McInnis has not set up political nonprofit with campaign funds
The Denver Post
Glenwood Springs, CO Colorado
Just before leaving Congress in 2004, Scott McInnis’ staff said the exiting Republican wanted to use part of the $1.3 million left in his campaign fund to launch a nonprofit political organization that would address education, breast cancer research and conservation.
Five years later, no such organization exists. Instead, the largest charitable donation McInnis made from his campaign funds was given to a wilderness area named for McInnis as he was leaving Congress.
The rest of his charitable donations have been scattered among more than a dozen organizations with at least $500 going to breast cancer research and $26,000 to educational groups. Some donations went to unnamed charities.
Most of the money that has been spent from McInnis’ Congressional campaign fund went not to charity, but to like-minded candidates and to promote Republican ideals, which McInnis said was always his intent. He decided direct giving would be more efficient than the bureaucracy of a nonprofit, he said.
“This is the first time I’ve ever heard of someone being criticized for giving something to charity,” McInnis said. “We had some ideas [for a nonprofit] that, after they were vetted by election lawyers, we were told we couldn’t do.”
McInnis instead created the Western Way Political Action Committee, and estimates he’s given more than $250,000 through that fund to about 40 candidates over the years.
About $96,000 has been given to charities through Western Way. But despite his staff’s singling out of breast cancer as a focus, health groups received relatively little of the money in the last five years. The total was compiled from Federal Elections Commission disclosures.
McInnis gave $51,500 from the PAC to McInnis Canyons, the Grand Junction-area wilderness named for him. After a critic of the name change estimated it would cost $50,000 for signs and maps, McInnis made his first contribution in that amount. Park officials estimated the cost would be much less, and disclosures show McInnis also paid a Durango printer $1,898 for services related to the canyon.
About $26,000 has gone to educational groups, with Mesa State College the prime beneficiary.
And $2,500 from Western Way has gone to health organizations, including a $500 contribution to breast cancer research giant the Susan G. Komen Foundation in April.
The liberal group ProgressNow has tried to use the small breast cancer donation against McInnis, who is now seeking the Republican nomination for governor to challenge Democratic Gov. Bill Ritter in 2010.
“The fact that it’s taken him five years to give to charities, and it turns out to be the year he decided to run for office is very telling,” said ProgressNow founder Michael Huttner. “The fact that he makes some donations after we called him out is completely unethical.”
Donations from Western Way have averaged about $21,000 a year since 2005. McInnis gave $11,450 to charities in the first half of 2009, records show.
State Sen. Josh Penry, who is running against McInnis for the GOP nomination, declined to discuss the PAC spending or McInnis’ decision not to create the proposed nonprofit.
“The congressman and his family have seen cancer up close and personal, so our campaign just isn’t going there,” said Penry, who once worked for McInnis.
McInnis and his wife are both cancer survivors.
While McInnis can’t use the PAC cash directly on his gubernatorial campaign, in recent weeks he’s helped raise his name recognition through mailers to stalwart Republicans – all of it is within the rules governing PACs and campaigns.
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