Dems Dump Lobbyist as Host of Questionable Fundraiser, But Legal Questions Remain

March 1, 2012
Frank Sturgell Photography /Free Photos

BROOMFIELD, CO – Lobbyist Anne McGihon took her name off the co-host list of a fundraiser for Dianne Primavera’s campaign for House District 33 after conservative advocacy group Compass Colorado alleged her involvement was illegal during the legislative session. Now questions are being raised about another fundraiser for House Democrats McGihon was involved with just last week.

Yesterday, Compass Colorado sent out a press release alleging the Primavera fundraiser with McGihon was illegal due to McGihon’s active registration as a lobbyist at the Capitol. State law prohibits lobbyists from donating or soliciting donations for any legislator or legislative candidate’s campaign during the General Assembly session from January to May. McGihon has been paid $58,950 for lobbying since July 2011, according to her lobbyist registration with the Secretary of State’s office.

McGihon told the Broomfield Enterprise she took her name off the co-host list and a new invitation was sent out without her name.

But McGihon’s name also appears on the co-host list for a House Majority Project fundraiser on February 23, an organization which is described on its website as “an initiative of the Colorado Democratic Party.”

The Colorado Observer obtained a copy of the fundraiser solicitation that was originally sent out by State Representative Daniel Kagan (D-Denver).

While state law allows for lobbyists to donate and solicit donations to political party events during the legislative session, the caveat in the law states “…so long as the purpose of the event is not to raise money for specifically designated members of the general assembly, specifically designated candidates for the general assembly…”

What is unclear is whether that applies in this situation.

The fundraiser solicitation begins by mentioning that there are “35 competitive State House districts,” and invites the recipient to join a number of elected officials at the event. Rep. Kagan, who sent the solicitation, is in a competitive State House district.

Both The Colorado Observer and The Colorado Statesman list Kagan’s race as one of the most competitive in the state.

The other lawmakers included on the solicitation include House Minority Leader Mark Ferrandino, Rep. Lois Court, Rep. Beth McCann, Sen. Irene Aguilar, Sen. Pat Steadman and Sen. Joyce Foster, all from Denver.

Jessica Peck, the Executive Director of the Open Government Institute, a government watchdog group, said her group is investigating allegations regarding the two fundraisers, as well as other contributions McGihon has made, and were likely to file a formal complaint.

Such a complaint would be heard by an administrative law judge, after all required information was received by the Secretary of State.

Peck was clear she thought the Primavera fundraiser was a clear cut violation, telling the Enterprise on Wednesday: “[McGihon] put her name out there for soliciting for candidate contributions. Even if she has taken her name off [the fundraiser invitation], it was still used to promote an event in violation of campaign finance rules.”

One legal source tells The Observer that the House Majority Project fundraising solicitation appears to also violate the statute prohibiting lobbyist involvement in legislative fundraising during the session.

“Clearly, this is in direct contradiction to the statute. It compromises their ability to act objectively as legislators when they are attending fundraisers co-hosted by lobbyists during the legislative session.”

Tyler Q. Houlton, president of Compass Colorado, the group that made the initial allegations regarding the Primavera fundraiser, placed blame at the feet of House Minority Leader Mark Ferrandino, who appears on both the Primavera and House Majority Project fundraising solicitations as well. The House Majority Project website’s home page also includes a fundraising solicitation from Ferrandino.

“It’s very disturbing that this isn’t an isolated incident. Mark Ferrandino is overseeing a culture of corruption as the leader of the Democratic Party.”

Representative Ferrandino has not responded to calls and emails seeking comment.

If a formal complaint is filed it will be the first one lodged regarding a legislative race in this session, according to a search of election law complaints on the Secretary of State’s website.

Comments made by visitors are not representative of The Colorado Observer staff.

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