Complaint alleges DougCo Invest in DCSD event violated campaign finance law

Suzie Glassman

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Advertisement for the disputed campaign eventInvest in DCSD Facebook Page

Correction

An earlier version of this article implied the 5A/5B campaign flyers didn't have the appropriate "paid for by" language, which is incorrect.

By: Suzie Glassman/NewsBreak Denver

(Castle Rock, CO) A complaint filed with the Colorado Secretary of State (SOS) alleges the Douglas County volunteer committee, Invest in DCSD, violated campaign finance laws during last week's presentation by school board president Mike Peterson at the Larkspur Fire Station.

A flyer for the event advertised that Peterson and Republican candidates for office Darren Weekly (sheriff), Brandi Bradley (HD39), Mark Baisley (SD4), Sherri Davis (clerk), and Toby Damisch (assessor) would discuss topics related to education and crime.

Tiffany Baker, who filed the complaint, said, "I would have no problem if the candidates simply showed up at the forum but I think it is wrong for the 5A/5B ballot committee to be promoting partisan political candidates."

Baker alleged Invest in DCSD accepted a prohibited campaign contribution from the Larkspur Fire Protection District by using the government location and not returning the contribution.

She also alleged Invest in DCSD made improper contributions to several candidates in the November 2022 election by inviting them and advertising their presence at the campaign event on the Facebook graphic posted above.

Under campaign finance law, a “paid for by” disclaimer statement must appear on a campaign communication when any person spends $1,000 or more, in aggregate, during a calendar year on electioneering communications.

There was no such disclaimer on the Facebook post, and the secretary of state’s office is investigating if there should have been.

"This conveys the message that Douglas County voters who support 5A & 5B should vote for the mentioned candidates," said Baker.

A representative from the secretary of state’s office notified both parties that potential violations of Colorado campaign finance laws may have occurred but that the alleged violations may be "curable."

Invest in DCSD can resolve the allegations and prove the event didn't break the law.

Christa Gilstrap, co-chair of Invest in DCSD, said, "We are working closely with the SOS and have been told it is unlikely any violation has occurred.

They are still gathering information and will be sending us a request for information for us to respond. So we are waiting on them for the next steps."

About the Larkspur event

Organizers handed out campaign flyers for the candidates in attendance and “vote yes” cards for ballot initiatives 5A and 5B, the district’s MLO and bond requests to a packed room of around 30 citizens.

Tom Wiens, former State Representative, State Senator in the Colorado Legislature, and Republican Caucus chair in the Colorado Senate, moderated the event.

Peterson spoke about the district’s financial needs and how the MLO will raise teacher and staff compensation. He defended the property tax increase, saying without it, the district could lose its great teachers to nearby districts that pay more.

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