A political fund controlled by state House Minority Leader Patrick Neville of Castle Rock and his brother, Joe Neville, has been attempting for months to raise money for the effort to recall Colorado Gov. Jared Polis.
But groups involved in the recall effort say they haven't seen any of that money yet.
The most recent fundraising email was sent Aug. 5 under the name of Take Back Colorado, asking respondents to reply to a survey on whether the governor should be recalled. It included a link to a donation site, operated by Values First Colorado, the 527 campaign committee run by Joe Neville that primarily supports Republican candidates for the Colorado state House.
Under tax law, 527 committees can raise unlimited funds to influence an election or issue but can't coordinate with a campaign.
Joe Neville told Colorado Politics that any money received through that Aug. 5 fundraising email would go to the Resist Polis PAC, one of two groups involved in the petition effort to recall the governor. He did not respond to a request on how much money was raised by the Polis-recall emails.
But Resist Polis PAC spokeswoman Korry Lewis said the group's dealings with the Nevilles have been frustrating, because while "we've been talking to them since April" about the fundraising emails, it hasn't seen any money yet.
The deadline for gathering recall signatures is Sept. 6.
She said Joe Neville recently agreed to send Resist Polis PAC the money that had been raised through those email pitches, perhaps as much as $3,000.
Meanwhile, a representative of another recall group, Dismiss Polis, which is circulating recall petitions around the state, said it has never been contacted by the Nevilles.
“We’d like to coordinate with them,” said Karen Kataline, spokeswoman for Dismiss Polis. Kataline said her group’s mission is to unite everyone who is working to recall the governor, although she said the petition effort still faces challenges from other recall groups -- most notably a self-described “official” recall Gov. Jared Polis committee, which is now facing a campaign finance complaint over accepting donations for a recall that was never started.
Recall groups want to oust the governor over his support of such hot-button issues as "red flag" legislation allowing guns to be seized from people deemed a threat, a revamp of state oil and gas regulations, and election of presidents by national popular vote.
While Joe Neville did not respond to a question about his group's Polis-recall fundraising total, records show Values First Colorado has raised $289,522 in the 2020 election cycle through June 30, including more than $103,000 since April 1.
Values First's largest contributions in the 2020 cycle to date came from Anadarko Petroleum ($15,000) and Noble Energy ($10,000), two of the largest oil and gas producers operating in Colorado, both in December 2018.
However, Noble Energy told the Colorado Times Recorder that their donations were to help elect candidates, not fund recalls.
Anadarko -- which was acquired last week by Houston-based Occidental Petroleum Corp. in a transaction valued at $55 billion -- contributed $17,000 in the 2018 election cycle to Values First, while Noble Energy contributed $10,000 in the 2018 cycle. Neither company has donated to the group since December.
As Colorado Politics reported in February in an investigation of how "soft money" was raised and used by Neville-linked groups last year, in the 2018 election cycle, Values First drew in more than $1.214 million in contributions under its mission to help elect Republicans to the state House. But the separate campaign committees that spent that money left more than $305,000 in the bank instead of using it to help elect GOP candidates.
Rearden Strategic, a political firm operated by Joe Neville, took in $194,360 in consulting fees, both for the company and for some of its individual employees, in the 2018 cycle, CoPo has reported. The money left on the table led to complaints from some Republicans about how the Nevilles ran the 2018 election campaign.
Meanwhile, the Dismiss and Resist Polis groups are facing a campaign finance complaint over the so-called “Polis penny” -- their practice of giving a souvenir penny back to anyone who makes a donation* to the recall efforts. The issue is that $20 is the trigger for collecting information on donors required by state law, so a net donation of $19.99 theoretically falls under that limit.
Kataline told Colorado Politics that Dismiss Polis checked whether it could give back the penny with the Secretary of State’s office prior to launching the fundraising. Kataline claimed the Secretary of State’s staff had OK'd the practice.
The penny is a memento, Kataline said, that's given to any donor, and the group also gives the pennies to kids who show up at petition-signing drives. She added that her group does collect all required information on donors.
However, the Secretary of State's office told Colorado Politics that it does not provide legal advice, instead referring to statutes and rules set up by the office.
With regard to the Dismiss group, Serena Woods, communications director for the office, said: "A representative from this group did call and the campaign finance team referred them to [applicable rules and statutes] and also discussed the potential issues with 'accepting anonymous contributions' below the $20 itemization threshold and the possibility of having to defend their actions should a complaint be filed. As you know, a complaint was filed on Aug. 7. We are in the initial review timeframe (10 business days), so we cannot comment on the current complaint."
Some of the recall signing events have been marred by protests, Kataline said, including a recent incident in Wheat Ridge where a protester attempted to steal petitions. The petition circulators filed a report with the police over the incident, she said.
“If this campaign does not threaten them, why are they going to so much trouble to discount it?” Kataline said. “People are fired up about it.”
Curtis Hubbard -- spokesman for Democracy First, which is raising funds to oppose the Polis recall, complained to Colorado Politics about "the unending strings of grifters pushing bogus recalls to fund their extreme interests."
Democracy First has so far raised $616,046 to push back against the recalls; another anti-recall group, Colorado Way of Life, has raised $222,763 through July 22, despite a Facebook post earlier this week that claimed those backing the recall have "the big money, we've got the people."
Both groups are working against the attempted recalls of Polis as well as of Democratic state lawmakers. Of those contributions to both groups, $177,500 have come from the Democratic Legislative Campaign Committee.
CORRECTION: This article has been update to correct the Nevilles' party affiliation in an Associated Press photo caption. A previous version also incorrectly stated that the Polis penny was given to anyone making a donation of $20 or more.