Sometime in early October, state Treasurer Walker Stapleton is expected to announce that he will seek the Republican nomination for Governor in 2018. Even though he’s not yet a candidate for the top job in the state, Stapleton is already facing legal questions about an independent expenditure committee that is raising money ostensibly on his behalf.
As Mark Matthews reports for the Denver Post:
The Democratic Governors Association is threatening to file a complaint with the Colorado Secretary of State against Republican Walker Stapleton over his ties to a campaign group that is raising money to support his expected bid for governor.
The DGA said Stapleton may have run afoul of state election law by headlining an Aug. 21 fundraiser for the group, an independent expenditure committee known as Better Colorado Now, whose primary purpose is to get Stapleton elected.
Colorado prohibits its candidates from coordinating with these committees — which can raise and spend an unlimited amount of money. The DGA vowed to file a complaint with the Colorado secretary of state against Stapleton, the committee and its donors if Better Colorado Now spent any money to back his candidacy.
Stapleton is not the only 2018 hopeful who will benefit from an independent expenditure committee (IEC), but he’s the only one pushing the legal line by being involved with the fundraising efforts. Stapleton’s name appeared as a “special guest” on the invitation for the Aug. 21 fundraiser for an IEC called “Better Colorado Now,” which lists as its official purpose “to oppose Democrat candidates for Governor” but is almost certainly going to be a vehicle meant to benefit Stapleton’s gubernatorial bid.
As we wrote last month, Stapleton may be legally permitted to help raise money for the IEC so long as he isn’t an official candidate for Governor — which is a big reason why he hasn’t already formally announced his candidacy. That could change once the lawyers get involved here, but the legality of this move won’t alter the awful perception for Stapleton. As Republican gubernatorial candidate Victor Mitchell told the Grand Junction Sentinel:
“Stapleton has been running for four years. He’s been doing unethical fundraising that’s basically just down and out wrong. He’s giving political speeches wherever he goes. He’s raising unlimited sums. It’s everything that’s wrong with our political discourse today.”
“Better Colorado Now” had raised about $121,000 as of June 30, and that figure has certainly grown since then. We’ll find out in a few months whether the total amount raised by this IEC is enough to override the negative news it has generated for Stapleton.