Spin Cycles

Laundered money, the shadow of big tobacco, and a blubbering court reporter: The wild trial over Colorado's Amendment 15.

During cross-examination, Bopp asked Gordon why, if he really believes that donations cause politicians to act differently, he doesn't feel beholden to the people who give him only $20--or, for that matter, merely cast ballots for him. Gordon said that he does but referred again to his theoretical continuum. "That's at the end of the continuum where the system is working," Gordon said.

However, when asked about the other end of the continuum--the bribery end--Gordon pulled his punches. What about politicians he knows personally whose votes have been directly influenced by campaign contributions? Bopp wanted to know. "In my experience there is a connection," was Gordon's entire response.

Gordon says he was afraid to say what he knew to be true: that he has specific knowledge of legislators who've told him that they've cast votes solely to benefit campaign contributors. Even though such testimony would have bolstered the defense case, Gordon chose to clam up. "I didn't go into that because I knew what the next question would be," he says. "They would want me to name names, and I wasn't willing to betray those confidences."

Despite its name, Amendment 15 isn't an amendment to the Colorado Constitution, but a new law. As such, lawmakers can change it at their whim, and they're already trying. The Colorado Senate has already approved a loophole, now being considered by the House, that has Amendment 15 framers up in arms. That measure would allow registered lobbyists to buy tickets to fundraising dinners for legislators or candidates without requiring candidates to list the ticket as a donation. However, if the candidate gets the ticket from anyone other than a registered lobbyist, he or she is obligated to report it as a donation.

Meanwhile, the federal trial is expected to resume Wednesday, April 15, with testimony from former governor Dick Lamm, who has already given a pre-trial deposition that allegedly details undue influence by contributors. A ruling isn't expected for several months; a final decision may be more than a year off. Both sides predict an appeal no matter what.

"This trial has been amazing," says Pat Johnson of the League of Women Voters, who has been called as a witness and describes the proceedings as a crash course in real-world politics.

More often than not, however, the atmosphere, political and otherwise, has been otherworldly. Johnson, for instance, worked as an analyst for the CIA for 25 years, retiring in 1977. When Bopp cross-examined her, his first words were, "I've always wanted to ask this question of someone under oath: Who killed President Kennedy?"

Johnson hesitated, then said, "You'll have to ask me when I'm not in open court." But this trial doesn't need JFK to have drama, she adds. "It has money laundering, abortion, corruption. What else does anybody need?

« Previous Page
My Voice Nation Help