Mar 30, 2023 - News

Complaints allege finance law violations by Denver municipal candidates

Illustration of a magnifying glass and file folder with abstract ballot elements in the background.

Illustration: Lindsey Bailey/Axios

Denver Elections Divisions has received multiple complaints alleging campaign finance law violations involving progressive-backed municipal candidates.

Driving the news: At least six complaints have been filed with the city's election office, according to documents obtained by Axios Denver through a public records request.

  • The complaints were filed between March 22 and March 28.

Why it matters: Together, the complaints allege unlawful coordination between candidates ahead of the April 4 election in Denver. But the merits of the complaints are unknown.

Yes, but: Two candidates named in the complaint who responded to Axios Denver deny any wrongdoing.

  • "The allegations are baseless claims from a desperate opponent," said Councilmember Candi CdeBaca, who is targeted by the allegations, in a statement. "Let's stay focused on the race and not desperate attempts to instigate witch trials."
  • A statement from mayoral candidate Lisa Calderón's campaign called the claims "false and overblown," adding they "continue unfortunate trend in which women of color are subject to much higher scrutiny than other candidates in this race."

Details: The first complaint detailing the allegations was filed by Denver city council candidate Kwon Atlas on March 22.

  • Atlas alleges his opponent, CdeBaca, and Calderón broke local election laws.
  • It alleges CdeBaca received polling information from Calderón that amounted to an unreported independent expense, and that CdeBaca sent mailers paid by her council office, both which would violates campaign finance law.
  • However, the polling data was publicly available, and reported by media outlets, and Atlas did not provide evidence to support his claims about the mailers.

Between the lines: A website called Ethics Matter Denver detailing the allegations and encouraging residents to file complaints with the city has surfaced, but it's unclear who is behind it.

  • An email sent to an address on the website seeking comment was not returned. The website says it's not authorized by any candidate or candidate committee.

What's next: CdeBaca and Calderón received a notice of the complaint on March 24, and have until April 21 to respond to it.

  • Neither candidate had issued a response as of Thursday morning, Denver Elections Division spokesperson Lucille Wenegieme tells us.
  • Wenegieme said the response gives candidates a chance to clarify or "cure" the complaint, or have a hearing officer review the complaint and determine whether it should be dismissed.

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