The campaigns are over and ballots were counted more than a month ago but fundraising continues, at least for one Denver school board candidate.
Arturo Jimenez, who earned a second term representing northwest Denver by squeezing out a victory with a 142-vote margin over challenger Jennifer Draper Carson, is the beneficiary of a fundraiser to be held this evening.
“Please join us in celebrating Arturo’s victory and helping to pay final campaign expenses,” reads an invitation distributed to his supporters. The event is set for the 5th Sun Café &Lounge, 3024 Speer Blvd., and suggests a $100 contribution for hosts, $25 for guests.
The host committee includes unsuccessful southeast Denver candidate Emily Sirota, who has urged her supporters to pitch in and contribute to Jimenez. The two candidates shared the endorsement – and significant financial help – from the Denver Classroom Teachers Association.
Those who reviewed the campaign finance reports that candidates were required to file last Thursday might be surprised to learn that Jimenez has any unmet expenses.
Jimenez’s report showed he raised $72,248 in cash contributions and spent $67,213, leaving him with a positive balance of $7,974.
But campaign manager David Sabados said that figure did not reflect homestretch expenses that were not reconciled prior to the Nov. 26 cut-off date for the recent reporting deadline.
“The sheer volume of money that came in supporting our opponent meant we had to redouble our final efforts,” said Sabados.
“The sheer volume of money that came in supporting our opponent meant we had to redouble our final efforts.”
— Jimenez’s campaign managerNot including her non-monetary contributions, Draper Carson raised, and spent, $200,940. That equates to about $26 spent per vote, as compared to about $8.54 per vote spent by Jimenez, according to reports filed so far. Those figures don’t include dollars donated to committees – such as the DCTA’s contributions to Delta 4.0, a 527 political committee that supported Jimenez, or the non-profit Latinos for Education Reform, which supported Draper Carson – that did not coordinate with candidates.
“All good campaign budgets are reflective of what it will take to win a particular race, and our finance plan included the possibility of raising a small amount after Election Day,” Sabados said. “As evident by the results, we spent what we needed to ensure Arturo’s reelection.”
Sabados did not provide a current accounting of Jimenez’s campaign committee balance prior to the fundraiser, but said a “termination” report will be filed with the Secretary of State, probably within a few weeks, reflecting the committee’s closing financial status.
An outstanding campaign debt is not the only dangling financial issue for Jimenez.
A review earlier this year by Education News Colorado of school board members’ spending of their $5,000 annual allotment in district money for expenses related to their board service found Jimenez had overspent his budget by $1,153.29.
Jimenez initially said he would pay back his overage to the district, then held off in doing so while board members developed a new spending policy. On Oct. 20, a new spending policy was adopted, including Jimenez’s suggestion that members’ spending reports be posted online.
“Now that we have a policy that is not retroactive, I plan to look at last year’s expenses in light of this one, and determine if there is anything I should pay back, and if there is, I will,” he said that night.
On Tuesday, he could not be reached for comment on his current intentions concerning his over-spending.
Jimenez was not alone in exceeding the board members’ $5,000 spending cap. Andrea Merida, representing southwest Denver, was over last year by $7,427.87. When that was reported in August, she said that she would not repay her overage, then quickly reversed herself and said she would.
In October, Merida declared that she had attempted to do so, but that then-board president Nate Easley would not accept her payment – an assertion Easley has denied.
On Tuesday, Merida insisted again that that was the case, and added, “I am now covering all my own expenses,” including those that the new board policy codifies as eligible for reimbursement by the district, such as cell phone costs and office supplies.
“I’m paying the costs of my own volunteer service to the community,” said Merida. “If the board president didn’t accept my offer to repay, that’s how I’m making it right. It’s my responsibility.”
Board president Mary Seawell is not calling on Jimenez and Merida to address the previous fiscal year’s overages.
“The policy we passed is not retroactive, so there is no board policy that says that you have to repay it,” Seawell said. “If they have made a commitment to their constituents, then that is between them and their constituents.”
Because the other five board members stayed within their limits, the total $35,000 annual allotment for board expenses was not exceeded.
“The fact that the board, overall, wasn’t over on its spending – if the whole board had gone over, then I might feel differently,” said Seawell. “But we didn’t.”