The Colorado Independent has learned that Scott Shires, a Republican operative who has registered dozens of political nonprofits and campaign committees over the years, still has not paid a fine levied against him by the state for improper electioneering during the 2008 Garfield County commissioners’ race.
“[Shires] still hasn’t settled with the Colorado State Collections — still owes $8,437 [including interest],” Colorado Secretary of State spokesman Rich Coolidge said this week. Coolidge also said that a Shires-registered small donor group called the Apartment Association of Metro Denver was fined this week for not reporting a July 28 contribution of $6,500 in a timely fashion. “We sent an invoice [Tuesday] for $3,400, and that’s $50 a day since July 28.”
Shires’ efforts in the Garfield County race, which saw an unprecedented infusion of outside cash for a local race because of the ongoing battle between oil and gas interests and environmentalists, prompted a successful Colorado Ethics Watch complaint against Shires’ Colorado League of Taxpayers. Defeated Democrats complained bitterly about GOP tactics in that race, but the Secretary of State’s office admitted enforcement options were limited.
Shires has a lengthy record of questionable campaign activities in Colorado. He also registered the conservative nonprofit Western Tradition Partnership, which was active in the 2008 Garfield County race and recently has been taking heat for a mailer in the state Senate District 5 race attacking incumbent Democrat Gail Schwartz.
Shires, according to his bio on the Shires Financial Group website, is a “retired lieutenant colonel from the United States Army, where he served in the Army Rangers.” He did not return a phone call and email requesting comment. Shires also is the chief financial officer for a gun importing business called Colorado Gun Sales. Former Colorado Republican Party attorney John Zakhem also works for the “direct importer and supplier of Swiss firearms,” retained, he said, to provide legal services on “corporate matters.”
Colorado Gun Sales founder and president Michael Meier said he was not aware of Shires’ checkered political past.
“I know he was involved with the Republican Party; that’s all I know about that side,” Meier said. “That’s one of the things I notice a lot in politics. Everybody tries to dig anything they can find on the bad side and sometimes a lot of it gets exaggerated or blown out of proportion. That’s why I don’t to have anything to do with politics in general. It’s pretty crazy.”
The Shires-registered Western Tradition Partnership opposes “radical environmentalists,” backs energy interests and generally pushes a conservative agenda, including on matters of religion, guns and the Second Amendment.
Debra Bonogofsky, a small businesswoman in Billings, Mont., told the Colorado Independent she was blindsided by a Shires-led smear campaign in her Republican primary race for the Montana state legislature this summer. She said one of the tactics used was a slanted candidate survey she refused to fill out.
“These groups, they blackmail you. It’s like extortion,” Bonogofsky said. “They send you these surveys, and if you don’t send them back and fill them out the way they want you to, then they send out these mailings saying you’re anti-gun, you’re anti-this, anti-that, and they blackmail you.”