Hunt doles out $50,000 for Base 2 campaign | AspenTimes.com

Hunt doles out $50,000 for Base 2 campaign

Developer Mark Hunt responds to questions about his Base2 lodge proposal at an Aspen Public Radio forum at Belly Up in October.

Mark Hunt is bankrolling the campaign group pushing for support of the developer's Base2 lodge with $50,000, more than 12 times the amount his opponents have raised.

That's according to each side's report of campaign contributions and expenditures filed with the city of Aspen this week. The reporting cycle, the first for the November election, covers the period from June 16 through Oct. 8.

The report for Citizens for Aspen Alive, the issues group championing Base 2, reported Hunt's contribution and no others.

Hunt said Wednesday that should be enough money for the campaign.

"I think that will cover it," he said.

Foes of the 37-unit lodge, Vote No on Base 2, reported $4,089 in contributions for the cycle. Among the donors are City Councilman Bert Myrin ($270 worth of lawn signs), St. Moritz Lodge owner Michael Behrendt ($250), former Aspen mayor candidate Maurice Emmer ($250) and Jim DeFrancia ($50), principal of the development firm Lowe Enterprises.

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"We don't have those kind of financial resources to match that kind of spending," said Donald Davidson, treasurer of Vote No on Base2.

Even so, Aspen resident Ward Hauenstein, one of the more vocal opponents of the lodge, said he feels confident about the defeat of Base2.

"I've always felt that you can't buy an election, and I know that is totally contrary to Citizens United (the lobbying group that won a Supreme Court case over unlimited campaign spending), but I just have to have faith in the people to make the right decision," he said. "Bert (Myrin) and Mick (Ireland, the former Aspen elected official) tell me I'm naive on this, that the voters of Aspen can be bought with a slick advertising campaign. They (Base2 supporters) are certainly going out there and giving away T-shirts and pizza and beer. All I can hope is people based their decision on the facts."

High-profile campaigns that raise the most money don't always translate into triumphant results.

Advocates for the ban of the sale of fur clothing in Aspen outspent their opponents in the February 1990 election, but lost 1,701 to 898. The Los Angeles Times reported then that supporters of the ban spent $35,823, while proponents spent $30,648.

In the 2007 municipal elections, candidate Mick Ireland raised nearly $40,000 and Tim Semrau some $50,000. Ireland defeated Semrau, 1,036 to 747, in a runoff.

But in the November 2012 election, voters rejected an advisory question for the construction of the Castle Creek Hydroelectric Facility. Ireland, who was Aspen's mayor at the time, said the campaign to defeat the measure was funded by nonprofits that didn't have to disclose their donors or expenditures. He claimed that more than $100,000 was spent without donor disclosure.

Ireland, who isn't working with Vote No on Base2 — though he has written in his Aspen Daily News column that he's against it — said Hunt's effort to ramp up the campaign might be a little too late.

"I think the 'no's' are going to win. It's a little late for (Hunt) now. They don't have the full commitment they need, but the outcome is never fully cooked," he said. "Hunt is an underdog, even with $50,000. It just takes a while to penetrate the public consciousness. He got a late start, and it's an uphill battle."

Citizens for Aspen Alive's report showed its war chest had a balance of $36,404 after spending $13,596 in the most recent cycle. Among its expenses were $3,750 on a video production by television station Aspen 82, $6,290 for political mail-outs handled by a Florida agency and more than $3,400 with The Agency Aspen, a Carbondale-based advertising firm, and $34 at New York Pizza. Aspen residents also recently received phone calls from a polling company hired by the Base2 campaign.

"We're really just trying to get the facts out there as we see them," Hunt said, "and try to inform the public as much as we can through different avenues and let the people decide."

Vote No on Base2 reported a remaining balance of $1,116. Among its expenses were $980 on stamps, $37 on checks, $300 on ads in the Aspen Daily News and $1,638 on campaign stickers.

The city puts a $250 cap on donations to individual campaigns per reporting cycle. But there is no limitation on contributions to issues campaigns, said City Clerk Linda Manning.

Aspen residents will decide on Base2 after a bizarre turn of events that ultimately led to City Council referring their ordinance, which approved the lodge, to a public vote.

The lodge, proposed to take place of the Conoco service station at 232 E. Main St., calls for 15,000 square feet and three levels. The city sent out mail ballots this week for the Nov. 3 election.

rcarroll@aspentimes.com