U.S. Senate Candidate Forum -- Campaign Finance Reform

Candidate Forum, October 5, 2019

The Democratic Party of Denver hosted a forum for U.S. Senate candidates on Saturday, October 5th.  The organizers only invited Democratic candidates to the forum.    


Seven candidates participated in the forum: Andrew Romanoff, Trish Zornio, Michelle Warren, Lorena Garcia, Stephanie Rose Spaulding, Diana Bray, and Angela Williams.  


Democratic candidates who have filed with the Federal Elections Commission but did not attend include Denise Burgess, Ellen Burnes, Danielle Kombo, John Hickenlooper, Dustin Leitzel, Alice Madden, Christopher Hawkins Critter Milton, and Keith Pottratz.


Other candidates who have filed with the FED include Corey Gardner (R, incumbent), V?ronique Marie Bellamy (S), Joshua Rodriguez (U), and Gary Swing (U).


Four our reporting on the source of campaign contributions for all U.S. Senate candidates, please click here.


Candidates each had 60 seconds to answer CleanSlateNow Action's question on campaign finance reform.  We received permission from six of the seven participating candidates to share their answers.  The seventh was unavailable to confirm her willingness to share her answer, and we hope to add her answer when she is available to respond.


Our question dealt with what self-imposed limits the candidates put on contributions to their campaigns (i.e., accept or turn down contributions from Political Action Committees, lobbyists, Oil and Gas, Small Donor Committees, Unions, Corporations, etc.) and if they would support H.R.1, a proposed campaign finance reform along the lines of Denver's Democracy For The People Act that was passed by the House in January but has been kept from a vote in the Senate ever since.  


In addition to addressing voting rights, security, and ethics enforcement, H.R.1 does the following: 

  • shines a light on dark money
  • empowers everyday Americans with publicly financed multiple matches of small-dollar donations to candidates who turn down special interest money, 
  • strengthens oversight
  • and pushes back against the Citizens United Supreme Court decision by affirming Congress's authority to regulate money in politics.  


The moderator's abbreviated version of our question asked the following: Do you believe that we should set a limit, say for oil and gas lobbyists?  Do you support H.R.1 that was recently passed in the House?  (Answers below are in the order in which they answered the questions at the forum.)

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Michelle Warren

"I  have really thought about this issue, because as a person of faith I  have been taught from an early age that the root of all kinds of evil stems back to money and that we need to really follow the money.  Money has infested our legislative process like a cancer, and it needs to be cut out.  It’s not okay if I just say, 'Hey, down with Citizens’ United and up with the For the Peoples Act,' although I am very supportive of the For the Peoples Act and the different elements of that piece of legislation.  But I think that that word cancer should wake us up to show the seriousness.  What has happened in our campaign financing, I’ve mentioned it in our lobbying, is that we can’t get justice, we can’t get our voice through, because money and greed and power are oppressing it.  

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Andrew Romanoff

"Yes, I support H.R.1 and other campaign finance reform efforts like those I’ve been fighting for as a legislator and as a member of the board of Colorado Common Cause years ago. I know we spent a lot of time this morning beating up on Cory Gardner and Donald Trump, and don’t get me wrong – it’s fun, it’s cathartic. But our own party bears responsibility here, too. We’re not perfect. The Democratic Senate Campaign Committee, which has recruited and endorsed a candidate in this race – not on this stage, but in this race – relies on the contributions it gets from the fossil fuel industry and the insurance industry and the drug companies. So we should not be surprised when there is too little leadership from Democrats in the U.S. Senate on this front. I wish I could tell you that our Party were perfect. It’s not. We’re not a perfect people. But we’re never going to get the change we need if we allow our own team to continue to be bankrolled by the very same corporate interests that are corrupting our democracy and blocking reform."

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Angela Williams

"Amen, Andrew. I’m on the same page about this. And I support H.R.1, and we need campaign finance reform. And right here in this state we have seen the inequities occur with the Democratic Senate Campaign Committee putting their finger on the scale in this race. We already have economic inequity right here with all these candidates by them doing that. What I’m going to say to you is listen to the candidates, support the candidate that represents your values, give to those candidates, and let’s fight back against the inequities that our own party is creating within this race. You’re smarter than that. Okay? You are smarter than that. You are educated. We do not need anyone coming in telling us who should be our next U.S. senator."

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Diana Bray

"I think it’s important to look at who is not here. The elephant in the room. I support H.R.1. I support campaign finance reform, of course. It is absolutely unconscionable that industry basically is owning our elections. We have to absolutely defeat that. I’m also, though, an advocate for ranked choice voting, okay? I’ve talked to people in this room about that. I think that’s our pathway. If we had ranked choice voting right now, DSCC would be completely out of the picture with regard to this race. And I encourage you to Google it if you’re not familiar with it. You can go and Google it and find two minutes on the explanation of ranked choice voting. I think that we have to stand up to our own Party. And it’s not going to be just us that have to do that. You have to do it. You have to be bold and you have to advocate and support the people who are in line with your values, not people from another city trying to put their thumb on the lever of politics."

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Stephanie Rose Spaulding

"Yes, yes, and yes. Corporations are not people. Money is not speech. I support campaign finance reform, publicly funded options, but I also think we have to have deeper conversations about how the structure and the system of campaigning itself is deeper and deeply rooted in our culture. Open Secrets and The Center for American Women in Politics did a study. African American women are the least funded, because they are the least trusted candidates across America, for any race. And it begins long before you declare wanting to run for office. It begins with alumni networks – I didn’t go to Harvard, Yale, Princeton, or anything like that. I went to an Historically Black College because it was the space that was available to me. So if we’re going to do this, we have to do this systemically and intersectionaly. Thank you."

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Lorena Garcia

"Okay, it’s been awhile since we’ve said my name. Ready? One, two, three: Lorena Garcia. Okay. Yeah, H.R.1, 100% behind it. Does it go far enough for me? No, it doesn’t. What I love about H.R.1 is that it gets us on the path to public funded campaigns. It starts with matching every single donation that is received that is under $200. Number two, it’s awesome that it addresses conflicts of interest, but it doesn’t address conflicts of interest for candidates. How in the world would a conflict of interest benefit any of you from deciding who to support if we don’t have to be public about our conflicts of interest while we’re running for office? So we need to change that as well. We need to overturn Citizens United. Super glad that we’ve seen an amendment produced in the House. The other thing, we’ve already heard about the inequalities, the inequity. We’ve heard about big money in our elections. What I can tell you is that I’m proud to announce that I’m the least funded candidate in this race. No secret there. So I need your help. Donate. LorenaforSenate.com." 

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