Dan Maes campaign finance scandal follow-up

In response to comments both public and private to my note regarding Dan Maes' campaign finance violations and related fines, as well as conversations with people involved in bringing the complaint to the Secretary of State of Colorado, I'd like to offer this follow-up:

First, I need to apologize for my original note's assumption that the person filing the complaint was a friend of or activist for Scott McInnis.  I spoke with Erik Groves, the attorney for the complainant and Mr. Groves laid out the complaint's history for me.

The complainant, Chris Klitzke, recently graduated with a degree in political science and asked Mr. Groves, who teaches campaign finance regulation at Mesa State College, if he could see some examples of errors and suspected violations of campaign finance law.  Mr. Groves, who had seen the Maes campaign's reporting, showed Klitzke examples from that campaign, most notably the direct transfers from the campaign's accounts to Mr. Maes for "reimbursements" for gas, rent, etc.  Klitzke then asked Groves "what can we do about this?"  Groves insists that Klitzke was not sent or encouraged by the McInnis campaign; Klitzke is just a "guy who works in the oil fields" who didn't want to just stand by while this sort of thing was going unnoticed and unaccounted for.  (This is not to say that Klitzke and/or Groves don't support Scott McInnis; just that nobody put them up to filing the complaint.)

The second point Mr. Groves made to me is regarding Maes' attorneys' argument that at least two of the complaints are "time-barred", i.e. past the statute of limitations for the action to be punishable by fine.  Mr. Groves disagrees with that assertion, saying that he believes Maes' claim is based on starting the clock at the time of receipt of a questionable donation or transfer of a questionable reimbursement rather than starting the clock at the time of the erroneous report being made to the government. Groves said that in other cases, Administrative Law judges have ruled that the clock starts with the report. Particularly with the third claim against Maes, the idea that it is time-barred, given a 180-day statute of limitations, does not make sense to Mr. Groves because the violation was for the erroneous report, made within the 180-day window, not for the reimbursement itself.  Mr. Groves also stressed that he "absolutely would not have filed the claim if (he) thought the charges were time-barred".

Mr. Groves added that he had been "pushing to get Dan Maes under oath in a deposition with a copy of his campaign books...to check to see if the mileage matches up with the reimbursements", reemphasizing that the claim was for misreporting the reimbursements and that we still don't actually know whether the reimbursement amounts themselves were properly based on actual mileage.

Another source, who asked not to be named in this article, told me that when Mr. Groves threatened to serve Mr. Maes with a subpoena over the July 4th weekend, a subpoena which would likely have compelled testimony by Maes under oath within a week, Maes' attorneys responded almost immediately with the document agreeing to pay all the fines -- even the ones they claimed were time-barred.

A well-respected Colorado Republican leader said to me in a private e-mail, and I completely agree, "I would have fought like hell before I would have paid a $25K fine!  It's as if $25,000 of "other people's money" doesn't matter and he'd just as soon spend it on paying a fine than trying to win."

Of course, it's just speculation, but one has to wonder just what Maes wants to hide if he's willing to pay a Colorado-record campaign finance violation fine for what he claims are "parking ticket" level offenses -- offenses which he argues are past the statute of limitations anyway!  Maes' agreeing to the fines raises a lot more questions than it answers.

Even if Republicans would still vote for a guy who has just been shown to be somewhere between inept and corrupt, chances are that this episode would utterly doom Maes in the general election.  Every campaign has, just due to the volume of paperwork and the nature of the process, the occasional truly minor oversight in finance paperwork.  If Maes were to be the nominee, then Democrat operatives would spend every waking hour scouring his financial reporting looking for any opportunity to file a claim with the Secretary of State.  They will demand not just a correction for that one error, but their clever lawyers will almost certainly demand, as part of discovery, all of the campaign's books.  After all the Klitzke/Groves complaint only covered less than three calendar quarters of reporting.  This means, assume Maes will still be desperate to hide whatever it is he's hiding (yes, that's my conclusion from his actions), that he'll have to keep spending his campaign money on admitting to and paying fines for every violation.  He's already shown by his response to the Klitzke/Groves complaint that he's willing to pay any price -- with contributors money -- to keep secret what he's done with their money.  It's a recipe for utter disaster and anybody who's still thinking of supporting Dan Maes should have his head examined.

