Colorado State Representative Dan Thurlow is actively trying to change the rules regarding campaign finance reporting. Thurlow, a republican from Grand Junction, had not disclosed the occupations of a few donors to his campaign when he was a freshman legislator. That error cost him a fine of $1,080, which included returning money to campaign donors.
Campaign Integrity Watchdog caught the error and reported it to the Colorado secretary of state’s office. This office does not detect mistakes on campaign finance filings under current campaign reporting law. They can fine officials for late entries, which is currently $50 per day. However, only a citizen complaint to the secretary of state’s office warrants a potential fine. If an error is found, the fines can be tabulated for the number of days in which the error was not fixed, hence the seemingly hefty fine.
Thurlow wants to change the rule to allow officials like him and others, who make the same type of mistake, to have a 15 day grace period to remedy the mistake without paying a penalty.
In Thurlow’s case, his attempt to remedy his mistake may have actually cost him more because he was paying the $50 per day fine while trying to correct the discrepancy. His proposed bill, known as HB1115, would allow for 15 days for the official to fix the problem without accruing fines over the 15 days spent fixing it. If the official meets the 15 day requirement, under HB1115, that official would not be subject to fines.
Campaign Integrity Watchdog founder Matt Arnold has criticized the bill. In an email to the Grand Junction Daily Sentinel, Arnold called the bill, “the most personally self-serving piece of legislation I’ve ever seen.”
Republican State Senator Ray Scott agrees with the bill. In an interview with the Daily Sentinel, Scott said, “The fines are a bit tough for small issues.” Scott also told the Sentinel, “Most of us depend on volunteers to get reports done to save money,” implying that some things slip through the cracks, and such stiff penalties were, to him, unnecessary.
The bill was being reviewed by the state legislature’s House, State, Veterans and Military Affairs Committee last Thursday. No word as to when the bill will be considered and voted on.