Back on the Hook? Bob Gardner’s sham “social welfare” organization political committee (ASIWH) ruled still subject to enforcement action for unpaid penalties
In a Court of Appeals ruling (case 2016CA267) released yesterday (Thursday 23 February 2017), the sham 501(c)4 “social welfare” organization (adjudicated to be a political committee in 2014) ‘Alliance for a Safe and Independent Woodmen Hills’ (ASIWH) was held to be still subject to court action to enforce payment of uncollected penalties owed the state since 2014.
The so-called ASIWH committee, formed by state senator Bob Gardner and political operative Sarah Brittain Jack in 2014 to influence special district elections, was taken to court for illegally operating as a “political committee” but failing to register and disclose donors and spending by Campaign Integrity Watchdog in Summer 2014. ASIWH was found guilty of multiple violations of state law, ordered to register and pay penalties of nearly $10,000 – which remain unpaid.
(See “The Lawmaker is a Lawbreaker” 8 August 2014).
Following the failure of Secretary of State Wayne Williams to collect the penalties owed by his political allies (and campaign contributors) Bob Gardner and Sarah Jack’s illegal committee (in possibly criminal violation of his fiduciary duties under the Colorado constitution and state law), CIW filed an action in district court to enforce payment of penalties in September 2015.
State Senator Bob Gardner, defending ASIWH and its officer Sarah Brittain Jack in the case, argued that the statute of limitations for enforcing the penalty had expired – and ASIWH was no longer subject to private action to collect payment (while resting assured that his buddy Wayne Williams would not only fail to collect against ASIWH, but would defend it in court – using taxpayer money to do so). The district court agreed, and CIW appealed.
“The Court of Appeals ruling rejected Bob Gardner’s attempt – aided and abetted by his ally, Secretary of State Wayne Williams – to run out the clock on lawfully imposed debt owed the state; ultimately, owed to the citizens of Colorado,” stated CIW’s officer and non-attorney representative Matt Arnold, who successfully argued the appellate case. “The court’s ruling, reversing the district court, puts the case back on track to enforcing accountability for the serial lawbreaking perpetrated by the Gardner/Jack sham PAC.”
The release of the ruling against Bob Gardner’s committee may also have influenced the withdrawal of a bill co-sponsored by Gardner and Rep. Thurlow (another serial violator) to create a “get out of jail free” card for committees caught violating the law from public hearing (the bill, HB17-1155, had been scheduled for hearing in the House State, Veterans, and Military Affairs committee Thursday morning but was “withdrawn by sponsor” at the last minute).
Important background information:
Yesterday’s ruling is the latest in a string of victories by Campaign Integrity Watchdog in prosecuting violations of state law:
- Beauprez group ‘Colorado Pioneer Action’ fails to dismiss campaign finance case
- Former state rep. Tim Dore fined $2,000 for violating Colorado disclosure laws
- Not a model of clarity – CIW defeats “top” election lawyer on appeal
- Colorado district attorney fined $1,000 for breaking state disclosure law
- ‘Jeffco United for Action’ committee found guilty, fined for multiple violations
- Gardner committee admits half-dozen violations of Colorado campaign law
As the state’s premier campaign finance accountability organization, CIW prosecutes violators irrespective of partisan affiliation – which has not endeared the “aggressively nonpartisan” entity to party hacks and political operatives across the spectrum in Colorado, who (predictably) whine when their ox is gored, but crow about their enemies being made roadkill. CIW, however, believes in equal application of the law – that “Some Animals are NOT More Equal than Others”