ProgressNow Colorado agreed to pay a fine for a primary “voter guide” that failed to fully disclose required information.
Under the settlement with the Colorado Secretary of State, ProgressNow will pay $16,277 over a complaint filed in June by the Maven Law Group.
It was the third complaint over ProgressNow’s voter guides in the last 18 months and the second that the progressive organization has settled with the Elections Division. The first complaint, in 2021, which the Elections Division filed, resulted in a $3,000 fine.
The June 2022 complaint said that the “pro life” voter guide referred to Republican gubernatorial candidate Greg Lopez and incumbent Democratic Gov. Jared Polis, but it did not not contain the disclaimer required under state law, which must include the name of the committee and its registered agent. The flyer did identify the committee – but not the registered agent, the investigation by the Elections Division concluded.
A July complaint, also from Maven, over three more flyers from “Colorado Voter Guides” alleged they failed to properly disclose their sources. The two complaints were consolidated into one. Officials announced the settlement on Oct. 4.
The Elections Division dismissed the claim that the flyers constituted electioneering communications. Colorado case law says electioneering communications must include the “magic words” traditionally associated with those communications, which advocate for a recipient to vote for or against the candidates. None of the four flyers, which were sent to registered Republican voters, included a directive for the recipient to vote for or against either candidate.
The committee – “Colorado Voter Guides,” as listed on the flyer – had not registered as an independent expenditure committee (IEC) or political committee as of June, 2022, the complaint alleged. “Colorado Voter Guides” is a trade name owned by ProgressNow Colorado. While the group has had an IEC registered since Sept. 2020 tied to the voter guides, expenditures for the 2022 flyers have yet to be reported in TRACER, the Secretary of State’s campaign finance database.
The investigation by the Elections Division said ProgressNow spent more than $450,000 on those mailers. The 10% fine, however, was based only on spending for the first flyer, which stood at more than $160,000.
The state Republican Party complained about the amount of the fine, claiming it is far less than is allowed by law.
“ProgressNow settled for a 3.5% fine when most groups who do this get a 10% fine, indicating more bias and partisan politics on Secretary Jena Griswold’s part,” Colorado GOP Executive Director Joe Jackson said in a statement on Monday. “I’m glad to see that these hypocritical and poorly run dark money Democrat groups are starting to be held responsible for their false advertisements sent out during the Colorado primaries. It’s beyond parody that Democrats chose to spend millions of dollars to try and elect the same individuals they were also claiming were threats to Democracy. I look forward to seeing additional bad actors and Democrat groups held responsible.”
ProgressNow Colorado did not respond to a request for comment.