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Campaign finance violation cited against CU regent candidate

Author: Marianne Goodland - July 12, 2018 - Updated: July 26, 2018

campaign financeColorado Secretary of State Wayne Williams (Photo courtesy of the Secretary of State’s Office)

Updated with comments from candidate Lesley Smith.

Colorado Secretary of State Wayne Williams’ office — now in charge of reviewing campaign finance complaints under a judge’s order — announced Thursday that the campaign of Lesley Smith, a Democratic candidate for an at-large seat on the University of Colorado Board of Regents, violated state campaign finance laws.

Smith’s campaign accepted a donation that exceeded the state’s $400-per-individual limit on campaign contributions, and the campaign also failed to include employer and occupation information on some of its donors, the Secretary of State’s office’s elections division said.

However, no fine has yet been assessed; under a law passed in 2017, Smith’s campaign has 10 days from Thursday to correct the errors without penalty.

The complaint was filed by the state Republican Party, under its formal “Colorado Republican Committee” name.

Smith’s campaign finance reports included 50 contributors whose employer and occupation information wasn’t included, a violation of campaign finance laws, the elections division said.

Those individuals include former House Majority Leader Alice Madden; former U.S. Senators Tim Wirth and Mark Udall; former CU Regent Michael Carrigan; and Angelika Shroeder, the chair of the state board of education.

A second violation occurred, according to the elections division, when the campaign accepted an $800 in-kind contribution from the campaign’s designated filing agent, Fran Ryan.

A review of Smith’s reports on the Secretary of State’s TRACER system shows the contribution — the cost of food for an April 30 dinner reception in Denver — was corrected the day after the July 2 complaint was filed.

The Colorado Republican Party declined to comment.

Monday, Smith told Colorado Politics that her team made most of the corrections on July 3 and additional corrections to the campaign finance reports in the past few days. “The reporting was a clerical issue, which was corrected soon after discovery,” Smith said. “Our campaign remains focused on the issues: providing CU Students [sic] with an excellent and relevant education which is affordable and accessible for Colorado families.”

The Smith complaint is the third since Williams’ office took over the business of reviewing campaign finance complaints in the wake of a federal court decision that struck down a portion of the enforcement mechanism in the campaign finance system.

U.S. District Court Judge Raymond Moore ruled a month ago that the campaign finance process, approved by voters in 2002, forwarded complaints to an administrative law judge without any prior review by the Secretary of State. That could unnecessarily drive up legal costs for defendants, the judge ruled, especially for frivolous complaints.

Since then, three complaints have been filed in the campaign finance system, including the one against Smith. The first, by Democratic blogger Jason Salzman, challenged a disclosure filing from Republican gubernatorial candidate Walker Stapleton, who had failed to disclose his wife’s income. That complaint was dismissed by the elections division on July 3.

The most recent complaint came on July 9, when Weld County Commissioner Barbara Kirkmeyer filed a complaint against We Care 4 Weld County and the 5767 Taskforce, which sought to have her recalled. Kirkmeyer’s complaint alleged the two groups failed to disclose who paid for the recall effort.

Marianne Goodland

Marianne Goodland

Marianne Goodland is the chief legislative reporter for Colorado Politics. She's covered the Colorado General Assembly for 20 years, starting off in 1998 with the Silver & Gold Record, the editorially-independent newspaper at CU that was shuttered in 2009. She also writes for six rural newspapers in northeastern Colorado. Marianne specializes in rural issues, agriculture, water and, during election season, campaign finance. In her free time (ha!) she lives in Lakewood with her husband, Jeff; a cantankerous Shih-Tzu named Sophie; and Gunther the cat. She is also an award-winning professional harpist.