Campaign Finance Complaint Against Political Group Supporting Unaffiliated Candidates Moves Forward

<p>Megan Verlee/CPR News</p>

The Colorado Secretary of State’s office has determined that a group aiming to elect unaffiliated candidates in Colorado and across the country has potentially violated state campaign finance laws.

Election law attorney Mark Grueskin filed the complaint on behalf of four Democratic voters. It alleges that three entities tied to Unite America Inc. are all accepting more donations than allowed under state law and are not fully reporting who their donors are.

The Secretary of State said it will further review the matter and decide whether it should go before an administrative law judge.

“Based on the information Complainants provided, the Elections Division finds that the Complainant alleges facts that, if proven, could establish that Respondents were required to register as political committees and satisfy reporting requirements under Colorado law,” stated Melissa Polk, with the Elections Division, in a letter Monday.

Unite America is currently backing five unaffiliated candidates running for the statehouse in Colorado, and an additional 24 running in local and statewide races across the U.S.

“These entities are openly advocating the election of candidates, spending money to do so and aren’t willing to disclose what those sources of money are,” Grueskin said.

The Unite group said its goal is to bridge the partisan divide.

“The complaint intentionally misunderstands and misstates who we are, how we’re organized and what we’re doing,” Unite America Executive Director Nick Troiano said.

Troiano added that they are operating properly and calls the complaint partisan.

The complaint alleges that the groups are spending money to expressly advocate for the election of candidates here, endorsing candidates and using phrases such as “Support Candidate X,” or “Elect Candidate X.” Under Colorado law, that language triggers reporting and registration requirements as a political committee. But the complaint alleges the groups haven’t registered that way.

The complaint also alleges that the Unite groups have received donations that exceed the Colorado cap of $575 per election cycle for a political committee