Campaign finance reform group End Citizens United endorses Democratic congressional candidate Jason Crow

Author: Ernest Luning - September 29, 2017 - Updated: September 28, 2017

Democrat Jason Crow is pictured in this undated photograph. The attorney and decorated combat veteran is challenging five-term U.S. Rep. Mike Coffman in Colorado's 6th Congressional District. (Photo courtesy Jason Crow)Democrat Jason Crow is pictured in this undated photograph. The attorney and decorated combat veteran is challenging five-term U.S. Rep. Mike Coffman in Colorado’s 6th Congressional District. (Photo courtesy Jason Crow)

End Citizens United, a group dedicated to overturning the decision that opened the floodgates to campaign cash, endorsed Democratic congressional candidate Jason Crow on Thursday. At the same time, Crow pledged he won’t accept corporate PAC money in his bid to unseat five-term Republican U.S. Rep. Mike Coffman in the 6th Congressional District.

“By taking a stand to reject corporate PAC money, Jason Crow is proving that he’s accountable to the people of Colorado, not greedy corporate special interests,” said End Citizens United President Tiffany Muller in a statement announcing the endorsement. “He’s putting his money where his mouth is. Jason stands in stark contrast to his opponent, Congressman Mike Coffman, who’s bought and paid for by special interests and works to protect the rigged system. We look forward to working with Jason to give a voice to those who have been ignored by Coffman and his corporate sponsors.”

The group’s support includes connecting Crow’s campaign with the 6,400 members who live in the congressional district and urging a network of 360,000 donors across the country to pitch in, a spokeswoman said. The group has raised nearly $2 million this cycle for candidates it backs and counts more than 3 million members.

“Corporate special interests have been buying our elections for too long; that is why I am taking the pledge to not accept corporate PAC money for my campaign,” said Crow, one of three Democrats running in a primary for the seat. “As our democratic institutions are under assault more than ever, it is critical that we restore transparency and accountability to our elections. Just as I have taken an oath to defend the Constitution as a soldier and a lawyer, I will do so as a member of Congress and work with ECU to overturn Citizens United and fight for campaign finance reform.”

According to the group, Coffman has accepted $1.7 million from corporate PACs since he first ran for Congress in 2008. He’s also voted against the congressional DISCLOSE Act and against a proposed constitutional amendment to overturn the Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision.

A Coffman campaign spokesman shrugged off the attack and returned fire at Crow.

“In typical lawyerly fashion, Jason Crow is trying to have it both ways — taking money from Washington PACs while claiming not to take PAC money at the same time,” Coffman spokesman Tyler Sandberg told Colorado Politics. “Congress doesn’t need any more slick lawyers who can’t tell the truth.”

Crow reported $294,481 in contributions for the most recent fundraising quarter, his first since launching his campaign. That total includes $20,000 from a handful of committees, including leadership PACs operated by top congressional Democrats and PACs that support veterans.

Coffman reported hauling in $677,997 this year, including $273,200 from a variety of committees, including some corporate PACs.

A spokeswoman for Levi Tillemann, a former Obama administration official and renewable energy consultant and one of Crow’s Democratic rivals, dismissed Crow’s pledge as meaningless and maintained his campaign is “floating on a raft of corporate funds.”

“This is, plain and simple, Washington insiders playing hide the ball with corporate money,” said LeAnn Joswiak, Tillemann’s finance director and advisor, in an email. “Crow’s campaign has already accepted donations form PACs funded by Goldman Sachs, Pfizer, AT&T (which has fought to kill net neutrality rules), the American Gas Association (a champion of fracking) and defense contractor Northrup Grumman, among others. On top of that there’s Crow’s long list of controversial clients at Holland and Hart — some of whom he, we have to assume, continues to represent even as he runs for Congress in a district in which he doesn’t live. This is a campaign that’s floating on a raft of corporate funds. Levi hasn’t taken a single dollar in corporate PAC money. Sadly, this endorsement is just another example of up-is-down, down-is up-politics in 2018.”

The leadership PACs that donated to Crow’s campaign — one run by Assistant Democratic Leader Steny Hoyer of Maryland gave Crow $5,000, and another run by Rep. Ben Ray Lujan, head of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, gave Crow $1,000 — reported receiving donations from corporate PACs. So did Hoyer’s campaign committee, which donated $2,000 to Crow’s campaign.

End Citizen United press secretary Anne Feldman deflected the Tillemann campaign’s charge and aimed back at Coffman.

“By taking the pledge to not accept corporate PAC money, Jason has gone above and beyond to show that he will not be beholden to corporate special interests,” Feldman told Colorado Politics in a statement. “That’s in sharp contrast to Mike Coffman, a career politician, who has accepted over $1.7 million from corporate PACs and continues to protect the rigged system.”

Aurora attorney David Aarestad, a past candidate for the Cherry Creek School District board, is also running in the primary.

Tillemann didn’t formally enter the race until early July, after the start of the 3rd Quarter — he spent a couple months before that operating an exploratory committee — so hasn’t filed a fundraising report yet. The quarter ends Saturday, and reports are due to the Federal Election Commission Oct. 15.

Ernest Luning

Ernest Luning

Ernest Luning is a political correspondent for Colorado Politics. He has covered politics and government for newspapers and online news sites in Colorado for more than 25 years, including at the Highlands Ranch Herald, the Jefferson Sentinels chain of community newspapers and the Aurora Sentinel, where he was the city hall and cops reporter. After editing the Aurora Daily Sun, he was a political reporter and blogger for The Colorado Independent site. For nearly a decade, he was a senior political reporter and occasional editor at The Colorado Statesman before the 119-year-old publication merged with Colorado Politics in 2017.