There has perhaps never been as contentious administrative law case as that brought by Matt Arnold’s Campaign Integrity Watchdog against Colorado Pioneer Action for campaign finance
violations. Pioneer Action is run by former Congressman Bob Beauprez best known by the sobriquet “Both Ways Bob” for always trying to appear to support both sides of any political argument.
Beauprez set up Pioneer Action as a 501(c)(4) social welfare nonprofit which raised almost $700,000 in money for political races in 2016. He gave the money to an independent expenditure committee he also set up called Colorado Right Now (CRN) which engaged in an incredibly dirty tricks operation largely against highly conservative Republicans in primaries for the State Legislature. Beauprez backs business friendly moderate Republicans as opposed to what he sees as nasty movement conservatives and Tea Party types.
Beauprez claimed that under Colorado campaign finance law he only needed to report that the Pioneer Action had given the $700,000 to the independent expenditure committee and not who had given Pioneer Action the money in the first place. He claimed it was a perfect “dark money” operation in which no one would ever know who funds him. But Administrative Law Judge Robert Spencer found that Pioneer Action was itself a political committee and did have to disclose its donors. He fined Pioneer Action $17,000. Beauprez was lucky as Spencer could have levied the full $770,000 in fines.
But now comes the big question of will Beauprez finally have to disclose his true dark money sources? In a gubernatorial primary against Tom Tancredo in 2014 money was laundered for Beauprez for last-minute attack ads. First, the money was put through the Republicans Governors Association and then through the Republican Attorneys General Association to a Mitt Romney related political association in Colorado. Beauprez successfully avoided having to disclose who was behind that serpentine dark money scheme.
Beauprez has always been an empty suit and tool of more powerful people. Exactly who is pulling his strings has never been discovered, but perhaps now it will. Of course, this is just the beginning of the battle. Spencer’s ruling will be appealed all the way up the line. The $17,000 fine is just chump change for Beauprez’s backers. He has spent into six figures with his attorney Douglas Abbott of the highly expensive big blue-chip law firm Holland & Hart. Abbott and Holland & Hart undoubtedly came up with the dark money scheme in the first place.
In this litigation Matt Arnold has scored an incredible victory against overwhelming odds. It is truly a David versus Goliath matchup. Arnold is not an attorney yet he bested one of the best law firms in the state. Beauprez has millions at his disposal from people who will do anything to prevent from having to come out of the shadows.
There are two likely suspects for the dark money source behind Beauprez — Phil Anschutz or the Koch brothers. In January 2017, Reason Magazine released an out-of-the-blue attack piece against Matt Arnold by Nick Sibilla and John Kerr. Why would a national magazine come out against a highly parochial figure like Matt Arnold? Perhaps it is because Reason Magazine is funded by the Koch brothers. If they were the source behind Beauprez, they would have strong reason to dislike Arnold and want to stop his money inquiry.
At the same time Arnold came under attack from the Colorado Springs Gazette which reclusive Colorado billionaire Phil Anschutz is pouring money into as an alternative to The Denver Post. Incredibly, Arnold discovered that the dirt digging for the Pioneer Action/CRN political smear pieces were performed by none other than Dede Laugesen, the wife of the Gazette’s editorial page editor Wayne Laugesen and the newly hired Gazette political blogger Dan Njegomir.
When the Gazette’s editorial page was lambasting Arnold on behalf of Beauprez, and Njegomir was attacking Arnold in the Gazette’s ColoradoPolitics.com they failed to mention they were or had been on the payroll of Beauprez and Pioneer Action. Reporter Megan Schrader in a story in The Denver Post on April 4 said that this lack of disclosure “looks really bad.”
So who owns Bob Beauprez and the Colorado Republican establishment? Is it the Koch Brothers or Phil Anschutz? Of course, it could always be both in tandem.
If there is anyone in Colorado who will find out who the dark money source is, it will be watchdog Matt Arnold. It is not easy to fight alone against some of the richest and most powerful people in the state. Incredibly he seems to not be deterred. We can’t wait to see what he discovers next.
— Editorial Board