Follow the money — or lack of it — in governor’s race

By Leslie Jorgensen
THE COLORADO STATESMAN

For a crystal ball forecast of the governor’s race, follow the money in the campaign finance reports filed Sept. 7 by Democratic candidate Denver Mayor John Hickenlooper, Republican challenger Dan Maes and American Constitution Party warrior Tom Tancredo. Perhaps predictable, Hickenlooper trounced his opponents in fundraising, adding another $411,212 to his war chest. More surprising was Tancredo garnering $198,820 — four times the $50,201 that trickled into Maes’ coffers.

If amassing bucks tells a story, so does spending them.

After expenses — and some refunded contributions, Hickenlooper reigns with $171,543 cash on hand, Tancredo has $140,853 and Maes has $19,786.

Both the campaigns of Hickenlooper and Maes also reported reimbursements — typically to those who contributed beyond the cap of $525 per individual per primary and general election phases. However, Maes’ reimbursements included a couple of people who wanted their money back including $300 to Freda Poundstone, a Republican veteran and lobbyist.

Under the category of expenses, the Maes campaign reported a reimbursement of a “$300 cash contribution” to Poundstone on Aug. 29.

Poundstone, who never discussed the contribution until Maes made it public last month, said that it was a “personal loan” — not a campaign contribution — to help Maes pay his house mortgage which was reportedly overdue.

Maes told listeners of Jeff Crank’s radio show on KVOR last Saturday that her family was concerned about how she spent money and who she gave it to. Maes arranged a rendezvous with the lobbyist at her bank’s ATM machine to get at a $300 cash infusion.

The Maes campaign also refunded a $200 contribution to Jerry W. Reagan, of Aurora, and $500 to Russ Aaron Thaut, CEO of Thaut Solutions in Evergreen.

Hickenlooper, who raised more than $2.7 million in this election cycle, has invested heavily in buying media, producing ads and fundraising. In the recent reporting period, from July 29 to Sept. 1, the Democrat’s campaign paid $28,882 to Murphy Putnam Media in Alexandria, Virginia for ad production, $78,000 to Denver-based Media Strategies for media buys and $26,000 to Keating Research, founded by Chris Keating who conducted focus groups and voter surveys for Democratic Senator Mark Udall’s 2008 campaign and former U.S. Senator Ken Salazar’s 2006 campaign.

Tancredo’s super splurges were for fundraising and advertising — a sound investment for the Republican-turned-ACP candidate’s first month in the battle for governor. The candidate’s campaign paid $2,058 to The Printing Express, of Falmouth, Virginia; American Automated Mailing & Printing, of Manassas, Virginia; $4,330 to Conrad Direct in Cresskill, New Jersey; $5,637 to Grand Junction-based Tactical Data Solutions; and $19,852 to GW Media in Littleton.

The former 6th District Congressman’s fundraising pitches pivoted on his fight against illegal immigration — and terrifying warnings that sounded like Hickenlooper, accused of running Denver as a “sanctuary city,” might turn the whole state into a refuge for undocumented foreigners.

Tancredo’s email blasts for bucks — “Take it back!” on Aug. 6, “Are you supporting illegals?” on Aug. 23, and a series of “Deadline is tomorrow”… “Deadline is today”… and then, “Hours Away!” — paid off. Among the thousands of contributors is Duane Chapman, TV reality star “Dog, the Bounty Hunter,” who lives in Honolulu.

Though it was the highest fundraising total reported by Maes in this election cycle, the campaign spent the bulk on paying $17,500 to the Colorado Secretary of State’s office for campaign finance reporting violations and $5,000 to the Jones & Keller law firm to fight it and other violations.

Lagging behind were investments in advertising. Colorado Springs-based Insight Marketing was paid $4,250 for radio and TV ad buys. The production was executed under the “volunteer” eye of Lana Fore-Warkocz, publisher of The Constitutionalist Today publication. The campaign also paid $1,300 to Capitol Public Relations — also known as Nate Strauch, the campaign’s communication director.

The Maes campaign spent nearly $2,450 on mileage reimbursements to Maes, his wife Karen Maes and daughter Jordan Maes. The candidate received $2,387.

Tancredo’s campaign claimed neither gas receipts nor mileage. Hickenlooper’s campaign claimed both — but mileage was reimbursed only to campaign staffers and volunteers and within striking distance of the total paid to the Maes family. Adding credibility, the Democrat’s campaign documented numerous food, beverage and lodging receipts around the state — from Comfort Inn in Steamboat Springs to the Grand Vista Hotel in Grand Junction.

Hickenlooper’s campaign documented travel for fundraisers in and out of state, but the costs were primarily airline flights. Tancredo had none. Maes documented airfares to a fundraiser in Texas sponsored by Republican Congressman Ron Paul and the publicized trip to meet with the Republican Governors Association on Sept. 1, where he was told there would be no money invested to help his race in Colorado. In fact, the RGA website now officially includes Tancredo as an independent candidate for governor.

The Maes campaign reimbursed the candidate for Denver International Parking fees — $18 on Sept. 1, $22 on Aug. 27 and $4 on Aug. 11, and meals, including $5 for a Delta Airlines in-flight lunch and $6 to Burger King in the Charlotte, North Carolina airport.

Maes demonstrated gratitude for winning the Republican primary to his staff and volunteers by awarding $500 each to his daughter Jordan Maes, who serves as the candidate’s executive assistant, Joshua Raines of Denver and Sheryl Fernandez of Broomfield.

Leslie@coloradostatesman.com