Congressional candidate Stephany Rose abandoned by campaign leaders

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UPDATE: While Dawn Haliburton-Rudy listed several groups that she says will work together to search for a new candidate for the 5th Congressional District, leaders of those groups have since contacted the Independent to say they have not yet committed to such a process, and are in a wait-and-see mode.


——- ORIGINAL POST, MONDAY, 7:01 P.M. ——-

Stephany Rose speaks alongside Dreamers at a recent rally. - NAT STEIN
  • Nat Stein
  • Stephany Rose speaks alongside Dreamers at a recent rally.


Over the weekend, the majority of Stephany Rose Spaulding’s campaign team jumped ship, saying they’re uncomfortable with how the campaign’s finances have been handled.


Rose, a pastor and professor, is running for the U.S. House of Representatives in the 5th Congressional District on the Democratic side. A political newbie, she officially announced her candidacy on July 3. This staff defection comes as the campaign readies its first campaign finance report.


The Federal Election Commission (FEC) requires candidate committees close their books on the October Quarterly on Sep. 30. They have until Oct. 15 to file a report that itemizes receipts and disbursements. It’s a public document that looks like this.


Preparation for the filing is what brought some campaign members’ concerns to a fore. On Saturday, they released a joint statement:


All,


Please note that Alan Pitts, Chandra Yvonne and I have resigned from Stephany Rose Spaulding's campaign for Congressional District 5. We have made this decision based on perceived financial improprieties committed by the candidate for this race. We, in no way shape or form, had anything to do nor did we have any knowledge of the current allegations.

Further, we demanded that the candidate provide us the financial information, which only she controls, to perform a forensic evaluation to thoroughly assess the level of potential improprieties. The candidate refused. As a result of the candidate's refusal, we determined, that it is in our best interest to resign. We wish the candidate all the best.


Sincerely,

Dawn Haliburton-Rudy (campaign committee chair)
Alan Pitts (political strategist)
Chandra Yvonne (interim campaign developer)


Originally, that statement was also signed by Carolyn Cathey, a campaign advisor. But on Monday she distanced herself from the other three, releasing this statement instead.


Dear everyone,

To be clear I am still associated with the campaign in the same informal advisory role I was always in. A team of campaign experts have been deployed to complete the FEC filing due October 15th, this is a public document, and according to our team of experts including campaign finance advisors, the accounts have been set up correctly with them all leading back to the candidate as the law requires. The suspicions about possible irregularities are being looked at from all angles to include previous volunteers. all of us take this matter very seriously and I believe that numbers never lie...the money is accounted for and in its' proper place, as of writing this message, and the public filing will show that. Any impropriety will be handled with the full extent of the law and will be made public as the investigation allows. Trust is the most important asset a person can ever give... keeping that trust is the most important asset a candidate can ever possess. Thank you so much my friends.


Also on Monday, a draft press release from the campaign was leaked to the Indy.

The campaign Stephany Rose for Congress is excited about our candidate who continues to demonstrate the strength of her candidacy and leadership for our community. She has defied expectations with her first quarter fundraising, proving the seriousness as a contender to become the next U.S. House of Representatives Congressional leader for Colorado's Fifth District.

Unfortunately, trust and confidence of volunteers intimate to the campaign have been breached. In their efforts to engage in dirty tricks and orchestrating unethical meetings with potential Republican and Democratic opponents of Stephany Rose Spaulding, they have demonstrated a desire for politics as usual. This is not and never will be the spirit of Stephany Rose for Congress.

Stephany Rose for Congress is a financially and ethically sound campaign. And our candidate is surrounded by a team of trusted expert advisers dedicated to her mission of putting people over politics and transforming Colorado's Fifth Congressional District in all our best interests.

Neither Cathey nor Rose returned multiple voice mails and emails requesting their comment. We eagerly await their reply and will update this blog when we get it.

So, you might be asking yourself, what the heck is going on here?


Dawn Haliburton-Rudy feels deceived. - FILE PHOTO
  • file photo
  • Dawn Haliburton-Rudy feels deceived.

Haliburton-Rudy and Yvonne sat down with the Independent on Sunday to further explain themselves. Essentially, their misgivings are two-fold: they suspect potential campaign finance violations and they disagree with certain fundraising practices on ethical grounds.


The reason they’re suspicious, they say, is because the candidate was persistently “elusive” when it came to money matters. Rose allegedly kept the campaign’s finances quite close to the chest — withholding access to accounting spreadsheets, bank statements and the funds themselves. Tensions came to a head this weekend when members of the campaign requested that the candidate relinquish control of the finances. In a group text message thread, Rose replied that “No [I won’t] as the campaign’s finances are directly connected to my personal finances.”


