Colo. Election Campaign Spending Down To Wire

By Todd Engdahl, EDUCATION NEWS COLORADO

With the 2010 election two weeks away, the peak of the campaign fund raising season has passed, but there still were some interesting developments in the latest contribution and spending filings.

Here are the highlights in races of interest to education:

State Board of Education

The biggest change from previous reports was in the 2nd District race for State Board of Education, where Democratic incumbent Angelika Schroeder reported raising $8,638.

Among contributors of note were Democratic U.S. Sen. Mark Udall ($100), Aurora Superintendent John Barry ($100), Colorado Springs District 11 CFO Glenn Gustafson ($100), Pueblo County school board member Bill Bregar ($25) and CU regent candidate Melissa Hart ($75).

Schroeder gathered lots of contributions from her home base of Boulder County, including $100 from District Attorney Stan Garnett (the Democratic candidate for attorney general), $25 from county assessor Jerry Roberts and $100 from civic leader Josie Heath. (Heath’s husband, Rollie, is a Democratic state senator and member of the Senate Education Committee.)

The Boulder and Jefferson County Democratic Party organizations also contributed to Schroeder.

The campaign committee for Republican candidate Kaye Ferry of Vail reported raising $1,304, the bulk of it from the Eagle and Jefferson County Republican organizations. Ferry also reported spending $3,726 of her own money on the race.

The 2nd District stretches from western Adams County almost to Glenwood Springs and includes the resort towns of Summit and Eagle counties. Democrats have 136,637 active registered voters, followed by 125,695 unaffiliateds and 96,200 Republicans. Former SBE member Jared Polis now represents the district in the U.S. House.

There are two open SBE seats on the ballot this year. Republican Paul Lundeen has raised $8,340 in the 5th District, compared to $405 for Democrat Karl Beck. In the 6th District Democrat William Townend reports raising $63, while Republican Debora Scheffel hasn’t filed reports.

Republicans have strong registration edges in both districts, and outgoing incumbents Peggy Littleton (5th) and Randy DeHoff (6th) are members of the GOP.

Several observers expect the SBE to maintain its 4-3 Republican edge, with Schroeder holding her seat and Republicans winning in the two open districts.

CU Board of Regents

Fund raising in the race for an at-large seat on the Board of Regents is approaching the $170,000 mark.

Hart, a professor at the CU law school, reported raising $101,172, with $41,032 of that still on hand. Interesting names among her recent contributors include Bruce Caughey, deputy executive director of the Colorado Association of School Executives ($20); former congressman and state higher ed chief David Skaggs ($50); socialites Marvin and Judi Wolf ($250 each), and former CU-Denver Chancellor M. Roy Wilson ($250). She also received $800 from the Colorado WINS Small Donor Committee (a public employee group), and $400 from the District 12 Educators Association Political Action Committee.

Republican incumbent Steve Bosley reported $66,703 raised, with $16,361 still on hand. The most recent report lists contributions of $200 from GOP regent Jim Geddes, $250 from former National Western Stock Show head Pat Grant, $50 from former regent Peter Dietze and $200 from Bill Hybl of the El Pomar Foundation. (Hybl’s son Kyle is chair of the regents and is an El Pomar vice president.)

In the 1st District, incumbent Democratic regent Michael Carrigan reported raising $2,323 on top of the $17,882 he had on hand at the beginning of the election cycle, Republican Alexander Maller reports raising $280.

In the open 4th District regent seat, Republican Suzanne Sharkey has raised $18,224 while Democrat Robert Bishop-Cotner reported $3,300. Bishop-Cotner, a Brighton High School teacher, received a $1,000 contribution from the Public Education Committee, a small donor committee affiliated with the Colorado Education Association.

Republicans currently have a 5-4 edge on the board, so Democrats will gain the majority if Hart succeeds in her well-funded challenge, and if Carrigan and Sharkey win, as is expected.

Legislative races

The Public Education Committee reported a cumulative total of $765,367 raised and $161,459 on hand as of the most recent report. The committee has spent $914,300 – it had $320,392 in the bank when the campaign season started.

The committee has donated significant amounts to Democratic legislative candidates and to gubernatorial hopeful John Hickenlooper, Treasurer Cary Kennedy and Secretary of State Bernie Buescher. All, of course, are Democrats. It’s also contributed to various 527 committees that are affiliated with the coordinated campaign efforts of wealthy donors and labor unions that have aided many successful Democratic campaigns in recent Colorado elections. In the latest reporting period the committee gave $60,000 to 21st Century Colorado, one of those groups.

