State Treasurer Walker Stapleton is a sure bet to run for Governor in 2018, but he won’t make it official anytime soon. As Mark Matthews writes for the Denver Post, Stapleton is holding off on a formal announcement while he drives a bus through a loophole in our campaign finance laws:
The longer Stapleton waits before formally announcing his bid for Colorado’s top job, the more he can help steer unlimited sums of money toward a super PAC-style group that is expected to provide his artillery during the campaign.
It’s a setup that watchdogs said could stretch the limits of Colorado election law, even as it projects Stapleton’s fundraising might — particularly toward his rivals in the GOP primary…
…The upcoming Aug. 21 fundraiser for Stapleton will be held at the Cherry Hills Village home of Republican booster Greg Maffei, and the host committee is a who’s who of the party’s money class, notably beer magnate Pete Coors, Broncos legend John Elway and businessman Larry Mizel, according to a copy of the invitation.
The proceeds, however, won’t go into Stapleton’s campaign fund — as he doesn’t have one yet.
Instead, the windfall will be routed to an independent expenditure committee called Better Colorado Now, an outfit run by political consultant Andy George, a co-worker of longtime Stapleton adviser Michael Fortney at the Denver-based firm Clear Creek Strategies.
Candidates for Governor in Colorado are limited to max donations of $575 for the Primary Election and $575 for the General Election ($1,150 total). There are NO LIMITS, however, to the amount of money that can be collected by “Better Colorado Now,” an “Independent Expenditure Committee” (IEC) registered with the Colorado Secretary of State.
“Better Colorado Now” lists as its official purpose “to oppose Democrat candidates for Governor,” and as of June 30, the IEC reported $123,000 in contributions. Under state law, Stapleton is permitted to help raise money for the IEC so long as he isn’t an official candidate for Governor. This loophole may face a legal challenge at some point, but for now, Stapleton can be listed as a “special guest” for fundraisers benefitting an “independent” committee that really only exists to promote him.
Weaseling around campaign finance law is nothing new for Stapleton. Earlier this year, Stapleton’s name and face were featured prominently in advertisements for a nonsense group called “U.S. Term Limits.” As we wrote in February:
Some of our longtime readers will remember a previous ad campaign from U.S. Term Limits, a large buy in support of U.S. Senate candidate Bob Schaffer in 2008. Their “Thanks, Bob” ad (which said nothing about term limits) was parodied and laughed at generally in a race Schaffer went on to badly lose, as well as provoking an FEC complaint. But it was a good lesson in the true purpose of the organization–which is to support favored Republican candidates of Howard Rich, a New York real estate developer and member of the board of the much larger right-wing advocacy group the Club for Growth.
With protests related to government…you know, stuff (better for Walker Stapleton to keep that as vague as possible) raging throughout the land, we can understand why this “grasstops” organization run by and for well-heeled Republicans is trying to insert itself in the action. Once the organization’s true motives are unpacked, though, it’s pretty easy to understand that this is a cynical campaign vehicle–funded by a New York billionaire to support George and Jeb Bush’s cousin’s political ambitions.
Stapleton may not be breaking campaign finance laws with these stunts, but he’s certainly thumbing his nose at the spirit of contribution limits. That’s Walker Stapleton, buddy!