The Larimer County Republican Party faced massive fines for not filing campaign-finance reports in 2010 -- but last month, the Secretary of State's office reduced the bill from $48,000 to $15,000, leaving critics agog. Now, Colorado Ethics Watch has issued a complaint about what it sees as additional violations.
According to CEW, the party filed reports about contributions and expenditures between August and December 2010 on March 4 of this year. But those documents didn't individually list all contributions and expenditures of $20 or more, and also skipped out on providing info about employers of those who contributed $100 or more, all of which are required by state law. This data was part of a subsequent July 6 filing, but CEW notes that the party could be fined $50 per day for the 124 days it took to fix.
Luis Toro, CEW's executive director, stresses that this complaint is unrelated to the Secretary of State's decision to reduce the party's fine for other violations by more than two-thirds, reportedly because such a hefty sum would discourage civic participation in the political process. "There's really no role for Ethics Watch to play in that process," he says. "We consider that case closed."
However, he continues, "this is really chapter two of the same saga. They were being fined $50 a day, and they filed something with the Secretary of State in March to make the fines stop. But then there's the question of, were those filings adequate? And they were admittedly not complete."
CEW doesn't expect that the party will be hit with a $50 per day bill for the four months that went by between its first and second filings. But Toro believes some penalty is appropriate -- and he also rejects any assertion that CEW's actions are partisan.
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"The vast majority of party organizations of both Republicans and Democrats are very good at their filings," he allows. "And I think everybody would agree this is aberrational. In fact, we've never filed a complaint against a party committee of any kind. Our national organization has, but not Colorado Ethics Watch. We've focused our efforts on the soft-money groups, the 527s, because we think that's where more of the abuse is." But in this case, he believes CEW needed to act.
Look below to see the Colorado Ethics Watch complaint, which can also be accessed by clicking here.
More from our News archive: "Colorado Ethics Watch case about political ads' 'magic words' heads to state supreme court."