A frustrated Yvonne asks, “If it was all above board, why make it off-limits to your team?”

The secretive dynamic isn’t new. Ethan Wade, former campaign manager (and Indy freelancer), says it’s one of the reasons he quit in early September. “It's pretty typical for campaigns to hire compliance consultants (lawyers and CPAs who specialize in FEC regulations) and the folks I was working with on Stephany's campaign flat out refused to hire one in favor of having the committee's treasurer work on the finances,” he writes to the Indy via Facebook messenger. “I was really against that decision since none of us had any expertise in FEC regulations, but they went on regardless.”


As committee chair, Haliburton-Rudy says that with the FEC deadline approaching, she won't rubber stamp a filing based on transactions she's never had the chance to review. “There were resources available to her but she wouldn’t accept any advisement,” she tells the Indy, adding that s
he intends to file a complaint to the FEC this week. That complaint will single out an alleged loan that the campaign received from Rose's childhood church in Chicago. Halliburton-Rudy believes, based on conversations with Rose, that the funds exceeded federal limits, were deposited improperly and came from a source that's barred from political contributions.

Again, Rose didn't return requests for comment on this story. 


FEC guidelines state that "The treasurer of a political committee is responsible for examining all contributions to make sure they are not illegal."

According to the “statement of organization” filing for “Stephany Rose for Congress,” the committee’s treasurer and custodian of records is Sarah Jeanne McCollim. McCollim is reportedly out of the country and has been for a few weeks now. We’ve reached out and will update when we hear back.


FEC guidelines also state that "The candidate may act as the committee’s treasurer."

Aside from their legal and financial skepticism, Haliburton-Rudy, Yvonne and Pitts all harbor an ethical skepticism that, they say, overshadows the rest. It stems from anecdotes they heard at multiple fundraisers. “[Rose] would tell everyone that she had at least two members of her church take out second mortgages to donate to her campaign,” Yvonne recounts. “And these were older people who need to be in a nursing home, you know. … And there was one woman, she told us, with stage-four cancer who cashed in her life insurance to give [to the campaign].”

As a licensed social worker, Haliburton-Rudy says this just didn’t sit right with her, regardless of the legality.


“It was like she was bragging about it,” she says. “And that’s not right.”


Yvonne, who lives on a fixed income because of a disability, elaborated: “If this is truly a campaign that ‘puts people over politics,’ we shouldn’t be willing to exploit vulnerable people just to get ahead.”


Both acknowledge that leaving the campaign doesn't bode well for progressives in the region. Congressional District 5, where just over 20 percent of the electorate is registered with the Democratic Party, is a long-shot race no matter how united against incumbent Doug Lamborn local Democrats may be.

The closest showing by a Democrat in recent memory was in 2014 when Irv Halter, a retired Air Force Major General, got 40 percent of the vote. In fact, voters in the 5th have never sent a Democrat to Congress. So, any drama or division puts the prospect of winning even further out of reach.

On the Republican side, Colorado Springs State Senator Owen Hill, El Paso County Commissioner Darryl Glenn and Colorado Springs City Councilor Tom Strand are all challenging Doug Lamborn in the primary.

On the Democratic side, another newcomer to electoral politics, Betty Field, is gunning for the nomination. She's not rushing to judgement about the allegations against her opponent, saying, in general, that “people, not just candidates, make mistakes. No one’s perfect. People are forgiving … However, if you make a mistake with someone else’s money, that’s a much tougher thing to forgive.”


For her part, Field doesn’t touch her campaign’s finances, leaving it for her treasurer to handle. “I promised to run a clean and transparent campaign,” Field says. “There were no issues with my first filing and I don’t expect there to be any with the second.”


But the defectors from Rose’s campaign aren’t eager to join Field’s. Instead, Haliburton-Rudy says, they’re going to put their heads together with other local progressives to find the right candidate to run.

She expects the search committee to include, among others, representatives from Together for Colorado Springs (which she herself co-chairs, along with Indy founder John Weiss, for transparency), Unite Colorado Springs, Citizens for Hope and Pikes Peak Progressives. It’ll be more rigorous this time, she expects, meaning a longer questionnaire and in-person vetting. They’ll consider Democratic, Republican and Independent candidates. “We have to get serious. We can’t let this happen again,” she says.



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