NEW HAMPSHIRE – GOP U.S. Senate candidate Bryant “Corky” Messner of Wolfeboro could be facing an investigation back in his home state of Colorado after a group of legal and non-profit leaders filed a complaint over his charity that they say broke the law.
“Messner’s foundation activities represent a clear violation of several Colorado statutes, and the Secretary of State and Attorney General should immediately open up a comprehensive investigation to hold him accountable,” said former Colorado Supreme Court Justice and Colorado Deputy Attorney General Jean Dubofsky in a statement released Tuesday. “The law is written to protect Coloradans from individuals like Messner who engage in blatant scams to further their own self-interests, instead of legitimate charitable causes, and he should not get away with defrauding so many donors and students for so many years.”
Messner’s senior campaign advisor Mike Biundo called the complaints a “hoax.”
“The complaint is a political hoax with no legal basis or merit, a clear attempt to obscure the good work that the Messner Foundation has done,” Biundo said.
A story in the Washington Post raised questions about Messner’s charity, the Messner Foundation, which over the course of 10 years raised large sums of money to pay for scholarships for low-income students. In its first 10 years in existence, the foundation has paid out one scholarship, though a few more are reportedly in the works.
The legal complaint, which was filed with Colorado Secretary of State Jena Griswold and Attorney General Phil Weiser, is signed by Mary Mullarkey, retired chief justice of the Colorado Supreme Court, Dubofsky, Josie Heath, former president of the Community Foundation-Boulder County, Adele Phelan, former president of the Clayton Foundation, and Tom Korson, a retired minister and community activist.
The complaint states that the Messner Foundation engaged in fraud in 2015 when it raised more than $200,000 through a raffle. While it was raising money through the raffle, the Messner Foundation did not pay out any grants or scholarships that year, according to the complaint.
“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,” the complaint states.
The complaint’s signers also contend that Messner broke the law by not registering the Messner Foundation under the Charitable Solicitations Act.
“Nonprofit foundations can make such a difference for vulnerable Coloradans and Americans, and the fact that Messner attempted to generate goodwill while breaking the law and swindling unsuspecting donors is a stain on anyone who has actually dedicated their lives to supporting those in need,” Heath said in a statement. “Messner’s nonprofit fraud is not only illegal, it betrays a deep cynicism about the work of local organizations designed to help Coloradans, and I hope the State will make an example out of his extreme deception.”
Neither Griswold nor Weiser’s offices responded to requests for comment Tuesday night.
The lone student who has so far received the Messner Foundation scholarship, Majarlika Diane Villaruel-Mariano, said she will be able to be the first person in her family to go to college because of the foundation.
“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,” she said in a statement provided by the Messner campaign.