The Colorado Republican Party, back in court yet again last month after delaying a hearing originally scheduled for late May, incurred a penalty of $4,700 for multiple violations of state campaign finance law in what seems to be a recurring pattern of failure to comply with legal reporting obligations. The Party was also ordered to return an improperly reported contribution of $3,050 (the maximum allowable) for a total “hit” to the party’s checkbook of $7,750 – payable within 30 days of Tuesday’s ruling.
The ruling, issued Tuesday August 30th, results from a campaign finance complaint filed in mid-May 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).
Colorado Republican Party attorney Chris Murray, of Brownstein Hyatt Farber Schreck, lost yet again to Campaign Integrity Watchdog non-attorney representative Matt Arnold (despite being granted the extraordinary opportunity to “supplement” his arguments at trial with an additional brief after the August 1st hearing).
Murray argued that the party was not obligated to report payments to the state party as “contributions” (despite the law stating exactly that) as long as the party describes the payments as “commerce” – i.e. the sale of goods or services. Of course, since political parties aren’t in the business of selling goods or services (rather, “selling” candidates) and enjoy tax-exempt status for that reason, the Court rejected that spurious argument.
The party’s history of a recurring pattern of reporting violations, particularly under past chairman Ryan Call and continued under current chair Steve House, factored heavily into the assessment of penalties.
CIW’s officer, Matt Arnold, stated that, “It was unfortunate that the Colorado Republican Party continues to show such contempt for its obligations under the law – and offers up such frivolous excuses for its ongoing behavior. As a Republican, it pains me to have to hold the party and its officers accountable to the law – and see them waste such vast sums on lawyers – rather than simply complying with the law in the first place.”