Jul 10, 2023 - Politics

How Colorado Democrats skirt transparency laws at Capitol

Illustration of a donkey with a gavel in its mouth

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

Top Democratic lawmakers hold secret private meetings and use encrypted messaging systems to discuss legislation and negotiate votes in what amounts to "pervasive violations" of the state's open government laws, a new lawsuit alleges.

Driving the news: Two Democratic lawmakers are the ones who blew the whistle against their own party leaders, naming Speaker Julie McCluskie (D-Dillon) and Majority Leader Monica Duran (D-Wheat Ridge) as the primary defendants, along with the House of Representatives as a whole.

  • First-year lawmakers and renegades Elisabeth Epps (D-Denver) and Bob Marshall (D-Highlands Ranch) said they attempted to convince legislative leaders to stop skirting the law before filing the lawsuit but were rebuffed.

Why it matters: The allegations confirm long-standing and hush-hush practices to obscure the legislative process from laws requiring the notice of open meetings and record keeping for discussions of public business.

  • It also shows how the Democratic supermajority makes laws and rebuffs journalists' attempts to inform the public.

What they're saying: "There is no moral fault here because leadership inherited this huge swamp. And it’s just too ingrained and feted for them to change on their own — [that] is my belief," Marshall told The Denver Post.

The big picture: The lawsuit is the latest uprising in the ongoing battle within the fractured Democratic Party at the Capitol, one that threatens to shape legislation in coming years and affect Gov. Jared Polis' agenda.

The other side: In a joint statement, House Democratic leaders said they are committed to open and transparent government but did not address the specific allegations in the lawsuit.

Of note: House Republican leader Mike Lynch is also named in the lawsuit. His spokesman, Roger Hudson, derided the "infighting and expense" of the lawsuit, but expressed openness to conversations about changes to law to make the process more open.


Get more local stories in your inbox with Axios Denver.


Support local journalism by becoming a member.

Learn more

More Denver stories

No stories could be found


Get a free daily digest of the most important news in your backyard with Axios Denver.


Support local journalism by becoming a member.

Learn more