We’ve used this space before to write about the frivolous campaign finance lawsuit. Both sides are guilty of using it to drain their opponent’s resources and generate bad press. But one man in particular is becoming the poster child for the frivolous complaint. Matt Arnold, head of the deceptively named “Campaign Integrity Watchdog,” is getting noticed, and not in a good way.
The libertarian leaning Reason Magazine has a feature this month on how Arnold is “responsible for more campaign finance complaints in Colorado than anyone else.” The piece goes on:
Out of the more than 340 complaints that have been filed since Amendment 27 passed 14 years ago, more than 50 were filed by him or his Campaign Integrity Watchdog group. As Arnold once explained, the campaign finance system is a tool for waging “political guerrilla legal warfare (a.k.a. Lawfare)” against one’s opponents.
The article also asserts that Arnold is not a righteous crusader but rather someone with an “anti-speech vendetta.” Consider the evidence:
- After Arnold made headlines in 2012 for lying about having a master’s degree while running for CU Regent, he became the target of an ad criticizing his campaign. (Nothing out of the ordinary there for anyone familiar with how this political game of ours works). Arnold lost his primary and then embarked on what has become a nearly five-year journey to exact revenge on the group by filling complaint after complaint. The group was eventually forced to file a termination report, which prompted yet another complaint.
- In 2016, he tried to extort thousands of dollars from the Colorado GOP unless they agreed to pay him $10,000 to perform an audit of their campaign finance reports.
- After the left-leaning Colorado Independent published a story about Arnold’s attempted extortion of the state GOP, he threatened to subpoena the reporter.
- The Reason piece also notes: “In January, Arnold filed a complaint demanding the state impose a $36,000 fine because two $3 contributions weren’t properly reported. Later that month, Arnold sought over $10,000 in penalties against a first-time school board candidate who failed to register a candidate committee. But the candidate properly registered in October, two hours after he learned he made a mistake, and months before Arnold sued him.”
Arnold is less a watchdog and more a dog with a bone. But perhaps the worst part about Arnold’s spiteful behavior is that in the course of his endless pursuit for revenge or power or respect or whatever it is, he’s become part of a troubling trend that attacks free speech and makes it very difficult for anyone who isn’t rich to participate in our Democracy. Basically, if you can’t afford a lawyer and you become the target of one of these complaints, you’re screwed.