A lawsuit filed by a watchdog group aims to block former President Donald Trump from appearing on Colorado’s 2024 ballot because of his ties to the deadly Jan. 6 riot at the U.S. Capitol.
The lawsuit was filed Wednesday in Denver District Court by the Washington, D.C.-based Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics, a nonprofit, on behalf of a group of Republican and unaffiliated voters, including a former state lawmaker. Martha Tierney, one of the lead attorneys in the case, however, often represents the Colorado Democratic Party in campaign matters.
Since Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics doesn’t disclose its donors, the nonprofit is what The Colorado Sun refers to as a dark-money group.
“As a longtime Republican who voted for him, I believe Donald Trump disqualified himself from running in 2024 by spreading lies, vilifying election workers and fomenting an attack on the Capitol,” Krista Kafer, a Republican activist and political commentator in Colorado who is one of the plaintiffs, said in a written statement. “Those who by force and by falsehood subvert democracy are unfit to participate in it.”
The lawsuit was filed against Colorado Secretary of State Jena Griswold, a Democrat. It argues that Trump’s ties to the Jan. 6 riot disqualify him from running for president under the 14th Amendment, which bars people who took an “oath … to support the Constitution of the United States” and then “engaged in insurrection or rebellion against the same, or given aid or comfort to the enemies thereof” from holding federal or state office.
Griswold, in a statement reacting to the lawsuit, didn’t take a position on the legal action. She has been a vocal Trump opponent, criticizing his unfounded claims that he was the true winner of the 2020 presidential election.
“I look forward to the Colorado court’s substantive resolution of the issues, and am hopeful that this case will provide guidance to election officials on Trump’s eligibility as a candidate for office,” she said.
The lawsuit is part of a national effort by Trump’s opponents to disqualify him from running again in 2024. Trump has been federally indicted for his alleged role in the Jan. 6 riot, as well as in Georgia, where prosecutors allege he and his allies tried to overturn the results of the 2020 election.
A federal judge dismissed a similar lawsuit in Florida last week, finding that the plaintiffs lacked standing.
A report issued this week by the Project on Government Oversight found that candidates have been excluded from the ballot in all 50 states in the past.
In terms of electoral consequences, it wouldn’t matter much for Trump if he was barred from the Colorado ballot. He lost the state in 2016 and 2020. It’s highly unlikely he would win in 2024 in Colorado, where Republicans have no statewide elected officials and are in a historic minority at the state Capitol.
If the legal action is successful, however, it may bolster arguments from Trump’s presidential primary opponents that he is unfit to serve. The case may also serve to lower GOP turnout in Colorado next year.
What is a dark-money group?
The Colorado Sun refers to political nonprofits that don’t have to disclose their donors like other political spending committees as dark-money groups.
Trump has said that efforts to block him from appearing on the ballot amount to “election interference.”
Other plaintiffs in the lawsuit include:
- Norma Anderson, a Republican who was formerly the majority leader in the Colorado Senate
- Michelle Priola, the wife of state Sen. Kevin Priola, who switched his part affiliation to Democratic from Republican in 2022
- Chris Castilian, chief of staff for then-Gov. Bill Owens, a Republican. Castilian is also a former executive director of Great Outdoors Colorado.
Mario Nicolais, a Colorado Sun columnist, is another one of the lawyers representing the plaintiffs in the case.
“The core facts demonstrating Trump’s disqualification are a matter of public record,” the lawsuit says. “He dishonestly and unlawfully tried to overturn the 2020 election results through multiple avenues. When that failed, he summoned tens of thousands of enraged supporters for a ‘wild’ protest in Washington. Trump’s mob went on to violently storm and seize the U.S. Capitol.”
The lawsuit is dozens of pages long and outlines Trump’s actions around the Jan. 6 riot and in Georgia.
The 14th Amendment, ratified in 1868, helped ensure civil rights for freed slaves — and eventually for all people in the United States. But it also was used to prevent former Confederate officials from becoming members of Congress after the Civil War and taking over the government against which they had just rebelled.
The 14th Amendment was used last year to bar from office a New Mexico county commissioner who entered the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6. That was the first time it was used in 100 years. In 1919, Congress refused to seat a socialist, contending he gave aid and comfort to the country’s enemies during World War I.
Another liberal group, Free Speech For People, unsuccessfully tried to use the provision to prevent Republican Reps. Marjorie Taylor Greene of Georgia and Madison Cawthorn of North Carolina from running for reelection last year.
Colorado’s presidential primary will be held on March 5. The ballot must be certified by the Colorado Secretary of State’s Office in January, meaning the lawsuit will have to move quickly for the plaintiffs to be successful.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.