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Treasurer candidate files campaign finance complaint against opponent

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Thursday, Aug. 9, 2018 11:37 AM
Black
Aichele

The Republican challenger in the La Plata County treasurer's race has filed a complaint with the Colorado Secretary of State's Office against his opponent, Allison Aichele, asking for a complete investigation into her campaign spending dating back to 2014.

Aichele, first elected in 2014, is up for re-election in November as the Democratic candidate for county treasurer. The complaint was filed by her only challenger, Colton Black, a Republican.

In June, it came to light that Aichele started this election cycle with a negative balance of more than $23,000 - money she later said she donated to her own campaign in 2014 but failed to report with the state, saying she "did not realize" she had to report personal contributions.

"Where is the proof those were personal contributions?" Black said. "That's the big question ... because that's a lot of money."

Aichele did not return a phone call Wednesday seeking comment.

In a previous interview, Aichele said she spent around $25,000 of her own money in 2014 to beat her challenger Bobby Lieb.

The Secretary of State's Office fined Aichele $66,500 in June for filing finance reports four years late after she accounted for a portion of the missing funds - about $1,375. The fee was ultimately waived after Aichele petitioned the state.

Black, however, said there are still nine missed filings that total more than $20,000 that should be investigated.

"As a candidate facing Allison in the upcoming election I do not want to learn about over $20k in campaign contributions and where they came from ... after the election is over," Black wrote in his complaint.

"This type of disregard for the relevant filing rules is a disservice not just to opposing candidates, but more importantly to the voters who have a right to transparency and to know the origin of campaign funds in a timely manner."

A review of Aichele's 2014 campaign finances shows that as of July 24, 2014, she had a positive balance of about $6,500 for her race for treasurer.

In October 2014, however, she started to accumulate a negative balance.

By the end of her campaign, Aichele reported she had raised $21,247, mostly through private donations, and spent a total of $45,088, leaving $23,841 unaccounted for.

She has filed several reports this election cycle that attempt to correct previous filing mistakes. She also has corrected reports filed this year, submitting nearly 10 amendments that tweak campaign contributions and expenditures.

To complicate matters further, she filed a report June 19 that is supposed to detail finances from June 18 to July 12. Aichele previously said she was instructed to do this by the Secretary of State's Office as part of her effort to correct the negative campaign balance.

"This is the person that's managing our county's finances," Black said. "That's kind of scary."

Black is asking the Secretary of State's Office to review Aichele's entire financial reports - not just the $1,375 contribution that sparked the $66,500 fine that was ultimately waived.

"Those records are a mess," Black said. "And there should be some type of penalty for 10 missed filings."

Julia Sunny, a spokeswoman with the Secretary of State's Office, said the office has 10 business days from the date of filing to do an initial review.

Under new state rules that state election officials enacted this summer, officials must vet each complaint for suspected wrongdoing in campaign finances. If the complaint has merit, it is forwarded to an administrative law judge.

Black's complaint against Aichele was filed on July 31, and a decision should be issued next week.

jromeo@durangoherald.com

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