Nonprofit group admits to violating campaign finance laws |

Nonprofit group admits to violating campaign finance laws

Pete Fowler
Glenwood Springs, CO Colorado

GARFIELD COUNTY, Colorado ” A group that slimed a Democratic Garfield County Commission candidate admitted last week to violating campaign finance laws.

The nonprofit Colorado League of Taxpayers sent a mailing to Garfield County residents in September telling people not to vote for Democrat Steve Carter. The mailing included an image of a howling wolf and said, “Steve Carter … His massive tax-and-spend agenda is making taxpayers howl!”

Carter and Democrat Stephen Bershenyi have called that attack and others including attacks in a fake newspaper false and libelous.

Colorado Ethics Watch filed the complaint in February after Bershenyi’s campaign sent it some negative mailings for review. Bershenyi, a blacksmith/artist, lost to Commissioner John Martin. Bershenyi is now a Glenwood Springs city councilor. Carter, a retired county judge in Rifle, lost to Commissioner Mike Samson.

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Carter and Bershenyi thought the negative attack mailings could have cost them the elections. The election brought in an unprecedented amount of outside spending on political ads from interest groups including the oil and gas industry and environmental groups.

During the election, a group of area mayors decried outside spending connected to the oil and gas industry on ads attacking the Democratic candidates. They said some of the groups spending on the ads failed to properly register or disclose the source of their income. But Martin said he was also the subject of negative attacks and “character assassination.” He said the mayors were hypocritical for criticizing other groups while appearing in ads endorsing Democratic candidates without forming their own political action committee. Martin couldn’t be immediately reached.

Colorado Ethics Watch said any organization advocating for or against any candidate for elected office within 60 days before a general election must file an electioneering communication report, but Colorado League of Taxpayers failed to do so by a Sept. 29 deadline.

Luis Toro, senior counsel for Colorado Ethics Watch, said an administrative law judge is expected to issue a fine to the Colorado League of Taxpayers probably ranging from around $2,300 to $50 a day or over $9,750 within about a week. He said no other complaints from Garfield County’s fall election have been filed.

Colorado League of Taxpayers admitted paying almost $2,400 for the mailers attacking Carter. The group is registered to Republican activist Scott Shires, who was fined last year for a similar violation regarding a similar attack ad in Weld County.

The Denver Post reported in March that Shires was accused of helping the head of an illegal gambling ring hide the nature of his business. Shires allegedly gave advice on money laundering but he denied any involvement. Shires also reportedly has pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor charge of filing false tax returns.

Contact Pete Fowler: 384-9121

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