The chair of the "Official Recall Governor Jared Polis Committee" tells a Denver TV station that claims that the committee gave out $11,000 in gifts to associates of the group are "literally fake news" and the result of a mistake.
The committee has said it was collecting donations to back the effort to recall Gov. Jared Polis.
"Official" recall committee chair Juli-Andra Fuentes talked to KDVR-Fox31 on Friday about the cash payments, initially reported to state officials as "gifts."
Colorado Politics first reported the gifts on Thursday, made known in a filing late Wednesday through the Secretary of State's TRACER campaign finance database. She has not responded to CoPo's requests to comment on the matter.
Several hours after Colorado Politics reported the filing as "gifts," the committee amended the report to list the payments as being for "consultant and professional services," listing the payments' purpose as "board approved -- thank you for caring about Colorado."
A campaign finance expert told CoPo the payments from a group organized to fund a recall campaign may violate Colorado campaign finance laws. However, the Secretary of State's Office, which oversees campaign finance enforcement, says it will not investigate unless a member of the public files a complaint. As of Friday, no one had done so.
After telling KDVR the stories were "fake news," Fuentes went on to say that the TRACER filing that initially listed the payments as gifts was an error made by an intern. She claimed the money went to board members who needed the money.
"There was a couple of board members — one has a sister with Stage IV cancer and she really needs it. We’ve got another one who, you know, her husband lost his job in oil and gas, and they now have to leave the state. They really need it,” Fuentes told the station.
The committee also reported that it paid $6,000 in charitable contributions, which is allowed under Colorado campaign finance law, to several Weld County charities and a Virginia charity that helps homeless women veterans.
"Official Recall Governor Jared Polis Committee" previously sent $29,000 to an independent expenditure committee — Colorado for Trump — also controlled by Fuentes. However, the Trump campaign has denied any ties to Colorado for Trump and warned it would take "appropriate action" for using Trump's name.
Some donors have expressed outrage over the payments and have asked for their money back. The committee, which raised $114,000 through Sept. 25, has not refunded any donations, despite repeated requests from donors posted on the group's Facebook page for the past month.
The "Official" recall committee never submitted a petition to recall Polis or had any involvement with the recall effort. That work was done by two other unaffiliated committees: Dismiss Polis and Resist Polis PAC. That effort failed when those two groups did not turn in signatures to the Secretary of State's Office on Sept. 6.
A spokeswoman claimed the two groups had gathered about 300,000 signatures out of the 631,266 valid signatures that would have been needed to put a recall on the ballot.