The Weld County GOP chairman has filed a complaint with the local district attorney and the Secretary of State’s Office accusing an aide to Republican U.S. Rep. Ken Buck and three others of election fraud and corruption.
The complaint is under review by the Secretary of State’s Office, spokesperson Betsy Hart said Friday.
It’s the second accusation of election irregularities to touch Buck, who’s also the state GOP chairman, this week. The first related to concerns about Buck pressuring an El Paso County Republican official to put a candidate on a primary ballot.
Weld County Republican Chair William Sander told The Denver Post on Friday that an internal GOP audit found a precinct committee person entered three people as delegates who had not been elected at the party caucuses in March.
“This is clearly a fraudulent, dishonest and corrupt act amongst four long-term Weld County Republicans who knew better. Their action, had it not been caught, would have disenfranchised elected delegates,” Sander wrote in one of the complaints.
Delegates are elected by fellow party members to select candidates to be placed before voters.
The Post is seeking comment from Buck and the state party, neither of which could immediately be reached.
The complaint doesn’t provide a motive for the alleged actions.
However, Buck’s ex-wife, state Rep. Perry Buck, is running in a contested Republican primary for commissioner in Weld County, and the caucus/assembly process is one way to get on the ballot. Ken Buck contacted at least three Republicans about her candidacy when the seat first became vacant, but Kevin Ross was appointed to fill it until the November election.
Commissioner Scott James declined to discuss the details of his conversation with Ken Buck about the position.
“It would simply be my hope that the man that I know would have the integrity to not insert himself in a local political race,” James told The Post. “The congressman has been supportive of me in the past, and I have appreciated his support. I would also appreciate it if he let races be run fairly.”
One of those accused of being named a delegate improperly, Cody LeBlanc, works as a local representative for Buck’s 4th Congressional District office. On his Facebook page, LeBlanc has shared Perry Buck’s campaign messages and voiced his support for her candidacy using the hashtags #CaucusForPerry and #PerryForWeld.
He did not return messages seeking comment Friday.
A second person named in the complaint, Todd Sargent, said he attended the party caucus where he was elected as an alternate but he would not say whether he knew that the committee person, Evelyn Harlan, had instead listed him as a delegate. Harlan did not return a call seeking comment. Lois Rice, the third would-be delegate, declined to comment.
Weld County Sheriff Steve Reams also said he received a call from Ken Buck about the commissioner position but noted that he already supported Perry Buck for the spot.
State Sen. John Cooke, R-Greeley, told The Post he spoke with Ken Buck “but he never asked me to do any favors for her.”
“He’s walking a fine line, I have to admit, because it’s his (ex-)wife and he’s a party chair,” Cooke added.
When told that delegates were named improperly, Buck did nothing, Sander said in a statement.
“While I know a lot of people would like this swept under the rug, I think it’s very, very important,” he said. “After getting no support at the state level, I felt I had no other choice but to file a complaint. You see the corruption in our election process; the public won’t stand for it. The elected officials won’t stand for it. And frankly, I believe it’s against the law.”
The timeline for the investigation into the Weld County allegations is unclear. In the meanwhile, Democratic activists are calling for formal discipline of Buck over the El Paso County situation.
On an April 17 conference call, Buck pressured Eli Bremer, a GOP chairman for state Senate District 10, to follow the direction of the central and executive committees and certify that a Senate candidate had won a place on the ballot. The candidate, however, did not receive 30% in an assembly vote as required by the state. Filing that paperwork would have been illegal, Bremer told Buck on the call, but the chair continued to push.
The issue went to court when a Bremer ally filed a friendly lawsuit, and the Denver District Court chief judge ruled that filing the paperwork would have been illegal. The Colorado Supreme Court cemented the decision after it declined to hear the case on a GOP appeal.
The conflict was enough for one of Buck’s own party members to question his status as state chair, but now others are pushing for legal action. Alan Franklin, political director for the left-leaning ProgressNow Colorado, asked the Colorado Office of Attorney Regulation on Friday to consider whether Buck, a licensed attorney, should be disbarred. Buck’s comments to Bremer amount to suborning perjury, Franklin contends.
ProgressNow Colorado Executive Director Ian Silverii said Buck has engaged in egregious misconduct, mentioning both the conversation with Bremer and the Weld County case.
“As the chairman of the Colorado Republican Party, Buck’s flagrant disregard for Colorado election law shows he can’t be trusted in that position,” Silverii said. “As a member of Congress, former prosecutor, and licensed Colorado attorney, suborning perjury as Buck appears to have done in this case is nothing short of disqualifying. It’s time for Buck to surrender his law license, and cooperate fully with the investigations that seem imminent today.”
Prominent Denver attorney Stanley Garnett, a Democrat, said the state’s laws on perjury are narrowly written and rarely prosecuted.
“I would be surprised if anything around this would get close to perjury,” Garnett said of the Senate District 10 case.
Garnett served as district attorney for Boulder County at the same time as Buck served as the district attorney for Weld County and he said the two know each other well, despite sitting on opposite ends of the political spectrum.
“I don’t see anything even close to a crime having been committed here,” Garnett said. “What Ken was doing was carrying out the decision of the executive committee of the Republican Party as to this particular candidate.”