Group involved in GarCo race fined

Organization admits filing error, had criticized commission candidate

A judge has fined an independent campaign group $7,150 for violations related to a Garfield County commission race.

Administrative Law Judge Robert Spencer handed down the fine this week against the Aurora-based Colorado League of Taxpayers. Earlier this month, the organization admitted it broke campaign finance laws by failing to file an electioneering communication report last fall.

Colorado Ethics Watch had complained to the Secretary of State’s Office about the violation, which pertained to the group’s mailings criticizing Democratic commissioner candidate Steve Carter.

The group, set up by Republican activist Scott Shires, disclosed in its admission that it spent about $2,400 for the mailings.

Colorado Ethics Watch sought a fine of more than $9,000 based on a maximum allowable penalty of $50 per day of violation. It says the violation persisted from September into April.

Spencer agreed to the maximum daily amount but said it only could be imposed up to when Colorado Ethics Watch filed its complaint Feb. 20. Neither the complaint nor the Colorado League of Taxpayers admission established that the violation continued beyond Feb. 20, he said.

Luis Toro, senior counsel for Colorado Ethics Watch, said the group still is happy with the amount of the fine when compared to the amount of money spent for the mailings.

The Colorado League of Taxpayers had sought a lower penalty, saying it is an unsophisticated organization with limited resources. But Spencer noted it has failed to abide by the same election requirement before and is “therefore not a stranger to this issue.” The group was fined a total of $650 last year for that campaign-law violation and a violation in Weld County.

Two Garfield commissioner races last year saw an emergence of independent campaign spending by oil and gas, environmental and other outside interests, and the sources of some spending remain unidentified.

Carter lost to Republican Mike Samson. Fellow Democrat Stephen Bershenyi lost to Republican incumbent John Martin.

Carter has said he thinks the maximum allowable penalty against the Colorado League of
Taxpayers should be higher, considering there’s no way to undo election results.


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