Campaign finance reports are due every 15 days during the current city council election cycle. Most campaigns filed March 15 reports late Wednesday afternoon. Of the races, the District 3 (Richard Skorman v. Chuck Fowler) and the District 5 (Lynette Crow-Iverson v. Jill Gaebler) contests appear to be both the most interesting and the most hotly contested.
In District 3, Skorman brought in $25,178 from 150 contributors. Elizabeth Dean gave $2,000, Raphael Sassower $1,000 and Tom and Betsy Kiemel contributed $1,000. There were a couple of other large contributions, but most ranged from $25-$100.
By contrast, Fowler raised $14,345 from 14 contributors. Most came from the Housing & Building Association of Colorado Springs’ political action committee, which gave him $10,000 in addition to the $6,000 they had previously contributed. Other contributors included Jack Damioli ($500) and Landhuis Investments ($1,000).
In District 5, Gaebler raised $9,174 from 75 contributors, including $2,000 from Jan Netzer, $1,000 from Raphael Sassower and $1,000 from Steve Durham.
Crow-Iverson’s numbers were surprisingly modest. She took in $3,827 from 14 contributors, including $1,000 each from Schmidt Construction and the Colorado Asphalt Pavement Association. That doesn’t mean that her campaign is underfinanced, though — she benefits, as may other candidates in the race, from expenditures on her behalf from a “dark money” committee, Colorado Citizens Protecting our Constitution IEC. According to CCPoC’s disclosure, the committee spent $1,785 on a “printed advertisement supporting Crow-Iverson.” Managed by Gazette editorial page editor Wayne Laugesen’s spouse Dede Laugesen, CCPoC has brought in $90,000 from unidentified donors and has already directed about $70,000 to the April 4 election, including unspecified media buys, strategic consulting and direct mail pieces.
So-called because they need not reveal their sources of funding, “dark money” organizations have transformed American politics in recent decades. Candidates can remain above the fray, and let anonymous donors fund attack pieces. Donors with unsavory associations can freely give to candidates, and not embarrass them.
It’ll be interesting to see how effective such tactics are in such small-scale elections. Voters are already well acquainted with Skorman and Gaebler, while Crow-Iverson and Fowler are relatively well known, despite being political neophytes. It may be that attack ads, far from damaging their targets, will strengthen them. But if recent history is any guide, mendacious attacks are often productive.