Update: At least two of the nine Denver Public Schools Board of Education candidates -- Michael Kiley and Meg Schomp -- voluntarily disclosed all campaign contributions over $100 by midnight on October 25, fulfilling a request from a coalition of organizations that includes the Denver teachers union, which has endorsed both Kiley and Schomp.
The other two union-endorsed candidates do not appear to have disclosed their contributions -- and neither have the four so-called reform candidates.
Kiley, who is running At-Large, posted a list of donors on his website. Likewise, Schomp, who is running in District 3, posted a donor list on her website. Both Kiley and Schomp's biggest donations have come from the Denver Classroom Teachers Association itself. The DCTA Fund has contributed $27,000 to Schomp's campaign, according to her list, plus $13,427 worth of in-kind donations. As for Kiley, his list says that the DCTA Fund has contributed $12,500, plus in-kind donations valued at $38,046.
The union also endorsed candidates Rosario C. de Baca and Roger Kilgore. We reached out to both of them, and will update this post when we hear back. As of this morning, it did not appear that either had posted an updated list of donor contributions on their websites.
Likewise, it did not appear that candidates Barbara O'Brien, Rosemary Rodriguez, Mike Johnson and Landri Taylor had posted updated lists, either. (Candidate Joan Poston does not have a website.) Today, however, representatives from the O'Brien, Rodriguez, Johnson and Taylor campaigns assured us that their candidates were complying with the Secretary of State's schedule for campaign finance disclosures. According to that schedule, the candidates' first report was filed October 15 and a second is due November 1.
Two weeks ago, the DCTA, the Denver Alliance for Public Education, Colorado Fair Share and COPIRG sent letters to all nine candidates, asking them to voluntarily disclose any campaign contributions over $100 by midnight every Friday leading up to the election, which will take place on November 5 (though the ballots have already been mailed).
Given the timing, Johnson's campaign manager, Will Andras, says that Johnson's campaign decided not to post a list of donors on its website. Also contributing to the decision? That the folks behind the letter are supporting Johnson's opponent, Schomp.
"Why would we report this when our report is going to be public in a week anyway?" Andras says. (The letter asked candidates to disclose their contributions last Friday, and the next campaign finance report will posted on the Secretary of State's website this Friday.) "I think it's maybe a noble goal but I don't feel like this is the way to do it."
"We think transparency is very important, but we don't think it's going far enough with their request," adds Manny Lopez del Rio, who is Rodriguez's campaign manager. "Maybe next year, we can come up with an agreement much earlier in the race."
Original post, published October 25: A coalition of five organizations is calling for the nine candidates running in the Denver Public Schools Board of Education election to voluntarily disclose any campaign contributions over $100 by midnight tonight -- and by midnight next Friday, as well.
"The focus for our letter was that when people cast their vote, they had the opportunity to look at not only the people that were running for the campaign, but also the people that were supporting them," says Kristi Butkovich of the Denver Alliance for Public Education.
As we explained in our recent cover story, "Drawing the Line," nine candidates are running for four open seats on the seven-member DPS school board.
Four of the candidates -- Barbara O'Brien, Rosemary Rodriguez, Mike Johnson and Landri Taylor -- agree that the district is headed in the right direction. Four others -- Michael Kiley, Rosario C. de Baca, Meg Schomp and Roger Kilgore -- think the district is not. The ninth candidate, Joan Poston, is more of a wild card.
If voters fill at least three of the four open seats with candidates who disagree with DPS's current brand of reform -- which includes strategies such as closing and replacing failing schools, encouraging charter and innovation schools, and tying teacher evaluations to student test scores -- the 88,000-student district could undergo a big shift.
The candidates already filed campaign finance reports in mid-October. The reports revealed a pattern: the so-called reform candidates have received big bucks from such moneyed folks as Phil Anschutz and Bruce Benson, while the non-reform candidates have gotten the bulk of their support from the teachers unions. The next reports aren't due until November 1, just four days before the election. But since ballots have already been mailed, chances are many people will have voted by then.
The Denver Alliance for Public Education, Colorado Fair Share, the Denver Classroom Teachers Association and COPIRG are seeking to shine some light on the donations received between reporting deadlines. In a letter to candidates, they point to Amendment 65, which voters approved last year. Largely symbolic, the measure directed Colorado's congressional delegation to introduce a constitutional amendment to limit campaign contributions.
"Until Congress takes action," the letter says, "it is critical that candidates for all races, including school boards, regularly disclose campaign contributions."
Caroline Webster, the statewide field organizer for Colorado Fair Share, says the organizations have heard back from two candidates. Rosemary Rodriguez, who's running for the District 2 seat, said she'd comply with all current laws and noted that she's limiting her campaign contributions to $3,000, Webster says. And Joan Poston, who's running at-large, said she's limiting her contributions to $100, Webster adds.
As of this morning, none of the candidates appear to have posted updated campaign-contribution information on their websites, as the letter requested. (Poston does not have a website.) Webster says she'll likely follow up with the candidates who do not comply. "This election is getting such great attention that we really wanted candidates to keep in mind what voters have requested," Webster says, referring to Amendment 65.
Read the full letter below.
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