Dems: Stapleton skirting campaign finance laws

The Democratic Governors Association is threatening to sue Colorado Treasurer Walker Stapleton for allegedly violating campaign finance laws.

In a letter to the Republican treasurer sent Thursday, the group said Stapleton is coordinating with independent campaign committee Better Colorado Now, which is focused on next year’s governor’s race, while planning his own gubernatorial bid.

While the association calls Stapleton a gubernatorial candidate, he hasn’t actually declared his candidacy, though he has long been expected to enter the already crowded field for the GOP nomination to replace Gov. John Hickenlooper, a Democrat.

Basing its allegations on a story published in the Denver Post last month, the association says that Stapleton is guilty of coordinating with the GOP-leaning group when he helped it raise money at an August fundraiser.

The group’s stated goal according to its campaign finance committee filing with the Colorado Secretary of State’s Office is “to oppose Democrat (sic) candidates for governor,” though that doesn’t bar it from supporting Republican contenders.

Stapleton’s spokesman, Michael Fortney, declined to respond, instead referring the press to Jason Dunn, a Denver lawyer who specializes in political law.

Dunn said Stapleton cannot be shown to be coordinating with the independent group because he is not a declared candidate for governor.

“They say since you (Stapleton) apparently know about this fundraiser that you may or may not have been part of planning, you therefore are responsible for coordinating whatever the independent expenditure committee ultimately chooses to spend its money on,” said Dunn, a former lobbyist who has donated money mostly to Republicans, including Stapleton. “That’s obviously a jump in logic and law.”

The association, however, says Stapleton is trying to skirt the law.

“We believe that efforts to tiptoe around coordination laws are in violation of the spirit of such laws,” the association said in its letter. “You appear to have opted for a different approach. By working directly with Better Colorado Now on this fundraiser you have clearly coordinated with an entity that is required to remain independent.”

Asked as recently as last Friday by The Daily Sentinel when Stapleton would announce his gubernatorial bid, he only would say “soon,” something he and Fortney have been saying for months.

The Democratic and Republican governors associations often get involved in state races, including airing expensive television commercials against candidates of the opposing party.


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