No Dollar Left Behind: Money in the 2015 Jefferson County Colorado School Board Races & Recall
The 2015 Jefferson County school board races in Colorado made headlines around the country due to the fervor of Jefferson County residents and unheard of million dollar campaign spending. Colorado county school board races are unique because they are not subject to electioneering communication reporting requirements, contribution limits, Independent Ethics Commission jurisdiction or bans on gifts from lobbyists. Exemptions of Colorado county school board races from typical campaign finance regulations coupled with the national spotlight on the Jefferson County school board recall opened the door to massive spending by candidates and outside groups. Obtaining information on the money involved in the 2015 Jefferson County school board races and recall was difficult due to few public sources of information, vague documentation and the funneling of money through multiple organizations. What was discovered showed very different sources of money and tactics used by proponent and opponent groups. Teachers unions and the people living in Jefferson County financially supported proponent groups and “clean slate” candidates. Barely any of the money given to opponent groups and non-“clean slate” candidates could be traced back to residents of Jefferson County. Additionally, untraceable nonprofit organizations were heavily involved with opponent groups and non-clean slate candidates. Disclosed spending on the 2015 Jefferson County school board races and recall was $1,130,215.69. However, the actual amount spent will never be known because many of the groups involved were not legally required to disclose their spending. As a result, the public has very few ways to find out who is influencing elections in Colorado county school board races and recalls.
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