A flier cloaked in anonymity that drums up support for three Colorado Springs District 11 school board hopefuls has provoked questions about where it came from, who paid for it and whether campaign-finance laws are being flouted.
The flier, mailed to voters sometime before Oct. 3, touts Carla Albers, Bob Lathen and Reginald Perry as anointed "GOP Conservative Candidates" and asks recipients to vote for the "Republican" candidates on Nov. 1.
Three other candidates -- John Gudvangen, Tami Hasling and Sandra Mann -- also are battling for the three open seats on the seven-member board that governs the city's largest public school district. Mann, a Republican Party precinct leader, wasn't endorsed by the party. Gudvangen is a Democrat and Hasling is unaffiliated.
Outside interest groups are pouring money into the race in a high-stakes battle for control of the district. On one side, advocates of private school vouchers are backing Albers, Perry and Lathen. On the other side, teachers' unions and other voucher opponents are backing Gudvangen, Hasling and Mann.
The Albers-Lathen-Perry flier has made waves in part because school board races in Colorado are nonpartisan by law.
But other questions about the mail piece also were unanswered as of the Independent's press time.
For one, the flier doesn't state who paid for it. The return address belongs to the El Paso County Republican Party, but county GOP chair Terry Kunkel previously has said the party isn't behind the flier.
Response Technologies Inc. printed and mailed the flier. Tom Van Gilder, an employee of the Denver direct-mail firm, says it was paid for by Parents Targeting Achievement, an organization formed just a month ago.
If Parents Targeting Achievement paid for the flier, it would be required to register as a "political committee" under Colorado's campaign-finance law.
However, as of early this week, the group had not registered as such. The organization is registered with the Internal Revenue Service, but claims to be exempt from filing any reports listing political contributions and expenditures.
The group's registered agent, Denver-based Republican operative Scott Shires, tells the Independent he doesn't know who paid for the flier.
"I've not seen any of them," he says.
The Parents Targeting Achievement name appears on another flier also originating from Response Technologies that encourages voters in Harrison School District 2 to cast early ballots.
Shires refuses to name the group's organizers.
Failure to report
Meanwhile, D-11 candidate Albers says she expects to pay for the flier, but adds, "I don't have a bill yet for that."
Albers did not respond to subsequent calls this week seeking comment on the flier's origin. Lathen and Perry also did not respond to interview requests seeking clarification.
If the three candidates are, in fact, paying for the flier, they are required to report it on disclosure forms. In forms that were due at the El Paso County Office of the Clerk & Recorder on Oct. 11, none of them did so.
Under state campaign-finance laws, any money committed by a candidate must be reported as an expense regardless of whether the candidate received a bill, according to Pete Maysmith, executive director of Colorado Common Cause, a campaign-finance watchdog group.
"I think it looks like a huge violation," Maysmith says of the failure to report the expense.
He also questioned the flier's inclusion of the red-white-and-blue GOP elephant logo.
Under state law, candidates can't use a party's symbols without prior permission from the party. And in an Oct. 3 interview, party chair Kunkel appeared surprised that the logo had been used.
"I'm not sure if they should have used it," she said.
-- Terje Langeland and Michael de Yoanna
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