Big bucks for Hick, ballot item opponents

By Marianne Goodland
THE COLORADO STATESMAN

With less than four weeks before the general election, the latest campaign finance reports show Democratic gubernatorial candidate and Denver Mayor John Hickenlooper with a substantial cash advantage over his two biggest opponents.

The finance report for Hickenlooper was released mid-afternoon Monday, well in advance of the midnight deadline, and shows he raised another $361,200 in the last two weeks, with $433,527 still in the bank. The Colorado Democratic Party was the biggest contributor, with a donation of $9,000. That brought their total to $97,500.

So what is he spending it on? Payroll and payroll taxes (about $19,700); yard signs ($21,520) and media production ($24,307).

With Monday’s report, Hickenlooper’s contributions now total $3.3 million.

The Oct. 4 finance report for American Constitution Party candidate Tom Tancredo, filed at 8:44 p.m., shows he is solidly in second place in the fundraising race. Tancredo’s total contributions are now $466,724.

In the last two weeks, Tancredo raised $148,671, up from the previous two weeks when he raised $120,485. Tancredo has $122,554 on hand as of Oct. 4. Among his contributions in the past two weeks: $300 from former Greenwood Village Mayor and former Maes supporter Freda Poundstone, bringing her total to $500. Tancredo also got $20 from former gubernatorial candidate Bob Beauprez, and donations from a handful of former GOP legislators, such as Rep. John Witwer, R-Evergreen; Sen. Bruce Cairns, R-Aurora; and Rep. Jim Welker, R-Loveland. Tancredo also got $525 each from John and Sharna Coors of Evergreen. John Coors is CEO of Coors BioTek and a great-grandson of the founder of Coors Brewing.

The last two weeks have been better in fundraising for Republican Dan Maes than he had earlier in September. Maes was the last of the three to post his campaign finance numbers, coming in at 10:55 p.m. Monday night.

According to the report, Maes raised $28,127 and has on hand $34,834. His contributions now total $283,299, less than what Hickenlooper raised in the last two weeks.

In an e-mail to supporters on Tuesday, Maes boasted that the campaign had “nearly doubled” its contributions over the previous two weeks, and that has “empowered us to get our radio and TV ads going full speed starting this week!” (Maes raised $14,442 according to the Sept. 20 report.)

Maes’ Oct. 4 report also shows the results of his claim on Facebook and in e-mails to supporters that he would “make history” by raising $500,000 on Sept. 17. On that exact date, the campaign showed no contributions. However, on the following Monday, Sept. 20, the report shows a “batch” of online and mail-in contributions that totaled $15,097. Three of those contributions were at the maximum of $1,050, including a contribution from Rep. Kent Lambert, R-Colorado Springs, a member of the Joint Budget Committee.

Lambert told The Colorado Statesman this week that his contribution was part of the effort to get the Maes campaign “back on track…I wanted to help out as much as I could with our Republican candidate.”

Lambert said that he has supported Maes since just before the primary, along with Sens. Dave Schultheis, R-Colorado Springs, and Kevin Lundberg, R-Berthoud. “I wanted to support Republican candidates, and legislators ought to get behind that.” But a lot has happened since then, he said, and the support Maes got from the state assembly and primary has started to dissolve. Lambert said he believes the eroding support is not based so much on principle but on some of the personalities involved, and that the campaign has “not adapted to do what they need to do to win. It’s very frustrating,” he said.

Lambert discounted the possibility that Maes could draw less than 10 percent of the statewide vote, a possibility that could relegate the Republican Party to minority status. “There’s some problems for the Republican Party but they’re not insurmountable,” he said, and that “if we have a Democrat governor at the end of the day, that would compound the loss.” But if Republicans take the House and Senate and governor’s mansion, or if Tancredo wins the governorship, Lambert said the 10 percent issue wouldn’t be as much of a problem, and state law can be changed to deal with it.

