SENGENBERGER | The Year of the Colorado ‘Black Money’ Dems

SENGENBERGER | The Year of the Colorado ‘Black Money’ Dems
SENGENBERGER | The Year of the Colorado ‘Black Money’ Dems

Colorado Democrats claim role as champions of campaign finance transparency and thwart ‘dark money’. Secretary of State Jena Griswold has always presented herself as the main champion of both.

“The problem with black money in politics is that it adds barriers to keep ordinary people from leading and participating in our democracy,” Griswold told 5280 magazine in April 2019. “You shouldn’t have to be rich to serve people and serve in government.”

Who could disagree with that? Yet state and federal campaign finance records — from Griswold’s race to county clerks — reveal how dark money and other non-transparent donations have become the name of the game for Democrats running for office. oversee Colorado’s elections.

You could call 2022 the year of Colorado’s “Dark Money Democrats.”

As I detailed in Sunday’s Denver Gazette, Griswold became president of the Democratic National Association of Secretaries of State (DASS) in January 2021.

“Documents, campaign finance records and multiple sources show that DASS failed to uphold the principle of transparency it pledged to follow,” I wrote. “Under Griswold’s leadership, DASS has become less transparent. The organization’s bylaws were changed, allowing Griswold to more directly oversee day-to-day operations, how money is spent, and who is informed of expenditures.

Curiously, Griswold’s direct influence in operations seems to have started earlier. According to DASS’s 2021 financial reports, the organization paid $5,000 to Hilltop Public Solutions two months after taking the reins. The company was then paid $5,500 four times in April, July and August 2021.

Griswold’s brother, Chris Griswold, is a partner at Hilltop. Direct payments to the company appear to have ended shortly after Kim Rogers was hired as executive director. Rogers’ first payment is dated July 15, 2021.

Last week, I emailed Griswold and his campaign, asking about those payments and whether DASS’s association with Hilltop had completely ended. Griswold’s office referred me to DASS. I still haven’t heard from DASS or Griswold.

Whether a partisan national organization chaired by Griswold quietly hired his brother’s firm is questionable. But that’s to be expected: DASS works closely with a national group called End Citizens United (ECU) to fund campaigns across the country. Among them, ECU funneled $300,000 to the Colorado-based Defend Democracy Fund (DDF), which was created to re-elect Griswold.

DDF spent over a million dollars to oppose Griswold’s opponent, Pam Anderson. This includes the widely circulated TV spot that CBS4’s Shaun Boyd called a “completely baseless…brainless smear tactic.”

Secretary of State isn’t the only race where candidates seeking to oversee elections are being backed by non-transparent, black-money donations.

According to campaign finance reports, an independent spending committee called Colorado Open Democracy (COD) spent nearly $780,000 on senders supporting Democrats for Clerk and Recorder and opposing Republicans. Such expenses are historically unheard of in county clerk races.

“To see that amount of money spent, it’s unusual,” said Chuck Broerman, the longtime outgoing El Paso County clerk. “I’ve never seen anything of this magnitude in clerk and recorder racing, to my knowledge.”

Every dollar spent by COD went to Berlin Rosen, a major New York-based PR firm (its only other Colorado client this cycle appears to be Attorney General Phil Weiser’s re-election campaign).

COD-backed clerk campaigns include Arapahoe County Clerk Joan Lopez ($154.2K), Amanda Gonzalez in Jefferson County ($185.9K), and Josh Zygielbaum in Adams County ($138K). .1K). COD spent $126,200 against Vicki Pyne, the Republican candidate for Jefferson County32.

The group has also funded mailers supporting Candelaria Rivera (Pueblo), Bobbie Jo Gross (Mesa) and Abigail Loberg (Grand), as well as opposing Republicans Nathan Baxter (Pueblo) and Sheri Davis (Douglas).

COD is not a Colorado-based organization. The committee was registered with the Secretary of State’s office on August 26 by the National Open Democracy PAC. According to campaign documents, COD only received two donations: $82.7,000 on Oct. 5 and $694,400 on Oct. 7. Both were from Open Democracy PAC.

“Moving money between these ‘dark money’ groups is routine, especially when they want to hide the real source of funding,” veteran politician Dick Wadhams wrote on Monday.

According to federal campaign finance records, Open Democracy PAC appears to be largely funded by the Sixteen Thirty Fund, which contributed nearly $4 million to Open Democracy PAC this year.

As Complete Colorado’s Sherrie Peif reported, the Sixteen Thirty Fund “pumped out millions in the Colorado election without any restrictions from Griswold’s office.” The fund is not required to disclose its donors, officially making it a “dark money” group.

Influence Watch further reports that the Sixteen Thirty Fund has been criticized by “left-leaning media outlets, including the New York Times, for serving as a vehicle for left-wing groups to funnel money anonymously.”

Additionally, Denver mega-donor Merle Chambers donated $100,000 in total to Open Democracy PAC, which is notable considering Chambers donated $150,000 to DASS and $100,000 to DDF, as well. than an in-kind donation of $37,848.

Finally, on its national website, Open Democracy PAC lists Griswold as an approved candidate, offering visitors a way to donate.

Elections these days are already as partisan and political as ever. Now, an unprecedented amount of Democratic black money is infesting not only the race for Colorado secretary of state, but also the campaigns of the local county clerk and recorder. As a self-proclaimed champion of transparency, do all roads of Democratic black money lead to Jena Griswold?

Jimmy Sengenberger is host of “The Jimmy Sengenberger Show” Saturdays from 6-9am on News/Talk 710 KNUS. He also hosts “Jimmy at the Crossroads,” a webcast and podcast in partnership with The Washington Examiner.

. SENGENBERGER The Year of the Dems Silver Black Colorado Opinion

. SENGENBERGER Year Colorado Black Money Dems

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