Hasan campaign in hot water over corporate gifts; watchdog group demands action

HD 56 candidate Ali Hasan, right, with his campaign manager Kaye Ferry. (Photo/Hasan 2008.com)

HD 56 candidate Ali Hasan, right, with his campaign manager Kaye Ferry. (Photo/Hasan 2008.com)

Republican statehouse candidate for House District 56 and GOP up-and-comer Ali Hasan received two potentially illegal corporate contributions last month that appear to have escaped the watchful eye of the Colorado Secretary of State’s office and his wayward campaign accountant.

According to Hasan’s mid-September campaign report, Nevada Cancer Centers, a private oncology practice located in Las Vegas, Nev., gave a cool grand to the campaign on Sept. 5. Trouble is that’s $600 over the legal limit — if it was a legal gift, which is in dispute. According to Nevada Secretary of State records, the cancer center is a corporation from which a campaign contribution is illegal. Now, a statewide watchdog group is calling for Hasan to return the money.

However, that may not be the only check that may give Hasan heartburn. On the same day the Nevada Cancer Center money was deposited, H. E. Whitlock, LLC, gave an $800 gift — possibly twice the allowable amount — again if it’s even allowable at all. The Colorado Secretary of State has no listing for a Limited Liability Company (LLC) of the same name as the incorporated Pueblo construction firm, H.E. Whitlock, Inc. Groups organized as LLCs can make political contributions of up to $400 from each LLC director under the same legal limits as individuals. Corporations cannot give at all.

The campaign has 30 days to refund the contributions from the date of their receipt — in this case a fast-approaching Oct. 5 deadline. If the apparent corporate donations are found to be legal there’s still the matter of the excessive amounts. The overages have not yet been returned, according to two subsequent campaign reports filed on Sept. 15 and Sept. 29 following the errant deposits. The next campaign finance report, and the last in which the campaign can dump the extra $1,000 from the two donations without penalty, is due Oct. 14.

Hasan could not immediately be reached for comment.

Chantell Taylor, director of Colorado Ethics Watch, called for Hasan to immediately refund the tainted contribution from the Nevada Cancer Center. In a statement, Taylor said, “The contribution patently exceeds the $400 contribution limit and was apparently made by an unlawful source — a corporation. This contribution so obviously violates campaign finance law, it is astonishing that Mr. Hasan went so far as to deposit and report the contribution rather than instantly return it. We call on Mr. Hasan to immediately correct the violation.”

The flamboyant Hasan, who vowed celibacy through Election Day, is running the richest statehouse race in Colorado. Since our reporting earlier this month that pegged his coffers at $191,000, he’s raised an additional $90,000 in the last two weeks taking his war chest to an astronomical $281,000 — the most spent on a statehouse seat in modern memory. At last count, 92 percent of the contributions are from the candidate himself. House District 56 encompasses much of the central mountains, including the tony resorts of Vail and Beaver Creek.

With all that cash flying around, it’s no surprise that Hasan turned to Scott Shires, an old campaign hand with experience as a registered agent responsible for compiling and submitting finance reports for 54 GOP candidates and political committees over the last decade.

A colorful character himself, Shires has a long-documented history of skirting the rules and getting himself into a fair amount of public scrutiny, as well as legal trouble.

In the 2006 election cycle, Shires was embroiled in a money shifting controversy with the Trailhead Group where contributions were shunted to and from like-minded GOP political groups with the money trail varying significantly between the received and expended amounts reported — a difference in several cases of tens of thousands dollars that appeared to simply evaporate on the balance sheets. Colorado Independent’s investigative reporting spurred some of the groups to quickly amend their reports. Democratic state lawmaker Rep. Morgan Carroll later tightened a state campaign finance reporting loophole for IRS-designated Section 527 political committees to stem this type of activity.

In June 2008, Shires was sentenced to one year of probation and a $3,450 fine after pleading guilty to three misdemeanor counts of failing to file tax returns for the National Alternative Fuels Foundation (NAFF), which was prosecuted for running an elaborate Ponzi scheme that defrauded the Environmental Protection Agency and 56 private investors of more than $4 million. Shires’ former NAFF business partner Bill Orr was convicted of 23 criminal counts in May. Orr will be sentenced later this week. U.S. Senate candidate Bob Schaffer was also linked to the foundation and took some heat for his fuzzy recollection of his board tenure while the group was being probed by federal investigators.

A month after his tax fraud sentence was handed down, Colorado Ethics Watch filed a complaint that the Senate Majority Fund, a Republican 527 political committee linked to Shires, for violating state and federal law for failing to disclose media buys to support Senate District 19 candidate Libby Szabo. Shires is expected back in court Oct. 2 to respond to a motion for summary judgment, according to the ethics watchdog group.

Hasan’s Democratic opponent Rep. Christine Scanlan has raised just $34,000. An analysis of Scanlan’s disclosure reports indicate no rule violations.

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Wendy Norris

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