The Colorado Republican Party, already in the national spotlight for a poorly-run state convention that gave rise to claims of a “rigged” delegate selection process (claims disputed by those familiar with Colorado’s long-standing caucus system and in other national coverage of the Colorado state caucuses) leading to a pending challenge to Colorado’s delegation to the Republican National Convention this summer, had its state-level PAC found guilty this week of multiple violations of state campaign finance law.
This week’s ruling (Case # OS 2016-0002) found the Colorado Republican Party PAC (CRPPAC) guilty of four violations of state campaign finance law, but only imposed the minimum penalty, despite a history of previous violations by the organization. Notably, the Colorado Republican Committee itself was recently (February 2016) fined $10,000 and additionally ordered to return nearly $10,000 in illegally unreported contributions (see “Colorado Republicans fined $10,000 for “reckless indifference” to state law”) for previous violations; the judge in that case stated
“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.”
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. It is unfortunate that the Colorado Republican Party has yet to take sufficient steps to ensure that the organization remains in legal compliance,” Mr. Arnold concluded.
The apparent inability of Colorado Republican Party officers – including the Chairman, the recently recycled former Executive Director Shana Kohn Banberger (who got the job under the previous chairman Ryan Call who was voted out of office March 2015 following accusations of malfeasance, rules violations, and a series of campaign finance violations involving his “brainchild” PAC whose executive director Tyler Harber – personally appointed by Call – was convicted of federal felonies for illegal campaign coordination) to follow the rules extends beyond campaign finance regulations.
Among the many complaints (to be fair, many were unsubstantiated or lacked merit) about the state convention (and some congressional district) delegate selection process was the failure of the Colorado Republican Party to comply with the party’s own rules for balloting – most egregiously, the “numbers only” ballot for national delegates which were “full of errors” linking to delegate names. Party bylaws (Article XIII, ASSEMBLIES AND CONVENTIONS Section A Selection’of’National’Convention Delegates), submitted in the Rule 16(f) filing to the RNC required for certification of the delegation, require that ballots include the delegate name and that the “ballot shall include the presidential candidate each candidate for National Delegate is pledged to support, or shall indicate that the candidate for National Delegate is unpledged.” The delegate ballots failed to include any of this required information.
Worse, because of the public backlash against the state party’s poor execution and explanation of the state caucus/assembly/convention system for nominating candidates and RNC delegates, various special-interest groups who have long (but unsuccessfully) lobbied to replace Colorado’s grassroots caucus system with “open” primaries (favoring the well-funded and well-connected) have seized upon the opportunity to renew the push for legislation mandating open primaries for elections in the Centennial State.
Advocates for “open” primaries in Colorado (allowing those not affiliated with a party to vote to determine that party’s nominees) include a rogue’s gallery of the usual suspects:
- Denver Metro Chamber of Commerce
- Let Colorado Vote (a PAC established to push open primaries)
- “Bipartisan” Politicians from the ‘squishy middle’ (including one-term former Governor Bill Ritter, former Attorney General John Suthers, and former COGOP Chair Ryan Call – the latter expanding on his role as a paid lobbyist pushing similar “presidential primary” legislation last year that was rejected by the Republican-controlled Colorado state senate)
Most of these groups and politicians, incidentally, have thus far failed to disclose the amounts and sources of funding for their efforts in foisting primaries on Colorado voters. Lawyer-Lobbyist Ryan Call, in particular, appears to have failed to file required reports of income for his lobbying efforts last year.
All in all, the Colorado Republican Party’s pattern of failure to follow the rules has resulted, is resulting, and likely will continue to result in significant financial and policy difficulties distracting from the organization’s core mission of electing candidates and advancing conservative public policy positions. The party’s “shareholders” (registered Colorado Republicans) should expect better.