Recall petitions Polis

Petitions to recall Gov. Jared Polis circulated last year are shown at the Capitol. The effort ultimately fell short of the number required to put the recall on the ballot in 2019. 

Second verse, not quite the same as the first.

Barely a year after an effort to recall Gov. Jared Polis fell woefully short of its 631,266-signature goal, some of the same folks are at it again.

A petition to recall the governor was filed on Monday, and as first reported by The Colorado Sun, this time, it's over his use of executive authority.

The recall petition filed with the Secretary of State's office cited the following reasons for the recall:

  • Polis "abused his emergency power by exceeding the scope of his powers under Colorado's Disaster Emergency Act by issuing a Disaster Declaration through executive order as a vehicle to legitimize confining residents to their homes, forbidding travel, closing businesses and mandating wearing of masks thereby depriving citizens of liberty and property without due process of law."
  • Polis spent $1.6 billion in CARES Act funds without consultation with the General Assembly
  • Polis issued an executive order to allow petition signatures to be collected online. The Colorado Supreme Court threw out the order on July 1.
  • Through his "Stay at Home" executive order on March 25, Polis "explicitly discriminated against houses of worship" and violated the First Amendment's free exercise of religion clause.

Organizers of last year's recall effort — Dismiss Polis and Resist Polis PAC — never turned in signatures. They held a press conference on the west steps of the Capitol on Sept. 6, 2019, with more than 40 boxes, claiming (without proof) that they had collected more than 300,000 signatures.

A separate effort, known as the Official Recall Colorado Governor Jared Polis committee, never circulated petitions and later gave cash gifts, funded by campaign contributions, to some of its volunteers. The largest payment of more than $29,000 went to Colorado for Trump, formed by the same people as the so-called "official" committee. That drew condemnation from the Trump campaign for using the president's name without permission. The group rebranded and continues to collect campaign contributions.

This year's recall group, Recall Polis 2020, has raised $4,022 in cash and an additional $7,327 in non-monetary contributions. The group also set up a GoFundMe page on July 16 that instructs its donors to provide donor addresses for any contributions of $19.99 or more; as of Tuesday, it has raised $7,634 from 283 donors.

However, the committee's registered agent, Lori Cutunilli, told Colorado Politics they are closing the GoFundMe and returning all the donations. 

The TRACER filings, with the most recent reporting period ending on August 19, does not show addresses for any donors, save for contributions from Cutunilli and her employer.  The address information simply says "redacted by the committee," a potential violation of campaign finance law for failure to provide addressees for donors who gave $20 or more. Cutunilli said they are working with the Secretary of State's office to correct that information.

According to Secretary of State spokeswoman Betsy Hart, state law requires issue committees to disclose the name and address of anyone who contributes $20 or more, and the occupation and employer of anyone who contributes $100 or more. There is an exception, Hart wrote, that allows anyone who feels "that their safety or the safety of a family member is in jeopardy to request in writing a redaction of sensitive information on a case by case basis."

Out of the 47 contributions so far reported by the committee, every one was $20 or more, and only four included the required address information. Three of the four were from Cutunilli; the fourth was for a deposit for petition printing paid by the Farmers Corner Kwik Stop of Breckenridge, which is listed as Cutunilli's employer.

Greg Merschel of Grand Junction, who was a Western Slope organizer for Resist Polis PAC, is the spokesman for the Recall Polis 2020 committee. Merschel told Colorado Politics on Tuesday that it is their intent to collect one million signatures. They hope to pay out of pocket for all expenses and through volunteers.

"Colorado is upset and mad," Merschel said, and "when you give John Elway [permission] to play football but tell high schoolers they can't have their season, there's something terribly skewed. When the governor can go to a meeting in Sterling and take off his mask, something's not right. He's ruined the state through executive order," Merschel said. 

Petition signatures are due Nov. 13.

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