Nine of Colorado’s 10 members of Congress have paid at least one of their official office staffers with campaign funds this year, according to a Colorado Sun analysis of Federal Elections Commission filings for fundraising and spending through June 30.
And a 10th — U.S. Rep. Doug Lamborn — used campaign dollars to pay a firm registered to his wife.
It’s not unusual — or illegal — for members of Congress to pay their congressional staffers with campaign dollars for campaign tasks. In fact, many staffers perform campaign duties without pay, Insider reported last year, including digital work and accompanying their bosses to events.
“It’s totally legal for staff at a congressional office to work on political campaigns,” said Delaney Marsco, senior legal counsel for ethics at the Campaign Legal Center. “They’re not bound by similar restrictions that executive branch employees would be bound by with the Hatch Act,” which prohibits them from political involvement.
But the line can sometimes be blurry, which is why there are guidelines to prevent taxpayer dollars from being used to benefit a campaign.
“There are specific rules that have to be followed,” Marsco said, “the main one being that no official resources can be used in the performance of the campaign duties.”
For example, congressional staffers have to leave their office and use a different phone for any campaign work.
“They are permitted to do volunteer campaign work,” Marsco noted. “But of course, it is not permitted for the member or any staff to coerce or pressure somebody into doing campaign work.”
U.S. Rep. Jason Crow, D-Centennial, has paid the most campaign money to official staffers this year of any member of Colorado’s congressional delegation.
Crow has paid more than $36,000 to five current and two former staffers. Elijah Lefkow earned more than half of that amount while also working as a senior adviser to Crow during the first quarter of the year. He has since left that position. Crow’s office also paid Kaylin Dines, his former spokeswoman, a little more than $500 in January.
U.S. Rep. Yadira Caraveo, D-Thornton, has paid Dines nearly $1,900 in campaign funds this year. Dines now works as Caraveo’s communications director.
Dines said in a written statement that paying staffers for time they spend on political duties is a matter of fairness for Caraveo.
“Congresswoman Caraveo has long stood up for workers, and her staff are no different,” Dines wrote in an email. “Yadira believes that every worker should be compensated fairly for their work — no matter what type of work they do or how many jobs they are working.”
U.S. Rep. Lauren Boebert, R-Garfield County, has paid three staffers in her district office a total of $30,000 this year. Jasmine Higgs received $15,000, while McKenna Farley and Raven Finegan each received $7,500. The stated purpose of the payments was consulting and recount activities.
Boebert also paid Five Stones Strategies, a company registered to Bernadette Lake, a former district office employee, more than $57,500 in campaign funds in the first six months of the year for fundraising consulting.
Lamborn, a Colorado Springs Republican, has paid Triple Star Services, a company registered to his wife, Jean, more than $19,000 in 2023 for campaign consulting. Lamborn has paid his wife or her business out of his campaign account consistently during his 16 years in Congress.
Lamborn was the only member of Colorado’s delegation who hasn’t reported paying an official staffer with campaign funds this year.
Here’s a look at what campaign cash others in Colorado’s congressional delegation have paid their official staffs this year:
- Democratic U.S. Sen. Michael Bennet paid three staffers a total of $20,000 out of his campaign account
- U.S. Rep. Ken Buck, R-Windsor, paid Deputy Chief of Staff Joe Jackson $10,000 for field consulting in the first half of the year. Jackson is the former executive director of the Colorado Republican Party.
- U.S. Rep. Brittany Pettersen, D-Lakewood, paid three of her staffers a total of $6,200 in campaign funds
- Democratic U.S. Sen. John Hickenlooper paid Digital Director Stephen Bolea $5,400 in campaign cash
- U.S. Rep. Joe Neguse, D-Lafayette, paid District Director Sally Anderson $5,346 in campaign funds
- U.S. Rep. Diana DeGette, D-Denver, paid Deputy Communications Director Sam Satterfield $3,000