, or soliciting others to communicate, with a covered official for the purpose of aiding in or influencing:

(I) The drafting, introduction, sponsorship, consideration, debate, amendment, passage, defeat, approval, or veto by any covered official on:

(A) Any bill, resolution, amendment, nomination, appointment, or report, whether or not in writing, pending or proposed for consideration by either house of the general assembly or committee thereof, whether or not the general assembly is in session; …

So — unless I’m misreading something — this forbids pretty much any statement to a Colorado legislator, whether by a volunteer or a professional, and whether on behalf of oneself, an advocacy group, a business, or anyone else, in which the speaker “threat[ens] a political reprisal” if the legislator does or doesn’t do something. (There are a few exceptions, chiefly focused on statements made in response to a legislative request or in a formal hearing, statements made by a lawyer on behalf of an identified client, and statements made by “legislative employees,” which would presumably include other legislators, but the typical call that I describe wouldn’t be covered by such an exception.) And of course threat of political reprisal could cover a wide range of things, such as threatening to tell one’s members to vote against the candidate, threatening to run against the candidate oneself, threatening to endorse the candidate’s opponent or withhold an endorsement from the candidate, and a wide range of other constitutionally protected activity.

And this is no remnant of a long-gone era; the statute was enacted in 1977. This can’t be constitutionally permissible, but there it is.

Thanks to Matt Bower for the pointer.

UPDATE: I was surprised by how many commenters were willing to conclude that such threats of political reprisal may indeed (and should indeed) be punished; check out the comments to see their arguments.

FURTHER UPDATE: Some people seem to read the law as limited to promises of contributions, or threats of contributions to an opponent, or at least focused largely on that. But while these are examples, they are just examples; the law itself bans “threat of a political reprisal,” which covers much more than just financial contributions.

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