If the Colorado Republican Party had employees in April, they didn’t get paid.
It’s the first time in at least 20 years the party didn’t pay any employees.
And the party’s actual bank accounts have less money than the $120,540 a recent filing said the party had on hand, the GOP acknowledged in an addendum filed Saturday with the Federal Election Commission.
“The executive board has formed a committee to investigate the discrepancy and will likely lead to the restatement of previous reports to account for the error,” the document concluded.
The Colorado GOP raised only about $58,000 in the first four months of the year, including less than $15,000 in April. The party spent more than $15,000 last month, with $9,100 going to health and dental benefits. It’s unclear if anyone is working for the party; no staff is listed on its website.
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Questions about the party’s finances point to rocky beginnings for Party Chairman Dave Williams, an election-denying former El Paso County lawmaker who won control of a divided state GOP in March.
Williams didn’t return phone calls, text messages or emails from The Colorado Sun seeking comment. Colorado Public Radio reported last month that Williams was also working a full-time job as a legislative aide.
Tom Bjorklund, the party’s new treasurer, referred questions to Williams. The initial April report Bjorkland filed late Saturday night reported only $3,000 in contributions. An amended report was filed late Sunday.
The $120,540 cash balance reported by the party isn’t the lowest ever — the party’s cash on hand fell below $100,000 for several months in the 2015-16 election cycle.
Williams was elected on a platform that included falsely insisting that former President Donald Trump won the 2020 election. But he told The Sun in March that his critics should “relax,” and said he was focused on attacking Democrats.
A sampling of his emails since he became chairman show he’s been doing that. “Democrats Defend Perverts,” “They hate you,” “Democrats’ Witch-Hunt of Trump” and “Democrats threaten Pastor” are among the subject lines of his emails. The emails include buttons to donate but talk more about state legislative proposals than how the party will rally behind candidates for office or assist campaigns.
The lack of a payroll for a state party in Colorado is unusual.
“There have been other cycles where the party pays only one or two salaries in the off year,” said Kristi Burton Brown, who chaired the party during the last election cycle. “If they want to run it all-volunteer, they certainly can.”
The party raised only a little more than $18,000 in the first two months of the year, before Williams was elected chairman.
From January through April, Colorado’s GOP spent more than $263,000. That compares with $539,000 spent in the first four months of 2021, another nonelection year when five people were paid for their work in April. Of this year’s spending, $73,000 went to Brownstein Hyatt Farber Schreck for legal services.
It’s unclear if the law firm is still representing the party. Former GOP Executive Director Joe Jackson went to work for U.S. Rep. Ken Buck, R-Windsor, at the start of the year. Shana Banberger, the GOP’s fundraising consultant for many years, also is no longer working for the state party.
The state account for the GOP had only about $1,500 in cash at the end of March. That account has smaller contribution limits so raises less money than the federal account, which is used to pay most of the party’s expenses.
“Anybody who gets elected state chair should probably prioritize raising money,” said Dick Wadhams, who ran the state party from 2007 to 2011 and has been critical of Williams. “You can’t run an operation without that in the bank.”
Newly elected Colorado Democratic Party Chairman Shad Murib said the lack of paid staff should be concerning.
“It means the infrastructure of the party doesn’t have much support without a staff kind of assisting it,” he said.
Murib told The Sun he’s splitting his time between working with grassroots Democrats and fundraising.
“We’re reengaging with donors who are interested in seeing our success in 2022 continue,” he said.
The state Democratic Party raised nearly $92,000 in April, and spent nearly $211,000, including about $26,000 on payroll for a half-dozen employees. That left the party with nearly $196,000 in cash at the end of April.
The Democratic Party raised more than $419,000 in the first four months of the year, while spending about $454,000. The party’s state-level account had nearly $32,000 at the end of March.
And the Colorado GOP has trailed Democrats in political spending in the state in recent years.
Campaign accounts or PACS for several of the state’s top elected Democrats have donated to the federal party account this year including U.S. Sens. Michael Bennet and John Hickenlooper; U.S. Reps. Diana Degette, of Denver, Yadira Caraveo, of Thornton, Jason Crow, of Centennial, and Joe Neguse, of Lafayette; Gov. Jared Polis; Treasurer Dave Young; and others. Hickenlooper also sent two emails recently asking people to donate to the state party.
The Colorado GOP received $12,500 from the terminated 8th Congressional District campaign of state Sen. Barbara Kirkmeyer, of Brighton, in early March. It’s the only money the party has received from Republican officeholders or candidates this year.
Correction: This story was udated at 9:15 a.m. May 24 to correct the spelling of Tom Bjorklund’s name.