The ‘Jeffco United for Action’ committee, which successfully ousted 3 recently-elected (2014) school board members in a campaign marked by unprecedented levels of “dark” money in a school board election, was found guilty and fined for multiple violations of Colorado’s ‘Fair Campaign Practices Act’ in a ruling released Wednesday afternoon.
This week’s ruling (Case # OS 2016-0006) found the ‘Jeffco United for Action’ (JUA) committee guilty of seven violations of state campaign finance law, but only imposed the minimum penalty on just five violations (due to double disclosure failures related to the same individual in two of the seven instances). Minimum penalties are often imposed for first-time violators without a history of previous infractions by the same organization.
Although the group’s sister organization, the Jeffco United “nonprofit corporation” was previously found to have violated registration and disclosure requirements, the ‘JUA’ entity itself, despite having had a previous complaint filed against it, had never been held accountable for violations of state campaign finance law. (Oddly, the previous complaint against JUA, filed by the opaquely resourced ‘Colorado Government Watch’, had been unilaterally withdrawn before ever being considered on the merits – which, based on CGW’s precipitous withdrawal of the complaint after announcing it with much fanfare, must not have been very strong).
CIW’s officer, Matt Arnold, stated that, “Although the full extent of Jeffco United for Action’s violations could not be prosecuted due to the intervening(withdrawn) complaint, it is important that the group be held accountable to the law – even if the accountability was delayed, it was not denied.”
“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 groups such as Jeffco United for Action so frequently escape accountability for failing to meet the standards for full and transparent disclosure of campaign activity while they buy and sell public office – down to and including your local school board – in Colorado,” Mr. Arnold concluded.
Ironically, Colorado’s system of enforcing accountability for campaign finance violations is currently under attack from out-of-state special interests in an ongoing federal lawsuit.