Letter: Hershey troubled by donations

Tony Hershey
Candidate for Glenwood Springs City Council

I was shocked and dismayed to see that my opponent, Kathryn Trauger and another candidate, Steve Davis, had received literally thousands of dollars for their City Council races (P.I. 4/3/15) from an individual donor. Mr. Davis received $4,000 and Ms. Trauger received $2,000 from Michael and Patty Starzer of Denver.

Mr. Starzer is the co-founder, and retired president and CEO of Denver oil and gas company Bonanza Creek Energy Inc. This is an unprecedented amount of money to be poured into a small municipal election, amounts frankly that one would only expect to see in a presidential election (so much in fact, that Mr. David says he “wondering what to do” with it all).

What is a greater concern to me however, and I don’t speak for Mr. Davis’ opponent Mr. Arensman, is the timing of this disclosure. The election is Tuesday. These massive contributions came to light only after the last reporting period prior to the election, Friday, April 3. The previous campaign finance reporting period ended March 17. It is crucial to note that pursuant to Colorado election law any “major” contribution of $1,000 or more must be reported within 24 hours if the money is received within 30 days immediately preceding the election. The reasons for this are obvious, and ensure the voters know if someone is trying to “buy” an election.

However, it is my understanding that this contribution was received on or about March 17 or 18. How convenient, then, that even though Ms. Trauger (and presumably Mr. Davis) reported these within 24 hours as required by law, the people of Glenwood would not learn about them until April 4, three days before the election. I understand that people can donate as much money as they like pursuant to current law. But the reason we have this specific reporting rules for a “major” contributor” is to ensure voters know where large single donations are coming from, who is making them, and what, if any, strings are attached to their potential elected officials.

Finally, I am disturbed that neither myself nor Mr. Arensman was contacted Friday for the story in the Post Independent about these extraordinarily large contributions, while Ms. Trauger and Mr. Davis were permitted to comment. At this late hour I am also concerned that there will be no time for the people of Glenwood Springs to learn about this issue, much less digest the consequences of these very large donations. And that violates the spirit if not the letter of Colorado’s Fair Campaign Practices Act.

This is why we have a 24-hour reporting period for a “major contributor” so close to the election. So the voter can decide if they want their election bought by one person. What is the relationship between all this money and a Denver resident who is building a home in Sunny Acres? What does this major donor expect for his thousands of dollars, many times the amount of any other individual donor to the other candidates? Have special interests bought and paid for this election? And finally, how will all this money affect these candidates future decisions if they are elected? These are all troubling questions that may now, sadly, go unanswered before the April 7 election.

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