December 14, 2010
Neither Douglas Bruce nor anyone from his Active Citizens Together group showed up to a legal hearing Tuesday in Denver in defense of accusations of campaign finance violations.
A formal complaint filed in October accuses ACT of violating state law by not reporting expenditures in excess of $200,000 to the Secretary of State’s office while it was campaigning on behalf of three controversial November ballot measures.
ACT is registered as a 501(c)3 with the IRS, and is allowed to engage in a limited amount of lobbying. It isn’t registered with the Secretary of State’s office as an issue committee, however, and under state law, only registered issue committees can spend money to push political causes.
If ACT had registered as an issue committee, it would have had to report all its campaign expenditures. ACT did not file any of seven required disclosure reports, according to the complaint.
At Tuesday’s hearing before an administrative law judge, Denver attorney Mark Grueskin, of Rothgerber Johnson and Lyons, repeatedly slammed Bruce and ACT for denying that it’s a political issue committee.
“ACT was up to its neck in the petition process,” Grueskin argued.
Grueskin noted that ACT paid a petition-gathering firm, Colorado Springs-based Kennedy Enterprises, to gather 300,000 signatures to get several initiatives onto the 2010 ballot. He said that’s the definition of political.
ACT was the driving force behind Amendments 60 and 61 and Proposition 101, according to a deposition of Bruce that Grueskin submitted. The trio of measures, which would have slashed various state taxes and fees, among other things, were voted down.
ACT also paid for campaign brochures and yard signs supporting the three ballot measures, which Grueskin said also violated state law.
As the registered agent of ACT, Bruce wrote checks on behalf of the group, and paid for the petitions and other expenses. In August, Arvada resident Douglas Campbell became the registered agent for ACT.
Reached later Tuesday, Bruce called the hearing a publicity stunt and said what he called the administrative “pseudo-court” has no jurisdiction.
“There’s no reason for anybody to go to a hearing,” he said. “They didn’t subpoena us anyway.”
Bruce asserted that ACT is not a political issue committee, and said that the court is required to hear any campaign finance complaint within 15 days after it is filed. The complaint was filed on Oct. 18, which was 15 days before Election Day. The hearing was postponed until Tuesday.
“That’s beyond 15 days. They can’t have a hearing. It says ‘shall.’ (It’s) mandatory,” said Bruce. “On its face, there is no case.”
Grueskin responded that a Colorado court ruled last year that the timing requirements of the administrative court is “directory, not mandatory.”
Grueskin submitted extensive correspondence between Dan Kennedy, head of Kennedy Enterprises, and Bruce that outlined direct orders from Bruce on the petitioning process. One order was for petitioners to not identify Bruce as the prime backer of the measures.
In one missive, Bruce told Kennedy to make sure petition circulators used only medium-point pens, because “fine point are too hard to read.” In another, Bruce suggested that circulators wear disguises and give fake names to avoid being framed for crimes, such as forging signatures.
ACT could be fined tens of thousands of dollars if an administrative law judge agrees with the plaintiff.
The judge has 15 days to issue a decision on the case.
Contact the writer 476-4825.