In May, the Colorado Sun reported on the Colorado Republican Party’s financial woes — they failed to pay any employees in April and only had about $1,500 in cash at the end of March. During an appearance on the Chuck and Julie Show on Monday, Ashe Epp, a former host of Joe Oltmann’s Conservative Daily podcast and a current columnist with the Glendale Cherry Creek Chronicle, claimed that the GOP’s financial problems stemmed from bonuses taken by former members of party leadership.
“I spoke with with Chairman Williams about about this scandal,” said Epp. “Prior to leaving her office, the chairwoman, former Chairwoman Kristi Burton Brown, announced that they were leaving the party with a surplus of $100,000 — $100,000 according to Dave Williams, I’ve heard from other members of the party it was closer to $120,000 — and that was a surplus … It appears that during the transition of power, that [$100,000] to $120,000 surplus was spent, and it was spent on bonuses and on other — basically they paid themselves is what it appears to be, what appears to have happened, and this happened during the transition of power. So the stated objective of the Republican Party is to get Republicans elected. They did not get Republicans elected. They then paid themselves bonuses for failing to achieve their objective instead of paying their rent, they owed the landlord $9,000. They allegedly, reportedly, according to the chair, had $100,000 and now they don’t have $100,000 and they still owe $9,000 in rent.”
Host Chuck Bonniwell, who is both the publisher of the Glendale Cherry Creek Chronicle and a member of the Colorado GOP Central Committee, corroborated Epp’s claims. “Money went flying out the door to themselves, to the Brownstein’s, to everyone else,” he said.
Colorado GOP Chair Dave Williams did not respond to an emailed request for comment.
Reached via text message, Burton Brown denied Epp and Bonniwell’s claims. “Their accusations are absolutely false,” she said. “Unfortunately, they no longer have an attorney or an accounting firm working for them, so it seems they’re having difficulty reading and understanding the campaign finance reports. Everything we did was above board, and the records prove that.”
Bonniwell also claimed that the Colorado GOP’s finances have been questionable for a long time. “There’s this huge, six figure discrepancy that’s gone on ever since Ryan Call,” he said. “Their reason why they’re hiding some of these bank accounts, because some of them included payouts which the insiders didn’t want to be shown to the new people.”
Elected 2011, Call served two terms as Colorado GOP Chair. In 2021, Call was disbarred after admitting he concealed information about nearly $280,000 he transferred to himself from a political committee formed to support Donald Trump serving as the committee’s treasurer.
The financial problems are just the latest problem for Colorado’s Republican party which suffered major losses during the November election. The National Review recently identified Colorado’s Republican party as part of “the quiet collapse of four key state Republican parties,” alongside Arizona, Michigan, and Minnesota.
During a Tuesday appearance on KNUS’ George Brauchler Show, Independence Institute President and Gazette columnist Jon Caldara also commented on the Colorado GOP’s decline. “I believe the Republican Party in Colorado — not nationally — is on its dying breaths,” he said. “It’s not raising money. It’s infighting. It’s not able to bring forward a party that brings people together to defeat Democrats.”
According to Epp, a report will be presented by Colorado GOP Treasurer Tom Bjorklund during an Aug. 5 Central Committee meeting. “Apparently at the Central Committee meeting that’s taking place on August 5th, there’s going to be a review by the new treasurer and a readout of what’s going on with the party’s finances,” she said. “But it’s very possible for people that would pay themselves bonuses after losing elections — it’s very possible that they just misreported what they had. We don’t know. I think it could be criminal, and I think there needs to be an investigation if it turns out that there is criminal behavior. It absolutely needs to involve the authorities.”