Grassroots activist leaders in the Colorado Republican Party have new hope in overcoming legal and financial barriers in their 5-year quest to withdraw from open primaries in Colorado, with an apparent offer of discounted legal representation in challenging the constitutionality of Proposition 108, a state law instituted by voters in 2016 that regulates how parties can choose their nominees for state elected office.
Attorney Chuck Bonniwell, publisher of the Glendale Cherry Creek Chronicle and member of the CO GOP executive committee who has led the effort for opting out of open primaries, announced on Saturday’s KNUS radio show, Wake Up! with Randy Corporon that Corporon, along with controversial constitutional law attorney John Eastman and the Claremont Institute have offered to provide legal representation at an affordable rate in order to challenge the constitutionality of Proposition 108.
Previously, motions among the state central committee proposing such a lawsuit were derailed on consideration of the cost involved, and the limited financial resources available to the state Republican Party to fund the challenge.
“I was at the Adams County Executive Committee meeting on Thursday … and the one thing that everyone agreed to — everyone, even the non-opt out people — is there ought to be a lawsuit brought by the Republican Party to vitiate a clearly unconstitutional law,” Bonniwell explained to Colorado’s Republican National Committeeman and attorney Corporon. “And I know you’ve been working [on] that along with John Eastman and others, and maybe there’s a point of agreement among everybody, which the Republican Party sorely needs. … And the question has always been, ‘Well, it will cost too much money!’ Well, you and John [Eastman] and and the Claremont Institute, you know, you’ve been willing to come up and you’ll support it for just a fraction of the money that they say that will be needed. So, it may be the one point on Sept. 18 we all can come together on and fight against this unconstitutional law.”
Despite a clause in Proposition 108 allowing major political parties to opt out of the primary elections in Colorado, there has been debate as to whether the requirement of 75% approval from a party’s entire ruling body in order to opt out of the primaries is too burdensome, and therefore unconstitutional. Republicans have not managed to meet that threshold in two previous attempts to opt out, and weren’t able to even vote due to an absence of quorum.
In the past few months, legal arguments have developed to challenge the constitutionality of other aspects of Proposition 108.
Colorado Republican leaders will convene in Pueblo on Sept. 18 to vote on motions designed to end the party’s participation in open primary elections. Following a vote to opt out of the 2022 primary — unlikely to be successful — the party’s ruling body will vote on whether to file a lawsuit against the state of Colorado challenging aspects of Proposition 108 or the entire law as to its constitutional legitimacy.
John Eastman is a personal attorney for Trump and former visiting conservative scholar last year at the University of Colorado at Boulder, whose tenure at CU and at Chapman University in California were marred by controversy and legal disputes after he spoke at Donald Trump’s “Save America” rally in Washington D.C. on Jan. 6, calling on Vice President Mike Pence to intervene and stop the counting of electoral votes to formalize President Joe Biden’s electoral win from November.
Eastman has denied that the rally and his appearance on stage with Rudy Giuliani are in any way connected to the riot and insurrection at the U.S. Capitol by rally attendees which followed after he spoke. Former President Trump was later impeached by the U.S. House for his role in inciting the deadly assault on the Capitol.
In April, Eastman and Corporon filed a notice of claim against various entities at CU-Boulder, formally announcing their intent to sue for $1.86 million dollars. As reported by Boulder’s Daily Camera, Eastman alleges that CU administrators engaged in defamation, breach of contract, retaliation, violating the school’s discrimination policies and not following due process.
This morning on KLZ radio, Eastman appeared on the Kim Monson Show, extolling his credentials as a participant in the 2000 California lawsuit where the Supreme Court ruled against open primaries which don’t offer an opt out provision. He also presented the central tenets of his claims against Proposition 108, and suggested the court might allow accelerated timelines for hearing the case and a return to a closed Republican primary as a remediation to the lawsuit’s claims.
“If you do get that high threshold of 75%, then you’re left with an unenviable choice,” said Eastman. “You’d have to have your nominations occur at an assembly or convention. You don’t get to participate in a primary at all. And of course, that’s a Hobson’s choice. And I think people are rightly concerned that if we opt out of this open primary, we’re left not being able to appeal to the voters at all in the primary election season, to the great detriment of the Republican Party. It’s both of those aspects of the open primary law that I think are unconstitutional. And you know, what we’re going to be asking folks at the convention to do is authorize us to challenge the constitutionality of Proposition 108, not just the 75% threshold but this Hobson’s choice of the alternative. And if we’re successful in that, then what would happen would be we’d get restored to where things were before the open primary law got put on the books, and that would be a Republicans-only primary. “
Eastman did not mention in his interview with Monson whether he’d committed or offered his services as counsel in a lawsuit representing the Colorado GOP or in a suit which names the GOP as a plaintiff, nor did he say whether he’d do so at a discounted rate. He has not returned this reporter’s request to confirm Bonniwell’s assertion to Corporon on Saturday.
At a Greeley GOP breakfast meeting last week which featured a debate on the opt-out proposal, state central committee member Ben Nicholas verified that leadership has been in communication with Eastman.
Nicholas: There is going to be two things that are going to take place at this SCC meeting. Our side is going to be pushing for a motion for the state party to sue the state as to whether or not this is a constitutional thing, and it will go to federal court. The second thing is we’ll be opting out. … And right now, we’ve enlisted the aid of John Eastman.
Unidentified audience member: He’s out of a job, you know, right now, anyway, right?
Nicholas: John Eastman is President Trump’s primary constitutional lawyer. And I’ve been on several phone calls with him.