A new campaign finance law for Colorado school board races is causing headaches for candidates in the state’s top-line elections in 2018 — from governor to attorney general and beyond — by requiring them to effectively file daily donation reports more than eight months before their primary contests.
State lawmakers last year passed legislation meant to make public last-minute contributions flowing into the state’s off-year school board races by requiring candidates to disclose contributions of $1,000 or more within 24 hours starting a month from the election.
But, according to the Colorado secretary of state’s office, House Bill 1282 accidentally applied the requirements to statewide races.
That means the candidates for the state’s highest offices in 2018 — including more than a dozen people who have filed to run for governor — must report donations of more than $1,000 from now until the Nov. 7 school board elections.
“It was only our intent to deal with the school board elections,” said state House Majority Leader KC Becker, a Boulder Democrat and one of the legislation’s prime sponsors.
Rep. Brittany Pettersen, D-Lakewood, another backer of the bipartisan bill, said “it may be another drafting error that we are dealing with here.”
The mandatory reporting period began Sunday, and candidates have already started making so-called “major donor” filings on contributions from the past three days.
Phil Weiser, a Democrat running for Colorado attorney general, on Tuesday reported a $1,100 donation he received from a Denver attorney on Monday. Cynthia Coffman, the Republican incumbent holding the post, reported a $1,150 donation from a Denver woman.
Colorado Lt. Gov. Donna Lynne, who is running for governor as a Democrat, received $1,100 on Sunday from a retired person who lives in Belle Harbor, N.Y., her filings show.
The primary election for 2018 is set for June 26 and the general election is on Nov. 6.
Candidates for the 2018 contests were already required under state law to report contributions over $1,000 to the secretary of state’s office 30 days before their primary and general elections. But the additional demands mean a much higher burden on their campaigns.
“It’s kind of a pain,” said Dick Wadhams, a former chairman of the Colorado GOP. “It’s just going to mean more accounting by the campaigns. They are going to have to be very careful to pay attention to this requirement.”
Wadhams said the mix-up is unlikely to change the landscape of any races, though it does mean candidates will have to show their cards sooner than they normally would.
Suzanne Staiert, Colorado’s deputy secretary of state, said candidates who don’t follow the new requirement could face fines, though there are rules that provide some leniency as long as they are in substantial compliance. Campaigns were notified of the new requirements.
She also said that her office can’t make an emergency rule change to fix the glitch.
“It’s in legislation,” Staiert said. “We can’t change it by rule.”
Becker said the secretary of state’s office worked on the bill but never raised concerns through the legislative process.
“This never came up,” Becker said. “We’re willing to have a discussion about whether this provision should be cleaned up. I don’t know why they are announcing this now for the first time. They didn’t give me a heads-up. We had several parties involved in drafting, and they had no idea. … I don’t know why the secretary of state’s office didn’t tell anyone sooner.”
More than 25 candidates across the 2018 races for governor, attorney general, secretary of state and treasurer could be affected.
Sen. Nancy Todd, D-Aurora, who also backed House Bill 1282, also said the new requirements for statewide candidates were not intended, calling them “silly.” She added that reporting requirements are cumbersome enough without what the new law is requiring campaigns to do.
The law also requires campaigns to disclose certain spending on advertisements, billboards and direct mailings that mention candidates.
The 2016 legislation behind the requirements came following controversy surrounding down-to-the-wire contributions of tens of thousands of dollars that poured into 2015 school board contests in Steamboat Springs and Jefferson County.
At the time, fundraising and spending numbers in those races were required to be reported only quarterly, and the last reports before the election came out on Oct. 15, 2015.
Candidates didn’t have to report their finances to the state again until Jan. 15, 2016 — well after the elections had taken place.
“I definitely was motivated by increasing transparency and making sure the law was consistent with what other candidates have to do,” Pettersen, the state lawmaker, said. “It was really just aligning that standard with school board races.”
Candidates for the 2018 state races also have to report quarterly campaign finance data from between July 1 and Sept. 30 to the secretary of state’s office by Oct. 16.FacebookTwitterGoogle +