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Colorado Republican Party chair candidate Dave Williams speaks during a debate for the state Republican Party leadership position Saturday, Feb. 25, 2023, in a pizza restaurant in Hudson, Colo. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski)
Story first appeared in The Unaffiliated

Dave Williams may not be making any money as chair of the Colorado GOP, but he’s earned tens of thousands of taxpayer dollars in wages and benefits since February working as a full-time aide to a state lawmaker.

Williams was paid $19,000 from February through mid-July as a legislative aide for state Rep. Brandi Bradley, R-Littleton, according to information provided to The Colorado Sun through an open records request. He’s also received about $11,000 in state-paid health, dental and vision insurance benefits for himself, his wife and their children in the six months he’s served as an aide. 

“I made a commitment to Rep. Brandi Bradley and I’m going to finish my work with her,” Williams said. “She wanted me to be her policy adviser and help her learn the ropes, and I’m going to honor that commitment.”

Bradley hired Williams as her senior aide with a start date in early February, before he was elected Colorado GOP chair. Williams said he mainly advises her on policy. Bradley didn’t respond to Colorado Sun messages seeking comment.

Only one aide per lawmaker may have senior status, which comes with state health insurance benefits. Aides must work at least 36 hours a week to be considered “senior.” As of March, the middle of the session, there were 54 senior aides working in the House and 24 in the Senate out of the 100 lawmakers in the General Assembly. Aides are typically younger people who are starting their career in politics. 

“I made comments earlier in the session that I hope he’s not bilking big government for a paycheck,” said House Minority Leady Mike Lynch, the chamber’s top Republican. “And I hope he’s giving good advice.”

The Colorado GOP hasn’t paid any staff since Williams took over as chairman, something that hasn’t happened in at least 20 years. U.S. Rep. Ken Buck, of Windsor, drew a congressional salary when he led the Colorado Republican Party in 2019-20, but he didn’t take a salary as chair. 

Williams has reported working 40 hours most weeks since he started his aide job, including after he was elected party chairman in mid-March. He and other legislative aides are paid $23 an hour as of July 1, up from $20 an hour previously. 

A June timesheet submitted by Colorado GOP Chair Dave Williams for his work as Rep. Brandi Bradley’s legislative aide.

“I’m working every hour that I’ve billed,” he said.

As of July 1, the state is also paying $2,151 a month for the insurance plans Williams selected, while he contributes $341 monthly. In the previous five months, which was a different fiscal year, the state paid nearly $1,700 a month for Williams’ benefits.

When Williams was a state lawmaker in 2021, he and other House Republicans voted against a bill to fund health benefits for legislative aides

Williams also is in the state’s public pension system as an aide. He joined the Public Employees’ Retirement Association during his six years as a state representative. He left office after an unsuccessful 2022 GOP primary challenge to U.S. Rep. Doug Lamborn, R-Colorado Springs.

Williams isn’t the only Republican Party official working at the Capitol as a legislative aide. Weld County GOP Chair Hunter Rivera is an aide to Republican Sen. Barbara Kirkmeyer, and Morgan County GOP Chair Dusty Johnston is an aide to two Republican state senators.

Legislative policy prohibits aides from conducting political work inside the Capitol complex or while working remotely on legislative tasks. The policy was amended in early July to include “political communications via social media, email, text or phone calls.”

A Colorado Sun review of 32 emails sent by Williams as party chairman from March 21 through July 10 shows all but six were sent during hours that he reported working for Bradley. However, Williams’ time cards said he took breaks ranging from one to seven hours during his legislative work days.

In a June 21 email, Williams announced “a resolution that admonished, rebuked, and reprimanded” Republican state Reps. Ron Weinberg and Rep. Rick Taggart, as well as Castle Pines Councilman Roger Hudson and Douglas County Commissioner Abe Laydon, for signing a letter admonishing Montana state House Republicans for banning a transgender lawmaker from the House floor there. 

Hudson also serves as deputy chief of staff for the Colorado House Republicans. He briefly ran for Bradley’s seat in 2022 but did not make the primary ballot. 

That email from Williams was sent out at about 7:30 a.m., 30 minutes after his time card said he began his work as Bradley’s aide that day.

Williams said he never sent an email during a time he was billing the state for his job as Bradley’s aide. He said he sometimes schedules emails to be sent out in advance and has done Colorado GOP work during breaks. 

“Emails were never sent on the clock,” he said.

Such emails could also be a violation of House rules for legislative aides, which specify that “partisan behavior is not tolerated among staff.” Rules of conduct also note that aides should “conduct themselves in a manner whereby personal beliefs or interests, or the interests of third parties, will not influence completion of their assigned duties.” 

Senate Minority Leader Paul Lundeen, R-Monument, said he believes legislative aides should be entry-level jobs, noting that the General Assembly meets only 120 days a year.

“The idea of creating a permanent, year-round, professional aide class I disagree with,” he said.

The 2023 legislative session in Colorado ended in early May. The next lawmaking term begins in January.

Sandra Fish has covered government and politics in Iowa, Florida, New Mexico and Colorado. She was a full-time journalism instructor at the University of Colorado for eight years, and her work as appeared on CPR, KUNC, The Washington Post, Roll...

Jesse Paul is a Denver-based political reporter and editor at The Colorado Sun, covering the state legislature, Congress and local politics. He is the author of The Unaffiliated newsletter and also occasionally fills in on breaking news coverage....