A smiling woman dances while a crowd behind her holds supportive signs.
Embattled Mesa County clerk, Tina Peters, dances under Elton John's "I'm Still Standing" music just before entering the stage in front of the delegates at the GOP state assembly on Saturday, April 9, 2022, inside the Broadmoor World Arena in Colorado Springs. Peters, who was indicted for her role in a breach county’s election system, later earned the top spot in the Republican primary for Colorado secretary. (Hugh Carey, The Colorado Sun)

Embattled Mesa County Clerk Tina Peters, a Republican who is running to be Colorado’s next secretary of state, visited former President Donald Trump’s Mar-a-Lago resort this week to attend a screening of a documentary focused on baseless claims of widespread fraud in the 2020 presidential election. 

Peters tweeted Thursday night that she was at Trump’s Mar-a-Lago club in Palm Beach, Florida, to see “2000 Mules.” She included photos of herself with filmmaker Dinesh D’Souza, a conservative media personality who was pardoned by Trump in 2018 after being convicted of a campaign finance violation.

Peters’ appearance at Mar-a-Lago, which is owned by Trump, is notable because the club has become a must-visit location for candidates seeking the former president’s endorsement. The New York Times reported last month that Mar-a-Lago has effectively become a place where GOP campaigns in 2022 live or die. 

Peters, whose campaign is focused on unfounded claims that the 2020 election was stolen from Trump, has not been publicly endorsed by Trump. She is running in the June 28 primary against former Jefferson County Clerk Pam Anderson, who has rejected claims that the 2020 election was fraudulent. 

Also attending the premiere were U.S. Rep. Lauren Boebert, R-Garfield County, and Trump lawyers Jenna Ellis and Rudy Guiliani.

Peters was indicted earlier this year on 10 counts in a security breach of her county’s election system. The charges include three counts of attempting to influence a public servant, a Class 4 felony; one count of attempting to influence a public servant, a Class 5 felony; one count of criminal impersonation, a Class 6 felony; one count of conspiracy to commit criminal impersonation, a Class 6 felony; one count of identity theft, a Class 4 felony; and one count of first-degree official misconduct, a Class 2 misdemeanor.

She is also charged with one count each of violation of duty and failing to comply with the secretary of state, which are unclassified misdemeanor offenses.

Mesa County District Attorney Dan Rubinstein said he did not oppose Peters’ travel.

“While I have some concerns about Ms. Peters as a potential flight risk, due to her access to private flight travel and history of going into hiding during this investigation, I must balance the importance of assuring her appearance in court against the risk that her bond conditions could improperly influence the upcoming election,” Rubinstein told The Unaffiliated, The Colorado Sun’s political newsletter. “I struck that balance by asking the court to allow travel, provided she gave details about her whereabouts when out of state.”

Peters rakes in campaign cash from out-of-state donors

Peters also filed a campaign finance report this week detailing the money she raised and spent from mid-February, when she announced her candidacy for secretary of state, through the end of April.

Peters raised more than $155,000 during that span while spending only $54,000. She had about $102,000 in cash heading into May.

That’s considerably more cash on hand than Peters’ GOP primary foes. In fact, it’s more money than all other Republican candidates running for statewide office had in their campaign accounts at the end of April with the exception of gubernatorial candidate Heidi Ganahl. 

Anderson, the former county clerk who is also running for secretary of state as a Republican, raised $51,000 in the first four months of the year, while Mike O’Donnell, a nonprofit executive from the Eastern Plains also on the June 28 GOP primary ballot for secretary of state, raised only $9,700.  

Peters’ haul is still a fraction of the $2.5 million Democratic Secretary of State Jena Griswold raised in the past four years. 

Nearly 60% of Peters’ contributions came from other states, compared with the 87% of Griswold’s contributions that came from Colorado.

Peters was fined $50 for filing her campaign finance report at 6:30 p.m. Tuesday instead of by the 10 p.m. Monday deadline. 

Among Peters’ campaign expenses was a $1,998 charge for use of the Villa Parker, an event venue owned by Colorado election conspiracist Joe Oltmann, for a fundraiser she held with MyPillow CEO Mike Lindell. Peters paid MyPillow $1,320 for travel and lodging shortly after that April fundraiser. And she paid $173 to Rent the Runway, a company that rents formal wear, the day before the fundraiser.

The campaign also donated $600 to conservative nonprofit Judicial Watch. The money came from instances where contributions were anonymous or donors exceeded the $1,250 limit the campaign could accept. Judicial Watch is suing the Secretary of State’s Office in federal court over voter roll maintenance.

Blagojevich headlines next Peters fundraiser

Peters will keep her fundraising machine going with an event next week featuring former Democratic Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich, who was convicted of a felony for trying to auction a U.S. Senate seat that opened when Barack Obama became president. Blagojevich served part of his 14-year federal prison sentence in Colorado until Trump commuted his term.

The event is hosted by Glendale Mayor Mike Dunafon and his wife, Debbie Dunafon, majority owner of Shotgun Willie’s, a strip club. The May 14 event is also hosted by Rich Wyatt, a former gun store owner who also served time in federal prison on tax charges before being released early in June 2020 after one of his convictions was overturned.

Wyatt nominated Peters for secretary of state at the April 9 GOP state assembly.

Jesse Paul is a Denver-based political reporter and editor at The Colorado Sun, covering the state legislature, Congress and local politics. He is the author of The Unaffiliated newsletter and also occasionally fills in on breaking news coverage....

Sandra Fish has covered government and politics in Iowa, Florida, New Mexico and Colorado. She was a full-time journalism instructor at the University of Colorado for eight years, and her work as appeared on CPR, KUNC, The Washington Post, Roll...