A new watchdog group yesterday asked the Colorado Secretary of Stateâ€™s office to investigate
whether Republican Bob Beauprezâ€™s gubernatorial campaign violated campaign finance laws by accepting two separate sets of multiple contributions from limited liability companies (LLCs) operated by a single person.
Under Colorado law, an individual may give $1,000 to a gubernatorial candidate; an LLC may also give $1,000. But there is no limit to how many LLCs an individual may create and operate. The watchdog group, Colorado Citizens for Ethics In Government (CCEG), charges that this creates a loophole that defies the spirit and potentially the letter of the law on individual contribution limits.
CCEG found that a total of $17,000 was contributed by businessman Mark Campbell and LLCs he owns or operates from the same address, most of them subsidiaries of Southwestern Investment Group. There were 32 different $500 contributions, all made on the same day, April 17, 2006, plus a $1,000 contribution from Campbell himself.In addition, CCEG found a total of $11,000 from businessman Eric Bush, president of Bush Development Inc., and LLCs he operates. Nine different LLCs made 18 different $500 contributions on the same day to Beauprezâ€™s campaign. Bush also gave two separate $1,000 contributions to the Beauprez campaign, appearing to be in violation of the individual campaign finance limits.â€œThe public deserves to know who is behind the individual candidates,â€ said Chantell Taylor, CCEGâ€™s director. â€œWhere they get their money often dictates what kind of legislator that person is going to be, who he is beholden to. A large donor usually expects something in return. Thatâ€™s why these LLCs can be so dangerous.â€
Taylor said that since the news of CCEG’s complaint was reported, she has received calls about other campaigns also getting multiple contributions from LLCs operated by a single person.
Eric Bush, a real estate developer, told the Denver Post that he owns about 25 LLCs and that he was advised that it is legal to donate $1,000 from each of them. â€œI donâ€™t think thereâ€™s a problem. I think theyâ€™re raising a red herring,â€ he said. He also told the newspaper that the $2,000 listed as coming from him came from him and his wife.
Bush is no stranger to campaign contributing. Since 2003, heâ€™s given at least $21,500 to GOP candidates and party committees at the federal level.
Neither is Mark Campbell, the other businessman whose contributions were singled out by CCEG. Heâ€™s given $8,900 since to Republican federal candidates and party committees, including $3,000 to Beauprezâ€™s congressional campaigns.
CCEG opened its doors at the beginning of August. The group is a subsidiary of Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW), which has brought legal challenges on ethics issues against federal lawmakers ranging from Sen. Rick Santorum (R-TX) to former Rep. Tom DeLay (R-TX).
(Disclosure: when not writing for Colorado Confidential and Muckraking Mom, I work for Public Campaign, a national bipartisan, nonprofit organization which advocates for public financing of elections.)