A watchdog organization is calling for transparency in a complaint filed against Douglas Schools for Douglas Kids, an independent expenditure committee that is backing anti-reform candidates who are collectively known as “commUNITY” in the …
A watchdog organization is calling for transparency in a complaint filed against Douglas Schools for Douglas Kids, an independent expenditure committee that is backing anti-reform candidates who are collectively known as “commUNITY” in the Douglas County School Board race.
The complaint, filed by Campaign Integrity Watchdog with the Colorado Secretary of State's office on Oct. 26, says that Douglas Schools for Douglas Kids “failed to file accurate and timely reports of donations received,” as required under Colorado law.
In an Oct. 16 report filed with the state, the committee reported a $300,000 donation made Oct. 4 by the American Federation of Teachers, a national teachers union. The complaint alleges that the committee did not report a separate donation of $300,000 made Oct. 4 by another entity, American Federation of Teachers Solidarity, which is the name of the account used by the union for political spending, according to Janet Bass, deputy director of public affairs of the American Federation of Teachers.
“It's quite clear in this case that disclosure has neither been full or timely,” said Matt Arnold, director of Campaign Integrity Watchdog, a nonpartisan organization. “Voters deserve to have the information at their fingertips when they are being bombarded with commercials, ads.”
A letter from the American Federations of Teachers to the secretary of state's elections division received on Oct. 27 states that the second filing was a duplicate and an attempt to change the name of the donor to “American Federation of Teachers Solidarity.”
“The second report could be read to mean a second contribution was read,” wrote Brandon Boswell, deputy political director of the American Federation of Teachers. “However, this is incorrect. There was only one contribution made, the amount was for $300,000, it was made on 10/4, and the correct name of the contributor is American Federation of Teachers Solidarity.”
The duplicate is in the process of removal, according to the secretary of state's website.
Moving forward, the secretary of state's office of administrative courts will assign the complaint to an administrative law judge, who will set a hearing, which is typically within 15 days but can be extended for up to 30 days, if requested, according Julia Sunny, a spokeswoman from the secretary of state.
“There is no set timeline for a ruling,” Sunny said in an email correspondence, “and the penalty is at the administrative law judge's discretion, based on all the factors presented.”
Still, Arnold is concerned with large sums of money from outside interest groups flooding into local school board elections in recent years, he said.
“There is a massive amount of money being spent in these elections — why?” said Arnold. “What are these groups trying to buy?”
Douglas Schools for Douglas Kids did not return a request for comment.
Committees and groups supportive of — but not affiliated with — candidates have injected more than half a million dollars into this year's school board race, which culminates with the Nov. 7 election. Donations include hundreds of thousands of dollars by the national teachers' union mentioned in the complaint and at least tens of thousands to a Republican committee that seeks to ensure conservative candidates are elected throughout the state.
More than $168,000 has been contributed directly to candidates' campaigns.
Running against “commUNITY” candidates are four candidates known as the Elevate Douglas County slate. The race essentially is a four-on-four contest, with the stakes being the direction of a school district that since 2009 has been run by a board that has implemented a number of controversial reforms.