Hawaiian fundraiser prompts campaign finance complaint against Attorney General

Phil WeiseR, Phil weiser
David Zalubowski/AP
Colorado Attorney General Phil Weiser heads into news conference Tuesday, Feb. 19, 2019.

Updated Jan 27, 4:55p.m.:

On January 25th, the head of Campaign and Political Finance Enforcement in the Secretary of State's office moved to dismiss Defend Colorado's complaint. In his motion, Luis Lipchak wrote that the investigation found Weiser's fundraiser used only a small public area for which the resort doesn't charge a facilities fee, and that 45-minute, 30 person event was much smaller than the type of function that would incur the potential rental and catering charges outline in the campaign finance complaint.

The original story continues below:

A complaint alleging that Colorado Attorney General Phil Weiser broke the state’s campaign finance laws will move forward, after the Secretary of State’s Office deemed it to be non-frivolous and said the allegations show one or more potential violations.

“....the Division makes the initial determination that the Complaint alleges facts which, if proven, could support a finding that Respondents violated Colorado campaign finance laws, and that those alleged violations may be curable,” states an initial review from Luis Lipchak, a campaign and political finance enforcement manager in the state’s elections division. 

Weiser has ten days to update his disclosure forms or provide evidence to dispute the allegations.

The Republican group Defend Colorado filed the complaint earlier this month, which argues Weiser, a Democrat, failed to properly document a fundraiser he attended in Hawaii at the Waldorf Astoria Grand Wailea Maui Resort. The same group filed an ethics complaint against a member of the Polis administration earlier this week. 

“On June 15, 2021, Weiser held a fundraiser for his re-election campaign in the Grand Wailea Grand Dining Room,” states the complaint. “The site fee for the Grand Dining Room is valued at $6,000 with a food and beverage minimum of $39,760 plus tax and a 25% service charge.” 

But the complaint said, Weiser only reported a $437 cost for the fundraiser.  

“Weiser is required to report the contribution of the Grand Dining room as a donation, either in dollars or in kind,” it concludes.  

Weiser was in Hawaii in his official capacity as Colorado’s Attorney General to attend the Attorney General Alliance, an organization of AGs in the western U.S, which he currently chairs.

The complaint also raises concerns about the corporate sponsors for the AGA, which include companies which Weiser’s office is or was involved in pending litigation against, including Juul, Purdue Pharma and Facebook.

Weiser disagreed that his campaign failed to fully disclose its expenses and contributions for the event.

“In our campaign we will always follow all requirements,” Weiser told CPR News. “Whenever we have an event we will ask, are there costs that we need to pay to cover access to space, or to food, and we’ll pay those costs. That’s what we did here. We’re committed to being compliant and will continue to be so.”

A campaign spokesman said Weiser paid his own way to Hawaii for the conference and that the state employees who attended the AGA meeting with him also paid for their flights.

Defend Colorado is asking for an investigation of the campaign’s expenses and financial disclosures and for Weiser to pay a fine.

The Colorado Secretary of State’s office said the allegations could potentially also constitute a violation of the state constitution’s Amendment 41, which limits the value of gifts elected officials can accept.