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FEC complaint alleges Dave Williams improperly used state party money for congressional campaign

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FEC complaint alleges Dave Williams improperly used state party money for congressional campaign

Apr 05, 2024 | 5:36 pm ET
By Sara Wilson
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FEC complaint alleges Dave Williams improperly used state party money for congressional campaign
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Dave Williams, chair of the Colorado Republican Party, speaks to a reporter outside the U.S. Supreme Court following oral arguments in a challenge former President Donald Trump's 2024 ballot eligibility on Feb. 8, 2024. (Chase Woodruff/Colorado Newsline)

A Republican political commentator is alleging that Colorado Republican Party chair Dave Williams improperly used state party money to support his congressional campaign.

Kelly Maher, a political strategist who contributes to 9News, filed a complaint with the Federal Election Commission on Thursday alleging that Williams violated campaign finance law by using party resources to promote his candidacy and criticize his primary election opponent.

“Dave Williams has clearly and obviously used (state party funds) as a slush fund for his congressional race,” Maher said Friday morning on Jeff Hunt and Bill Thorpe’s conservative talk radio show on 710 KNUS. “We cannot allow this to stand. If we allow this precedent to exist, and if Dave Williams becomes a congressman this way, this becomes the path to Congress.”

Maher in her complaint points to two emails and a mailer sent by the state Republican Party. On Jan. 8, shortly after Republican U.S. Rep. Doug Lamborn announced he wouldn’t seek another term in Colorado’s 5th Congressional District, the state GOP sent an email announcing Williams’ candidacy.

Later, toward the end of February, the party sent two identical emails criticizing Williams’ primary opponent Jeff Crank and an organization that endorsed Crank. The party then sent a hard-copy mailer to voters in El Paso County, where the congressional district is based, with a message similar to the one in the emails, according to the complaint. The mailer also included attacks on The Gazette, a Colorado Springs newspaper whose editorial board endorsed Crank.

Both the emails and mailer also attacked former Republican presidential candidate Nikki Haley.

“The facts above show a troubling pattern of Williams using the State Party to pay for campaign expenses, in violation of FEC rules,” Maher’s complaint reads.

FEC complaint alleges Dave Williams improperly used state party money for congressional campaign
The Colorado Republican Party sent this email on Jan. 8, 2024, announcing the candidacy of party chair Dave Williams for the 5th Congressional District. (Screenshot)

The FEC’s guidelines state that core functions of a campaign should be paid for with campaign funds. The emails and mailer amount to “unreported and impermissible contributions from the State Party to the Williams Campaign,” Maher wrote. A state party is allowed to donate up to $5,000 to a candidate each election cycle, and Maher contends the emails and mailer are above that value.

FEC financial reports for the first quarter of the year are due April 15. Williams’ filing will give more insight into how much his campaign raised and what he has spent money on.

The complaint calls for an official investigation to determine the extent of any violations.

Williams’ campaign did not respond to a request for comment.

The complaint highlights an ongoing tension within the state GOP between establishment and far-right Republicans since Williams was elected as chair last year. Under Williams’ leadership, the party’s fundraising has dipped and they have reprimanded various elected officials, including two state lawmakers who signed onto a letter objecting to Montana Republicans’ decision to ban a transgender lawmaker from the floor.

“Dave Williams has been working really hard to try and frame this as a RINO vs. MAGA fight, but it is not,” Maher said Friday, using an acronym for “Republican in name only. “This is Dave Williams versus everyone, because Dave Williams is using state party resources for himself to the detriment of everyone else in the state.”

“The party is a self-governing body. If nobody stands up and says ‘This is wrong,’ then it becomes the norm,” she said.

Williams is a former member of the Colorado House of Representatives. He is a staunch ally of former President Donald Trump and has perpetuated the false claim that Trump won the 2020 election.