This whole farce involving the fines against the Larimer County Republican Party only solidifies how asinine Colorado's campaign finance laws are. You'll notice how every elected official is noticeably silent on criticizing the party or Secretary of State Scott Gessler. And, for good reason. As the saying goes, those who live in glass houses…
Luckily for Republicans, state Democratic Party chair Rick Palacio took the bait. He has been a vocal critic of Gessler's actions to help the party raise funds to pay off their campaign finance fine. Because all of these candidates and political parties live in these weak, glass bubbles, I decided to take a closer look at Palacio's political party. Turns out, he's on thin ice as it relates to disclosure of his funds.
The Secretary of State's office sent a letter to the state Democrats on May 13 questioning their ability to maintain three separate political party entities. In the letter, the office states, “The existence of multiple political party committees makes it difficult for political party committees to know which group is the statewide political party; therefore contributors may have unwittingly given money in excess of contribution limits.” This means people can only give $3,250 to all Democrat party committees, county and state.
The Democrats responded a month later acknowledging the error saying, “The House Majority Project (“HMP”) and the Senate Democratic Campaign Fund (“SDCF”) have transferred all funds to the Colorado Democratic Party (“CDP”) and for all intents and purposes been terminated.” The letter includes an admission of guilt identifying three donors that contributed more than they were legally allowed. One of the donors has given in excess of $9,000 this year alone, almost three times the legal limit!
But if you look further, there are others that got away with this loophole. Pat Stryker, for example, gave $6,350 to the Democrat Party during the 2010 campaign, almost twice the legal limit. Where's the outcry? Why isn't The Coloradoan taking its resident to task for cheating the system?
For some reason the bureaucrats in Gessler's office are playing nice with the state Democrats, who have already admitted guilt and at the same time hammering the Larimer GOP, who also admitted guilt and were the victims of a criminal. But since the Democrats have agreed to change their reckless ways, everything is okay? Wrong!
Thumbing his nose at Gessler's office, Palacio ignored the warning by the office and continues to use the websites to fundraise illegally. In fact, Gessler's staff sent another letter to the Democrats earlier this month, almost four months after originally finding the violations. The letter states, “Both websites appear to be current and operational,” with an “…option to donate $2,825, which is the current contribution limit for a political party.” The letter concludes with another warning, “To keep your pledge of May 23 that the Colorado Democratic Party would be compliant with 'all campaign finance contribution limits and reporting obligations,' the HMP and the DSCF should either stop fundraising to support candidates in Colorado, or both should register as political committees and observe contribution limits applicable to political committees.”
The staff has identified illegal activity perpetrated by Palacio. They have warned the party to comply with the law numerous times. The web sites remain active. Palacio shouldn't be allowed to get away with this while Larimer County digs out of its hole. Fair is fair.