AURORA | Candidates for an Aurora city council or mayor seat may soon be subject to stricter local campaign finance laws. 

Aurora council member Charlie Richardson, also former city attorney for Aurora, presented a draft of a campaign finance reform ordinance Tuesday during a city management and finance policy committee. 

Committee members agreed to send it on to a full-council study session.

The ordinance, if passed, would dictate that no candidate committee could accept more than $2,500 from a single donor, including in in-kind donations. The threshold for candidates for mayor is higher: a single donor cannot contribute more than $5,000.

Richardson said the limit is strategic, and also what other communities are using as limits. Richardson’s ordinance is modeled after the campaign finance rules in Lakewood.

If set lower, Richardson told the committee that it might encourage dark money spending in the city.

Last year, Vital for Colorado donated $100,000 to a PAC called Aurora for a Stronger Economy in five $20,000 payments all dated Oct. 20, 2017. 

The cash was used to primarily buy TV campaign commercials, robocalls and live calls to potential voters for at-large council candidates Tim Huffman and David Gruber, Ward II candidate Bob Hagedorn, Ward III candidate Marsha Berzins and Ward I candidate Sally Mounier. 

The ordinance wouldn’t touch those kinds of contributions, city attorneys said during the meeting, as PACs fall under federal law. But fellow council members agreed with Richardson that the limits should be set so low as to entice more PAC spending.

State House and Senate candidates are limited to $400 donations from individuals. Gubernatorial candidates can accept $1,150 total. County commissioners, unless the county is home rule, are permitted unlimited contributions under state law. 

Richardson said while yes, the state contribution limits are lower, he sees a lot more PAC spending in the state political arena.

Other requirements in the proposed city ordinance say that no limited liability company can make a contribution to candidates of political committees if it has a member that is not a U.S. citizen, is a foreign government or is prohibited from making donations based on other laws. 

Current city law says that “no candidate committee, issue committee, political committee, or exploratory committee shall accept contributions from any natural person who is not a citizen of the United States, from a foreign government, or from any foreign corporation that does not have authority to transact business in this state pursuant to art.” 

LLCs donating more than $100 would be forced to submit a letter to the candidate with the names and addresses of all of the members of the company.  

People donating more than $20 would have to submit their name and address. That rule would apply after $100 is donated to a political or issue committee. 

Finally, the ordinance would dictate candidate, issue or political committees submit campaign finance reports on the 90th day, 45th day, 21st  day and final Friday before the election, plus a report 30 days after the municipal election. That’s also the current standard for city candidate and political committees.

— KARA MASON, Staff Writer

This article has been updated to reflect how PAC contributions may be impacted through the ordinance.