Special Interests Fill Council Campaign Coffers Before Limits Drop

While most Denver City Council members didn’t raise much money after their elections in the spring, a few took advantage of the last chance to raise from corporate donors and at higher limits than they can today. 

Half of North Denver District 1 City Councilwoman Amanda Sandoval’s $13,600 campaign contributions she raised after the June election wouldn’t be allowed under Denver’s new campaign finance law that took effect Jan. 1, according to records made available at the start of February.

Voters approved the new ban on corporate contributions and lowering individual contributions from $1,000 to $400, or $200 if the candidate opts into a new public matching fund.

Of the three district council members who represent parts of North Denver, the other two didn’t show as significant of fundraising in the January financial disclosure reports.

District 3 Councilwoman Jamie Torres raised a total of $1,000 from two donors, and District 9 Councilwoman Candi CdeBaca raised $2,394 from approximately 100 donations, the majority of which were small repeat contributions. She added that she didn’t feel the need to fundraise immediately after taking office. Councilwoman CdeBaca said she believed they filed the required reports and the clerk’s office was checking into the possibility of a technical error, but later determined she did not file on time and her campaign was fined. Both at-large council members are term-limited and showed only minimal fundraising.

Sandoval said her additional fundraising after the election was to cover unlisted but unpaid campaign debts.

“I had to pay out people. I had people who worked for me who I didn’t pay out,” the first term councilwoman explained. Campaign finance records show Sandoval paid $16,000 to government affairs consultant Tish Maes for campaign management three months after the campaign ended.

Sandoval raised just under $115,000 in the general and runoff elections combined. The $13,600 she raised since then is considered part of the 2019 election cycle even though it was after the election.

“I had one fundraiser afterwards that I hadn’t really even worked on or put together. My cousin put it together with Tish,” she said, adding that she didn’t solicit most of the corporate or high dollar donors and she didn’t know who many of them were. “A lot of them were friends of my dad’s who stayed out of the campaign until they saw who won.”

Amanda Sandoval is the daughter of Paul Sandoval, who Colorado Politics called the “legendary North Denver power broker” in a biography of the District 1 councilwoman.

Sandoval also said she didn’t really look to see who made large contributions. When shown her own campaign finance filing, she said, “I don’t know who that is” in reference to a $1,000 corporate check from MDC Holdings, a company chaired by Denver Icon Larry Mizel. “I was surprised to see a lot of them,” she said, noting that some lobbyists were new and hadn’t given during the campaign.

District 10 Denver City Councilman Chris Hinds, who represents Capitol Hill and Cherry Creek, led the pack in post election fundraising with $28,400 after election day compared to just under $100,000 before. All but two of his 43 contributions were over $200 and wouldn’t be allowed today.

“I told all of those folks that the campaign finance laws are what they are, and are changing on Jan. 1, and … if they wanted to contribute to retire campaign debt, then this was their opportunity,” Hinds said.

Hinds said he didn’t take any lobbyist or corporate contributions during his election and that he raised funds after the election to pay off his personal loan to the campaign and other obligations. Records show several personal loans totalling over $20,000.

Hinds also said he didn’t believe his contributions influenced his votes, noting he voted against a city appointment of someone with ties to a lobbying firm that supported him financially.

Denver council members are elected to four-year terms and the next election will be in spring 2023. Full financial disclosures can be found on the Denver Election Division’s website, denvervotes.org.

Editor’s Note: This version has been updated from the print edition to include Councilwoman CdeBaca’s filing which was not available by the print deadline and to include that her campaign finance report was not filed on time as initially believed.


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