Judge: Holtzman anti-referendum ads broke state law
DENVER – Campaign ads that featured GOP gubernatorial candidate Marc Holtzman urging voters to defeat a tax proposal amounted to an illegal political contribution, a judge has ruled.The ruling, made public Thursday, fined Holtzman’s campaign $4,404 but said the decision is subject to review by the state Court of Appeals.Holtzman called the decision the equivalent of a political “parking ticket” and a tax on his right to speak freely about his opposition to referenda C and D. He said he does not believe he broke the law and had no regrets about appearing in the ads.”There was no intent on my behalf to benefit in any way,” Holtzman said.He was still deciding whether to appeal the ruling and said he would base his decision partly on how much time, money and effort an appeal would require.It was the latest in a string of setbacks for the embattled Holtzman, who is under pressure from party leaders to drop his campaign and allow U.S. Rep. Bob Beauprez to win the GOP nomination unopposed.In the ads, Holtzman had opposed Referendum C, a ballot measure that allows the state to keep about $4 billion extra in tax revenue over five years. Voters approved it in November.Administrative Law Judge Robert Spencer said television, radio and mail advertising funded by the “If C Wins You Lose” committee should be considered contributions to Holtzman’s campaign because they were intended in part to benefit Holtzman, even though they did not mention his candidacy for governor.Spencer said Holtzman’s campaign had significant influence over the anti-C campaign, but state law bars politicians from communicating with so-called issue campaigns that feature them in their ads.Spencer also said the anti-C committee was created at the initiative of Holtzman’s former campaign manager, Dick Leggitt, who then told one of its employees that he planned to remain involved in most of its decisions.Spencer said the ads helped stress Holtzman’s anti-tax stance to Republican voters.He said Holtzman’s campaign violated state law by accepting what amounted to more than $500 from one group. He was fined for that violation and for not immediately reporting the ads as contributions.The complaint was filed with the secretary of state’s office by Steven Durham, a lobbyist who supports Beauprez. Under state law, such complaints are handled by administrative law judges rather than state courts.Holtzman blamed the Beauprez campaign for what he called a coordinated attempt to distract his campaign. “This was a politically motivated lawsuit,” Holtzman said.Holtzman and Beauprez are hoping to succeed term-limited Republican Gov. Bill Owens.The only Democrat in the race is former Denver prosecutor Bill Ritter.
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