Political contributions made by a prominent conservative lobbyist appear to have run afoul of state campaign finance law.
Michael Fields, a registered lobbyist for Advance Colorado Action, gave three contributions during the legislative session to three Republican statewide candidates, according to the Secretary of State's lobbyist database.
State campaign finance law bars professional or volunteer lobbyists from giving contributions to statewide candidates during the legislative session – whether that's for governor, secretary of state, treasurer, attorney general – or to state House or Senate candidates. The prohibition on incumbents is more prominently known.
Fields told Colorado Politics he was not aware the law also prohibits giving to candidates during the legislative session and vowed to rectify the error.
"If I was aware of it, I obviously wouldn’t have done it," he said. "I knew that you couldn’t donate during session to legislators voting on bills, but didn’t know it applied to candidates who weren’t in office, especially for positions like AG, which have nothing to do with passing legislation during session. Obviously, it will all be corrected."
One of the contributions had already been returned; the other will be refunded, according to the candidate who got it. The third contribution, however, appears to be legal.
Fields has been a lobbyist for various Republican-affiliated groups since at least 2019. Since 2011, he has given more than $4,000 to Republican candidates, but all those contributions were outside of the legislative sessions or at times when he was not a registered lobbyist.
The first contribution at issue occurred on Jan. 27 for a $500 contribution to John Kellner, the District Attorney for the 18th Judicial District who is the Republican nominee for Attorney General. The Democratic-leaning advocacy group ProgressNow Colorado filed a campaign finance complaint on May 20 against Kellner, who returned the contribution the same day. The Secretary of State's election division has until June 6 to make an initial decision on that complaint.
The second contribution was for $200 on April 9 to Logan County Commissioner Byron Pelton, the Republican nominee for Senate District 1. Pelton, when notified of the contribution by Colorado Politics, said he would return it immediately.
The third contribution was made to former Speaker of the House Frank McNulty, who is running for the *4th Congressional District seat on the CU Board of Regents. However, state law limiting lobbyist contributions appears to apply only to candidates for the House or Senate or to executive offices – not to the CU board of regents or the state board of education. Both are also considered statewide offices but not executive offices.
The statute in question is CRS 1-45-105.5, which bars professional and volunteer lobbyists from making contributions during the legislative session to members or candidates for the General Assembly and to candidates for executive offices: governor, secretary of state, treasurer and attorney general. That prohibition extends for 30 days past the session's conclusion, which ended on May 11.
Editor's note: a previous version listed the wrong seat for McNulty.