DENVER — Tina Peters received thousands of out-of-state donations to help pay for a recount in the secretary of state Republican primary, according to the campaign's latest finance report.
Peters lost the Secretary of State’s race to Pam Anderson by 88,000 votes. Because the election was not close enough to trigger an automatic recount, Colorado law stipulates that candidates may request a recount but are responsible for paying the associated costs.
Peters requested a recount last week and was told by the Colorado Secretary of State’s Office it would cost $255,912.
Before the request, Peters' finance report showed she only had $32,697 cash on hand. The latest report, however, shows a different financial picture.
According to the most recent report, Peters raised $519,260. That’s more than double the amount Peters was able to raise throughout the entirety of her campaign. Much of that money came in within the span of a week.
“I would say this Colorado Secretary of State's race is totally unique. We have not seen this much spending in a Colorado Secretary of State's race in a primary in a long time, at least not one that I can remember,” said Scott Martinez, a managing partner with Martinez and Partners.
According to state law, the contribution cap for secretary of state candidates per person is $1,250. State law also stipulates that the contributions are not limited to someone living in Colorado. Donors from other states are allowed to contribute, but citizens from other countries are not allowed.
The report contains a list of more than 5,600 donors, with the majority being out-of-state. Most out-of-state donors are from Texas (460), followed by Florida (430). More than 200 Arizona donors contributed to Peters' campaign, while 100 Tennessee donors contributed.
For campaign finance experts, the amount of donations coming in in such a short time span after a candidate's loss is unprecedented.
“Totally unique, totally unprecedented,” Martinez said. “That's the one of the largest reports I've ever seen for a state candidate. That's totally unusual, and for all those donations to come in on one day, something had to happen.”
The majority of the contributions — more than 3,800 donations — came on July 25, the same day Steve Bannon spoke at length with two guests on his show about the Colorado primary.
Bannon alleged there were irregularities with Peters’ race. He mentioned during the segment that Peters is trying to raise money for a recount and is asking for donors to contribute.
The next day Peters was a guest on Bannon’s show and told the audience, “We have just raised over 190,000 in the last 24 hours there. People are wanting this recount in Colorado.”
Martinez says this is the first time of his 20 years in politics that he’s seen a state candidate raise this much money after losing an election.
“I don't think that there's anything that campaign finance report that sticks out to me as illegal or improper. It is unusual,” he said.
The same day Peters submitted the finance report, her campaign also sent out an email criticizing the recount process and accusing it of being unfair.
Peters pointed out that the cost for the recount went up by $20,000 between her first and second request. The Secretary of State’s Office attributed the increased cost to necessary staffing in order to complete the recount by the Aug. 4 deadline.
Peters also accused El Paso County of failing its logic and accuracy test, claiming the machines rejected 57% of the ballots counted and sending them to manual adjudication.
In a statement to Denver7, El Paso County’s Clerk and Recorder Office said Peters’ allegations are false and filled with disinformation. The office said the logic and accuracy test passed with 100% accuracy, and the official recount began on Sunday.
El Paso County is in the process of conducting four recounts simultaneously. The office said 2,266 test ballots were sent to adjudication for additional reviews because they had an unmarked race on them.
When ballots are sent to adjudication, a bipartisan team reviews the ballot manually to determine whether the voter truly left the race blank on their ballot. The office said this practice is normal and Peters’ claims are false.
Peters again requested a hand recount of the primary ballots, something Secretary of State Jena Griswold told Denver7 is not allowed under state law.
“A recount must be tabulated in the same way as the original election. Therefore, counties that use tabulation equipment in the primary must use the equipment again in the recount,” Griswold said.
For now, the machine recount continues.