Garfield County sheriff may have violated campaign finance laws supporting Lauren Boebert, Colorado secretary of state says

The Colorado secretary of state’s office said Monday its officials are investigating whether Garfield County Sheriff Lou Vallario violated campaign finance laws by using his office’s public resources to support Rep. American Lauren Boebert.

In a letter obtained by the Denver Post, a legal analyst with the Secretary of State’s office confirmed that they had received a formal complaint against Vallario and uncovered “potential violations of Colorado’s campaign finance laws.” The office gave Vallario 10 business days to respond to the allegations.

A representative from the secretary of state’s office declined to comment, and a representative from Vallario did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

David Wheeler filed a complaint against Vallario at the end of August. Wheeler is the head of American Muckrakers, a political action committee trying to overthrow Boebert. He accused the sheriff of using his official position and email account to urge voters to support Boebert and disparage his main Republican opponent.

In his Aug. 26 complaint, Wheeler included an email he obtained from Vallario’s official email account, obtained through Colorado’s open records laws. The Sheriff appears to have sent the message to himself on June 13, a Monday, at 11:25 a.m. with the subject “FW: Phone.”

“Hello, this is Garfield County Sheriff Lou Vallario calling on behalf of Lauren Boebert for Congress. Make no mistake, Lauren Boebert is the only Republican primary candidate supporting the forces of order,” the email read. “I strongly encourage you to vote for Lauren Boebert and get your ballot delivered today.”

“Don Coram, Lauren’s opponent, is downright awful when it comes to law enforcement,” the post continues. “Coram has decriminalized fentanyl, an extremely dangerous drug. Coram gave driver’s licenses to illegal immigrants. And Coram said he wants the courts to make sure illegal immigrants here go unpunished. Worse still, Coram voted to initiate lawsuits against police officers.

It is unclear who received approval from the sheriff’s official email account.

The cited law in the Secretary of State’s response to Wheeler, there is a prohibition on public officials using public money “to support or oppose a candidate.” Another state law prohibits state employees to use state facilities or resources “or the authority of any state office to support any candidate” and prohibits them from “actively” campaigning for any candidate.

Wheeler also accused Vallario of harassing him, violating his civil rights and embarrassing him while using his official email account to support Boebert. He also accused the sheriff of posting videos on the Garfield County Sheriff’s Office Facebook Page expressing “purely political declarations and endorsements”.

Vallario now has 10 business days to repair — or “remedy” — or dispute alleged violations, the secretary of state’s office wrote.

Wheeler’s organization has been sharing information about Boebert online for months now, trying to overthrow her as she runs for re-election against Democrat Adam Frisch. He also asked Attorney General Phil Weiser’s office to investigate any relationship between Boebert and Vallario in August after deputies were called to their Silt neighborhood for a disturbance involving her husband.