Denver School Board member Tay Anderson hasn't notched many wins lately, so this week's motion to dismiss a campaign-finance claim against him had to come as sweet relief as he was celebrating the birth of his son. But Anderson's troubles are far from over.
Anderson was a rising star in Denver politics and activism when, on March 26, Black Lives Matter 5280 released a claim that he had sexually assaulted a woman whose name was not released; the matter is currently the subject of an investigation launched by the DPS board. This allegation was followed by confirmation that Denver Public Schools had previously found that Anderson had used social media to retaliate against a whistleblower who'd reportedly been the victim of harassment by a former high school principal. Then came accusations made by six female former colleagues, who say that Anderson created an unsafe work environment at Never Again Colorado, an anti-gun organization he presided over in 2018.
Against this backdrop, Campaign Integrity Watchdog, a local outfit run by proud troublemaker Matt Arnold, took a run at Anderson, too. According to an April 21 announcement, it filed a formal complaint with the Colorado Secretary of State's Office "alleging both civil and criminal violations by Anderson," asserting his "failure to report thousands of dollars solicited and accepted by Anderson using his platform as a public official. Sources include both individual voters and 'public-interest' groups with an interest in policies and decisions affecting the administration and funding of Denver public schools."
Among the actions targeted were Anderson's creation of a GoFundMe page to cover medical expenses he incurred after he said he was assaulted by Denver police officers last July while he was "standing in support of people experiencing homelessness"; donations were said to have exceeded $13,000. Also cited was a second GoFundMe page, this one to defray the cost of attending the September 2020 funeral of late U.S. Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg.
Anderson and his supporters portrayed the complaint as a conservative attack, but Arnold's history is more complicated than that. Westword first began covering him more than a decade ago, when he headed Clear the Bench Colorado, which aimed to throw the bums off Colorado's Supreme Court. Moreover, Arnold's two biggest successes touted by Campaign Integrity Watchdog, which is officially nonpartisan, came against members of the GOP — judgments against "sham 'social welfare' 501(c)4 organizations formed by two-time failed Republican gubernatorial candidate Bob Beauprez (penalty amount: $17,735) and by ousted former Colorado Republican Party chair Ryan Call (penalty amount: $23,147.86)."
Nonetheless, while most major media organizations in metro Denver have covered the Black Lives Matter 5280-related accusations, Arnold's beefs against Anderson earned ink only from right-wing outlets, such as the Glendale Cherry Creek Chronicle and Colorado Peak Politics.
And Anderson himself had other things to think about. A tweet from Wednesday, April 28, reads: "At 10:31 PM (MST) — My beautiful baby boy Khalil Justice Anderson safely entered this world." But yesterday, April 29, he took a break from messages about this blessed event to tweet this:
"A few weeks ago Republicans filed a campaign finance complaint against me, alleging that I had violated state law for not disclosing two fundraisers on @gofundme for #COinDC and medical expenses. Today the office of the Secretary of State motioned to DISMISS those complaints."
A second post offered this quote from the ruling: "The Elections Division of the Secretary of State’s Office moves the Deputy Secretary of State to dismiss the above-entitled Complaint on the basis that the Complaint fails to specifically identify one or more violations of Colorado campaign finance laws."
That isn't necessarily the end of the issue. "The Motion to Dismiss has been filed by the Elections Division, but this is not the final determination," notes Betsy Hart, spokesperson for the Colorado Secretary of State's office. "The Deputy Secretary must still review the complaint and make a final determination by May 6th."
Below is the text of the email sent to both Anderson and Arnold: "This email serves as notice under section 1-45-111.7(3)(b)(I), C.R.S. that the Elections Division has completed its initial review for complaint 2021-10 against Tay Anderson, and that the Elections Division now files the attached Motion to Dismiss with the Deputy Secretary of State. A copy of the Division’s Motion to Dismiss and exhibits are attached to this email. The Deputy Secretary shall make a determination on the Motion to Dismiss within five business days of this email, or by, Thursday, May 6, 2021. The timeline for the Deputy Secretary’s review is established by statute under section 1-45-111.7(3)(b)(I), C.R.S."
In the meantime, another ultra-conservative news service, the Colorado Herald, bemoaned the motion in a screed that name-checks George Soros. But even if the campaign-finance matter is tossed next week, Anderson can't rest easy: The Denver School Board inquiry over the far more serious sex assault is ongoing.
This post has been updated to include a response from the Colorado Secretary of State's office.
Keep Westword Free... Since we started Westword, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Denver, and we would like to keep it that way. Offering our readers free access to incisive coverage of local news, food and culture. Producing stories on everything from political scandals to the hottest new bands, with gutsy reporting, stylish writing, and staffers who've won everything from the Society of Professional Journalists' Sigma Delta Chi feature-writing award to the Casey Medal for Meritorious Journalism. But with local journalism's existence under siege and advertising revenue setbacks having a larger impact, it is important now more than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" membership program, allowing us to keep covering Denver with no paywalls.