CONCORD, N.H. (AP) -
A former chief justice of the Colorado Supreme Court on Tuesday requested a criminal investigation into a charitable foundation run by Bryant “Corky” Messner, a Republican running for U.S. Senate in New Hampshire.
A letter sent to the Colorado secretary of state and attorney general accuses Messner of violating several state laws by running a fraudulent foundation purported to help low-income college students. It was spurred by a recent article in the Washington Post that described years of misleading marketing by the Messner Foundation, which provided just a single scholarship in its first 10 years of existence.
Meanwhile, the foundation raised money via car raffles that also promoted his Denver-based law firm and donated $50,000 to an elite private school his sons attended at the time.
“The Messner Foundation and its president, Corky Messner, swindled both the underprivileged students in Colorado it was promising to help, as well as all of the people who purchased tickets for its 2015 raffle believing their money was going toward a good cause,” according to the request from former Colorado Supreme Court Chief Justice Mary Mullarkey.
Her letter was also signed by Jean Dubofsky, a former Colorado Supreme Court justice and former deputy attorney general; the former presidents of organizations that help low-income families; a community activist and a former state senator.
Messner is one of four Republicans competing in the Sept. 8 primary for a chance to unseat Democratic Sen. Jeanne Shaheen, who is seeking a third term. His senior campaign advisor, Mike Biundo called the letter “a clear attempt to obscure the good work that the Messner Foundation has done.”
“The complaint is a political hoax with no legal basis or merit,” he said in an email.
Messner’s campaign previously told the Washington Post that the donations to his sons’ school was in keeping with the foundation’s mission “to cultivate the next generation of business and community leaders, that the scholarship program did not formally begin until 2016 and that a second student has recently been awarded funds.
The initial recipient, Majarlika Diane Villaruel-Mariano, received about $48,000 over three years to study at the University of Denver. In a statement, she said it will enable her to become the first in her family to graduate from college.
“This fall, I am completing my studies with a one-year graduate-level program and will graduate next year with a master’s of accountancy, and then sit for the CPA exam,” she said. “The Messner Foundation scholarships helped cover my costs throughout my years of study, helping me achieve my career goals and realize my potential, and I am grateful to Mr. Messner for his support and guidance.”
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