Mike Coffman city hall (copy)

Aurora Mayor Mike Coffman stands inside Aurora’s city hall on Nov. 14, 2019.

The Aurora City Council approved changes to its campaign finance law Monday after a court ruled in favor of Mayor Mike Coffman, who sued the city over provisions he claimed violated his freedom of speech.

The lawsuit argued that the measure, passed by the council in 2020, prohibited former and future candidates from pushing for ballot issues or helping other candidates with their campaigns, which Coffman said was intended to prevent his supporters from mobilizing in support of other candidates.

An Arapahoe County District Court judge granted a preliminary injunction in June, ordering the city to cease enforcing the new campaign finance law until the lawsuit is resolved.

“The City Council enacted an extreme ordinance that was clearly designed to stifle my fundamental right to publicly support candidates or ballot initiatives just like any other American,” Coffman said Tuesday. “I’m grateful that the court’s injunction clearly showed them how misguided their measure was.”

Multiple members of the City Council have maintained that the law did not prevent council members from supporting other campaigns, including the measure’s co-sponsor Councilman Juan Marcano.

Marcano described the changes approved Monday as a compromise to clarify what candidates can and cannot do under the law. The amendments also added a six-month timeline into the law to prevent candidates from electioneering before formally launching a campaign.

The changes were passed without comment in an 8-1 vote, with only Councilman Curtis Gardner voting no.

“The Aurora City Council could’ve saved everyone a lot of time and money by just listening to Mayor Coffman the first time around,” said Dan Burrows, legal director of the Public Trust Institute which represented Coffman. “Instead, it took getting spanked by a judge before they rethought their decision to trample on basic First Amendment rights.”

The law’s main focus was limiting donations from individuals and committees to $1,000 in at-large and mayoral races and $400 for City Council wards. It also bans contributions from "artificial persons" and increases transparency of donations and enforcement of regulations.

Before the law went took hold on Jan. 1, Aurora imposed no limits on donations to candidates. Because of this, city elections had become increasingly expensive.

The 2019 mayoral race in which Coffman was elected was the most expensive election in the city’s history, reaching $1 million in fundraising nearly a month before the election.