The Colorado Supreme Court has decided a “violation” under the Fair Campaign Practices Act, or the Colorado Constitution’s Article XXVIII, means the violation as decided by an administrative law judge. It triggers Article XXVIII’s one-year statute of limitations for filing a private campaign finance enforcement action. The decision bars an action filed by Campaign Integrity Watchdog founder Matt Arnold against a group that an administrative law judge decided was a political committee that did not register as required.
In Alliance for a Safe and Independent Woodmen Hills v. Campaign Integrity Watchdog, the two sides have disputed when a “violation” to trigger the statute of limitations occurs. Alliance, represented by Colorado Senator Bob Gardner, argued the plain language of the Fair Campaign Practices Act doesn’t allow the one-year period to extend beyond the date the administrative law judge decided the case.
But Campaign Integrity Watchdog claimed its enforcement suit against Alliance is not time-barred because founder Arnold said he filed it within a year after Alliance was still in “continuing violation” of Article XVIII. In a wider scope, Campaign Integrity Watchdog also argued Alliance’s proposed interpretation would allow violators to appeal the ALJ’s decision to run out the one-year clock.
“We conclude that the term ‘violation,’ as used in section 9(2)(a), refers to the violation as adjudicated and penalized in the decision being enforced,” wrote Justice Richard Gabriel in the opinion.