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Campaign Finance Complaint Lodged Against Boulder ...
Carolyn Elliott

This Boulder Daily Camera reporter, Deborah Swearingen, explains the details. Even in beautiful, "downtown" Boulder County, dark money can slip in.

Purpose of lawsuit debated

Campaign finance complaint lodged against former Council candidate

By Deborah Swearingen

Staff Writer

Boulder Municipal Court Judge Jeff Cahn will issue a written order within 10 days regarding a campaign finance complaint filed by three Boulder residents against former Boulder City Council candidate Steve Rosenblum.

The complaint was argued on Monday in a hearing that lasted about six hours.

Boulder residents Mark McIntyre, Regina Cowles and Jane Hummer filed the campaign finance complaint, arguing Rosenblum exceeded the city’s expenditure limits when he sought legal assistance to research, prepare and file a lawsuit against the Boulder Progressives and a group of community


Rosenblum’s lawsuit, which was filed in the midst of his City Council candidacy in 2021, alleges a coordinated campaign against his candidacy as well as a coordinated effort to block endorsements. It also alleges that websites and social media accounts were set up using Rosenblum’s likeness without his permission.

The campaign finance complaint was sent to a hearing after the Boulder City Clerk’s Office on Dec. 7 determined there was probable cause to proceed and that additional facts are necessary to determine whether the complaint’s claim that Rosenblum took legal action to benefit himself as a candidate rather than himself as an individual is valid. Attorney Darren O’Connor argued Monday that the complainants, his clients, feel the timing of the lawsuit demonstrates it was filed with an intention to impact the campaign.

O’Connor and Chris Murray, representing Rosenblum, each interpreted the question the judge must answer in a different way.

For O’Connor, it comes down to: Did Rosenblum use his legal team to benefit his campaign for City Council as a candidate? And did at



from Page 3A

least some of the money spent on legal expenses go toward assistance dealing with the media and forming a political strategy?

In O’Connor’s mind, if former Boulder County District Attorney Stan Garnett, who is Rosenblum’s counsel, and his team spent time crafting news releases, making statements to the media, or providing political or consulting advice, public relations or press strategy, “the answer is a resounding yes.”

Murray, on the other hand, said the question is instead: Did Rosenblum violate city code and the city’s matching funds contract? And was he paying for legal services to benefit his campaign or to protect and repair his personal reputation?

“If that kind of a lawsuit, if that kind of activity can be held to have the primary purpose of actually helping Steve Rosenblum get elected then I would tell you that Boulder’s campaign finance regulations and Boulder’s campaign finance laws are unconstitutionally overbroad and violate the First Amendment,” Murray said.

If such expenses are campaign contributions

then so too would be a jacket purchased to keep a candidate warm while knocking on doors, he said.

The complainants have argued Rosenblum failed to disclose his attorney’s fees as well as the public relations and investigation fees paid on behalf of his campaign. They also argue paid work in support of a candidate’s campaign for public relations, investigative work and/or legal fees is a campaign expense similar to the purchase of yard signs and printing costs.

In Monday’s hearing, O’Connor pressed Rosenblum and Garnett on the specifics of their agreement but neither would share details, citing attorney- client privilege.

Media coverage came up repeatedly as well, with O’Connor questioning why Rosenblum would put out a news release and send it to various outlets, including the Camera, if the goal was to minimize media coverage.

However, Garnett said it’s a typical strategy he employs with his clients.

“What you want to try to do is manage press coverage in any potentially controversial suit and defamation cases always

tend to go that way, particularly in a community like Boulder,” he said. O’Connor also questioned why the defendants in Rosenblum’s lawsuit were not immediately served copies when it was filed in September.

Garnett said his decision to wait to officially serve the people named in the lawsuit was intentional. Colorado’s one-year statute of limitations necessitated filing the lawsuit during the campaign, but otherwise the legal team hoped to delay arguing the suit in court until after the November election. Legal proceedings began after defendants filed a motion to dismiss the suit on the basis it was intended to chill freedom of speech, which was heard earlier in February.

Carolyn Elliott

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