The Colorado Independent’s Corey Hutchins reports on yet another win for Republican political gadfly Matt Arnold–this time against a so-called “social welfare nonprofit” fronted by former Colorado Republican Party chairman Ryan Call:
A state judge in Colorado has fined a nonprofit $23,000 for coordinating with local campaigns and not registering as a political committee.
The fine represents the largest campaign finance violation in the state, according to Matt Arnold, whose company Campaign Integrity Watchdog filed the complaint and prosecuted the case before an administrative law judge.
At issue were a half dozen flyers a group created and distributed during a May 2016 board election for the Woodmen Hills Metropolitan District in the small community about 15 miles northeast of downtown Colorado Springs. The five-member board is a quasi-municipal political subdivision that handles things like water and utilities for residents.
According to the ruling from Administrative Law Judge Matthew Norwood, during last year’s election season a nonprofit 501(c)4 “social welfare organization” called Citizens for Reasonable Rational and Responsible Governance (CRRRG), paid for the flyers that negatively targeted candidates for the board. “CRRRG also coordinated in producing the flyers with candidates,” the judge wrote.
You’ll recall a few weeks ago when Arnold won a similar case against a much higher-profile 501(c)(4) organization, Bob Beauprez’s Colorado Pioneer Action. In that case, Arnold was able to convince an administrative law judge that Pioneer Action existed more or less solely to attack disfavored Republican candidates. Organizations like Pioneer Action are allowed to play in elections, but they cannot engage in what’s defined as “express advocacy”–and their “primary purpose” can’t be electoral politics.
In both of these cases, Arnold tripped up fellow Republicans who had pretty wantonly disregarded the rules governing these types of organizations. There are many 501(c)(4) groups on the ground in Colorado, but the smart ones can point to a range of activities that demonstrate their primary purpose is not to influence elections. Whatever motivations Arnold may have for going after these groups are irrelevant, although with Pioneer Action it’s clear that the group’s red-on-red attacks on incumbent Republican lawmakers are what motivated Arnold to take action. The point is that he’s right to go after them, and policing this type of organization with their inherent ability to conceal sources of funding is a good idea on general principles.
But by far the best evidence of how furious the Republican Party elite in Colorado is with Arnold can be found in the retaliatory actions of the state’s biggest conservative media mouthpiece, the Phil Anschutz-owned Colorado Springs Gazette. Both the spouse of the Gazette’s editorial page editor and a quasi-news writer for the paper failed to disclose tens of thousands of dollars they had been paid by Beauprez’s group, even as they repeatedly attacked Arnold’s credibility in the pages of the Gazette and elsewhere. Those attacks stopped cold on the day Arnold won his case against Colorado Pioneer Action, but there has been no sign of any further action against these Gazette employees for what could amount to the biggest breakdown of journalism ethics in Colorado in many years.
Bottom line: Arnold has his issues, but he’s proven he is a force to be reckoned with. He’s winning big cases, and he should not be ignored. Any time you see the media and the whole political establishment crapping with such ferocity on a guy like Arnold, take a closer look at what he’s doing.
You’ll often find there’s more going on than meets the eye.