EDITOR’S NOTE: The total amount Caraveo has paid herself has been changed from the original story. Caraveo filed an amended pre-primary report, showing that two payments in May were mistakenly doubled.
THORNTON — While media reports focus on the money raised by the two women running to be the first to represent Colorado’s new 8th Congressional District seat, what has gone unnoticed to date is that the Democrat candidate is using her supporters’ contributions to pay herself a salary.
Since May, Yadira Caraveo has cut herself a total of 10 bi-monthly checks totaling $39,072.50 ranging from a low of $3,382.18 to a high of $5,250.70.
Although legal to an extent, the practice is nearly obsolete. Complete Colorado checked with multiple people who have been inside Colorado politics for decades, and no one can ever remember a candidate paying themselves.
Complete Colorado checked the filing reports for the other seven House of Representative races in Colorado. Incumbents are not allowed to pay themselves a salary, and no other challengers in those races have done so either.
Former Colorado GOP Chairman and political analyst Dick Wadhams said although he can’t recall anyone actually paying themselves a salary, candidates have stretched the definition of how campaign money can be spent. He points to 2007 when Republican Gubernatorial Candidate Dan Maes was fined by the secretary of state’s office for spending nearly one-third of his donations on reimbursements to his family that were not a direct result of his campaign.
The practice of paying one’s self a salary from campaign funds is legal, but likely not utilized because according to the Federal Election Commission’s (FEC) website, the rules around doing so are very specific, including (among other things):
- The salary must not exceed the lesser of the minimum annual salary for the federal office sought or the earned income that candidate received during the year prior to becoming a candidate.
- Individuals who elect to receive a salary from their campaign committees must provide income tax records and additional proof of earnings from relevant years upon request from the Commission.
- Payments of salary from the committee must be made on a pro-rata basis (a candidate may not receive a whole year’s salary if he or she is not a candidate for an entire twelve-month period).
- Salary payments may continue until the date when the candidate is no longer considered a candidate for office or until the date of the general election or general election runoff.
In Caraveo’s case, the minimum annual salary for the federal office sought is $174,000, but her earned income from the previous year as a member of the House of Representatives in Colorado was $41,449.
It is unclear if Caraveo received any income from practicing medicine as a pediatrician; however, she said at a recent forum between she and her opponent Barbara Kirkmeyer that she had left her practice to become a state legislator.
Complete Colorado accessed the payments on raw data reports available on the FEC’s website.
A spokesman for the FEC told Complete Colorado that although candidates are asked to submit their tax returns in advance if they plan to pay themselves a salary, few do, forcing the commission to request the returns when the salary is caught.
Because there were only three payments processed from the second quarter and the commission is still currently working on processing data from the third quarter, it is possible they will ask for Caraveo’s tax return for 2021 after that processing is complete, the spokesman said. Whether that is before the election, it is unknown, but Complete Colorado will continue to follow Caraveo’s reports.
A spokesman for Kirkmeyer’s campaign said Caraveo is not in touch with her constituents.
“At a time when Coloradans are struggling to make ends meet due to Joe Biden’s inflation, Yadira Caraveo is looking out for herself,” said Alan Philp. “She’s not making any personal sacrifice. It makes you wonder who she would look out for in Congress.”
Inquiries to the Caraveo campaign have gone unanswered.
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