The backers of the Jeffco recall effort (read: Teachers Union) campaigned on the lie that the Jeffco School Board was lacking in transparency. That’s why yesterday’s ruling that Jeffco United, the nonprofit engaged in the recall effort, violated campaign finance laws is so, so delicious.
The organization made a $90,000 donation to the recall effort without disclosing its donors. According to an administrative law judge, that is verboten.
Its punishment is not so simple. The organization must pay $1,000, register as a political committee, and (here’s the delightful part) disclose its donors.
While nonprofits are not typically required to disclose donors, the judge found that the organization’s primary purpose was the recall effort, and, thus, it was a political committee, which is required to disclose.
This ruling is a huge gamechanger for elections law, according to Deputy Secretary of State Suzanne Staiert:
“The groups that form just ahead of an election are going to have to be cautious about their formation and whether or not they’re going to meet the major purpose question.… You can’t set up an organization solely to hide your donors.”
While an article in Chalkbeat yesterday said it was unclear whether donor disclosure applied to past or future donors, sources close to the complaint said the group was required to disclose past donors. Nice try, teacher union funded Chalkbeat.
Dede Laugesen, director of Colorado Government Watch, the organization that filed the complaint, clarified the ruling:
“We are assured that it unquestionably does [require past donors] and that the Chalkbeat Colorado report is simply wrong when it states that the ruling is unclear on that point. Please see the line that notes how the law, ‘… requires the ALJ to ‘direct the issue committee to file any such report…within 10 days containing all required disclosure of any previously unreported contributions or expenditures.’ That line makes clear that Jeffco United has 10 days to disclose all its donors from throughout the campaign. Whether the group will comply promptly, of course, is an open question.”
While we anticipate the effort’s donors will consist primarily teachers unions, it will be fascinating to see who else thought the recall effort was wise. If the group protests the disclosure, they look like the biggest hypocrites ever since the recall’s main talking point was about transparency.
Either way, Christmas came early for Republicans.