However, Lambert pointed out that people in the Tea Party movement, where Maes drew much of his early support, appear to be re-evaluating where they stand on the governor’s race. Lambert said he has been talking to some of those people, and they are concerned that Maes won’t win, and “now what do we do?” Lambert said he believes the governor’s race is not by any means a given for Hickenlooper, but added that he is not quite ready to endorse Tancredo. “I’ve never gone outside the Republican Party, but I don’t know how we meet our objectives with a Democratic governor in place,” Lambert said, adding that since that ballots will go out soon, the time is coming to make those decisions. (Lambert didn’t wait long; two days after this interview, he endorsed Tancredo.)

Eric Sondermann of the consulting firm SE2 told The Statesman that what struck him about the latest reports is that the candidate of a major political party is raising less money than what the average county assessor raises. “Political money follows success, it doesn’t lead it,” Sondermann said this week, adding that as Maes’ political success has withered, so too, has the money. Sondermann said the question now may be how low can Maes go in terms of vote percentages. “Just being the nominee of a major party, that’s worth something even if he’s not a viable candidate.”

Sondermann estimated that Maes’ floor is in the low double digits, but if Tancredo can get Maes down to single digits, “it’s a different game. As long as Maes gets support north of 10 [percent], I don’t see the votes out there for Tancredo to pull off an upset.”

Among the other notable campaign finance reports:

Now that the election season is in its final 30 days, major contributor reports are being filed by a variety of candidates and 527 groups. The Colorado Leadership Fund has taken in the most money as of press time this week, with $107,000 in donations. JD Edwards CEO Edward McVaney gave $100,000 and $2,500 came from former U.S. Sen. Bill Armstrong. McVaney and his wife, Carol, have donated another $6,000 this year, with all but $800 of that going to Republican candidates. The $800 came in two donations to the re-election campaign of Rep. Joe Rice, D-Littleton.

Co Tax Reforms, which is running the campaign to pass Amendments 60, 61 and Proposition 101, posted new contributions of $3,125, with $2,675 of it coming from Jeff Wright of Telecomm Resources LP, a Colorado Springs Republican and Tea-Party supporter who this year has also contributed to the El Paso County GOP.

Their opponents, Coloradans for Responsible Reform, have now raised well above $6 million to fight the initiatives. They took in $443,797 in contributions in the past two weeks, but spent $887,391, leaving just over $5,000 in the bank.

The largest single expenditure was for advertising, $592,214, to Colorado Media & Mail, which also includes payment for the services of campaign manager Rick Reiter, according to spokesman Dan Hopkins.

Hopkins said he does not worry about what’s left in the bank. “There will be more contributions,” he said. Campaign finance reports bear that out. In a three-week period right before the primary, CFRR took in $2.3 million just in major contributions, those of $1,000 or more.

Campaign finance reports were not available for the groups supporting and opposing Amendment 62, the Personhood amendment, although they should have been. Both campaigns list their next reports as being due on Oct. 15, but Secretary of State spokesman Rich Coolidge said both were following the wrong filing schedule and would be notified to make corrections.

And finally, a campaign finance violation complaint has been filed by Colorado Ethics Watch against Safe Streets Colorado, which supports the passage of Proposition 102. It is but the latest in a series of problems for the Pro-102 group, which last week was accused of hiring people to demonstrate in favor of the initiative outside the Mesa County Justice Center. The group already has been fined three times by the Secretary of State for failing to file campaign finance reports; the group has requested waivers of two fines totaling $850 and filed a third request for a waiver on Monday.

According to the Blue Book, Proposition 102 prohibits the release of a defendant on an unsecured bond to the supervision of pretrial services unless the defendant is charged with a first offense that is also a nonviolent misdemeanor. Supporters claim that requiring a secured bond is an added incentive for them to appear in court; those opposed say the initiative is unnecessary because pretrial service is effective in supervising defendants and making sure they appear in court. The initiative would all but ensure that those who cannot post bail would remain in jail until trial, while those who can afford bail will be let out. Two other states, Virginia and Florida, have seen similar measures this year, but in both of those states the issue was dealt with in their legislatures and in both states the measures were rejected.

