Conservative Political Groups Fined for Breaking Electioneering Law

RMGO pro-gun rally last year.
RMGO pro-gun rally last year.
Brandon Marshall

An administrative law judge has ruled that both Colorado Campaign for Life and Rocky Mountain Gun Owners must pay fines for failing to disclosing financial information in their campaigns against two Republican candidates in the state senate primaries last year. The groups must also file disclosures of spending and earmarked contributions for mailings that they sent to registered Republicans in two Colorado districts. See also: Steve King Tops Most Wanted List from Colorado Ethics Watch

The case stemmed from complaints filed by Colorado Ethics Watch. Administrative Law Judge Robert Spencer agreed that the mailers sent by CCL and RMGO were considered "electioneering communications" under Colorado law. The groups each spent over $1,000 to contact potential voters, naming the candidates running in the primary in their mailers.

Candidates Lang Sias and Mario Nicolais were both attacked in the mailers for their stands on abortion and gun control. CCL and RMGO supported candidates Laura Woods and Tony Sanchez instead.

Disclosures were due by July 1. The fine, $8,450, represents $50 for every day after the deadline through the filing of the complaint.

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In response to the complaint, CCL and RMGO hired a Washington, D.C. area law firm to file a federal suit against Ethics Watch and the Colorado Secretary of State, arguing that the disclosure laws that the groups did not follow were actually unconstitutional.

Luis Toro, director of Colorado Ethics Watch, says that the landmark case Citizens United, which loosened limits on campaign spending, also declared that disclosure laws were not a violation of the constitution. Spencer agreed, and rejected the CCL/RMGO argument that the First Amendment allows them to electioneer without filing their campaign spending with the Secretary of State's office.

Toro says this isn't a partisan issue, but a citizens' issue. After all, Republican citizens alerted Ethics Watch to the electioneering in the first place. "Republican citizens reached out to us, and we took that information," he explains. "We've got friends in both parties." Have a tip? E-mail editorial@westword.com.


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