McInnis used PAC funds for political mailing

By Jason Kosena
THE COLORADO STATESMAN

Months before Scott McInnis announced his campaign to unseat Gov. Bill Ritter in 2010, the former congressman spent more than $13,000 of the donations made to his federal leadership Political Action Committee to solicit support for the Colorado Republican Party, according to an analysis by The Colorado Statesman of campaign finance reports filed with the Federal Election Commission on Friday, July 31.

Scott McInnis

McInnis, who represented the 3rd Congressional District from 1993 to 2005, used $13,399.97 from The Western Way Leadership PAC to fund two mailings promoting the Republican Party. The first letter, mailed in March, and the second, mailed in May, went to an undisclosed number of Colorado Republicans.

“The first letter was asking Colorado Republicans which direction they thought the party should head,” McInnis campaign spokesman Sean Duffy told The Statesman on Friday. “The second, in May, was a letter to promote what the party had done.”

The letters were printed and mailed by the Colorado Springs-based Advantage Marketing firm, owned by state Sen. Bill Cadman, R-Colorado Springs. The first mailing, which cost $7,250.76, was classified as “promotion” in the FEC report, while the second, which cost $6,149.21, was tagged “Political donation-Colorado Republicans.”

When contacted by The Statesman last week, Cadman confirmed his company had mailed the letters and referred all other questions to McInnis and The Western Way PAC.

“Yes. My company, Advantage Marketing, did provide mail (and) printing for the Western Way PAC,” Cadman said. “If you need further details please contact the PAC agent or review the PAC’s disclosure reports.”

Under federal and state campaign laws, it’s legal to use PAC funds to promote a state political party, officials with the FEC and the Colorado Secretary of State’s Office told The Statesman last week. The officials said the donations would not have been legal had the PAC used Advantage Marketing as conduit for the donation to the state party.

“Advantage Marketing was used as a vendor to send out the letter,” said Duffy. “The money was not donated directly to the Colorado Republican Party (through Advantage Marketing). It was an expenditure made on behalf of the (Republican) Party.”

McInnis’ PAC did make a direct donation of $200 to the Colorado Republican Party in the first of week of April, according the FEC filing.

The Western Way PAC, which McInnis established in 2000, had nearly $750,000 cash on hand at the end of June. In addition to what it spent on the two mailings, the PAC put out $45,553.86 for clerical work, cell phone service and legal fees, with $11,400 of that going to charitable contributions during the first six months of 2009.

Although some people may view the expenditures used for the letters as a form of early campaigning, Colorado State University political science professor John Straayer said it’s commonplace for politicians to keep their name as public as they can while out of office.

“I see it as politics as usual,” Straayer said. “Any time someone is a candidate, or even envisions becoming one, they’ll do what they can to garner exposure and promote themselves.”

Straayer said people anticipating state legislative candidacy show up in the Capitol and get introduced on the floor, former State Treasurer Mark Hillman is continuing to write op ed pieces and every congressional member uses franking privileges to send information and questionnaires to constituents with their photo included.

“Sarah Palin Tweets and wants to write a book. Scott McInnis uses what resources he has to tell the GOP that Scott McInnis cares about the GOP,” Straayer said. “Aside from the question of using old campaign money for this, I see it as pretty standard stuff.”

According to The Statesman analysis, McInnis’ PAC was somewhat inactive during the months leading into the 2008 election. Other than clerical, banking and charitable donations made mostly to Western Slope organizations and Mesa State College, The Western Way gave only one political donation in 2008 — a $10,000 expenditure to the Western Heritage 527, which is led by McInnis campaign advisor and former D.C. staffer Mike Hesse.

Jason@coloradostatesman.com