Corruption Runs Amok in Colorado

Some conservatives in Colorado appear to think they are above the laws. In the past several weeks, Colorado's largest rightwing 527 has been caught in the middle of what appears to be a giant money laundering scheme and the Secretary of State has been called out for failing to enforce a new law stepping up lobbyist disclosure, even while trying to create new rules to hamstring unions and other large membership organizations.

Following the Trailhead

The Trailhead is Colorado's largest rightwing 527, a committee formed specifically to impact elections (the organizations are known as '527's because of the section of federal tax code they file under). It was founded by Governor Bill Owen and is being funded by many of the most prominent rightwing leaders in Colorado and across the country. It also has some rather shady finances.

Late last week, Colorado Confidential -- a local investigative journalism blog -- did some research into the Trailhead's finances and discovered some odd activity. The Trailhead has engaged in a number of transactions with other 527s that the other 527s did not report. The net result of most of the transactions is to leave each fund precisely where it started. In other words, it is a fiscal ballet with no real apparent purpose.

Additionally, the Trailhead reported a $20,000 expenditure to an organization that by all accounts does not really exist.

The investigation has resulted in a complaint filed alleging that the reason for the Trailhead's complicated fiscal maneuvers: attempting to launder corporate money into Colorado politics, the same kind of illegal activity that got U.S. Rep. Tom DeLay into trouble in Texas.

Ignoring the Law on Lobbyists

Earlier this week, Rep. Morgan Carroll (an outstanding legislator we profiled previously this year) had to call out Secretary of State Gigi Dennis' office after months of foot dragging in implementing a new law (sponsored by Carroll) requiring increased reporting and disclosure by lobbyists.

As Carroll pointed out, Dennis' office was, long story short, failing to enforce the new law as passed by the legislature. The office's defense was that they lacked the resources until recently to enforce this new law.

Lack of resources did not, however, prevent Dennis from instituting new rules to require that large membership groups including unions receive individual sign-off from each member before spending their dues in a political manner. These new rules, introduced late in the season, would have been nearly impossible to comply with, leaving organized labor and other grassroots organizations simply incapable of representing their members' interests during the election.

Why is that Dennis has time to write her own laws but lacks the resources to enforce the ones passed by the legislature?