Another campaign finance complaint has been leveled against the El Paso County, CO, Republican Party, this one accusing Chair Vickie Tonkins of performing a “knowingly fraudulent filing” of a $1,000 donation to conservative activist group FEC United, which promotes election conspiracies.
An Aug. 18, 2021, TRACER expenditure report shows the El Paso County GOP paid FEC United $1,000 as a donation.
During a discussion at the Feb. 5 El Paso County GOP Executive Committee meeting at Vista Ridge High School, Tonkins claimed the donation to FEC United was actually a payment to United American Defense Force (UADF), an armed wing of FEC United, for security services, according to the complaint filed by Cherish St. Denis, a former El Paso County GOP executive director.
This is the second campaign finance complaint to be filed against the El Paso County GOP since Vice Chair Karl Schneider filed a Nov. 23, 2021 complaint, alleging missing donations following the Aug. 6, 2021, Lincoln Day Dinner, featuring U.S. Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-GA) as keynote speaker.
Colorado GOP Chair Kristi Burton Brown noted in a Jan. 30 letter, “The State Executive Committee finds that it was improper for Chairwoman Tonkins to use county funds to contribute to FEC United. It is the State Executive Committee’s understanding based on the materials submitted by petitioners that FEC United is a 501(c)(4) organization that takes sides in Republican primaries, particularly in El Paso County.”
According to St. Denis’ complaint, “During the discussion, Chair Tonkins, in order to defend against the controversy, disclosed and waived the actual check in the air claiming that the findings of the State Executive Committee were incorrect, and that no donation was made to FEC United. She stated that the check was actually made out to UADF or the United American Defense Force. … The purpose of the payment to UADF, according to the Chair and the discussion that occurred during the meeting that day, was not a ‘donation’ but a payment for ‘security services.’ If this was for ‘security’ this should have been listed as an ‘expenditure’ for services rendered. (3) John Pitchford, the former Treasurer of the El Paso County Central Committee, attended the 5 February meeting. He adamantly stated he did not make the entry of FEC United into Tracer.”
In an email, Pitchford told the Colorado Times Recorder, “I am 100% responsible for listing the FEC as the recipient of a $1,000 donation. At the time I did not know of any distinction between the UADF and the FEC. I assumed the UADF was another organizational Pillar along with Faith, Education and Commerce. It is listed as a donation because that is what I believed it to be. If I had believed it to be an expense that is exactly how it would be listed. When I was the Treasurer the books where balanced to the penny each month. Anyone who wants to criticize me will first needed to do the math on State Rep. Mary Bradfield’s [R-Fountain] fraudulent Tracer Report.”
When asked about the discrepancy between the complaint and Pitchford’s statement, St. Denis said, “I was at the meeting and I thought I heard him say he didn’t file it, so that would be my mistake.” She also noted, “There was a lot of yelling and talking. I apologize for misrepresenting what he said. I meant no harm, I only want to get to the bottom of this issue.”
Pitchford’s mention of Bradfield is a reference to a 2018 TRACER filing that showed a discrepancy of nearly $44,000, according to Pitchford. Bradfield responded in a Sept. 2021 email, “After collaboration with the Secretary of State Tracer Division, a one time adjustment was made in the EPC GOP Tracer account.”
UADF calls itself a “humanitarian” organization and FEC United partner organization helmed by John “Tig” Tiegen, a former Marine and a survivor of the Sept. 11, 2012 attack against the American diplomatic compound in Benghazi, Libya. UADF members have “access to legal protection for members in the event of having to discharge a weapon to stop a threat,” according to its website.
On Facebook, FEC United has accused the Colorado Times Recorder of being run by “evil, selfish and unhappy people” and is an “ANTIFA far left terrorist group.” CTR is not an ANTIFA terrorist group.
UADF members have appeared, armed, at a number of Denver-area protests in recent years. FEC United and UADF were also organizers of the Oct. 10, 2020 “Patriot Muster” event where participant Lee Kelter was killed by Pinkerton contractor Matthew Dolloff, who was providing security for a 9News crew.
Both Tiegen and Joe Oltmann, a podcast co-host and founder of FEC United, have denied that UADF is a militia. Oltmann has also insisted that UADF is a separate entity from FEC United.
Oltmann was questioned about the connections between FEC United and UADF during a Sept. 9, 2021 deposition as part of the defamation lawsuit against him filed by former Dominion executive Eric Coomer.
What is FEC United’s connection with UADF?Exhibit C-2, Coomer v. Donald J. Trump for President Inc., et al
[Oltmann] They are — they partner at events.
Are members of FEC United also members of UADF?
[Oltmann] Some of them are, I’m sure.
What is UADF?
[Oltmann] United American Defense Force.
And are you involved with United American Defense Force?
[Oltmann] I’m a member.
Are you a founder?
[Oltmann] I’m not.
St. Denis’ complaint notes, “In my research, I found the UADF is a separate and distinct nonprofit corporation from FEC United as listed in the Secretary of State Business Entity search website. … Upon further examination, the entered transaction on 8/18/202 has a falsely entered address, purpose and type. According to the Secretary of State Business Entity website, the correct mailing address for the UADF is: 10750 S. Pine Drive, Parker, CO, 80138, United States.”
The Parker address listed on the Secretary of State’s website is also the address for Villa Parker, a business entity owned by Oltmann.
UADF’s name, listed as ‘security’ appeared on a tentative agenda for the Feb. 6 2021 El Paso County GOP central committee meeting, although Tiegen later denied UADF would provide security at the event and Oltmann described it as a “miscommunication.”
Prior to the February 2021 meeting, which saw Tonkins reelected by a seven vote margin, FEC United held meetings at the El Paso County GOP headquarters, and concerns were raised by party members about appointing FEC United members to precinct leader positions within the party.
Recent El Paso County GOP Executive Committee meetings have resulted in a rash of security-related incidents. Following a Dec. 6 meeting at Fervent Church in Colorado Springs, Sen. Larry Liston (R-Colorado Springs) accused Rex Tonkins, Vickie’s husband, of “chest-bumping” him, according to a report filed with the Colorado Springs Police Department. Upon investigation, CSPD did not find probable cause to charge Rex Tonkins. Following the Feb 5 meeting at Vista Ridge High School, Bethany Graupner, wife of Fervent Church pastor and FEC United’s National FEC Chaplain and Pikes Peak Faith Pillar pastor Garrett Graupner, filed a report with CSPD accusing Duncan Bremer, father of Senate candidate Eli Bremer, of assault for allegedly grabbing her as she was trying to leave the House District 20 meeting.
Tonkins did not respond to a request for comment. If she does, we will provide an update.