The first round of candidate campaign finance reports due into the Secretary of State’s office Tuesday confirm that non-reform, union-friendly candidates in the Thompson School District are far outpacing their competitors in both contributions and spending.
They also show that at least one candidate – Denise Montagu – isn’t reporting all her contributions.
Lynn Bartels, director of communication for the Secretary of State’s office, confirmed Wednesday that a $2,500 donation from the Colorado Education Association (CEA), the state teachers union, was missing from incumbent Denise Montagu’s report.
Montagu is second among candidates in contributions with just under $16,500 ($19,000 when the union contribution is included). Only Pam Howard has collected more at nearly $24,000.
With the exception of a $5,000 donation from Loveland resident Leslie Jabaily, most of Howard’s contributions are in the form of $15 to $100 donations that appear to be mostly from current and retired teachers in the district with ties to the local union or Democratic Party.
Howard and Montagu also received $200 contributions from Jared Polis, a Democrat who represents Loveland in the 2nd Congressional District.
The Public Education Committee, the small donor committee for CEA, reported to the Secretary of State’s Office that that they donated $2,500 to Montagu on Sept. 28. But Montagu’s report does not show any donations for $2,500, donations on Sept. 28, or donations from CEA.
Additionally, Montagu had not filed that she returned the money as of press time.
Nancy Rumfelt, founder of Liberty Watch-Colorado, filed a complaint with the Secretary of State’s office Wednesday afternoon.
Liberty Watch-Colorado is a Loveland-based organization that according to it’s Facebook page, says its mission is “advocating for the Principles of Liberty through education and holding elected officials accountable in upholding and defending the Principles of Liberty,
Rumfelt said she believed voters in the Thompson School District deserve honesty and transparency from those that want to represent them, especially after one of the three board members, who along with Montagu and Howard is considered to be part of the minority members, called for it during a recent school board meeting, Rumfelt said.
“Lori Hvizda-Ward recently called for transparency when she asked about large contributions buying influence on the Board,” Rumfelt said. “Lori had a great point. When someone gives such a large contribution, what are they trying to buy? We hope Ms. Montagu will own up to the fact that she appears to be trying to avoid talking about the teachers union and their support by not reporting such a sizable contribution. We can understand why politically she didn’t want anyone to know the teachers union was her biggest financial supporter, but you can’t fail to report contributions. The rules should apply to everyone, and voters should hold her accountable for her lack of transparency.”
Montagu had not returned request for comment as of press time.
The bulk of Montagu’s in-kind donations are in space rent ($300) from Barry Floyd, who has also donated office space at a cost of $1,115 and catering from Great Plates Catering ($1,300) for a party on May 21.
Her largest non-in-kind expenditures total approximately $5,000 in yard signs and $3,000 in mailings and her launch party at nearly $2,500 total between in-kind contributions and cash expenditures, which included a $150 to Loveland Ale Works.
Loveland Ale Works donated $150 in cash that is reported being for a “keg” for that launch party.
Howard’s largest expenses are in yard signs (nearly $5,000) and printing, designing and mailers (about $2,700).
Fellow, union-friendly candidate David Levy was third among Thompson school board candidates in total contributions, with just under $10,500.
Combined, the three have collected more than $50,000 in contributions, more than three times their competitors.
The outside big money fellow board member Lori Hvizda-Ward and former state senator Bob Bacon predicted would flow into the reform candidates in a Loveland Reporter Herald story from September has not come to fruition.
“For Bacon, it is disturbing to see outside money being used to influence local school districts,” the Reporter Herald reported. “And Ward wonders exactly what that outside money is buying.
“… Ward noted, no one knows what voters will decide until Election Day (Nov. 3). ‘Depending on how this election goes in November, it could be the end of that baloney,” Ward said. “Or it could ramp it up.’”
Individually, Montagu ($11,200), Howard ($9,700) and Levy ($7,100) have all spent more than their opponents have raised.
Combined, the three have spent twice as much ($28,000) as the remaining five candidates have collected in contributions ($14,333).
At press time, challenger Vance Hansen had not filed reports.
Montagu has raised five times as much money as candidates Bruce Finger, Jeff Swanty, and Aimie Randall. She has raised three times as much as Tomi Grundvig. Her undisclosed union contribution alone was just $160 short of Randall’s entire contributions at $2,660.