Stop me if you’ve heard this before: Republicans are hiring conservative attorney John Eastman to attempt to overturn the will of the voters. Any déja vu you may be experiencing is understandable. The difference is instead of Trump hiring him to flip a presidential election, now the Colorado GOP wants Eastman to sue the state to overturn Proposition 108, the ballot initiative passed by a wide margin in 2016 that opened our major party primary elections to independent voters.
This isn’t a new effort, a handful of far-right party leaders brought the lawsuit in 2021, after their attempt to close the primary via a vote of the state central committee lost in a landslide. But Republicans at the same 2021 meeting voted nearly unanimously in favor of measures to file a lawsuit challenging Proposition 108 and to raise money to fund it.
Attorneys Randy Corporon (who also serves as Colorado’s RNC Committeeman) and Eastman filed suit on behalf of five isolationist Republicans, including then-legislator and Jan. 6 participant Ron Hanks. The lawsuit was eventually dismissed on standing, with the judge pointing out that the plaintiffs didn’t represent the state party.
This time around, however, with Dave Williams at the helm, the party is on board.
The other prior obstacle was the question of how to fundraise for the legal challenge. Though the lawsuit and fundraising for it was approved by the Central Committee in 2021, then-chair Kristi Burton Brown claimed she was waiting on approval from the Federal Elections Committee to move ahead, but never did. Williams reached out to the FEC soon after taking charge of the party and the agency issued its advisory opinion granting permission in May.
News of this plan has trickled out in drips over the past couple months. Williams noted in a June 3 Facebook comment that former state Sen. Kevin Lundberg, an ardent supporter of the first lawsuit, is leading this encore effort.
This morning GOP Chair Dave Williams appeared on George Brauchler’s 710KNUS radio show where he provided an update on the lawsuit.
Williams: “We appointed Kevin Lundberg. He has a committee that’s working on the various details and is working with the potential attorneys. We’re discussing this issue with John Eastman and seeing if we can move forward with him. We’ve started fundraising for this effort both through the Claremont Institute [Eastman’s entity] as well as our own fund. We anticipate that we’re going to raise $25-50k just to have a good starting point.”
Brauchler: “That’s a ton of money. You’ve been meeting with the big donors. Do you feel like the money is all going to be there?
Williams: “We’re trying to separate the political financing of the party with respect to this lawsuit. There are going to be certain large and small-dollar donors who want to contribute to it and others who don’t. Our job is to identify where people want to put their money and make sure both fronts are taken care of.”
Lundberg has also shared this news in his weekly newsletter over the past two weeks, including his most recent edition in which he provided links to both the newly approved Colorado GOP Legal Fund account, as well as the direct link to the Claremont Institute’s donation page.
“At the [Western Conservative] Summit, we rolled out the Colorado GOP campaign to challenge the open primary,” wrote Lundberg. “Many people were introduced to the idea, and we immediately got $3600 in pledges (a good start towards a much larger need).”
Lundberg did not respond to a request for clarification as to whether his appointed role includes serving on the independent committee the FEC opinion says must oversee the legal fund, and how much money will be required. This article will be updated with any response received.
Whether or not one has concerns about the Colorado Republicans joining forces with Trump’s infamous insurrectionist lawyer, especially when the party is already struggling to raise money, another potential challenge lies ahead: John Eastman might not be able to practice law much longer. Yesterday marked the beginning of Eastman’s trial before the California Bar Association over charges that he repeatedly violated professional ethics. If found guilty he could be disbarred.
Via email, Williams offered the following statement in response to the Colorado Times Recorder‘s inquiry as to what will happen if the insurrectionist attorney loses his law license and whether he has concerns about the optics of Eastman representing the party:
“The Colorado Republican Party would be happy to answer any and all of your inquiries after your so-called news publication truthfully covers the Joe Biden corruption scandal where overwhelming evidence is coming to light about how the President accepted millions of dollars in bribes from a foreign national,” emailed Williams.
The Claremont Institute did not respond to a similar inquiry as to how much money it has raised via the Colorado GOP and what might happen if Eastman loses his law license. This article will be updated with any response received.
It’s not just the Republican activists who think the opt-out requirements in Proposition 108 went too far in requiring a 75% majority to vote to opt out of the open primaries, but also former ACLU of Colorado Legal Director Mark Silverstein, who told the Colorado Times Recorder in 2021 Republicans challenging the law “might very well have a point.”
“The party members who want to challenge that 75% requirement might very well have a point,” Mark Silverstein, Legal Director of the ACLU of Colorado, told the Colorado Times Recorder two years ago. “Here, the state of Colorado in Proposition 108 says that a decision by the political party can be made to opt out, but the state won’t consider that decision valid unless there’s this supermajority.
“How does the state have the right to dictate to the Republican Party what percentage of its membership — or what percentage of its central committee — must vote to make a decision for the party? You know, what if the state said [that] before the Republicans can take a position on abortion, it must be approved by 90% of its members? It is certainly interference with the political rights of association of the Party. Nobody would think that the state could do that.”
The lawsuit might focus not on the requirements to opt out of the open primary system but instead challenge the entire law. A California Supreme Court ruling in 2000 states that the First Amendment protects the freedom of association of political parties, and so they can exclude outsiders if they choose to, from joining.