GREELEY —Inconsistencies and questionable campaign practices continue to plague the Democrat candidate for House District 50 — just days before the ballots go into the mail — including non-election related trips to Las Vegas on campaign finance money and avoiding complete answers on statewide issues.
Rochelle Galindo’s ongoing campaign problems date back to mid-July when a second campaign manager stepped down in just a few months, citing abusive behavior from Galindo toward staff. Additionally, questions about her loyalty to her constituents grew from large special interest financing of her campaign and an Independent expenditure group engaging in dirty tactics.
Galindo did not return requests for comment from Complete Colorado.
Galindo’s campaign finance ethics came into question after Complete Colorado looked into her past campaign donations and expenditures and found that after being elected to her first public office in 2015, Galindo spent left over campaign money on a celebratory trip to Las Vegas with an undisclosed companion.
SUPPORT OR OPPOSE?
House District 50 candidate Rochelle Galindo has said she is officially “neutral” on Proposition 112. However, while serving on Greeley City Council, she consistently voted against the industry. She also admitted on Twitter that she would continue that anti- oil and gas sentiment at the state level.
“If you look at my voting record, I have always voted against oil and gas developments within city limits, and my campaign is endorsed by Conservation Colorado and Sierra Club of Colorado. My opponent is a staunch opponent of 112.”
OpenSecrets.org, a nonpartisan, nonprofit that tracks political funding nationwide and its effects on elections, classifies “fundraising” as “money spent to raise money, including event expenses, direct mail appeals, telemarketing, consultants, and online contribution services.”
Galindo’s Las Vegas expenses are marked as “fundraising,” but there are no contributions to her campaign shown as resulting from that trip, in fact the same report only shows $29.83 in total contributions from two people in Greeley and Arvada.
Matt Arnold, director of Campaign Integrity Watchdog and a campaign finance expert, said although statute of limitations have passed to file a complaint with the Secretary of State’s Office, Galindo’s spending is a clear violation of Article 45 of Colorado election laws.
“It crossed the line,” Arnold said of Galindo’s trip. “The law prohibits using campaign funds for personal purposes, specifically personal purposes not related to the election of the candidate.”
Galindo was sworn into her city council seat on Nov. 10, 2015. Her campaign finance reporting for that same day shows expenses charged off as “fundraising” for $485 to Frontier Airlines and $371 to the Excalibur Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas.
On Nov. 16, 2015 there was another “fundraising” entry to Frontier Airlines for $114, and from Nov. 20-24 charges to various casinos and restaurants as well as airport parking and transportation that totaled more than $1,600 for a trip just 10 days after being sworn into office for reasons Galindo’s campaign won’t explain.
Arnold has spent years fighting campaign finance violations in court. He is currently in ongoing litigation with Democrat State Rep. Dan Pabon over travel expenses reported in a similar fashion to Galindo.
“The law says you have two legitimate purposes for campaign funds,” Arnold said. “Category one: Helping get you elected. Category two: Constituent communications and things directly related to your legislative duties, period. That’s the whole point of a campaign committee, is to get you elected. It’s not a slush fund for elected officials. Once elected, there is a limited amount you can do that is directly related to constituent communications or the duties of the office.”
Galindo has never addressed the accusations about her conduct towards her campaign staff herself, but a member of her campaign staff, Adrian Felix, admitted to 1310 KFKA radio host Gail Fallen that Galindo “doesn’t compromise as much as she should.”
Former Greeley City Councilwoman Sandi Elder said that trait does not make for a good public official. She said Galindo was hard to work with when they served together on the Greeley City Council and will not reach across the aisle if elected to HD 50.
“It was always I, I, I, instead of we,” Elder said. “She was always grandstanding. It was never a team effort for her. Everything we did she would take credit for.”
In September, Galindo, who has been running on the platform that she will “stand up to special interests,” was questioned about her finance reports, which showed tens of thousands in union funding going directly to her account and an Independent Expenditure Committee that, at the time, had also spent more than $60,000 on her her campaign that had ties to political heavy weight billionaires George Soros and Tom Steyer.
Although Galindo by law cannot coordinate with “Our Colorado Values,” she has not publicly commented on the flyers, digital media ads and television commercials they have bankrolled alleging her opponent Republican Michael Thuener is anti-public school and threatens to take away funding from Weld County schools.
Theuner has repeatedly denied any kind of radical plan to take away from public schools. In fact, he has said he will make education funding a priority.
During the 2017 Greeley City Council race, Galindo called for more transparency in donors and less outside money.
“This group is spending (thousands of dollars) on attack ads …” Galindo told the Greeley Tribune. “In actuality, it’s a Denver-based group trying to influence our municipal election. I just find irony in that.”
However, in Galindo’s HD 50 race, through Sept. 26, Our Colorado Values has spent nearly $100,000 on her campaign, much of which is on negative attack ads, and of the $2.8 million the group has raised for the 2018 election season. $1.5 million is from Washington D.C. and East Coast-based special interest groups.
Elder said Galindo’s problems are not surprising, she has spent her short time in politics making her office about herself, and not her constituents.
“Ms. Galindo would always forget that others grew up with a diverse background,” said Elder. “But Rochelle thrives on being radical.”