Colorado Senate candidate has never donated to governor |

Colorado Senate candidate has never donated to governor

Kristen Wyatt
The Associated Press
Aspen, CO Colorado
Denver mayor John Hickenlooper's chief of staff Michael Bennet speaks as he and the mayor meet with Rocky Mountain News reporters, editors and the publisher in downtown Denver on Friday morning, July 25, 2003. Bennet is expected to be named Saturday as the future U.S. Senate replacement for Interior Secretary nominee Ken Salazar, according to two Democratic sources who spoke on the condition of anonymity to both Denver-area newspapers. (AP Photo/Rocky Mountain News, Joe Mahoney) ** DENVER POST OUT, NO SALES, MANDATORY CREDIT **
AP | Rocky Mountain News

DENVER ” As Colorado’s governor prepares to appoint Denver Public Schools chief Michael Bennet to replace Democratic Sen. Ken Salazar, the governor can be sure he won’t be dogged by accusations of rewarding a big donor.

Bennet has never donated any money to Democratic Gov. Bill Ritter, who is expected to appoint Bennet to serve the remaining two years of Salazar’s term.

Two sources, speaking on the condition of anonymity, confirmed to The Associated Press that Bennet was Ritter’s pick. Ritter scheduled a news conference at 2 p.m. Saturday to introduce his pick.

It’s such a common practice for politicians to donate to each other’s campaigns that nearly all the likely candidates discussed to fill Salazar’s shoes had donated to Ritter. But not Bennet, according to Colorado campaign finance records.

Even if Bennet had contributed, Colorado’s limits mean Ritter wouldn’t have been indebted to any individual much more than the cost of a fancy steak dinner.

Denver Mayor John Hickenlooper, for example, gave Ritter just $50 ” more than a decade ago, when Ritter was running for Denver district attorney.

Former state Sen. Polly Baca, who wrote personally to Ritter talking up her credentials for the job, donated $350 for Ritter’s 2006 gubernatorial run. Rep. Ed Perlmutter of Denver’s western suburbs gave Ritter $250, though Perlmutter relatives including his wife at the time also gave to Ritter in 2006.

Term-limited House Speaker Andrew Romanoff is among Ritter’s biggest donors, but even his totals aren’t eye-popping. A Romanoff political action committee donated $1,000 to Ritter in 2006, below state limits. Romanoff also gave Ritter $50 when Ritter was running for district attorney.

One of Ritter’s biggest donors ” Democratic Rep. John Salazar, Ken Salazar’s brother ” had said he wasn’t pursuing the appointment. Another donor, Democratic Rep. Diana DeGette of Denver, gave the governor $350 through her campaign, but she too had said she wasn’t seeking the Senate job.

Colorado records list only one state political donation from Bennet, a $50 donation to an educational fund run by former Colorado Gov. Roy Romer, a Democrat who went on to run the Los Angeles Unified School District.

Bennet’s contribution record gives Ritter some political cover as Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich faces accusations by federal authorities of illegally seeking rich bribes for himself and his wife in exchange for the seat vacated by President-elect Barack Obama. Blagojevich has tapped Roland Burris, that state’s attorney general to replace Obama, but the U.S. Senate has indicated it won’t accept his pick because of the scandal.

“All that sort of stuff is kind of off the table” because of Colorado’s limits, said former state Sen. Joan Fitz-Gerald, a Democrat who gave Ritter $700 for his gubernatorial bid and sought the Senate appointment.

But Colorado’s modest contribution limits don’t mean money doesn’t matter in Ritter’s selection. A primary concern for Ritter, observers say, will be choosing someone able to raise at least $10 million over the next two years thought needed to defend the seat. Bennet, who has never run for office, is untested as a fundraiser.

Colorado stingy contribution limits stem from a constitutional amendment approved by Coloradans in 2002 that caps individual contributions for a gubernatorial contest at $500 per election, for a maximum of $1,000 in a year.

Political action committees are allowed to hand out bigger checks, but not by much. They’re capped at $5,000. By comparison, individuals can give $2,300 per election to federal candidates, and more than $108,000 to various parties and committees over a two-year period.

“Colorado is one of the states that has lower campaign contribution limits,” said Steve Mazurana, a political scientist at the University of Northern Colorado in Greeley.

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