Buried in the deep black news-hole that was the Friday after Christmas Day came a decision in a Colorado campaign finance case filed against bare-knuckles right-wing political group Rocky Mountain Gun Owners.
Administrative Law Judge Robert Spencer found that mailer campaigns put together by Rocky Mountain Gun Owners and the Colorado Campaign for Life violated Colorado’s disclosure laws and ordered the groups each to pay $8450 each in fines.
Rocky Mountain Gun Owners has long been a bruising — some would say bullying — force in Colorado conservative politics. The group aims to move the state Republican Party to the right by targeting candidates and lawmakers that seem “soft” on what it considers core issues like gun rights and abortion. The group also opposes campaign finance disclosure laws as a whole, seeing them as a violation of First Amendment protections on free speech.
The decision comes after a complaint filed by watchdog nonprofit group Colorado Ethics Watch concerning mailers sent in swing districts during primary season attacking Republican candidates Lang Sias and Mario Nicolais and supporting candidates Laura Woods and Tony Sanchez. Judge Spencer ruled the mailers counted as “electioneering communications” because they cost the groups more than $1000 each and they came in the last 30 days before the primary election.
“The First Amendment is meant to help an informed people govern themselves. It is not a tool for special interests to manipulate the political process in secret,” said Luis Toro, Ethics Watch director, in a release. “It is time for Rocky Mountain Gun Owners and Colorado Campaign for Life to pay their fines and obey the law like everyone else who spends money to electioneer in the last days before an election.”
Ethics Watch has posted court documents with its release here.
The case is likely to continue. Ethics Watch reported that the groups “hired a Washington, DC-area law firm to file a federal lawsuit… to block the hearing, arguing that Colorado’s disclosure law is unconstitutional.” Even though those efforts failed, they suggest the attorneys are likely to appeal Friday’s decision.