CEW alleges Safe Streets Colorado has failed to disclose campaign donations and expenditures required for an issues committee. CEW Director Luis Toro said Tuesday that the group’s refusal to list their finances is “a classic case of trying to fly under the radar, and they must be held accountable.”

The complaint also alleged the group was in operation as early as last May, as it collected petition signatures to get the measure onto the ballot, but it did not register as an issues committee until Aug. 26. The group’s website shows a May 13 press release announcing its support for the proposed measure.

Toro said that the group could be levied with a $50 per day fine for every day they don’t file the required information or for every day they were in operation without filing as an issues committee. The group has already been fined twice by the Secretary of State for failing to file campaign finance reports in a timely manner; both fines, totaling $850, are being appealed.

But there appears to be irregularities even in what the campaign has filed so far.

In their Oct. 4 campaign finance report, Safe Streets reported contributions totaling $5,555, with $5,000 coming from Mike Paul Donovan, one of several people listed as leading the Safe Streets campaign. The campaign has a cash-on-hand balance of $7,279.

The Sept. 7 campaign report, the group’s first, showed it had $5,500 on hand but showed no contributions that would account for those funds. In the second report, the balance is shown as “adjusted” to $4,200, but the report shows no expenditures or contributions that could account for the change. “It’s legally inadequate,” Toro told The Statesman. Coolidge said that the use of adjustments for campaign finance is allowed under the SCORE system to give campaigns an opportunity to make “minor” revisions to their reports, but that it is not intended to be used in the way Safe Streets has used it. However, the Secretary of State’s office cannot take action unless a complaint is filed, Coolidge said.

And those who brought Proposition 102 to Colorado appear to be a long way from home.

Donovan lists an address in Colorado Springs that belongs to a UPS store. He is the government affairs director for Bail USA of Greenville, PA, a bail-bonds company with locations in 42 states. According to the company’s website Donovan ran the campaign in Virginia to persuade that state’s legislature to adopt a similar measure. The co-sponsor and registered agent for Proposition 102, Matthew Duran, also lists the UPS store as his address as well as the official address for the committee. Duran was listed as an “administrative specialist” for the Virginia campaign on a campaign website blog.

A spokesman for Safe Streets Colorado, Robert Trucker, explained the issue with the demonstrators in Mesa County, denying they hired anyone to demonstrate. However, Trucker said they work with local grassroots organizers and vendors who produce signs and other materials, and suggested those companies could have brought along temporary help. “It’s not our policy,” Trucker said. “We never have and never will hire any people to come work at our demonstrations,” but he also added that it isn’t illegal or immoral to do so. Trucker said they had a second demonstration at the justice center on Monday with 40 people and invited the local media to interview them.

“We have some very powerful and influential people poised against us,” Trucker said, pointing out that Safe Streets Colorado had filed a campaign finance complaint against their opponents because they had never filed as an issues committee. The committee, now listed as Citizens to Protect Colorado Communities, filed for its issues committee status on Sept. 23 and its first campaign finance report showed contributions of $126.00. “We filed suit for campaign finance violations” against the sheriff of Mesa County and the District Attorney, and “this is retribution,” Trucker said.

Trucker, who is also vice-chair of the Adams County Democratic Party, says he is not affiliated with the bail bond industry in any way, and got involved with the campaign based on concerns that the justice system is “whack.”

He said he recently did a taping of “Colorado State of Mind” for Rocky Mountain PBS that included Arapahoe County Sheriff Grayson Robinson, who opposes Proposition 102. Trucker said Robinson wore his gun and appeared on the show in uniform. And when Trucker asked him who was behind the opposition to Proposition 102, Robinson became enraged and attempted to intimidate him, Trucker said. “He looked like a Gestapo agent.”

Trucker said the opposition to 102 is being handled by the Pretrial Justice Institute, a Washington, D.C.-based nonprofit that provides training and advocacy for pretrial services. PJI does not appear on any documentation related to the opposition committee.

As of press time, Trucker was looking into the campaign finance report irregularities.

Marianne@coloradostatesman.com