High-money parties raise campaign stakes

Rep. Scott Tipton

Gail Schwartz

The same day that U.S. Rep. Scott Tipton’s re-election committee criticized his Democratic opponent, Gail Schwartz, for cozying up to “elitist” campaign donors, the Republican congressman was attending a campaign fundraiser near posh Aspen.

In a fundraising email to donors, the Tipton camp said House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., held a fundraiser recently for Schwartz “and a few other close allies” at Pelosi’s San Francisco home.

“California billionaires have bankrolled ballot measures to shut down our oil and gas companies and now they are funding politicians to help achieve the same goals in Washington,” the email says, which goes on to ask for donations.

The email went out a few hours before Tipton attended a fundraiser held on his behalf at the Woody Creek home of Robert Jenkins on Wednesday, a real estate developer and regular contributor of Republican candidates.

The special guest at that event was U.S. Rep. Pete Sessions, R-Texas, chairman of the House Rules Committee.

Tipton spokesman Michael Fortney said Pelosi is only helping to raise funds for Schwartz so the former state senator can cast a vote for Pelosi as speaker of the U.S. House, something that isn’t likely to happen because Democrats aren’t expected to retake a majority in the House in November.

At the same time, Fortney said current GOP House Speaker Paul Ryan “will receive congressman Tipton’s vote for speaker.”

Fortney, however, wouldn’t address why having Ryan and former House Speaker John Boehner — and now Sessions — actively helping raise funds for Tipton was acceptable, but not so for Pelosi and Schwartz.

Schwartz said Fortney and other Republicans have long tried to denigrate her as an “Aspen elitist” during her eight years representing Senate District 5 in the Colorado Legislature, which includes Pitkin County. At the time, she lived in Snowmass Village just outside of Aspen, but has since moved to Crested Butte.

“To use this as a political attack, we all live in glass houses,” Schwartz said in an interview. “This is the name of the game. This is the only time I have gone outside of the state to be involved with any of these gatherings.”

According to Schwartz’s latest campaign finance filings with the Federal Election Commission, she has accepted money from Pelosi directly and other Democratic candidates.

But then so has Tipton when it comes to his party’s establishment.

His filings show that of the $1.1 million he’s taken in since January 2015, about $482,000 has come from out-of-state sources, with nearly half of that money from various Washington, D.C.-based political action committees.

While Fortney says Schwartz’s financial backers will cause her to do the bidding of those who oppose the oil and gas industry, Schwartz said she won’t be doing what Tipton was accused of earlier this year, considering introducing legislation that was largely drafted by one of his financial donors.

“We should bristle at the fact that people gain influence through their donations,” Schwartz said.

“That shouldn’t be the norm. I don’t think citizens want to see that dollars will buy legislation or votes,” she said.


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