Morse's recall fight amasses war chest

Megan Schrader The Gazette - Published: June 5, 2013 | 5:50 pm 0

Senate President John Morse has brought in $123,302 since March in his effort to stay in office, with a large chunk of the funds coming from individual disclosed donors and three less-transparent political groups.

In comparison, the group attempting to unseat Morse, in part because of gun legislation he supported this year, has raised $71,483.

El Paso Freedom Defense Fund turned in more than 16,000 signatures this week to put Morse on the ballot for recall, and of those almost 7,200 must be from valid registered voters in Senate District 11 in Colorado Springs.

Morse's fundraising may be gearing up for a protracted legal battle as he contests the validity of signatures in court, but also for a political campaign if voters are asked if he should be recalled and if so, who should replace him.

The Democrat whose term ends in 2014 said Monday he will not resign his position to allow his party to appoint a replacement and avoid taking the recall to ballot.

Gov. John Hickenlooper said Wednesday he would support Morse in the battle.

Hickenlooper signed bills into law that are central points in the Morse recall, including mandating background checks on all gun sales, a ban on magazines that hold more than 15 rounds of ammunition and renewable energy standards for rural electric cooperatives.

"On things like universal background checks, I have an obligation to push back and make sure people hear the facts," Hickenlooper said, adding recalls aren't his favorite form of Democracy because of their focus on a narrow interest group.

A large chunk of the funds raised by the political action committee A Whole Lot of People for John Morse were spent on out-of-state consulting firms including $25,000 to Adelstein Liston in Chicago, which worked on President Barack Obama's re-election.

Thousands of dollars rolled in from individual Colorado donors and others from across the nation in $3 to $2,500 increments.

"We raised over $15,000 just locally last month," said Christy LeLait, executive director of the El Paso Democratic Party who is also paid to run Morse's campaign.

But three large political donors make up a significant chunk of the revenue for the group.

Because of the way the donors have structured their organizations, it's nearly impossible to tell who exactly is behind the large donations.

The Sixteen Thirty Fund, a Washington, D.C.-based non-profit under the 501(c)(4) designation of "social welfare organizations" gave the committee $35,000. Reached by phone the managers of the non-profit from Arbella Advisors declined to comment about their donors or donations.

Federal tax filings show the group has steadily declined over the years in financial activity but in 2009 declared $4.8 million in revenue that was then donated to a variety of interests including religious, environmental, and union groups plus smaller donations to Planned Parenthood groups and Akorn.

Citizens for Integrity, a Denver-based non-profit, gave $25,000 to Morse's campaign. Mainstream Colorado, a Denver-based political action committee, donated $15,000.

Mainstream is registered to the liberal front-person Julie Wells and the latest financial report said Wells' group took in $25,000 from Riviera Black Hawk Casino and another $25,000 from Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America Action Fund. The group has a variety of funding sources however, according to the April 15, report.

Those same three organizations - Sixteen Thirty Fund, Citizens for Integrity and Mainstream Colorado - donated the same amounts to Sen. Angela Giron, D-Pueblo, who is facing a recall attempt by a similar gun rights group. The 11,500 valid signatures needed to put Giron's recall on the ballot are due Monday.

Contact Megan Schrader

719-286-0644

Twitter: @CapitolSchrader

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