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.
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.
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