A Colorado Springs nonprofit must pay a $1,000 fine after the deputy secretary of state found the organization violated Colorado campaign finance laws when it made prohibited campaign donations last year to two Colorado County commissioners. El Paso who ran for re-election in November.
Last September, the nonprofit civic organization Colorado Springs Forward made campaign donations of $5,000 each to Commissioners Holly Williams and Cami Bremer, who are running for re-election in Districts 1 and 5, respectively.
Colorado law prohibits corporations from contributing to political parties or candidates. Additionally, the $5,000 contributions exceeded the $2,500 campaign donation limit a county candidate can receive under state law.
The Secretary of State’s Campaign Finance Rules provide that a fine of at least $100 and 10% of the amount contributed be imposed on organizations or individuals who make prohibited campaign contributions. In this case, the recommended fine would be at least $1,100.
But “given the (nonprofit’s) efforts to cure and responsiveness to the (state Division of Elections) … the Division determines that a fine of $1,000 is consistent with the rule,” states the conciliation agreement of October 4. “Accordingly, the Division finds that a fine of $1,000 is sufficient to further the purposes of Colorado’s campaign finance law.”
Lynette Crow-Iverson, president of the Colorado Springs Forward nonprofit board, said Tuesday that she thought the nonprofit should not be subject to any fines. The Secretary of State’s Office dismissed other similar complaints against the Colorado Springs Forward political action committee and against Williams and Bremer, she said.
“But we’re glad it’s over and behind us,” Crow-Iverson said.
Both Bremer and Williams returned the contributions before the June 28 primary election, and the state Division of Elections asked Deputy Secretary of State Christopher Beall to dismiss the lawsuit against Colorado Springs Forward. Both candidates won their primary elections.
The nonprofit had a related political action committee, known as the Colorado Springs Forward State Political Funding Committee, that could have legally donated to campaigns, Katie Kennedy, registered agent for the political action committee, told officials. from the secretary of state in a letter. This likely caused confusion about the source of the candidates’ campaign contributions, she said.
The prohibited donations “were made in error by volunteers from an organization that had not made a contribution to state candidates since 2016 and did not realize that contributions were prohibited,” Kennedy wrote.
Former El Paso County GOP Treasurer John Pitchford filed an initial complaint about the donations in February centered on the committee he thought was the donor based on campaign finance records. He later filed complaints against commissioners for accepting prohibited donations from a nonprofit organization, among other violations, when additional information came to light through the secretary of state’s investigation.
The Secretary of State’s Office ultimately dismissed the complaint against the political action committee, as well as the complaints against Williams and Bremer.
Beall said in his Aug. 12 order denying a motion to dismiss the lawsuit against the nonprofit Colorado Springs Forward that Kennedy’s claims were “not plausible on its face.”
The checks were signed by Phil Lane, the registered agent for the nonprofit Colorado Springs Forward. Lane, who is also CEO of the US Olympic and Paralympic Museum, signed the checks “as an officer of the corporation, not as a ‘volunteer,'” Beall wrote.
The state’s investigation also found that the nonprofit Colorado Springs Forward, through an independent spending committee, made two donations of $180,000 each to the Springs Opportunity Fund to support the election of certain candidates to the school board in November. past.
Beall said in his Aug. 12 order that those contributions show the nonprofit understands how to legally spend money to support political candidates.
Once the secretary of state issues a receipt for payment of the $1,000 fine, the state Division of Elections will proceed to dismiss administrative proceedings against the nonprofit, the settlement agreement states.