GOP operative Shires tied to money-laundering gambling ring

The pattern emerging in the weird and sordid business life of Scott Shires points to two possible conclusions: He’s cornered the market on shifty accounting practices or this fellow has the worst luck in the world by attracting pretty shady clients.

The Denver Post reported Wednesday that Shires was indicted for aiding restaurateur Jeffrey Castardi on an alleged money-laundering scheme to hide an illegal gambling operation. Predictably, Shires denies any wrongdoing, claiming that he began to have second thoughts about his association with Castardi. “I said, ‘I can’t hang around this dude,’” Shires told the Post.

Shires, who has served as the registered agent for dozens of Republican political committees and 527s for more than a decade, has quite the colorful professional history.

He is currently under probation for failing to file federal taxes for the National Alternative Fuel Foundation (NAFF), which was accused of running an elaborate Ponzi scheme that defrauded the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and 56 private investors of more than $4 million. Shires was sentenced in June 2008 and nicked for $3,450 in fines.

In May 2008, NAFF’s founder, William Orr, was found guilty on 23 federal counts of fraud, failure to file tax returns and making false statements. Orr is appealing his conviction. Former U.S. congressman and current member of the Colorado State Board of Education Bob Schaffer was also linked to NAFF and took some heat for his fuzzy recollection of his board tenure while the group was being probed by federal investigators.

In July 2008, after Shires’ tax-fraud sentence was handed down, Colorado Ethics Watch filed a complaint that the Senate Majority Fund, a Republican 527 political committee linked to Shires, violated state and federal law by failing to disclose media buys that supported Senate District 19 candidate Libby Szabo.

Shires was also hauled into court again to answer a state administrative law judge in August 2008 on a private citizen’s complaint that the Colorado Taxpayers League failed to register as a political organization and file an electioneering report for an opposition mailer it sent out in a 2008 Weld County commissioners GOP primary race.

Last month, Colorado Ethics Watch claimed that the League failed to file a mandatory electioneering report to the Colorado secretary of state for a pricey mailer against a Democratic candidate. Controversy magnet Shires serves as the organization’s agent of record and is responsible for filing its campaign finance reports.

In the 2006 election cycle, Shires was embroiled in a money shifting controversy with the Trailhead Group where contributions were shunted to and from like-minded GOP political groups with the money trail varying significantly between the received and expended amounts reported — a difference in several cases of tens of thousands of dollars that appeared to simply evaporate on the balance sheets. Colorado Independent’s investigative reporting spurred some of the groups to quickly amend their reports. Democratic state lawmaker Rep. Morgan Carroll later tightened a state campaign-finance reporting loophole for IRS-designated Section 527 political committees to stem this type of activity.

Stay tuned.

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Wendy Norris

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