Governor candidates upset with Stapleton’s treasurer ad that doesn’t use campaign funds

DENVER -- For years "The Great Colorado Payback" advertisements have aired on Denver TV stations.

State Treasurer Walker Stapleton appears on camera  and encourages Coloradans to check if they have funds owed to  them by the state.

This year, some candidates for governor are voicing their criticism with the ad -- believing Stapleton, a Republican gubernatorial candidate, is getting free airtime.

"I mean it's clearly a political ad -- they are using public funds," said Victor Mitchell, a Republican candidate for governor.

"You are talking about hundreds of thousands of dollars of public funds to advance his own advocacy. This commercial could have been filmed with anyone. You could have had John Elway. Why did he put his face front and center?" Mitchell said.

According to public records, the filming and airing of the advertisements come from interest accrued from property and funds unclaimed by Colorado taxpayers.

This year's commercial -- which is the same as previous years -- cost $7,965 to produce six years ago and $192,249 to air in 2018.

Technically, the money is not taxpayer dollars and airing the ads violates no Colorado law.

"Getting the word out about 'The Great Colorado Payback' is about fulfilling his duties as treasurer of Colorado. We do this every year around springtime, and this year Walker also happens to be running for governor," said Rachel George, a spokeswoman for Stapleton’s Treasury Office.

A political analyst said Stapleton is not breaking any laws -- just taking advantage of an opportunity.

"It doesn't surprise me that the ads are being called into question by his opponents, but he has every right to pursue this course because of his position as state treasurer -- that is the advantage he has," Solin said.

The sales team at FOX31 and Channel 2 have filed the ad with the Federal Communications Commission in its file for 2018 candidates for governor.