NOONAN: 61 independent expenditure committees plan to spend in 2018 — and hide their donors

Author: Paula Noonan - September 26, 2017 - Updated: September 26, 2017

Paula Noonan
Paula Noonan

Active independent expenditure committees, aka political action committees (PACs), currently number 61 registered at the Colorado Secretary of State’s Office.  These committees collect money to support candidates.  The sources of the funds are undeclared, so only the total amount of donations shows in Secretary of State’s Office forms.  These PACS do not coordinate with candidates.

The purpose statement on the forms can indicate whom the PAC money will go to.  Littleton Rep. Justin Everett’s JETPAC is self-naming (Justin Everett for Treasurer – he’s running for state treasurer). It’s managed by Rearden Strategic, Joseph Neville’s campaign consulting firm. JETPAC’s current report gives no information on contribution totals.

Even so, according to Ernest Luning of Colorado Politics, JETPAC sent out a blistering message to Republican activists claiming that Rep. Polly Lawrence, also running for state treasurer, lied “to get re-elected, only to conspire with liberals and vote like Democrats.”  Lawrence accused Everett and his “minions” of “traitorous attacks.”

A reasonable guess is that JETPAC is getting its as-yet undeclared funding using Neville’s family connections, as Minority Leader Patrick Neville is brother to Joseph and State Senator Tim Neville is father to Joseph and Patrick. Lawrence voted for HB17-1155 to improve campaign finance reporting. Everett voted NO on the bill.  See here for their votes on 2017 bills signed by the governor.

Former State Senator Michael Johnston’s probable PAC, optimistically named Frontier Fairness, has $20,000.  It’s unclear if this is Johnston’s PAC because the purpose statement is to support governor candidates in a “manner not controlled by… a candidate.”  On the other hand, Johnston’s campaign theme in the governor’s race is Frontier Fairness.  The PAC will not have to show that many of its donations will come from Wall Streeters who support Johnston’s education reform and pro-charter school positions.

At least three other PACs support pro-charter/pro-education reform candidates:  Better Schools for Colorado, Raising Colorado, and Students for Education Reform.

Better Schools for Colorado is the PAC for Stand for Children that gets its money from the Gates, Walton, and Daniels Foundations.  It has $84,000 stashed in its accounts.

Raising Colorado, with Jennifer Walmer of Democrats for Education Reform (DFERs) as its manager, has almost $70,000.  DFERs have joined with many pro-school choice lobbyists to testify against school data privacy bills and for more public dollars for charter schools.

Students for Education Reform has $26,000 to plow into the DPS school board election.  It’s not knowable who donated that amount of money to students to support pro-education reform candidates.

Better Colorado Now has $123,000 to oppose Democratic candidates for state office.  A Better Colorado has $8,019 in its pocket to elect Republican candidates for state office.  They both roughly support the Republican side of the aisle making it easier for voters to know that the words “Better Colorado” indicate GOP money.

While voters will not know specifically who’s giving to these PACs, a potential reform to campaign finance laws might help some.  The state could require that PACs producing a mailer must place their names in big, bold letters across the middle of the message along with their purpose statement. Radio and TV ads could be required to provide a voice-over that states the name of the PAC followed by, “This Political Action Committee has not volunteered to provide the specific sources of its funding.”

Paula Noonan

Paula Noonan

Paula Noonan owns Colorado Capitol Watch, the state’s premier legislature tracking platform.