First campaign finance report -
Outlook for November 2019 Election
If the July 2 special election and the 2017 regular City election is any indication, the upcoming election will involve greater efforts at hiding the sources of large amounts of campaign donations.
Since the independents get all their money from individuals the new campaign reporting law won't affect them much.
However, the establishment candidates rely upon large amounts of special interests money in order to be competitive. Since these candidates don't want to be exposed as taking special interest monies, they will form "independent expenditure" committees.
Since these committees are not limited in the amount of money they can receive the big donations will go to these committees. These committees then turn around the spend the money to support or oppose candidates.
Since these committees are technically separate from the candidate committees, the establishment candidates can claim that they are "not receiving special interest money".
In the category of you have to appreciate the irony comes this story about two friends running for City Council. Ward 5 Councilor Dana Gutwein boasted on her Facebook page that her membership on the Council’s campaign finance subcommittee led to Lakewood’s new election reporting rules being “the best in the state”. [Technically the new rules do nothing to stop the unlimited flood of special interest money to independent expenditure committees, similar to political action committees, who campaign for or against candidates they choose – but that is another story.]
About a month after Gutwein’s boast, a campaign finance violation was filed with the City under the previous rules against her political ally, failed Ward 1 candidate Kyra deGruy. The complaint notes deGruy used her donors’ campaign contributions to give $2,000 to Gutwein.
The documentation accompanying the complaint shows deGruy gave Gutwein the $2,000 in December 2017, a month and half AFTER the 2017 election. The significance of the timing is that it was done after the last reportrequired to be filed regarding any 2017 election campaign financing activity. The actual admission was not made until November 2018, over a year after the election and during a quiet period in which observers are usually not paying attention.
The complainant questioned why this action was reported so late, wondering whether this may have been an effort, “… of the candidates to disguise the “pass through” of campaign contributions made to Kyra deGruy, Ward 1 to support the candidacy of Dana Gutwein, Ward 5 in the upcoming 2019 election.”
What’s interesting is the rationale deGruy gave for this payment. She claims this payment was for “consulting” provided by Gutwein. Since legitimate campaign expenses are required to be reported during the election campaign, the Secretary of State’s records raise questions about the legitimacy of this “expense”. Gutwein created a “consulting” business in February 2015 when she was running for office. The SOS records show this “business” was terminated in mid-2016 and the business name was assumed by another person in April 2017.
Despite the SOS declaring Gutwein’s consulting business was defunct in 2016, deGruy is giving her “consulting fees” in late 2017. We don’t know if Gutwein claimed the money as a personal income for IRS purposes.
While there is no way the people can know for certainty what deGruy and Gutwein are doing with the money donors contributed to them, the issue does illustrate the problem associated with trying to publicly account for things like “dark money”.
The practice of making donations or expenditure AFTER the deadline of the last campaign report has been going on for years. For example, in 2016, a year after his 2015 mayoral race, Adam Paul received $7,300 (including $500 from Comcast, $1,000 from Waste Management, and $1,500 from Greg Stevinson). Paul has continued this practice. In 2018, three years after his 2015 election and before he declared for re-election in 2019, special interests contributed another $2,000 to Adam Paul.
The practice of giving “consulting” fees to friends and allies is also a common practice among establishment candidates. For example, Adam Paul gave $1,500 to Brent Fahrberger, a prominent Denver Democrat. Another common practice is to hire family members as campaign staff. When Betty Boyd ran for City Council in 2013, she paid her underemployed daughter, who was living at home with her, several thousand dollars from her campaign donors to be her “campaign manager”.
Although these activities raise questions about how committed these candidates are to REAL transparency, most political observers speculate the City will not punish these activities since they are common practice.
Running for re-election in Ward 5 is Dana Gutwein who was elected in 2015 with just 50.6% of the vote against an unknown newcomer.
Gutwein's special interest donors included:
Colorado Apartment Association - $500
Realtors Association - $250
Home Builders Association - $1,000
Since this election involves candidates who have run in previous elections we can investigate who financed their previous campaigns.
Ward 1 - Kyra deGruy - ran unsuccessfully in 2017.
Special interest donors in 2017 included
Colorado Apartment Association -