Not a Model of Clarity – CIW defeats “top” election lawyer on appeal

The Colorado Court of Appeals last week roundly rejected an appeal of a campaign finance ruling won by Campaign Integrity Watchdog against Western Slope legislator Dan Thurlow last year – calling Thurlow’s appeal, filed by “top election lawyer” Mario Nicolais, “not a model of clarity” in affirming the trial court judgment and denying the appeal (case 15CA1110).

The Thurlow committee appeal attempted to impose a mandate for the Secretary of State to prescreen reports for completeness and grant a “notice and cure period” for violations on two grounds (statutory, and “procedural due process”) – both of which, the Court ruled, “fall short.”

On statutory grounds, the Court noted that the committee’s argument would interpret a statute to limit a constitutional provision – and that, “a court cannot do.”

In rejecting the “procedural due process grounds” argument the Court noted,

one might wonder what more could due process require than timely notice of the complaints followed by full evidentiary hearing?

Finally, the Court rejected the committee’s spurious attempt to expand a “substantial compliance” standard to violations of campaign finance law – noting, correctly, the lack of any precedential authority that agrees with the argument and that such a lax standard does not apply to campaign finance violations “based on the plain language of the statutes” involved.

Importantly, the Court cited the key legal requirements of “strong enforcement” and “full and timely disclosure” as the relevant standards for campaign finance law in Colorado – precisely the key principles championed by Campaign Integrity Watchdog.

Campaign Integrity Watchdog founder and director, Matt Arnold, praised the ruling and said, “The Court of Appeals resoundingly rejected the spurious arguments of the appellant with wit worthy of Willett (or Shakespeare) – a smackdown befitting the sometimes incoherent ‘do-over’ opening brief filed by the attorney for the losing party.”

“Moreover, this ruling appropriately defends the citizen-initiated campaign finance complaint system, clarifying both that it is not the role of the Secretary of State to be involved in the process of enforcing laws that candidates (and ESPECIALLY elected officials) should already know and follow, and affirming that the system does indeed provide due process to the respondent to ensure their rights are protected, as well” Arnold added.

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