Bowman’s other three I.E.C. were set up to support City Council candidates allied with Mayor Paul. The remaining $45,000 of the national Realtors’ original $140,000 contribution (minus the $95,000 committed to another pro-Paul I.E.C. referenced above) was divided equally ($15,000 each) to:
Save the Foothills to support Ward 1 candidate Kyra deGruy,
Lakewood Neighbors for Open Space to support Ward 3 candidate Henry Hollender
Lakewood for a Better Environment to support Ward 5 Councilor Dana Gutwein.
Mind-numbing details of the Bowman/realtor money: the bulk of the realtor money was spent to pay a Denver vendor to conduct door-to-door canvassing ($10,000 to support Gutwein, $10,000 to support Hollender and $5,000 to support deGruy).
Save the Foothills (the pro-deGruy I.E.C.) reported an in-kind donation of $1,678.50 in “consulting fees” from a pro-Paul I.E.C. called Protect Lakewood and expenses of nearly $7,000 in legal fees. In addition to the $10,000 for door-to-door canvassing, the pro-Gutwein I.E.C. (Lakewood for a Better Environment) reported spending $3,000 for “landing page and display ad development) and $1,974 to Catalyst Public Affairs for “consulting”.
Lakewood Neighbors for Open Space (the pro-Hollender I.E.C.) reported receiving an $1,521.87 in-kind contribution of “legal fees” from the pro-deGruy I.E.C. (Save the Foothills) and spent $1,678.50 for consulting from Catalyst Public Affairs in addition to nearly $300 in legal fees to the Maven Law Group.
Two other pro-Paul I.E.C.s (Protect Lakewood and Vote Lakewood) were registered to a Denver agent (Lynea Hansen) working for the international political consulting firm Strategies 360. Contributions of $75,139 were reported for Protect Lakewood and $4,000 for Vote Lakewood.
Marijuana businesses donated a total of $45,139 to the pro-Paul groups ($4,000 to Vote Lakewood and $41,139 to Protect Lakewood). The remainder ($34,000) of Protect Lakewood’s $75,139 came from developer groups (Cardel, CDN, Renaissance Solutions and the Apartment Assoc. of Denver).
The total of all I.E.C.s supporting Adam Paul was $524,139 [four groups raised $569,139 less $45,000 doubled counted as transfers from one pro-Paul I.E.C. (Protect Parks & Open Space) to another pro-Paul I.E.C. (Business & Labor Together)]. Another $45,000 was contributed to I.E.C.s supporting pro-development City Council candidates for a total of $569,139 contributed by pro-development special interests.
On the other side, one I.E.C. was formed to oppose Adam Paul’s re-election – Save Our Lakewood. The group raised $5,934 in cash (and received a $900 in-kind donation). All the donors were Lakewood individuals with no special interest or out-of-town contributors.
In conclusion, four I.E.C. groups supporting the re-election of Adam Paul raised $524,139 to the $5,934 raised by his opponents’ single I.E.C. The final monetary contribution ratio was almost 100 to 1 (actually 88 to 1). It is unclear whether this outcome satisfied the Council’s goal of creating a “even playing field”.
Post-script – after the election the City assessed a $5,000 monetary fine against Save Our Lakewood (the anti-Paul I.E.C.) was for forgetting to add the phrase “Not Authorized by any Candidate” on its one post card mailer. The fine is currently under appeal to the Jeffco District Court in Golden for being excessive and unreasonable.
Assessing the Impact of Lakewood’s Campaign Finance Reporting Laws
In early 2019 Lakewood City Council passed a major overhaul of its municipal campaign financing laws. The stated purpose was to “level the playing field” and “increase transparency”. The new rules have now been used in two elections in 2019 - the July special election on the citizens’ slow growth initiative and the November mayor and city council election.
The actual campaign funding in both elections would suggest Lakewood’s campaign financing is more lopsided and less transparent than it was under the previous rules. Campaign spending in November’s municipal election more than doubled when over half- a-million-dollars was spent compared to less than a quarter million spent four years earlier (2015).
Transparency has become far murkier with large sums of special interest money being funneled through a series of “independent expenditure committees” (I.E.C.). These committees are exempt from ANY contribution limits and can transfer funds between I.E.C.s
These I.E.C.s collected nearly $600,000 for candidates supporting development and growth. A total of seven I.E.C.s were formed in the weeks leading up to November 5 election to support the re-election of Lakewood mayor Adam Paul and the election of three City Council candidates supporting the City’s pro-development agenda (four I.E.C.s supported Paul and three I.E.C.s supported his three Council candidate allies).
Commonly referred to as Lakewood’s “establishment”, the political and special interest allies of the mayor raised about 88 times as much money as their opponents, often referred to as “the independents” or “reformers”. The final monetary contribution ratio was $524,139 versus $5,934 (88 to 1.)
The major establishment donors were realtor groups, developers and marijuana businesses. Many of these groups were also big contributors to the unsuccessful effort to stop July’s slow growth initiative called Question 200.
The largest donor was a mysterious group called RMDC5 LM Coop Fund Issues Committee (RMDC5). Records do not reveal where RMDC5 got the $350,000 it donated to the mayor’s re-election effort. In the previous election in July the same group donated over $86,000 to defeat the citizens’ slow growth initiative known as Question 200.
Further complicating transparency, RMDC5’s contributions were channeled through an I.E.C. called Business & Labor Together (BLT). RMDC5 did the same thing in the July special election when it contributed $86,000 to a I.E.C. called Lakewood for Labor & Jobs.
The registered agent for both of these I.E.C.s is Denver attorney John Zakham.
Side Note – In late summer 2019 Lakewood City Council rejected a proposal from Mr. Zakham’s development company (Zakhem Real Estate Group) to build a townhome project in east central Lakewood (called Ambassador Place Subdivision, 6045 W. Mississippi Ave.). His company is seeking to get his property re-zoned for higher residential density.
Another major campaign donor was the National Association of Realtors (NAR) in Washington, D.C. which contributed $140,000 to support establishment candidates in November’s municipal elections. This was in addition to the nearly $220,000 they donated in the special July 2019 election to defeat the citizens’ slow growth initiative (Question 200) and another $60,000 they donated in the Fall of 2017 when the slow growth initiative was first proposed (but subsequently delayed by a legal challenge).
NAR’s $140,000 contribution was channeled through four I.E.C.s registered to Denver realtor Mark Bowman. The bulk of the money ($95,000) was contributed to an I.E.C. Bowman called Protect Parks & Open Space (PPOS) to support the re-election of Mayor Paul. Of this amount $35,000 was paid to a commercial canvassing company to do door knocking. Another $45,000 was contributed to Business & Labor Together (Zakham’s pro-Paul I.E.C. mentioned above).