Builder: We didn’t break election laws
A spokesman for a group that spent, at the very least, $2,000 in the effort to unseat County Commissioner Mick Ireland said he has no plans to file campaign-finance disclosure forms, unless it becomes a legal issue.
Steve Hansen, owner of Hansen Construction, said the Pitkin County Builders Coalition isn’t a political organization and he doesn’t think it’s necessary to file its fund-raising and expenditures information with the county clerk and recorder’s office.
“We’re not in it for the politics, we’re in it to increase professionalism in the building industry,” he said.
The builders coalition’s political activities in July and early August were the source of considerable ire for Ireland as he fought off the latest attempt to recall him from office. The District 2 commissioner won the Aug. 8 election with support from about 60 percent of the voters.
In the 10 or so days leading up to the recall election, the builders coalition purchased numerous half-page ads in both newspapers at a cost of a $230 per ad in The Aspen Times and $182.70 per ad in the Aspen Daily News. The coalition also made a $500 donation to the Committee to Recall Mick Ireland sometime between March 15 and April 12, according to the disclosure forms filed by the recall committee.
All the builders coalition advertisements opened with a bold-lettered plea: “To the citizens of Pitkin County …”
The text in an ad that was used more than once shared a little bit about the builders coalition: “As a construction industry, our companies and our employees cherish the values of our community. We are a part of this community. We work here, we live here. We are your neighbors.”
It then states reasons to recall Mick Ireland: “We must stop pitting one side of the community against another. We must stop the finger pointing and regain a healthy positive political environment in which we can work together for the common good of our community.”
The ad ends in large, bold print: “It is for this and many other reasons that WE SUPPORT THE RE-CALL of Pitkin County Commissioner Mick Ireland.”
Another ad accused Ireland of disobeying the “rules of governance, being “unwilling to adhere to the rules of governance” and “unable to set aside personal prejudices.”
The Colorado Legislature broadened the disclosure rules in the Fair Campaign Practices Act earlier this year, and it appears the builders coalition fits the definition of an issues committee.
According to the law, an issues committee is “any partnership, committee, association, corporation, labor organization, political party, or other organization or group of persons that has accepted total contributions in excess of $500 or made total expenditures in excess of $500 to support or oppose any ballot issue or ballot question.”
Such groups must report expenditures made and contributions received, including the name and address of each individual who contributed $20 or more for the purpose of supporting or opposing a ballot issue or question, the legislation says. Donations to a committee or membership dues need not be reported unless they are used in such a campaign.
Ireland made an issue of those facts in his own campaign advertisements, pointing out that he had fully disclosed his fund-raising and expenditure activities even though the building coalition had not.
Hansen said the group has not been contacted by any county officials or private attorneys about the group’s political activities. “If legally there’s some issue, we certainly want to comply.”
He declined to name the members of the building coalition in an interview yesterday, although he did confirm that Wilke Construction was involved. Hansen also confirmed that the builders coalition had been headquartered in his offices at 310 Airport Business Center and was formed after the county imposed a six-month moratorium on building applications for large homes.
But it has since relocated and is now focused on educational seminars on a variety of technical topics in the construction industry, such as moisture abatement and structural concrete, Hansen said.
“I believe they had an obligation to comply with the law before the election,” Ireland said yesterday. “I’m disappointed with their after-the-fact approach of maybe we’ll comply, maybe we won’t. That’s not their obligation under the law.”
The builders coalition wasn’t the only anti-Ireland organization to skirt campaign laws.
The Committee to Recall Mick Ireland, which led the recall effort from its conception last February, openly flaunted the county’s campaign spending limit of $12,547. Recall committee spokesman Larry Winnerman explained the decision to exceed the county cap by saying the spending limits were unconstitutional and devised to keep incumbents in office.
And the Common Sense Alliance, which has campaigned against Ireland since the mid-1990s, didn’t disclose its funding sources after it took out several advertisements last winter urging voters to sign the petitions needed to force the recall election.
The CSA has long maintained that it was not affected by the disclosure rules because it did not fit the definition of an issues committee. After the state Supreme Court agreed, the legislature made the changes described above.
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