John Kellner, candidate for Colorado attorney general, returns $500 contribution flagged as potential campaign finance violation

A report of a potential campaign finance violation led Colorado attorney general candidate John Kellner to return a $500 contribution from a lobbyist, though the lobbyist has since been free to give the money back to the campaign.

A complaint filed May 20 with the Colorado Secretary of State’s Office alleged that Kellner, a Republican and the district attorney for the 18th Judicial District, accepted a $500 contribution from lobbyist Michael Fields on Jan. 27.

Because the contribution came while the General Assembly was in session, the act was a violation of state campaign finance laws, the complaint alleged.

On Monday, the secretary of state’s Enforcement Division issued an initial review that found “potential violations of Colorado campaign finance laws exist,” and gave Kellner until June 21 to “cure,” or fix, the violation.

A final determination on the campaign finance violation has not yet been made by the secretary of state’s office.

“Because the investigation into this matter is ongoing, the department cannot provide further details,” said Annie Orloff, a spokesperson for the Colorado Secretary of State’s Office.

Michael Senich, a spokesperson for Kellner’s campaign, said the money was returned to Fields upon the realization that the contribution could have been in violation of state law.

State statute prohibits professional lobbyists from making contributions to candidates for attorney general while the General Assembly is in session. The regular session starts in January and runs into May.

Now that the legislature is no longer in session, contributions are permitted. Fields told The Denver Post that after Kellner returned the money, he re-issued the contribution once it was allowed.

“It was a timing thing. Obviously, it was a mistake that I made, not knowing that you couldn’t give to an attorney general candidate during a session,” Fields said. “So I just didn’t know. We corrected it once we’ve been made aware of that. The Kellner campaign gave the money back to me, and then, when we were allowed to, I just gave it back to the Kellner campaign.”

Kellner is running against Democratic incumbent Attorney General Phil Weiser in the November election.

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