The race for Aurora mayor is already heating up, with at least two former council members expressing interest in the post and murmurs that U.S. Rep. Mike Coffman might make a run — but that 2019 election could come with new campaign spending limits.
A city policy committee gave Council Member Charlie Richardson’s ordinance a nod of approval Tuesday and moved it onto a study session where the entire council will discuss it.
If approved in a formal council meeting, there would be a $2,500 contribution limit to council candidates and a $5,000 limit to mayor candidates.
> RELATED: Ryan Frazier mulls run for Aurora mayor
The limit is well above state contributions caps — $400 for state House and Senate candidates. But Richardson said that’s on purpose. He said he fears dark money might become much more prevalent if the spending limit was stricter.
“It’s my opinion that PACs are very, very active in the state legislative arena,” Richardson said.
Vital Colorado dropped $100,000 into a PAC that benefited five council candidates in 2017, according to the Aurora Sentinel newspaper. The same group spent about $80,000 is Greeley in 2017 as well, according to the Greeley Tribune.
While Richardson admitted during the meeting that his latest race in western Aurora cost about $53,000 to win, fellow Council Member Dave Gruber said he didn’t see any contributions that neared the proposed $2,500 limit.
The draft ordinance is based on Lakewood’s rules, Richardson said. That city has the same spending limit. The city lawmaker said he also examined Denver’s most recent adaptation of rules, 2E which was approved by 70 percent of voters this year, but Richardson said he found them to be “too draconian.”
Additionally, the proposed Aurora ordinance would attempt to curb limited liability companies from being a secret political spending mechanism. LLCs donating more than $100 to a campaign would have to accompany a letter notifying the candidate of the donation, plus the names and addresses of each member of the LLC.
This is Richardson’s second attempt at an ordinance aimed at city ethics and transparency this year. Last month he and council member Marsha Berzins proposed a version of an ethics code, but it was defeated after several council members complained it was too weak.
Council member Nicole Johnston is expected to bring forth her version of the ethics code in 2019 — a policy note she touted before being elected in 2017.