Colorado politicos are still buzzing about a two-part story from the Colorado Springs Gazette in which Republicans openly questioned the 2018 soft money operations intended to support GOP candidates for State Representative. Reporter Marianne Goodland outlined the complaints about political spending overseen by House Minority Leader Pat Neville and his brother, Joe Neville (click for PART 1 and PART 2), including a curious case of hundreds of thousands of dollars that nobody bothered to spend prior to Election Day.
“Spend it to the end”: It’s an expression that floats around soft money groups. What it means is that you don’t leave money in the bank; you spend it on behalf of your candidates (or against their opponents) down to the last penny.
But that wasn’t the case for the Nevilles and the committees they ran in 2018, based on campaign finance filings.
After raising $1.214 million, the Values First Colorado caucus-fund committee and its related IECs left ending balances of $305,961, just over a quarter of what the GOP House caucus raised for the 2018 election.
Goodland writes that Pat Neville declined to respond to her questions about this unspent chunk of money. Joe Neville did respond, albeit poorly, claiming that the caucus just received more money than it could spend at the end of the election cycle — but this story doesn’t add up when you take a closer look at the campaign finance reports.
According to data publicly available on TRACER, some of the money raised by the Nevilles’ committee appears to vanish into thin air. We took a closer look at campaign finance reports from “Values First Colorado” and another committee run by Joe Neville, as Goodland reports:
Citizens for Secure Borders, another Joe Neville-run IEC, raised $274,200, all of it from Values First Colorado, and spent $144,740 on advertising. That left an ending balance of $129,460 after the last campaign finance reports were filed on Dec. 6.
Here’s a screenshot of reported expenditures from the “Values First Colorado” caucus fund committee to the Independent Expenditure Committee “Citizens for Secure Borders:”
As you can see, “Values First Colorado” reports contributing a total of $330,200 to “Citizens for Secure Borders.” But if you look at the campaign finance report from “Citizens for Secure Borders,” there is no mention of that $56,000 contribution:
Perhaps this missing $56k is just a (really big) accounting error, but it could also mean that “Values First Colorado” had even more “unspent” cash than the $305,961 noted by the Colorado Springs Gazette. Where some of that money actually ended up is anyone’s guess.
It’s also worth noting that we’ve seen this sort of thing before from Republican-aligned political committees. Seasoned Colorado politicos might still remember the Trailhead Group, a Republican political committee that was created to support candidates for legislative and state offices in 2006. As the website Colorado Confidential (now known as The Colorado Independent) reported at the time:
Colorado Confidential examined publicly available financial reports filed with the IRS by the Trailhead Group – a political committee created by some of Colorado’s biggest Republican names – and found several transactions totaling $200,000. Contributions to other political committees that Trailhead claims in its IRS filings are not found on the recipient’s books, and contributions from those committees back to Trailhead either don’t match Trailhead’s records or don’t appear at all. And on one occasion, a contribution was made to an organization for which Colorado Confidential can find no record of existence…
…Steve Weissman, Associate Director for Policy at the non-partisan Campaign Finance Institute in Washington DC, spends a great deal of time tracking the money and the movement of funds associated with 527 organizations. He’s never seen this before.
“I don’t recall encountering situations where one group is saying they got the money and the other is saying they never received it,” says Weissman.
Republicans have plenty of reasons to question the political spending of its House caucus committee. You can add this missing $56,000 to that list.