A Republican political committee financed by the Colorado Association of Home Builders was smacked down today by a state administrative judge for violating campaign finance law.
In today’s ruling [PDF] described as precedent-setting by the complainant, Colorado Citizens for Ethics in Government (CCEG), the Committee for the American Dream was found to have broken the law regarding electioneering communications for a series of attack ads it helped to sponsor last fall.
In conjunction with the Northern Colorado Victory Fund, which settled a similar ethics complaint out of court, the Home Builders’ political committee was charged with hiding its involvement in a smear campaign against Democratic candidate John Kefalas who at the time was running for Fort Collins’ House District 52 seat against incumbent Republican Bob McCluskey. Kefalas supported a tax measure which opposed the Home Builders’ agenda. Despite the greasy tactics which are still on display at You Tube, Kefalas won his election.
The ethics watchdog group found that the Committee for the American Dream had purchased $28,435 of television time but never disclosed its expenditures to the Colorado Secretary of State.
According to CCEG, state law requires “anyone who spends over $1,000 on ads that refer to a candidate and are broadcast to voters within 60 days before a general election must file ‘electioneering communication’ reports with the secretary of state’s office no later than 30 days after the election. The reports must disclose the amount spent, the candidate referred to and the name and address of any person who contributes more than $250 to the person making the ad.
The political committee argued, unsuccessfully, that it shouldn’t have to file electioneering reports since the information would be disclosed on its committee expenditure reports though at a much later date following the election.
The judge rejected the Home Builders’ claim that its political committee is actually a business that exempted it from revealing its electioneering activities as a communication made under the normal course of operations.
The committee faced a monetary sanction of $4,750 for failing to file the electioneering report. The judge reduced the penalty to $1,000 at the request of Scott Gessler, who served as counsel for both the Northern Colorado Victory Fund and the Committee for the American Dream in this action.