Colorado Attorney General Seeks to Boost Nonprofit Oversight

Colorado attorney general Cynthia Coffman is seeking to create an oversight unit to monitor the state's growing charity sector, the Denver Post reports.

Coffman, a Republican, told the Post that since 2006 the number of registered 501(c)(3) organizations based in the state has tripled — to 13,663 from 4,168. The increase is due in part, said Coffman, to a 2008 initiative that reached out to charities that hadn’t been registered with the state, resulting in a 33 percent surge in registrations. Coffman's request for $350,000 would finance two full-time attorneys, an investigator, office equipment, and operating costs. Currently, the work is handled by attorneys in the state's consumer fraud unit.

While the proposed unit, which would also oversee nonprofit-to-for-profit conversions in the healthcare field, has not generated any push-back from nonprofits in the state, at least one lawmaker has expressed concern. Republican state senator Kevin Lundberg told the Post he feared the new unit would put too "much firepower in place" and that charities are already required to meet a variety of regulations before they can solicit donations in the state. Currently, nonprofits register and file reports with the secretary of state's office, which has three investigators who handle complaints related to charities, notaries, and bingo and raffle operations.

"We're not interested in pursuing a community charitable organization that makes mistakes in how it accounts for proceeds. We’re interested in educating folks like that," said Coffman, who added that she would monitor the new unit and would phase it out if it's not needed. "We are targeting those who go out to defraud donors and take money from unsuspecting folks."