Voters must decide who pulls the strings

Three conservative candidates for the School District 51 school board opted to spend some of the campaign cash they received from a Front Range billionaire on campaign materials prepared by a Douglas County Republican consultant recommended by that same billionaire.

Does that indicate the billionaire, C. Edward McVaney, is pulling the political strings of candidates Pat Kanda, Mike Lowenstein and John Sluder, or are these just acceptable political transactions? Do his contributions provide him any more influence over candidates he supports than contributions from state and local teachers’ unions do for their candidates?

As letters to the editor of this newspaper indicate, people are deeply divided over questions such as these.

Nothing in the transactions listed above appears illegal. Giving money to candidates in the amounts listed and making campaign expenditures to consultants both fall within the structure of federal and state campaign-finance laws.

Those laws require the reporting of contributions and spending for campaigns and, as we have long argued, that transparency is critical. Voters can take the information reported by The Daily Sentinel’s Emily Shockley about McVaney and the political consulting firm, Odd November, and decide for themselves whether they think the financial arrangements mean McVaney will have undue influence over the local candidates. They can do the same for the teachers’ union money.

For our part, we wish the three candidates who received McVaney’s money had been more forthcoming about it. All three initially said there were no strings attached to the contributions, but Kanda now says he was told to spend some of it with Odd November. Lowenstein says that was only a suggestion, as does Odd November owner Mark Baisley. Sluder hasn’t publicly commented on the arrangement.

It’s also clear, from actions here and statements made by Republican leaders on the Front Range, that the GOP has decided it can have a great impact by endorsing and financially supporting conservative candidates in local school board races.

We may lament political intrusion into what are traditionally nonpartisan races, but we certainly understand the party’s right to be involved in such a manner. Increasingly partisan elections aren’t the future we prefer for school board races, but as long as there is sufficient transparency, it is far better than trying to further limit who can participate and how.


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