Special-interest groups fill in politicians funding gaps
VAIL Christine Scanlans campaign funds may look paltry compared to those of her opponent, but the state representative running for election is getting support from another source.Accountability for Colorado, a so-called 527 group, is sending out mailers on behalf of the Democratic incumbent to help her retain her seat in the state House of Representatives.And while state records show that Scanlan is being outspent 19-to-1 by her opponent, Republican Ali Hasan of Beaver Creek, the 527 groups support is narrowing that gap.At least three mailers have been sent out by Accountability for Colorado over the last few months.Hasan said he believes those mailers would each cost $25,000 to $50,000 to mail across the district, which includes Eagle, Summit and Lake counties, adding that he thinks 527s could spend up to $400,000 on Scanlans behalf by November.Meanwhile, Hasan has spent about $190,000 on his campaign and has contributed about the same amount of his own money to the campaign.Hasan said he expects to be outspent by Scanlan if 527 support is factored in by the end of the race.But candidates have no say over whether 527 groups spend money for them or against them. Coordination between 527s and campaigns is not permitted.Looking for accountabilitySo what is Accountability for Colorado?Scanlan said shes had no contact with the group. Secretary of State records show the group has spent more than $420,000 since its inception last year, with tens of thousands of dollars going to 360 JMG, a Washington political-consulting firm.The Secretary of States contact for the group is Julie Wells of Denver. A message left for Wells was not returned this week.Contributors include deep-pocketed Coloradans, records show. Pat Stryker, a Fort Collins heiress to a medical-supplies fortune, has given $214,272. Tim Gill, founder of the software company Quark, gave $64,272. Gill and Stryker are half of the so-called Gang of Four whose money is believed to have helped sway the 2004 Democratic takeover of the state House.Contributors range from corporations to individuals mostly from the Denver area to organizations. Aspen Skiing Co. and Colorado Ski Country USA are both listed as smaller contributors, although company officials could not immediately be reached for comment.The Public Education Committee, a fund of the Colorado Education Association, gave $75,000. Committee spokeswoman Deborah Fallin said the group donated money to Accountability for Colorado because the 527 supports pro-public-education candidates. The CEA is a state affiliate of the National Education Association, a teachers union.We are joining with others who also think public education is an important issue to say: These legislators are pro-public-education legislators, Fallin said.Fallin said she didnt know if the group focuses on other issues besides education. The Public Education Committee wouldnt identify Accountability for Colorados leader, she said.We dont talk about it, Fallin said. Its the 527 world.Huge impactState House Minority Leader Mike May, a Republican from Parker, said 527s have had a huge impact in recent elections. Democrats used them to sway state House elections in their favor in 2004, he said.He said he knows only that Accountability for Colorado is one of those Democratic funds.There are 527s on the Republican side, too, May said, citing the Colorado Leadership Fund. Records show that group has spent about $500,000 since last year. May said hes not sure whether that group will spend money to support Hasan.Democrat-oriented 527s outspend Republican 527s gigantically, May said.Their resources are far more than ours, which is a problem were making some in-roads in, he said.The groups are turning grassroots campaigns into elections bought by bazillionaires, May said.The 527s focus on the historically Democrat district shows that Hasan has a legitimate chance of winning, May said.Scanlan is kind of a lazy candidate who doesnt want to raise her own money, relying on union money and 527s to run her campaign, he said.Scanlan has raised $30,950 and spent $10,784 on her campaign so far, according to records filed with the Secretary of State.Hasan has raised $191,793 and spent $190,921. Records show he had spent more than any other state House candidate as of last week. He has donated $190,843 to his own campaign.Neither House Majority Leader Alice Madden nor Speaker of the House Andrew Romanoff, both Democrats, returned phone calls immediately.Candidates reactionHasan, a political newcomer, said he doesnt like 527 groups involvement.I think theyre awful, he said.He said he hasnt gotten support from 527s because he doesnt make promises to special interests in Denver. His campaign manager, Kaye Ferry, said part of the reason 527s stay away is because they give money to people who need help.Scanlan said she doesnt know anything about Accountability for Colorado, but assumed they are a pro-Democrat group.(527s) are just a very weird part of our political process, and I would much prefer that they wouldnt be involved, said Scanlan, a Dillon resident who was appointed to the House seat last year.
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