The bulk of the committee’s legislative contributions were made earlier (see this Education News Colorado story for details on union contributions.) But, in the latest period the committee gave $2,125 each to Rep. Debbie Benefield, D-Arvada, and to Pete Lee, Democratic candidate in Colorado Springs’ House District 18.

Stand for Children, the education reform group, gave $600 in the current cycle to Rep. Jeanne Labuda, D-Denver. (Read this story about prior Stand contributions.)

No new contributions were reported by committees associated with the American Federation of Teachers-Colorado or the CEA-affiliated Jefferson County Education Association. (See this earlier story for an analysis of giving by various education interest groups to legislative candidates.)

In one of this year’s most hotly contested legislative races, total contributions now exceed $180,000. In House District 47, Democrat Carole Partin, former president of the Pueblo Education Association, has raised $70,784, while Republican Keith Swerdfeger has raised $110,707. Various education groups are on opposite sides in this battle.

The seat, which covers parts of Pueblo and Fremont counties, has been held by Democrat Buffie McFayden, who’s leaving the legislature because of term limits.

Union and reform groups also are opposite sides of these races:

  • House District 3 (Denver and Arapahoe County): Democratic Rep. Daniel Kagan, $54,975; Republican Christine Mastin, $53,386.
  • House District 30 (Adams County): Republican Rep. Kevin Priola, $99,078; Democrat and retired teacher Laura Huerta, $21,841.

Education groups all have lined up behind the Democratic candidates in these races:

  • Senate District 6 (Colorado Springs): Democratic Sen. John Morse, $145,940; Republican Owen Hill $105,273. Morse is Senate majority leader and was the prime architect of the higher education flexibility law passed by the 2010 legislature.
  • Senate District 20 (Jefferson County): Democrat Cheri Jahn, $107,484; Republican John Odom $26,518.

Budget busting amendments

The piles of cash raised to oppose amendments 60, 61 and Proposition 101 continued to grow, according to the most recent reports.

Coloradans for Responsible Reform, the business/labor/education/civic coalition opposing the three budget-slashing proposals, has raised $6.7 million total and has $102,418 on hand. It raised $376,749 in the latest reporting period.

Recent contributions of interest include $1,000 from Jim Giesemer, director of the University of Denver’s Strategic issues program; $25,000 from the Benson Mineral Group, founded by CU President Bruce Benson; $100,000 from the Securities Industry and Financial Markets Association of New York and $150,000 from the Colorado Association of Realtors.

The CEA and the National Education Association have contributed heavily in past cycles to the opposition effort but weren’t among recent contributors. AFT-Colorado contributed $4,810 to another opposition group, the Colorado League of Responsible Voters, in the most recent cycle. That group has raised a total of $520,600.

CO Tax Reforms, the group of anti-tax activists supporting 60. 61 and 101, reports raising a total of $17,463 and has $11,394 on hand.

But, there’s another, more shadowy group pushing the three amendments, a non-profit named Active Citizens Together.

That group registered with the secretary of state as a non-profit corporation in 2001, with Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights author Doug Bruce listed as the registered agent. Bruce was listed as registered agent as recently as the group’s 2008 report. The current agent is Doug Campbell of Arvada, a longtime Bruce associate who served as Bruce’s aide during his short career in the legislature. The group is not registered with the secretary of state as an issue committee.

But, a glossy, two-sided, multi-colored flier supporting 60, 61 and 101 recently went to voters under the group’s name.

Coloradans for Responsible Reform this week filed a complaint with the secretary of state, arguing Active Citizens Together is legally required to register as an issue committee and report its contributors and spending.

Based on a court deposition Bruce gave on Oct. 5, the opposition group claims, “ACT apparently is the largest known donor to the effort paying, according to Bruce, $100,000 to $200,000 to a professional signature gathering firm for the petition drive that resulted in 60, 61 and 101 being placed on the ballot.”

The group also claims, “ACT continued to fund campaign activities as recently as the week of October 11, when a mailing from ACT in support of the measures arrived at an unknown number of homes.” (Read the news release from Coloradans for Responsible Reform.)

According to a Denver Post blog item, Bruce told The Associated Press Tuesday that the opposition group is trying to link him to the three proposals because he’s widely disliked by the public. But, according to Post reporter Tim Hoover, “Bruce dodged questions about the substance of the complaint filed by opponents: that he illegally used his charity, Active Citizens Together, to fund petition drives for the three initiatives.” (Read full blog post.)

The most recent fund raising and spending reports were due Monday and covered activity between Sept. 30 and Oct. 13. The next report deadlines are Nov. 1 and Dec. 2.

Search campaign finance records on the secretary of state’s website.

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