But I’m Only the Bookkeeper

Earlier today, Colorado Confidential broke the news that Republican political operative, Scott Shires, was charged with multiple counts of federal corporate tax crimes.

These revelations add to an interesting pattern of unreported financial transactions and noncompliance with filing legal documents among some of the political committees that Shires manages in Colorado. Colorado Confidential first reported that Shires’ Senate Majority Fund failed to account for $100,000 in transactions with GOP fundraising powerhouse Trailhead Group, LLC, earlier this year. That series of investigative reports led to formal complaints filed with the Internal Revenue Service by the watchdog group, Colorado Citizens for Ethics in Government, and another by a private citizen [PDF] to the Colorado Secretary of State demanding accountability. Clear Peak Colorado, a Democratic group, called on Gov. Bill Owens, a founder of Trailhead along with beer magnate and former US Senate candidate Pete Coors and Bruce Benson, the former Colorado Republican Party chair, to publicly respond to the allegations. Thus far, they have not.

Though Shires has yet to contact Colorado Confidential for comment after repeated phone calls, he’s had plenty to say to the media concerning previous brushes with political campaign finance concerns stemming back to last year.

Just two months ago, on July 21, Rocky Mountain News reporter Lynn Bartels wrote a story [PDF] regarding “Common Sense”, a political publication designed to look like an independent newspaper. The paper contained articles by an unnamed author that advocated for the election of Pat Holloway, a conservative Republican state house candidate. Holloway’s opponent in the primary, former Rep. Ramey Johnson, complained about the lack of financial disclosure behind the piece. In the story, Shires responded to Bartels with “I’m only the bookkeeper.” He refused to disclose who was behind the operation.

Just a month earlier, the Rocky Mountain News’ Peter Blake raised concerns [PDF] about Shires’ involvement in illegal campaign coordination in an article dated June 17, 2006. Blake’s story focused on the efforts of former president of the Colorado Senate and perennial conservative gadfly John Andrews to include a ballot initiative on judicial term limits. Blake’s piece ended with a very tantalizing but unanswered question:

By the way, there’s a new “527” organization registered with the Internal Revenue Service called Judicial Accountability LLC. It proclaimed as its purpose “to educate the public about the role of judges in our society.” It sounds like it might be involved with this initiative.

The registered agent is Scott Shires — whom Andrews also identified as the treasurer of his group, Limit the Judges.

But 527s aren’t supposed to coordinate with campaigns. Shires didn’t return inquiries to his office on this issue.

Last spring, Shires tangles with the baddest of the bad. No, not Shaft. Legislative lobbyists. Mark Couch at the Denver Post covers the story [PDF] on March 23, 2006 about a controversial fundraising letter from another Shires’ group called Results for Colorado. On behalf of Sen. Tom Wiens, Shires sent the “dig deep” missive to lobbyists during the legislative session.

The lobbyists anonymously complained to the Post about concerns that not responding to the request for money could affect the success of their clients’ pending bills. A loophole in the law permits the fundraising request if it is not directed toward a specific candidate. Shires remarks in the story, “If there is a mistake here, it is my mistake. I should not have asked [Wiens] to write the letter.”

Registration woes continued to plague Shires when he blamed “fat fingered typing” for mistakenly registering Integrity in Prosecution – a political committee formed to support then embattled Aspen district attorney Colleen Truden who was later recalled and thrown out of office – twice with the Secretary of State in an article published in the Glenwood Springs Post Independent [PDF] on November 3, 2005.

The more interesting aspect of the story was the apparent “in through the out door” political contribution of $5,000 by Republican activist John Tindall. According to the since terminated committee’s records, Tindall made the donation on October 7, 2005. The next day, the group made a $5,000 expenditure to Tindall’s marketing firm for radio advertising. Without Tindall’s personal contribution, Shires’ group would not have had enough money in its coffers to pay his firm.

Next, our intrepid “bookkeeper” was called on the carpet by the Colorado Springs Independent [PDF] for failing to properly register a group called Parents Targeting Achievement as a political committee which raised questions about campaign finance laws.

The October 2005 story recounts the mailing of a political flier – which also featured the unauthorized use of the GOP elephant logo – that touted three conservative Republican school board candidates. Colorado law clearly states that school board elections must be non-partisan.

Shires who was the registered agent for the group, denied having anything to do with the flier and refused to name the group’s organizers. The vendor who printed and mailed the piece claimed that Parents Targeting Achievement was behind it. As of this story’s posting, the IRS has no record of any contributions or expenditures for this group. Neither is it registered with the Secretary of State.

To definitively prove that no bad deed goes unrewarded in today’s Colorado Republican Party, Shires has registered 42 state political groups to do business in Colorado and 11 since the very first news story raised questions about Shires’ conduct in October 2005.

Shires has yet to return a call for comment left on September 15.

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Wendy Norris

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