Journalists should note lawyer’s $50,000 dark-money donation to group backing Carrigan

If you like summer election mysteries, you’ll enjoy pondering why personal injury attorney Frank Azar gave $50,000 to a committee backing Denver District Attorney candidate Michael Carrigan. And why would Azar run the money through a Texas entity?

The Colorado Independent’s Marrianne Goodland first reported the donation last month, but Azar, whose ads are a well-known blight on TV, wouldn’t tell Goodland why he made the donation. No comment.

This week, Azar’s money was behind an ugly mailer attacking Carrigan’s Democratic primary opponent, former State Rep. Beth McCann.

See the Carrigan mailer attacking Beth McCann here.

In response to the mailer, McCann wrote in an email to supporters, “This mailer is the perfect example of why we need to get dark money and Super PACs out of our democratic elections. The public has no way of knowing why Mr. Azar contributed $50,000 to elect my opponent.”

Beth McCann for Denver District Attorney campaign manager Daniel Aschkinasi added in a statement, “We have all become too familiar with this circus of dark money trying to influence important political races.  This group has one purpose, and that is to smear the record of a dedicated public servant. At a time when our nation looks to solve gun violence issues, we have an opportunity to elect the woman who stood up to the NRA and passed universal background checks three years ago.”

Goodland reported May 19:

Donors [to Fair Public Advocate, an independent expenditure committee] include Denver personal injury attorney Michael Sawaya, with $5,000. Another $1,000 came from attorney Norm Brownstein of Brownstein, Hyatt, Farber & Schreck, one of Denver’s best-known and most politically-connected law firms.

The biggest donation, $50,000, came in February from a Texas holding company, FDJR Holdings, Inc. of Houston.

According to the Texas Secretary of State, FDJR Holdings is one of a group of holding companies owned by Azar and/or his wife, Jeanette Renfro Azar.

Carrigan gave Goodland no explanation for the Azar donation, except to say that individuals and groups who “agree with my platform” are free to donate, but he will not be “beholden” to them. And he attacked McCann’s donations, even though she has no comparable donation to a committee backing her.

Good journalism frequently starts with a good question. In this case it is this: Why is big bad personal injury attorney Azar spending 50K to back Carrigan? What is he hoping to get out of Denver’s next district attorney?

8 Community Comments, Facebook Comments

  1. mamajama55 says:

    Luis Toro of Colorado Ethics Watch  has started a site to collect campaign mailers. It's called Colorado Political Junk Mail.   Carrigan's mailer would be a prime candidate for this.

    Scan it and post it first, then recycle it!

  2. Voyageur says:

    No one would ever say pols is biased in the DA race.  Anything that makes beth look bad goes on the front page.  But Jasons well documented look at Carrigan"'s dark money scheme languishes where few can read it.   

     

     

     

  3. Pseudonymous says:

    Perhaps Mr. Carrigan shares a level of integrity with Secretary Clinton, and this donation will affect his judgment and performance no more than the many contributions to her campaign and the PACs that support it does hers.

    If I've understood correctly, money of this magnitude from donors is undesirable, but it is hardly corrupting.

    • Voyageur says:

      The question before the house is journalistic ethics, not legal ones.  As to corrruption, what exactly could a DA do for an ambulance chaser like Azar?  

      • Pseudonymous says:

        Why would Pols note a non-story?  So some guy you say Carrigan couldn't do anything for gave some money in support of his campaign and didn't feel like explaining himself. If we accept that passing large sums through back channels to benefit campaigns isn't indicative of anything other than genuine support, how is “Azar supports Carrigan” worthy of the front page?

        Jason suggests it might be a about buying influence, which would be a story, but large donations from parties who might have particular policy interests don't do that, right?

  4. Voyageur says:

    If it's a non story, why are you spinning so desperately to protect your boy Carrigan?  50 grand in dark money, maybe the readers should see it and make up their own minds.  On the other hand, give me $50,000 and I'll stop talking about it.  Can you run that by your dark money boys for me, Sudafed?

    • Pseudonymous says:

      If it's a non story, why are you spinning so desperately to protect your boy Carrigan?  50 grand in dark money, maybe the readers should see it and make up their own minds.  On the other hand, give me $50,000 and I'll stop talking about it.  Can you run that by your dark money boys for me, Sudafed?

      I have literally no idea who Carrigan is beyond what I've read here.  Or McCann or the other guy, for that matter.

      My reason for posting in this thread is that I had grown to understand from discussions about the millions of dollars in donations from Wall Street folks to the Clinton campaign, often in amounts much greater than $50,000, and likely millions more to the multiple PACs supporting her, that this sort of money doesn't affect policy.  In other words, I don't understand why you think dark money donations from parties with an agenda affect Carrigan, who you don’t support, but not Clinton, who you do.  I've been writing here only to call you a hypocrite.  Money corrupts or it doesn't.

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