New finance reports for a recall campaign that isn’t going forward – for now – show Denver Public Schools board president Nate Easley continued to amass funds to defend himself while those seeking to remove him are still reporting little more than pocket change.
Take Back Our Schools, the committee formed to seek the ouster of the first-term representative from Northeast Denver, filed a report Tuesday showing no monetary contributions and no expenditures, listing just $454 in “non-monetary contributions” in the reporting cycle ending April 14.
It’s the second consecutive reporting period in which Take Back Our Schools listed no monetary contributions and no expenditures.
Easley’s campaign to defend himself against a potential recall vote, Easley 4 Better Schools, collected $25,090 in the one-month reporting period ending April 14, spent $11,715 and was left with a balance on hand of $38,082.
Easley, elected as the school board’s District 4 representative in November 2009, won’t need to dip into that war chest just yet. The Denver Elections Division announced April 13 that recall advocates had fallen far short of the needed valid signatures to force a recall vote, missing the 5,363-signature threshold by 2,080.
However, John McBride, the registered agent for Take Back Our Schools, said Easley’s opponents will mount a second recall effort. McBride said he plans for it to coincide with the November general elections.
McBride said he does not plan to file a protest over the April 13 elections division finding that his group had gathered insufficient signatures to force a recall vote this summer. He expressed confidence, however, that Easley’s opponents will be more successful a second time around.
Opponents plan second recall effort
“We’re going to start the process again. We know what we’re doing,” McBride said. “This was our first time out. We were inexperienced. Highly inexperienced. We got 6,000 signatures with a grassroots effort. This time, we’ll have more time to get more information to the people.”
City elections officials last week said McBride’s group had turned in 5,899 signatures, but that only 3,283 were valid.
In a renewed recall effort, McBride said that once again, “We’re not going to take any money.” A moment later, he said, “That could change. But, right now, we’re not.”
He described the $454 in non-monetary contributions in his group’s report filed Tuesday as “printing, food, people donated different pieces of what we needed, stuff like that.”
McBride added, “We had $450. He had $35,000.”
Upon learning of McBride’s vow to continue with renewed recall effort, Easley uttered a sarcastic “Whoopee,” then became serious.
“I imagine the way the law’s written, this is not something that will ever be over,” said Easley. “They already have a record of not being able to make this happen, but if they want to keep it going, then I am happy to continue to talk to voters, sharing the message.
“We really have made some progress, and we’re continuing to make progress. Making progress with quality schools is something I can defend until I am no longer on the board. And I am confident they will not win.”
Easley has been criticized by his opponents for taking financial support from well outside his district. In his latest finance report, the single largest contribution is $4,000 from Joseph Bridy, a partner at Hamlin Capital Management in New York. Bridy has appeared before state education associations to present on the topic of infrastructures and facilities financing.
Kent Thiry, chairman and CEO of Denver-based DaVita Inc., pitched in $1,000 to Easley’s campaign. DaVita is one of the largest providers of kidney dialysis treatment in the United States.
Also among Easley’s contributors is Cynthia Abramson, who gave $250. She is a CEO at the Denver Scholarship Foundation and she hired Easley, who is the foundation’s deputy director.
The central complaint by recall advocates against Easley in their initial recall effort was that Easley’s job at the foundation represented a conflict of interest for his position as a DPS school board member. Easley insisted that it posed no conflict, and he has been joined in that opinion by DPS legal counsel.
Easley draws from national field
Easley made no apologies Wednesday for accepting donations from outside his district – or outside Colorado, for that matter.
“If you look at the contributions that I had when I originally campaigned in 2009, you’ll note that a lot of my contributors were not from Denver. A lot of it was from people I know nationally, who have faith in me as someone who is always going to fight for education equity,” Easley said
“I have a national network. I worked in D.C., for 11 years” at the Council for Opportunity in Education. He added, “If it wasn’t for laws that say you can’t accept donations from other countries, I’m quite confident that I would have had people from other countries contributing, because of my integrity and my commitment to educational equity.”
Easley said he has consulted with an attorney to determine whether he can use his remaining campaign funds to hire staff to assist in healing the rifts stemming from the failed recall effort, and that he has not received an answer on that yet. If the answer is no, he plans to donate the money to a charity.
Meanwhile, he expressed surprise that McBride’s group once again showed no monetary contributions or expenditures.
“I want to know how that’s possible,” he said. “Because I have seen a full box of at least 500 to 1,000 (pro-recall) fliers, when I was at East (High School) for an event. I’m curious to know how that’s possible, with no money.”
McBride has said any expenditures by recall advocates have been small personal payments out of supporters’ pockets. A spokesman for the Colorado Secretary of State’s office stated previously that if those do not exceed $200, they do not need to be reported.
On Wednesday, Secretary of State’s Office spokesman Andrew Cole said that office would have no concerns about an issue committee filing consecutive reports showing no activity.
“It doesn’t matter to us whether they’re raising or spending, as long as they’re accurately reporting. That’s what’s important. We’d rather someone file a report with no activity, than not file at all,” Cole said.