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How Special Interests Buy Influence

PACs, Super PACs, and Dark Money: these are three of the primary tools used by self-interested individuals and groups to buy access, influence, and ultimately results in our political process. 

Do you know what these terms mean?  Most people do not, but understanding them is key to understanding how to fix the corruption in our political process.  Below is our summary and a graphic we created to illustrate the key parts of this information. 

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Summary of Responses from Denver Candidates to our Questionnaire

Overall Summary Table of Candidate Responses
Star ratings indicate the number of responses by each candidate in support of reform and number of ways the candidates self-limit contributions to their own campaigns.

Candidate Office Responses in Support of Reform Self-limiting Contributions to their Campaign Total Stars
Paul Fiorino Mayor 5 5 10
Paul Kahmann Council District 6 5 4 9
Michael Levy Council District 7 5 4 9
Anne McGihon Council District 7 4 4 8
Luchia Brown Council District 7 5 3 8
Ian Harwick Council District 7 3 4 7
Kayvan Khalatbari Council At-Large 3 4 7
Chris Weder Council District 10 3 3 6
Travis Leiker Council District 10 4 2 6
Liz Adams Council District 6 4 1 5
Tea Schook Council District 11 2 0 2



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The results are in from our Denver candidates questionnaire...

Two weeks ago we sent a questionnaire to all of the candidates for Denver's city offices, including Mayor, Auditor, and City Council.  We wanted to accomplish three goals:

1) Learn about how the candidates for local office view the issue of special interest corruption of politics;
2) Help voters in Denver learn about the views of candidates on this issue; and
3) Find and highlight any candidates who say they will lead on this issue, and are doing so in how they run their campaigns.

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Some Solutions to Special Interest Corruption

Our goal in reviewing these campaign reports is to empower you in your discussions with your friends, family, and fellow community leaders.


So far our analyses have provided a few data points for you to use in your conversations:

  • In the House of Representatives, 47% of the campaign funds come from special interest PACs.  In the Colorado House, it's 44%.
  • In the U.S. Senate, it is only 25% - better, but still too much.
  • At the local level, it is lower for some candidates, but not much lower for incumbents.

You need to be able to make the case to your fellow concerned voters that special interest group money has corrupted our politics and we can do something about it.

We already know what many people will say in response when you tell them these stats, as we've heard most of the arguments ourselves - from candidates, lobbyists, PAC directors, union leaders, business owners, and even our family, friends, and neighbors. 

But here is the truth:

Candidates do not have to take the money,
it does corrupt our system,
and there is a lot we can do about it. 

That last part is hard for many people to believe, so we wanted to focus this update on the many proposed solutions we have seen come from a variety of groups and individuals across the country.  The proposed solutions come in the form of legislation, constitutional amendments, and immediate actions. 



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Denver Municipal Candidate Questionnaire is committed to getting special interest money out of politics.  We believe candidates best represent the public interest by choosing to only accept contributions from individuals.  We encourage candidates to reject contributions from political action committees, special interest groups, and corporations.


The questions below are meant to provide information to voters about the kinds of campaign contributions you are taking in your pursuit of public office and to provide our board with information when considering if we will endorse a candidate in your race.  Though we have traditionally publicized the names of candidates who do not take PAC and special interest group money, no single question is meant to serve as an absolute litmus test.  We seek to inform, educate, and engage you, other candidates, elected officials, and the public about issues surrounding campaign finance reform, and we hope the information you provide will help voters make up their own minds about the candidates.  Please complete and return the questionnaire by April 1, 2015.


Thank you for your participation, and good luck in your campaign!


___________________________                                          ___________________________

Name                                                                         Office Sought/District


___________________________                                          ___________________________

E-mail address                                                            Phone number



  1. If elected, will you actively seek to enact meaningful campaign finance reform of the following forms? 
    1. Support overturning Citizens United?            Yes      No
    2. Ban contributions in local elections from corporations, unions, and other organizations not allowed to donate to state legislative campaigns?                Yes    No
    3. Limit special interest group contributions?    Yes      No
    4. Incentivize small contributions ($150 or less) from individuals with matching funds?                     Yes      No
    5. Enact public financing of municipal elections.     Yes No


            Are there other reforms you would propose?




  1. Will you accept or have you accepted contributions from special interest groups or organizations through any means, including political committees, political action committees, or small donor committees?  (This does not include political party contributions.)


Yes                              No                              


  1. Will you accept or have you accepted contributions from Leadership PACs (a committee an elected official uses to donate to other candidates and elected officials, separate from their candidate committee)?


Yes                              No                              


  1. Will you establish or have you established your own Leadership PAC?


Yes                              No                               Not Sure


  1. Will you accept or have you already accepted contributions from large corporations (i.e., offices in more than one locality, or based out of your state with a regional or national focus)?

Yes                              No                              


  1. Will you accept or have you already accepted contributions from small corporations (presence in only one locality, i.e., “Mom-and-Pop Shop”)?

Yes                              No                              



  1. Will you accept or have you already accepted money from lobbyists?

Yes                              No                              



  1. Will you accept or have you already accepted money from unions?

Yes                              No                              


  1. Please share any thoughts you have about campaign finance reform and the role of special interest money vs. contributions from individuals in political campaigns.









  1. Please feel free to share any thoughts on how this information on campaign finance reform should be shared.












___________________________                                          ___________________________

Signature                                                                                             Date


Completed questionnaires can be scanned and emailed to or
mailed to at 8998 E 25th Dr., Denver, CO 80238.

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