Gov. Jared Polis speaks at an event to celebrate the opening of Colorado Democrats’ Aurora field office on June 28, 2022. (Faith Miller/Colorado Newsline)
Colorado Republicans filed a campaign finance complaint against Democratic Gov. Jared Polis on Thursday for the inclusion of a letter with his signature that accompanies upcoming TABOR refund checks.
Kristi Burton Brown, the executive director of the Colorado Republican Party, argued in the complaint that the letter amounts to electioneering using taxpayer money. Legislation passed the last General Assembly session accelerated the $750 refund checks to be sent this summer — instead of next spring — before the general election in which Polis is a candidate for reelection.
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“This letter blatantly misleads voters by refusing to say the word ‘TABOR’ or ‘Taxpayer Bill of Rights.’ Instead, the governor uses his own campaign language of ‘Colorado Cashback,’ a phrase he coined during his campaign for reelection,” Burton Brown wrote.
In the letter, which Polis wrote on behalf of the state, he writes that it is “a true pleasure to send you this enclosed ‘Colorado Cashback’ refund check.” The money comes from excess revenue constitutionally required to be given back to taxpayers through TABOR. Colorado Cashback is the branding that state officials, all Democrats, have used to promote it.
Polis spokesperson Conor Cahill explained that the letter is meant to be instructional and prevent people from assuming it is a scam.
“It’s unfortunate to see people play silly games that Coloradans are sick and tired of at a time when we all should be focused — as Governor Polis is — on saving people money. We are focused on fulfilling the obligations of this bipartisan law and ensuring that people understand why they are receiving immediate relief in the form of $750 or $1500 checks, that they don’t throw it away or treat it as spam, and have resources literally in their hands should they have questions about the Colorado Cash Back or if the check is made out incorrectly how to fix it,” he wrote in an email.
Burton Brown, however, said the letter is essentially a campaign mailer, because Polis is attempting to use the early refund check as a political win before November. The state is paying about $2.7 million to send the checks and letters.
The complaint alleges that Polis violated statute by not disclosing the letter as campaign material, using more than $50 in state funds to send it and failing to report the $2.7 million in associated costs as a campaign contribution.
While Polis is framing the TABOR refund this year as an economic win for Coloradans who face rising everyday costs, he worked to place a proposition on the ballot that would have let the state retain money over the TABOR revenue cap. That proposition did not pass.
“This is the height of hypocrisy. Just two years ago, Jared Polis tried to kill TABOR. I spent almost a year defending TABOR when I chaired No on Prop CC,” Heidi Ganahl, Polis’ Republican gubernatorial opponent, said in a statement. “As governor, I will be honest and transparent about how my administration spends your money.”
Taxpayers who filed by June 30 should expect their TABOR refund checks by the end of September.
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