Robert Blaha receives excessive donations

A look at the April campaign filings for U.S. Senate candidate Robert Blaha of Colorado Springs, who is largely self-funding his race to become the GOP nominee, reveals some oddball spending and campaign contributions from a wealthy Aspen energy heir that exceed the legal limits.

Blaha paid more than $140,000 to a Hollywood production company, Strategic Perceptions, to produce his commercials — one of which features a rectal exam.

The most interesting among Blaha’s purchases might be the $1,137 paid to Bobbleheads.com of Georgia, which makes custom bobbleheads.

The January commercial, “Product Guarantee,” complete with politician bobbleheads, can be seen here. Since the ad rolled out, Blaha has been taking bobbleheads on the road with him on campaign stops.

As to the campaign’s fundraising, it’s well below what most of his competitors have brought in.

Blaha’s first quarter of 2016 filing shows he took in $96,322 from 42 individual named donors and many more who gave under the limits that require their names be disclosed. Only Darryl Glenn, an El Paso County commissioner, took in less, with just $28,433 from 37 identified supporters.

Former CSU Athletic Director Jack Graham led the pack on fundraising, with $341,734 in contributions. Former state Rep. Jon Keyser of Morrison was second with $300,209, and former Aurora City Councilman Ryan Frazier collected $238,741.

Every campaign has also received loans from the candidates, ranging from $16,000 from Glenn to $1 million each from Blaha and Graham. Keyser pumped in $100,000; Frazier kicked in $113,440.

Blaha will have to give back a big chunk of the money he took in. Among his $96,000 is $16,200 from one contributor, and  that exceeds federal campaign contribution limits.

Energy heir Tatnall Hillman of Aspen gave the Blaha campaign $16,200. The limit is $2,700 per cycle or a total of $5,400 for both the primary and general election.

Hillman gave the campaign four donations at the end of February and throughout March, each one either at $2,700 or $5,400 each.

Campaign finance official Audra Mater told The Colorado Independent the campaign refunded Hillman’s $5,400 March 4 check before May 4 – the 60-day deadline federal for donations that surpass campaign spending limits. The other $5,400 is still within a 60-day window allowed under Federal Election Commission guidelines for review and possible refund.

Hillman did not return a call to The Independent by deadline. 

For its part, Blaha’s campaign is trying to reach Hillman about the excessive donations.

“It’s common for individuals to not understand the limits and how the FEC works,” Blaha said. 

Hillman has this year alone donated almost $400,000 to various Republican causes and candidates, including former Colorado GOP Senate candidate Sen. Tim Neville of Littleton, and former GOP presidential candidates Ben Carson, and Sens. Ted Cruz of Texas, Rand Paul of Kentucky and Marco Rubio of Florida.

Editor’s note May 18, 2016: An earlier version of this story was published and taken down due to an editorial miscommunication. 

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