In private conversations on the news, one person said to buy butter and another person said to buy jam -- because Dan Maes is toast.  All I wonder now is how Mr. Maes will spin his withdrawal, or whether he'll stick around, all but silent, until he is dispatched in next month's primary.

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Now a note to my friend Joe Harrington who has repeated on these pages claims that he has made widely and publicly about illegal coordination between the campaigns of two candidates for governor, perhaps not coincidentally two campaigns other than the Maes campaign, which he has been supporting.

Joe wrote in a public note that he spoke to a consultant for then-candidate Joe Gschwentner about how Joe G got a list of contact information for GOP delgates state-wide.  Joe H then concluded based on that conversation that the list was acquired by illegal coordination between Joe G's campaign and the McInnis campaign.

Joe H mentioned Kyle Fisk, who worked for Joe G.  It happens that I know Kyle so I asked him the story.  Here is what Kyle told me:

"Yea. Old rumor. As you probably know I did work for Joe G. The delegate/alternate list was brought to the Joe G campaign by one of the campaign consultants. It's not difficult to procure and is readily available to any candidate via the state party so illegal coordination on that particular issue would be ludicrous at best.  It was a lame allegation at the time and still is. If you want to accuse campaigns of illegal coordination then make it on a substantive issue! Not about a list I could probably have emailed to me within the hour."

In fact, Kyle told me who the consultant is.  I know the guy but will not name him here. He's been around a long time and, as far as I know, has quite a good reputation.  The odds that he wouldn't have such a list are vanishingly small, since having such lists are his business and acquiring them does not require any coordination, much less illegal coordination.

I would also suggest to Joe that it's one thing to wonder aloud about how certain things happen; it's another thing entirely to claim publicly that a crime was committed.  If Joe believes that a crime was committed, he should take the complaint to the Secretary of State.  But before he does, he might want to read the last paragraph of THIS article, which describes what can happen to someone determined to have filed an essentially frivolous complaint.

  • Al Stroessner
    Comment from: Al Stroessner
    07/07/10 @ 08:36:02 am

    Good job Ross!

  • Rebel
    Comment from: Rebel
    07/07/10 @ 02:16:46 pm

    Hey Rossputin, I have watched Jane Norton speak at the Colorado Christian University. I have looked at her web site and her resume. I heard her dishonest radio ads. Norton does not impress me as a woman qualified to be, or capable of being, US Senator from Colorado. It is that simple. I do say that she is as evil and as dishonest as Democrats are, but you still support her. Why? You are nothing more then Establishment’s wind bag, just as your Russian namesake was 100 years ago.

  • Comment from: Rossputin
    07/07/10 @ 02:21:41 pm

    Rebel, You're entitled to your opinion even if it's a stupid opinion. That's what makes America great.

  • Rebel
    Comment from: Rebel
    07/07/10 @ 10:08:26 pm

    Rossputin, Calling me stupid must be the last argument that wind bag like have. This is in fact a great country, no thanks to you or your establishment friends.

  • Elliot
    Comment from: Elliot
    07/08/10 @ 06:19:12 am

    Ross, how are the levels of fines determined? How much relationship is there between the fine and the severity of the violation?

  • Comment from: Rossputin
    07/08/10 @ 06:53:07 am

    Rebel: I didn't say you were stupid. I said your opinion was, particularly calling Norton "evil" and calling me "establishment". Elliot: I don't know the answer on the first two claims; the second two claims were $50/day.

