VAIL, Colorado " Christine Scanlan's campaign funds may look paltry compared to those of her opponent, but the state representative who's running for re-election is getting support from another source.
Accountability for Colorado, a so-called "527 group," is sending out mailers on behalf of the incumbent Democratic candidate for Eagle County's seat in the State House of Representatives.
And while state records show that the incumbent Scanlan is being outspent 19-to-1 by her opponent, Ali Hasan of Beaver Creek, the 527 group's support is eliminating that gap, Hasan said.
At least three mailers have been sent out by Accountability for Colorado over the last few months, representatives for both Hasan and Scanlan say. There may have been four mailers sent out, Hasan said.
Hasan said he believes those mailers would each cost $25,000 to $50,000 to mail across the district, which includes Eagle, Summit and Lake counties, adding that he thinks 527s could spend up to $400,000 on Scanlan's behalf by November.
Meanwhile, Hasan has spent about $190,000 on his campaign and has contributed about the same amount of his own money to the campaign.
Hasan said he expects to be outspent " if 527 support is factored in " by Scanlan by the time the race is over.
But candidates have no say over whether 527 groups spend money for them or against them. Coordination between 527s and campaigns is not permitted.
So what is Accountability for Colorado?
Scanlan said she's had no contact with the group. Secretary of State records show the group has spent more than $420,000 since its inception last year, with tens of thousands of dollars going to 360 JMG, a Washington political consulting firm.
The Secretary of State's contact for the group is Julie Wells of Denver. A message left for Wells was not returned Thursday.
Contributors include deep-pocketed Coloradans, records show. Pat Stryker, a Fort Collins heiress to a medical-supplies fortune, has given $214,272. Tim Gill, founder of the software company Quark, gave $64,272. Gill and Stryker are half of the so-called "Gang of Four" whose money is believed to have helped sway the 2004 election in the favor of state House Democrats.
Contributors range from corporations to individuals " mostly from the Denver area " to organizations. Aspen Skiing Co. and Colorado Ski Country USA are both listed as smaller contributors. Neither returned phone calls Thursday.
The Public Education Committee, a fund of the Colorado Education Association, gave $75,000. Committee spokeswoman Deborah Fallin said the group donated money to Accountability for Colorado because the 527 supports pro-public-education candidates. The Public Education Committee is a state affiliate of the National Education Association, an organization that advances the cause of public education.
"We are joining with others who also think public education is an important issue to say, 'These legislators are pro-public-education legislators," Fallin said.
Fallin said she didn't know if the group focuses on other issues besides education. The Public Education Committee wouldn't identify Accountability for Colorado's leader, she said.
"We don't talk about it," Fallin said. "It's the 527 world."
State House Minority Leader Mike May, a Republican from Parker, said 527s have had a "huge" impact in recent elections. Democrats used them to sway state House elections in their favor in 2004, he said.
He said he only knows Accountability for Colorado is "one of those Democratic funds."
There are 527s on the Republican side, too, May said, citing the Colorado Leadership Fund. Records show that group has spent about $500,000 since last year. May said he's not sure whether that group will spend money to support Hasan.
Democrat-oriented 527s outspend Republican 527s "gigantically," May said.
"Their resources are far more than ours," he said. "Which is a problem we're making some in-roads in."
The groups are turning "grassroots" campaigns into elections bought by "bazillionaires," May said.
The 527's focus on the historically Democrat district shows that Hasan has a legitimate chance of winning, May said.
"Scanlan is kind of a lazy candidate who doesn't want to raise her own money, relying on union money and 527s to run her campaign," she said.
Scanlan has raised $30,950 and spent $10,784.13 on her campaign so far.
Hasan has raised $191,793.85 and spent $190,921.93. Records show he had spent more than any other state House candidate as of last week. He has donated $190,843.85 to his own campaign.
Neither House Majority Leader Alice Madden nor Speaker of the House Andrew Romanoff, both Democrats, returned phone calls Thursday.
Hasan, a political newcomer, said he doesn't like 527 groups' involvement.
"I think they're awful," he said.
He said he hasn't gotten support from 527s because he doesn't make promises to special interests in Denver. His campaign manager, Kaye Ferry, said part of the reason 527s stay away is because they give money to people who "need help."
Scanlan said she doesn't know anything about Accountability for Colorado, but assumed they are a pro-Democrat group.
"(527s) are just a very weird part of our political process, and I would much prefer that they wouldn't be involved," said Scanlan, a Dillon resident who was appointed to the House seat last year.
Staff Writer Edward Stoner can be reached at 748-2929 or firstname.lastname@example.org.