Colorado Republican Party fined $10,000 for “reckless indifference” to legal reporting obligations

Colorado Republican Party fined $10,000 for “reckless indifference” to legal reporting obligations

The Colorado Republican Party, back in court last week after delaying a hearing originally scheduled for mid-November, incurred a penalty of $10,000 for multiple violations of state campaign finance law and displaying “reckless indifference” to legal reporting obligations.  The Party was also ordered to return five improperly reported contributions of $2,825 each (the maximum allowable) for a total “hit” to the party’s checkbook of $24,125 – payable within 30 days of yesterday’s ruling.

Administrative Law Judge Robert Spencer wrote in his ruling,

“CRC is a sophisticated political committee with long experience in campaign finance reporting, and it has no credible excuse for the errors that occurred.  The multiple infractions in this case together with CRC’s long history of prior violations suggests that, at least until recently, CRC has viewed its reporting obligations with reckless indifference.  A substantial monetary penalty is warranted.  The ALJ therefore imposes a monetary penalty of $10,000.”

The ruling comes as a result of a campaign finance complaint filed in late October by Campaign Integrity Watchdog – an aggressively non-partisan public-interest accountability organization which has successfully prosecuted more violations of state campaign finance law than any other entity in Colorado history (under Colorado’s “private enforcement” provisions, enforcement is conducted in civil court proceedings by outside groups or individuals, not the government).

The Colorado Republicans delayed the hearing, and hoped to avoid going to trial on the evidence and merits entirely, by filing a frivolous Motion to Dismiss. After the state party rejected a gracious settlement offer, CIW’s pro se (non-attorney) officer Matt Arnold defeated the arguments of highly-paid attorney Chris Murray of the politically-connected Brownstein Hyatt Farber Schreck (BHFS) law firm both in pre-trial motions and at the 17 February hearing, leading to yesterday’s ruling and stiff penalty assessment.

The CRC’s history of a recurring pattern of reporting violations, particularly under past chairman Ryan Call, factored heavily into the assessment of penalties.

(It could have gone even worse for Colorado Republicans, as the statutory maximum penalty amount for the multiple violations totaled $40,050).

CIW’s officer, Matt Arnold, stated that, “It was unfortunate that the Colorado Republican Party has continued the scofflaw tradition of its former chair, the law-breaking lawyer Ryan Call. As a Republican, it pains me to have to hold the party and its officers accountable to the law – rather than them simply upholding the law in the first place.”

“As a nonpartisan integrity watchdog, it’s important to ensure that the law is applied fairly and equally to all parties.  ALJ Spencer’s ruling was clear on the facts, and reasonable in the imposition of penalties; justice has been served,” Mr. Arnold concluded

Final Agency Decision, OS 2015-0026 CIW v. CRC

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