Governor candidate facing fine
Maes admits breaking law on campaign finance
Republican gubernatorial contender Dan Maes is expected to be ordered to pay what could be the largest campaign finance fine ever levied against a candidate by the Colorado Secretary of State’s Office.
In response to a complaint filed with the state by a Grand Valley voter, the Evergreen businessman has admitted to numerous campaign finance violations and agreed to pay nearly $27,000 in fines, according to his campaign’s response to a complaint filed last month by Grand Junction resident Christopher Klitzke. He could be ordered to pay the fines as early as today.
The complaint said Maes had improperly reimbursed thousands of dollars to himself for mileage expenses over the past year, had failed to note occupations on some donations, and received an illegal contribution from at least one corporation, said Klitzke’s lawyer, Grand Junction attorney Erik Groves.
“It was as clear as day when you start seeing tens of thousand of dollars flowing from the campaign to his personal account,” Groves said. “I’ve been doing campaign finance litigation for six, seven years now, and this immediately sends up a red flag when you see tons of itemized money flowing from the candidate’s account. As time went by, it got worse. He was transferring $9,000 at one time from his campaign account.”
Since last summer, Maes has paid himself $44,837 for mileage, according to his own campaign finance filings with the state.
For a few months last year, he was paying money to himself almost on a weekly basis, totalling $3,325 in November and $3,650 in December.
Starting this year, he began to pay himself on the 15th of each month, starting with $9,000 in January and then $5,000 a month in February, March and April.
Neither Maes nor his campaign staff could be reached for comment.
In his response to the complaint, filed by Denver attorneys Ross Pulkrabek and Daniel Wartell, Maes said he would not contest any of the claims lodged against him and agreed to pay all fines suggested in Klitzke’s complaint.
“Respondents do not contest that the contributions identified in the ‘Second Claimed Violation’ omitted employer and/or occupation information that should have been included on reports with the Secretary of State’s Office,” Maes’ response said of one of the four violations cited in the complaint. “Respondents also do not contest that some or all of those contributions should have been returned within 30 days after receipt.”
Maes’ response said he would accept a $2,838 fine for the first claim, and $11,250 for the second, both of which dealt with how contributions were reported.
Though Maes said that state law was unclear as to how to report certain expenses, he agreed to pay a fine of $50 a day from Jan. 20 until the matter is settled for the third allegation, and another $50 a day from May 3 for the fourth claim. If a judgment is entered against Maes today, that means $9,350 for the third claim, and $3,200 for the final one.
Though he wanted to dig deeper into the matter, Groves said the admission will force him to drop the complaint.
“I was trying to get ahold of his documentations so we could look to see if the reimbursements actually matched his mileage,” Groves said. “I was trying to get him under subpoena so I could get his deposition and the records. But before I’m ready to serve that, his lawyers admit to all the violations and claim maximum penalties and never give me a chance to see those books. It seems to me they’re afraid to put him under oath and answer questions about what he did with his campaign finance money.”
Sean Duffy, spokesman for Maes’ GOP opponent, former congressman Scott McInnis, said the campaign was aware of the complaint, but decided not to file one of its own while it was pending.
“(The fine) may be the record for the Secretary of State’s Office,” Duffy said. “Obviously, it is a serious matter. It’s not a mere oversight or a slap on the wrist.”