Dark-money group claims Attorney General Phil Weiser failed to report Hawaii fundraiser contributions

Colorado Attorney General Phil Weiser has 10 business days from Wednesday to respond to allegations that he violated campaign finance laws at a fundraising event in Hawaii for his re-election campaign.

Defend Colorado, a dark-money political group that funds conservative causes, filed the complaint, alleging Weiser, a Democrat, committed the state violations while on a trip to the Attorney Generals Alliance annual meeting June 14-18. Weiser was attending the meeting of a group that takes corporate sponsorships (including companies involved in litigation with Colorado like Juul and Purdue Pharma) in his official capacity as attorney general and chair of the AGA, the complaint states, and alleges that he held a fundraiser June 15 but didn’t appropriately report campaign contributions.

On Wednesday, the Elections Division in the Colorado Secretary of State’s Office issued a decision saying Weiser will have to cure or dispute the allegations within the timeline or a review will be launched to decide how to proceed.

The Elections Division determined that the complaint was filed in time “and alleges facts which, if proven, could support a finding that respondents violated Colorado campaign finance laws. The division also makes an initial determination that the complaint alleges one or more violations that may be curable,” the letter states.

But Weiser disputed the allegations against him, telling CPR News that his campaign always asks for the costs for food and space and pays them.

The complaint alleges that Weiser didn’t report the dining room fee at the Waldorf Astoria Grand Wailea Maui Resort for his fundraiser or the food and beverage minimum. He instead reported $437 as an expenditure of food and beverage for the event, rather than the fee for the dining room, which has a $6,000 value, and a food and beverage minimum of $39,760 plus tax and a 25% service charge, according to Defend Colorado.

Additionally, the complaint alleges that Weiser accepted and failed to disclose the “illegal gift,” which it says, “likely came from the AGA as part of the room and conference fees or was a contribution from the resort itself.”

“Colorado voters expect the attorney general to understand and abide by the campaign finance laws of the state,” the complaint states. “Weiser’s case is not a technical matter that can be cured. This is an egregious violation committed by the state’s chief legal officer. While other state attorneys general may be allowed to attend such extravagant events paid by corporate sponsors, and mix campaign events in with the official travel, these are clear violations of Colorado law.”

Weiser’s campaign spokesperson Jacob Becklund said in a statement that they were “forwarded a complaint from the secretary of state filed by a dark money group. We will address the complaint when we have an opportunity to do so. The campaign complies with all campaign finance laws.”

Becklund said Weiser “paid his own way to Hawaii” and that the state employees who went with him paid for their flights.

Defend Colorado asked that the secretary of state’s office in its filing to require Weiser to disclose the source of the contribution and pay a fine. The same group filed an ethics complaint earlier this week against the Colorado Department of Natural Resources’ executive director, and in November, one against Gov. Jared Polis’ former chief of staff.

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