Libertarian Party of Colorado Calls in Audit Committee to Review $12,500 Fine | Westword
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Libertarian Party of Colorado Calls in Audit Committee for Review After $12,500 Fine

The Secretary of State fined the Libertarian Party of Colorado for improper financial reporting. Members say it's no surprise.
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The Libertarian Party of Colorado has taken liberties with its finances, causing the Colorado Secretary of State to impose $12,500 in fines on the party.

On January 30, the Secretary of State's Office issued a decision explaining those fines. TRACER, Colorado’s campaign finance database, shows that the Libertarian Party of Colorado filed nine late reports in 2022. If not for the state’s penalty caps for certain violations, the party could have been required to pay $20,150.

According to the Secretary of State’s Office, the party twice filed batch reports. In July 2022, it filed reports for May and June, for a total of four late reports. In November 2022, the party followed suit, filing five late reports for September and October.

Members of the party noticed a discrepancy between TRACER filings and the reports that Gavin Kaszynski, the party’s treasurer, had submitted to the board. For example, according to the October 13, 2022, TRACER filing, the party has $23,604.97 on hand, but Kaszynski’s report from October 10 says the party has $34,571.12 in available funds, not including its reserved funds.

The party held its annual convention in March 2022. In Kaszynski’s April 11 report to the party board, he wrote that the party had collected $22,865 between February and the date of the report, indicating that there were significant funds generated by the convention.

But in a May 2, 2022, TRACER report — the report filed closest to the date of the convention — it says the party generated $1,301.84 in contributions between January 1 and April 27.

It wasn’t adding up, says Patty McMahon, former outreach director for the Libertarian Party of Jefferson County. She’d been paying attention to the party’s finances since its fiftieth-anniversary party in December 2021, and the pieces didn't fit.

At the board meeting after the December 11, 2021, celebration, the party's campaign director, Jacob Luria, said that they had raised $1,300 from ticket sales, and the expense for the event was $600. But according to the party’s January 2022 TRACER filing, it brought in $1,629.96 in donations and spent only $68.97 from October through December 2021.

The numbers differ even more when compared with Kaszynski’s next board report, from February 2022, in which he wrote, “Total donations since November were $2,051.20, while expenses were $3,081.50.”

Of those expenses, $1,221 was earmarked for the upcoming March convention, leaving roughly $1,800 in expenses that do not show up on any TRACER report for the time period. McMahon asked Kaszynski about the fundraising discrepancies in a Q&A session she arranged with candidates running to hold positions in the party in spring 2022.

“Originally, there were some folks associated with the Mises Caucus who were going to rent out the Elks Lodge and have a big event to do all that work,” Kaszynski explains. “At the December board meeting, just like a week and a half before the event itself, it was decided that this is something that the Libertarian Party of Colorado should be associated with also. … They had already collected like $1,000 just through their personal PayPal accounts from people who had paid and registered to show up for that, and so we didn't have any documentation of who had registered.”

Because of that, Kaszynski says, the donations from ticket sales all look like one lump amount of about $1,000 in TRACER reports. There is no such sum in the January TRACER report. The largest donation listed on the report is for just $189.

Additionally, Hannah Goodman, the party’s vice chair, asked the board to consider the idea at its November meeting, and it voted to move forward with the event at that time. It's true that a member of the Mises Caucus, a radical wing of the Libertarian Party, originally booked the room at the Elks Lodge, but in a recording of the board’s November meeting, it's clear that no funds had yet been raised, because the board hadn’t even decided how much to charge for tickets at that point.

McMahon says that she has been ostracized by the party since questioning Kaszynski about the funds.

“I have been bullied unmercifully for this because people have said that I set Gavin up,” she says. “I've been blocked. People have called me names. There's been this social media thing just to bully me out of the party because of this.”

However, the board did realize it had to do something about the questions surrounding its accounting. On December 12, Caryn Ann Harlos, the national Libertarian Party secretary, emailed the board, suggesting that it convene an audit committee to investigate.

“I have no idea how to make heads or tails over the social media chatter on the finance stuff and whether it's in good faith or just stirring up drama, but I think it's gone on long enough that the fiduciary responsibility of the board is to appoint an audit committee to go over these questions and concerns and lay them to rest and provide advice on correcting any deficiencies,” she wrote in an email to the board.

That committee, made up of three party members — John Hjersman, Beatriz Sutton and Reyd Dotson — plans to send its report to the board by its February 13 meeting.

Through the Libertarian Party of Colorado website, anyone can look at emails to and from the board. Harlos, despite not being on the state board, features prominently in those emails. Her husband, Wayne Harlos, is the state chairman.

Caryn Ann has helped lead the transformation of the Libertarian Party in recent years away from those who tried to push the national conversation on the idea of eradication of state interference but were willing to compromise, à la Gary Johnson, for a party that embraces only pure libertarian ideology. The Mises Caucus is part of that movement, but some, including McMahon, see the caucus as a pathway to promoting Nazi ideals in the party.

“When I first started working with the Libertarian Party, it was awesome,” McMahon says. “We were really standing for something, but I gotta tell you, the Mises Caucus came in, and they just took a baseball bat to that. … They rightly believe I'm the ringleader to end the party play with Nazis, and I don't care. I dedicated my life to civil rights. I'm not going to stand by and give a political home to these white supremacists.”

In fact, McMahon ran campaigns for two Libertarian Party candidates in Colorado who didn’t want to be associated with the state party because of its connections with the Mises Caucus: Ross Klopf, in District 7, and Richard Ward, in District 8. Ward's campaign made such an impact that losing candidate Barbara Kirkmeyer blamed him for spoiling the race in favor of Yadira Caraveo.

"The internal committee report is due to be published to our membership next week. There was a summary conclusion of no malfeasance on the part of the Treasurer, and the Party is putting processes in place to avoid falling out of compliance with the Secretary of State in the future," Wayne Harlos said in a statement to address the audit and his concerns about McMahon's allegations. "It's unfortunate that the opinion of a member who has not been involved in the audit was featured so prominently, and we reject all of this member's baseless assertions."

McMahon says she wants people to see that the party isn’t just about polarizing ideas around eliminating social welfare, including policies such as the Civil Rights Act, the Americans With Disabilities Act and public schools. Instead, she says, it’s also still a party that simply wants government out of activities it doesn’t belong in and provides an alternative to the two-party system.

The problems that the Libertarian Party of Colorado faces with accounting and with the Mises Caucus overlap, in McMahon’s view: There isn’t transparency about what’s going on.

“It’s the same thing with the money,” she says. “Nothing makes any sense right now with the Libertarian Party, because only a certain group seems to know anything — and it's not the public.”

Should the board choose to make the audit report public after the February 13 meeting, the public may finally get a real peek into the party.

This story has been updated February 14 to include the response of Wayne Harlos, chair of the Libertarian Party of Colorado.
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