Dan Maes: If he broke rules by collecting cash in burlap bag, statute of limitations has run out

In recent days, KHOW's Peter Boyles has talked up photos by T.L. James of a December 2009 appearance at which gubernatorial candidate Dan Maes collected contributions in a burlap bag. If he did so without properly recording donor info, he may well have broken campaign laws. But did he? Maes spokesman Nate Strauch isn't sure -- but in any event, he says the statute of limitations on violations last year has already expired.

"It goes back to the same issue with the Freda Poundstone contribution," Strauch says in reference to the feisty octogenarian who raised a stink over a disputed $300; she now supports Maes opponent Tom Tancredo. "As a first-time candidate, Dan didn't realize all the ins and outs of the campaign-finance rules, and several contributions, including Freda's, were collected improperly and recorded improperly."

Is the same true of the December 2009 event? Strauch wasn't on Maes's team at the time (he previously spoke for senatorial candidate Jane Norton), and he says "I wouldn't want to comment on a specific event or instance. But there is a six-month statute of limitations on campaign-finance complaints, and we would be talking about issues outside that time frame."

Moreover, Strauch emphasizes that "ever since Dan removed his first treasurer from that role, he maintains that those improprieties have ceased."

More recent fundraising has gone well, Strauch says, citing Maes's trip to assorted Western Slope locales this past weekend. "Dan's strategy is to get in front of as many groups as he can, where he can talk to people face to face," he adds, "and he finds that when he can speak to people one on one, they almost always come away with a positive impression of him." As such, "he feels he has some momentum on his side heading into the stretch run."

Strauch concedes that the Maes campaign hasn't done any internal polling, so he can't quantify this assertion -- "but Dan has gone on record as saying he doesn't believe the polling showing him in the teens is accurate. On election day, he feels many people will vote for him because he is the Republican nominee and, to quote him, 'That's what they've always done.'"

If that's the case, Maes should easily surpass the 10 percent threshold, thereby preventing the Colorado Republican Party from being designated a minority party -- a scenario that could have all kinds of negative repercussions. But is Maes merely in the race at this point to register a respectable finish, as opposed to thinking he's got a reasonable shot at victory?

"If Dan didn't believe he could win, he wouldn't be in the race," Strauch says. "The fact that he's still in the race shows he believes this is a winnable race for him."

Meanwhile, Strauch is hopeful that the next fundraising statement will trend upward, as the past several have (despite overall modest totals), and he's looking forward to the next round of gubernatorial debates -- tonight in Pueblo, tomorrow for a session sponsored by the Denver Post and 9News, plus get-togethers put on by the Colorado Association of Commerce and Industry, Fox 31 and CBS 4 on October 14, October 22 and October 29, respectively.

Don't expect to see Maes outside any of them carrying a burlap bag.

KEEP WESTWORD FREE... Since we started Westword, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Denver, and we'd like to keep it that way. With local media under siege, it's more important than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" program, allowing us to keep offering readers access to our incisive coverage of local news, food and culture with no paywalls.
Michael Roberts has written for Westword since October 1990, serving stints as music editor and media columnist. He currently covers everything from breaking news and politics to sports and stories that defy categorization.
Contact: Michael Roberts