Political group fined for Garfield County infraction
Glenwood Springs correspondent
Aspen, CO Colorado
GLENWOOD SPRINGS ” The political advocacy group that slimed a Democratic candidate for Garfield County commissioner last year has been fined more than $7,000 for the infraction.
On Wednesday, Administrative Law Judge Robert N. Spencer imposed a fine of $7,150 on the Colorado League of Taxpayers for its failure to report approximately $2,300 spent on attack ads aimed at Garfield County Commissioner candidate Steve Carter in September 2008. Carter lost against commissioner Mike Samson.
The fine represents a penalty of $50 for each day from Sept. 29, 2008, the date the report should have been filed with the Garfield County Clerk, through Feb. 20, 2009, the date that the group Colorado Ethics Watch filed a complaint.
On April 13, the League admitted formally that it had not filed the requisite electioneering communication report.
The judge rejected League’s argument at the April 15 hearing that the penalty should be reduced because the League was purportedly unsophisticated and had limited resources.
The judge noted that the League had been fined for failing to file a spending report regarding a similar mailer sent to voters in Weld County, stating that the League “is not a stranger to this issue” because it had been fined in the Weld County case.
Both Carter and fellow Democrat Steve Bershenyi, who ran unsuccessfully against incumbent commissioner John Martin, said they felt the negative attack ads used against them by the League might have cost them the election.
“Let this be a warning to outside groups that attempt to influence local elections in Colorado ” they too will be held accountable for violating campaign finance rules,” said Ethics Watch Senior Counsel Luis Toro.
“We are pleased that the judge rejected the League of Taxpayers’ attempts to excuse its flagrant disregard for Colorado law that requires transparency in campaign spending,” Toro continued. “Ethics Watch will continue to hold accountable groups that attempt to illegally hide their spending from the public.”
Carter, reached at home, said of the judge’s decision, “Good. I’m glad he did [levy a fine]. They deserved it,” adding that he was certain his opponent was not a party to the negative campaign.
Carter, a Rifle attorney, said he does not plan any further action, noting, “It’s one of those things that, you can’t undo the harm they’ve done. When you’re a politician, you’re fair game.”
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