Editor’s note: This article has been updated to reflect the correct amount that Callie Rennison donated to her campaign.

Two candidates in the Democratic primary for the 2nd Congressional District University of Colorado Board of Regents seat have loaned their campaigns more than $150,000 each, according to recent campaign finance filings.

Dave Gross has loaned his campaign $235,000, and Aaron Harber has loaned his campaign $177,513, according to records from the Colorado Secretary of State’s online campaign finance system, TRACER.

Callie Rennison has loaned her campaign $4,000 and has donated $3,017 to her campaign.

State records dating back to 2002 show that none of the three previous 2nd Congressional District Board of Regents elections had that level of funding, regardless of political party.

Most candidates raised $50,000 or less in funding, and the third-largest loan, behind Gross’ and Harber’s, was in Republican Bob Sievers’ reelection campaign in 2002. Sievers loaned his campaign $25,000.

Rennison, a faculty member at the University of Colorado Denver School of Public Affairs, said she was surprised by how much Harber and Gross loaned their campaigns and described her campaign as “grass roots.”

“Part of the reason I’m running for regent is to bring the voice of everyday people to the board,” she said. “Like so many at CU, I struggled to pay tuition and I used to have to choose between buying food and buying a book. I think my personal journey and my values that have come from that have really resonated with the people of CD2.”

Gross, a faculty member at the University of Colorado Boulder’s Leeds School of Business, said his investment in his campaign shows he is deeply committed to the race.

“I think I’m the best candidate. I think I have the best record and the best experiences, and I think I would make the best regent. My hope is that the voters of CD2 agree,” Gross said.

The funding has gone to communicating “my skills, my priorities and my experience” to voters, Gross said.

Harber, who produces and hosts his own talk show, said he has made a financial commitment to his campaign to ensure there’s an unbiased voice at the CU system.

“I believe strongly in CU and know I can make a positive difference, so I’m happy to put my money where my mouth is because my opponents are CU faculty members with huge financial conflicts of interest,” Harber said in an emailed statement.

Gross and Rennison have conflicts of interest as employees of the university system, Harber said, and have “competing financial interests with other stakeholders who are not represented on the board.” Other stakeholders include students, nontenured and adjunct faculty, staff and researchers who are “all in competition for scarce dollars,” Harber said, particularly with the university’s budget cuts caused by coronavirus.

Rennison described the conflict of interest Harber refers to as “imaginary.”

“He acts like we’ve never had faculty on the Board of Regents, and that is untrue. Just like any other role that I have had as a faulty member in the system, if there’s a chance there could be a conflict of interest, I recuse myself,” Rennison said.

Gross also pointed to previous regents who have also been faculty, “which demonstrates how little Aaron knows about the CU system,” he said.

Harber said having employees on the Board of Regents before doesn’t make electing new ones the right decision.

CU does not interpret state law as prohibiting employees from serving on the board, system spokesperson Ken McConnellogue said.

“If they do (serve,) they agree to abide by regent policies that prohibit conflicts of interest,” McConnellogue said in an email. “For instance, if they are voting on compensation that would apply to them, that would be a conflict.”

McConnellogue cited the board’s conflict of interest policy, which states that a regent must serve the public trust and exercise their power in the interest of the public, the university and the board — not in their own interest or in the interest of another person or group.

McConnellogue said to the best of his knowledge, regents who were also faculty members or employees include Sievers, who is still a professor at CU Boulder, and current Regent Jack Kroll, who works in admissions at CU Boulder.

According to previous Camera reporting, regents who were students while they served on the board include Maureen Johnson Ediger, a political science major from CU Boulder who served as a Republican from 1996 to 2002, and Rep. Joe Neguse, who was a student at the University of Colorado Law School and served on the board as a Democrat from 2009 to 2015.

blog comments powered by Disqus