As a former state legislative candidate myself, I have tremendous sympathy for first-time candidates attempting to navigate Colorado’s incredibly complex campaign finance rules.  When it comes to incumbent legislators and seasoned politicos, however, my patience wanes.

After conducting a thorough independent investigation, the Open Government Institute of Colorado (I served as executive director) has concluded that state Sen. Linda Newell has violated Colorado campaign finance regulations several times over the last four years. The findings come as Newell campaigns for re-election to her current seat this November.

While a portion of Newell’s violations could be written off as the byproduct of sloppy bookkeeping, others could present more serious issues for Newell’s candidacy.  In addition to failing to meet even minimal disclosure requirements governing the campaign spending of every candidate seeking election to the Colorado General Assembly, Newell’s frequent reimbursements to herself and family members from committee funds raise disconcerting questions about whether more serious violations have occurred.

Unfortunately, we may never get answers. While state law provides procedures and sanctions for filing a campaign finance complaint against Newell for her violations, such complaints must be filed within 180 days of each violation alleged. OGI has declined to proceed with filing a complaint at present due to the fact that the vast majority of Newell’s violations occurred in the three years leading up to 2012.

Campaigns are required to keep receipts for only six months and given that Newell used campaign-funded gift cards to purchase items of unknown purpose, no traceable documentation may even exist.
Read OGI’s full report here.