Matt Arnold: The Gadfly Giveth and Taketh Away

Secretary of State Wayne Williams (R).

Having taken note of the original story of a Denver grand jury investigating alleged official misconduct by GOP Secretary of State Wayne Williams, we’re honor-bound to report the conclusion of that case–Denver DA Beth McCann is dropping the matter, as the Denver Post’s Jesse Paul reports:

Denver District Attorney Beth McCann’s office has dropped its grand jury investigation into how Colorado Secretary of State Wayne Williams handled campaign finance complaints upon reviewing more information in the case.

“My office has since received additional documents which the Secretary of State’s Office provided voluntarily and yesterday I met with attorneys representing Secretary Williams and Deputy Secretary (Suzanne) Staiert,” McCann said in a written statement Tuesday. “I am requesting that the grand jury withdraw the subpoenas that had previously been issued and my office will close the grand jury investigation at this time.”

…The grand jury probe stemmed from allegations by Arnold, who operates under the name Campaign Integrity Watchdog, that Williams and his office failed to pursue the collection of a $9,650 judgment against a Colorado Springs political committee. The committee had failed to register with the state and failed to file financial disclosure reports.

In the end the heart of this complaint, that Secretary of State Williams showed favoritism to political allies by failing to collect assessed fines and intervening in cases to reduce or even eliminate penalties, fell under the discretion by law his office has in these cases. Like we said about the story originally, the actions of Colorado’s partisan secretaries of state in “oversight” of elections in the state could be considered inherently conflicted, and have long generated controversy. Before Williams was in office, GOP Secretary of State Scott Gessler actually agreed to hold a dunk tank fundraiser to help pay off fines owed by the Larimer County GOP. It was a bad enough idea optically that he Gessler ditched the dunk tank, but under the law it was also permissible.

Republican political watchdog and avenger Matt Arnold, who won big last year when he busted a group run by Bob Beauprez to attack fellow Republicans in primaries in 2016 for violating the “primary purpose” rules that govern political nonprofits, has nothing to be ashamed of in filing this complaint. The question he raises is entirely valid and will remain so, even if the current Secretary of State isn’t the most egregious offender (see: Gessler, Gigi Dennis, Mike Coffman). The extent to which fines assessed for bad behavior in political campaigns are routinely written off, slashed, and otherwise marginalized in this state is something we suspect the voters wouldn’t appreciate if it was more broadly known.

As for Matt Arnold, we get that he comes in for a lot of criticism from the political insiders on both sides whose lives he clutters up with legal filings. And like most watchdogs, not every case is going to turn out to be a big scandal.

For the rest of us, though, Arnold helps keep Colorado politics interesting–and a little more transparent.

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