  • Brian
    Comment from: Brian
    07/08/10 @ 08:49:01 am

    Rebel, I am a longtime friend of Ken's and am supporting him in the primary. But come on dude, do you really think Ross is apart of the establishment? He goes out of his way to note that he thinks Ken is a smart and capable guy and will support him if he wins the primary. He doesnt need to say any of that, but he does and I think that speaks well of his character. Just cause Ken isnt his horse in this race doesnt make him part of the GOP establishment, the guy didnt vote for McCain last cycle and whether you like McCain or not it definitely stands to reason that those conservatives that did not vote for him are probably not considered establishment types. And another thing, do you really think Norton is evil? She's a good person, I just happen to want Ken to win the primary against her. For that matter Michael Bennet is a pretty good guy too, just cause you wont vote for someone doesnt mean they're not a good person or someone Id have a beer with at the end of the day. Grow up.

  • Joe Harrington
    Comment from: Joe Harrington
    07/08/10 @ 12:15:29 pm

    Ross, I believe what they did is illegal. I probably won't be able to prove it to an Administrative Law Judge. However, for the GOP to say that a list that is not publicly available is easy to obtain in an hour speaks to the slime that inhabit the political cesspool. That information can be gotten, and probably quickly, but it takes money or something else of value. Even a politically connected person such as yourself might be able to get that list as a favor from someone also well connected, but that still doesn't change the fact that the list is a) property of the State GOP, b) not publicly available, and c) not given to *any* candidate. It is only given to candidates who pass thresholds set by the party. James Garcia laid out those requirements and JoeG did not meet those criteria at the time that he obtained the list. JoeG did not write a check from his campaign account to buy it - therefore it was a contribution of value... and the law that you cited requires that contributions of value be reported. JoeG probably broke the law in accepting that contribution without reporting it - but it was aided and abetted by another FCPA-savvy political consultant (who you apparently know) who was supporting McInnis, and that is collusion. When those dots are connected by opponents of McInnis it may not look good for his campaign. I don't have the time between now and August 10th to file with the Secretary of State and go to the hearing but someone probably will at some point, and it would be a shame for the GOP if that process only gets going after we had a chance to do something about it at the Primary. I talked to JoeG at length after he was out, and I think he could have made a great candidate but he was naive about the process and got bad advice from his consultants who thought that dirty tricks would win. Well they backfired for him and that error of trusting the dirty tricks to work robbed those of you who didn't particularly love McInnis and feel Maes is not experienced enough... The process is not working in the GOP guvs race to select the best candidate. Penry or Tancredo would have been way better than McInnis but the Owens cabal kicked in and anointed McInnis. Rather than saying that Maes is the best candidate we could possibly have dreamed of, my support of Maes is first a rejection of the Owens anointing machine. By the way - thanks for allowing this dialogue. I agree with about 90% of your posts and I only write when I disagree.

  • J
    Comment from: J
    07/08/10 @ 12:28:42 pm

    The section of this article that describes the process used to determine when the clock starts and what the fines will be, clearly illustrates the ridiculous nature of Colorado campaign finance laws. Simple, administrative law judges are given full discretion and no guidance or accountability, assuming nobody is pulling their strings. These family law judges are controlling the fate of our political future. The side with biggest lawyer ultimately wins. These laws are very dangerous and until you have had first-hand involvement you understand little of which I speak. Where in the First amendment is these stipulations included, I can’t seem to find them? For crying out loud, we still do not know who authored the Federalist papers and we cannot confirm all attendants of the Constitutional convention! BTW, how much of this complaint was conducted on public property funded by taxpayers, yet another campaign violation. Teachers and students lodged this complaint. Many Colorado blogs violate campaign finance and issue committee rules yet they scream free speech and editorial exemption. When will the madness stop?

  • Comment from: Rossputin
    07/08/10 @ 12:35:32 pm

    J, Actually, it makes perfect sense to me that the "clock" for a reporting violation starts at the time of the report rather than the transaction. Otherwise, candidates could just wait to report an illegal transaction. I agree with you about lawyers. I don't know that any of this was "conducted on public property"...but I don't know that it wasn't. The campaign finance stuff as it gets attempted to apply to blogs is obviously unconstitutional and is already slowly but surely being tossed out by courts. The madness will stop when we elect people who believe in LIMITED government and who cut back the power (and cost) of government to its constitutionally-authorized functions. On that as a goal, I trust we can agree.

