Campaign funds questioned
October 28, 2005
Steamboat Springs officials told City Council candidates and their campaign officials Thursday to be wary of accepting donations from area businesses.
The advice came after the city received a number of complaints about the legality of candidates accepting campaign donations from corporations. Ambiguous state campaign finance laws have made it difficult for city officials to determine whether any campaign laws were violated, city attorney Dan Foote and City Clerk Julie Jordan said Friday.
“What we’ve advised candidates to do is to not accept funds from corporations,” Jordan said. Foote noted that the advice was simply that — as a city staff attorney, he said, it is beyond his authority to offer legal opinions to candidates.
Several City Council candidates have received campaign contributions from local businesses, according to campaign finance reports filed with the city. According to finance reports filed Friday — the last filing deadline before Election Day on Tuesday — those candidates — Bud Romberg, Kevin Kaminski, Nancy Kramer and Loui Antonucci — have returned contributions from local businesses.
Candidates Towny Ander-son, Stuart Lynn, Charles McConnell, Warren Harner, Steve Ivancie and Dick Curtis have not reported receiving contributions from businesses.
Dana Williams, a spokeswoman for the Colorado Secretary of State’s Office, said Friday that corporate contributions are not allowed in elections at the state, county and local levels unless a home-rule municipality such as Steamboat Springs has passed an ordinance stating otherwise. Steamboat doesn’t have such an ordinance, Jordan said.
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But, Williams noted, limited liability partnerships, limited liability corporations and sole proprietorships can contribute to candidates because they aren’t considered corporations. Foote said the city issued the advice to candidates so it didn’t have to check the incorporated status of all businesses that have been listed as campaign contributors.
The confusion about campaign finance law is nothing new, Williams said. The Secretary of State’s Office frequently is asked to clarify election law as it pertains to corporate contributions.
“What our office has always said is that if you’re not sure, it’s always better to be safe than sorry,” Williams said.
Campaign finance law often is confusing to voters and candidates because aspects of it are part of the state constitution, the Colorado Revised Statutes and election rules issued by the Secretary of State’s Office, Williams said.
“It really does make it tricky for voters and candidates, because there’s so many places they have to look for the information,” she said.
Anyone with questions or concerns about campaign finance law and possible violations can visit http://www.sos.state.co.us or call (303) 894-2200, ext. 6309.
— To reach Brent Boyer, call 871-4233 or e-mail email@example.com