A new watchdog group yesterday asked the Colorado Secretary of State’s office to investigate whether Republican Bob Beauprez’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 Beauprez’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.
“The public deserves to know who is behind the individual candidates,” said Chantell Taylor, CCEG’s director. “Where 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. That’s why these LLCs can be so dangerous.”
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. “I don’t think there’s a problem. I think they’re raising a red herring,” 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, he’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. He’s given $8,900 since to Republican federal candidates and party committees, including $3,000 to Beauprez’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.)