  • Rebel
    Comment from: Rebel
    07/08/10 @ 11:51:58 pm

    Rossputin, I do know that, in fact, Norton is evil. I call her evil because in her dishonest radio adds she spreads lies about Ken Buck and Gregory Golyansky. Gregory Golyansky have been active in the Republican Party starting in 1984. He was a victim of the political which hunt by a corrupt Democrat US Attorney Tom Strickland. Jane Norton have, among her prominent supporters, people who are well familiar with the facts in this case (Gov. Bill Owens, State Treasurer Mark Hillman, etc). These people know Gregory Golyansky personally and they know that these radio adds are full of lies. I regard you as an establishment's wind bag because you are supporting Norton and McInnis, who are the establishment's candidates. Brain, I know for a fact that Norton is evil (see above), so open your eyes. As to your comment "Grow Up", I think that I am older then you are. At least I was born before they started using word "dude".

  • Rebel
    Comment from: Rebel
    07/09/10 @ 12:09:28 am

    Rossputin, Another person who knows a great deal about the lies in Norton radio adds and the prosecutorial abuse in Golyansky's case is your friend John Andrews. Ask him and then let me know if you still have any respect for Norton.

  • TJO
    Comment from: TJO
    07/09/10 @ 09:43:29 am

    Rossputin, Regarding the Maes issue - I don't see that we really have any evidence for anything at this point. I've hung around an awful lot of campaigns, and I could just as easily believe that Maes and his lawyers simply didn't want to go through a longer process, thereby elongating the media coverage as I could believe that something doesn't smell right. I would say that if he isn't hiding anything, than it was a hard call to make - which would do less damage - and we don't have any hard evidence that he is hiding. Doesn't that make a little more sense than just "going out and buying some butter"?? You might consider letting it play out a bit before you demonize him.

  • Comment from: Rossputin
    07/09/10 @ 09:54:15 am

    TJO, I understand your point but my opinion is that it smells fishy. I also think Maes' professional history/story doesn't sound right...and I'm not alone in that suspicion...in terms of him claiming to be a very successful guy. I'm not demonizing Maes. I just think he's unsuitable for the job of governor. Thanks for reading and writing. RGK

  • TJO
    Comment from: TJO
    07/09/10 @ 10:54:54 am

    Alright, two Questions: 1) What bearing does his history have on the issue at hand - if you think he's unsuitable because of his background, that's one thing, but accusing him of misappropriation of campaign funds is a different matter - and 2) ('cause I'm curious) On what do you base your idea that his business history is incorrect anyways?

  • Comment from: Rossputin
    07/09/10 @ 11:04:51 am

    TJO, 1) They are separate issues, but they bear on my overall interest in Maes. 2) His inability or unwillingness to contribute to his own campaign (at least that's how it was described to me) as well as the lack of information on the web makes it seem that his business success is much less than he implies. Also his prior jobs where he claims to have been an executive look a lot more like salesman jobs. That's just my read. I could be wrong.

  • Al
    Comment from: Al
    07/15/10 @ 10:06:02 pm

    Ross, So now that Mcinnis has admitted to plagiarism to get $300,000 in payment for which he did almost nothing, would you have to have your head examined for supporting McInnis? If not, should we reinstate Ward Churchill?

  • Comment from: Rossputin
    07/15/10 @ 10:13:23 pm

    Al, Perhaps you should have your head examined for not understanding that the McInnis information came out after I (just barely) preferred him to Maes. You may have noticed that I really never had anything good to say about McInnis other than that he was more likely to beat Hick than Maes was. And perhaps you should read my more recent notes where I said that McInnis is unrepairably damaged. All this said, even if Maes now appears to be a better candidate than McInnis, I still think he's not good enough and I still doubt he can beat Hickenlooper.