Attorney Frank Azar pours money into another DA race

Why is local attorney and famed ambulance-chaser Frank Azar so interested in who runs the district attorney offices in at least two districts?

Azar is the biggest contributor to an independent expenditure committee that backs University of Colorado Regent Michael Carrigan in his primary run for the Denver District Attorney office. He faces state Rep. Beth McCann and current assistant Denver District Attorney Kenneth Boyd in the June 28 contest.

Related: Attorney Frank Azar Strong Arms $50k into Denver DA Race

Turns out, that isn’t the only district attorney race where Azar is pumping in money. Azar is so far the only contributor to another independent expenditure committee – Coloradans United for Justice – which is backing incumbent District Attorney and Democrat Dave Young in the 17th Judicial District, which covers Adams and Broomfield Counties. The committee is being run by former Republican Secretary of State Scott Gessler.

The committee registered with the Secretary of State on May 24. Two days later, Azar made a contribution of $25,000, to date, the only money the committee has taken in, according to the Secretary of State’s TRACER database. That same day, almost $21,000 was spent on a pro-Young mailer with a Los Angeles campaign firm.

Azar spokesman Darwin Burk has not returned multiple phone calls asking about Azar’s interest in the two district attorney races.

Azar has also directly given the maximum $400 allowed under state law to both Young and Carrigan. The three candidates in the Denver District Attorney Democratic primary have now surpassed the $1 million mark, and that does not include the almost $100,000 raised  so far by the pro-Carrigan PAC.

Colorado Ethics Watch has been sounding the alarm about the influx of money from political action committees into lower election levels ever since the Supreme Court decided the Citizens United case in 2010. “It’s inevitable after Citizens United that money will work its way down from the presidential level” to the state level and beyond, said Luis Toro of Ethics Watch. “These races are supposed to be small dollar affairs,” he added, but noted that the Denver district attorney’s primary is now a million-dollar race.

Young is in a tight primary battle with former assistant district attorney Caryn Datz, who now works in the Boulder District Attorney office of Stan Garnett, who has endorsed her for the seat. The winner will face Republican Molly Jansen in November.

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has been a political journalist since 1998. She covered the state capitol for the Silver & Gold Record from 1998 to 2009 and for The Colorado Statesman in 2010-11 and 2013-14. Since 2010 she also has covered the General Assembly for newspapers in northeastern Colorado. She was recognized with awards from the Colorado Press Association for feature writing and informational graphics for her work with the Statesman in 2012.