top of page
  • Writer's pictureMario Nicolais

Bannon co-conspirator Shea only one Colorado grifter among many

A fool and his money are soon parted. The proverb could be a mantra for many GOP operatives. Castle Rock resident Timothy Shea, who bilked hundreds of thousands of donors out of millions of dollars, will not just be parted from the money he accumulated, but from his freedom as well.

Charged three years ago with fraud for draining funds from his “We Build the Wall” organization alongside three co-defendants, including the presidentially pardoned Steve Bannon, Shea was sentenced this week to forfeit $1.8 million, pay restitution of an equal amount, and serve more than five years in prison.

Unfortunately, that means he will miss out on the 2024 presidential year gravy train, but should be back by 2029. That is, assuming Donald Trump does not win another election, proclaim himself emperor, cancel all future elections, and create the Autocracy of America.

Plenty of others, many in Colorado, will gladly take his place.

Grift has run rampant in the GOP over the past decade. Always a part of fringe interest groups, the schemes have multiplied in complexity and profit over the past decade. For conservative political operatives trying to pay a mortgage – or for several McMansions, a yacht, and a Ferrari if you’re like former Trump campaign manager Brad Parscale – the temptation must be overwhelming. After all, you can only sell your soul once, so you may as well make a mint off of it.

And the Shea saga seems to be only one example of how completely conservative Colorado operatives have taken that lesson to heart.

Way back in 2013, former state senator Ted Harvey launched the “Stop Hillary” Super PAC. Along with a cadre of similar organizations, they spent 87% of the millions they raised on “operating expenses.” That catch-all phrase generally translates to kickbacks via lucrative contracts between the organizations and vendors their leadership owns. At first blush, it looks like the group is spending money to accomplish its stated goals. In reality, it is a scheme for those people to make inflated profits off minimal deliverables. 

That business model gave rise to the term “scam PAC” for its failure to do anything but make its founders wealthy. They preyed on low-information donors responding to dog-whistle credos. It seems almost Pavlovian watching the money pour in after someone says something particularly divisive and vitriolic.

The problem is not that they lose on occasion – or most of the time – it is that they do not deliver at all. They simply put in enough effort to look good on the surface, but they’re not really capable of action. It’s like dressing up a trawler as a battleship; once the actual fighting starts, it’s bound to sink.

After Harvey, Colorado had GOP Chairman Ryan Call, who swiped hundreds of thousands of dollars from the super PAC he represented. That led to his disbarment, collapse of the law firm he worked for and an eventual move to Utah. All that from a guy who provided tangible victories during his time leading the party.

But he is nothing compared to Jenna Ellis.

Ellis self-promoted her way from being a terrible attorney and teaching undergraduates a bastardized version of constitutional theory to a wealthy media personality. Her legal chops were so poor that Trump’s legal team – the same one that lost 61 of 62 lawsuits alleging nonexistent election fraud – did not add her name to court pleadings. In the end, her ineptitude likely saved her law license. Because she had not deceived a court like her colleagues (she just deceived large swaths of the American public), she only received a reprimand.

You would think that plucking Ellis from the obscurity she deserved would have meant Trump bought and paid for her loyalty. That is the problem with grifters, though, they are only loyal to the next paycheck.

Ellis has spent much of this year attacking Trump and his allies in favor of her new patron, presidential hopeful and Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis. And – surprise, surprise – he recently had to fire a third of his staff after campaign finance reports demonstrated an inordinate outflow of funds. Apparently Ellis was not the only one looking to get plump off the mother’s milk of campaign cash.

That brings us back to Shea. He is not going to jail for being inept. Obviously that worked for plenty of people. He just got caught promising actual results and then failing to follow through. 

Shea and his co-conspirators told people “100%” of the campaign’s proceeds would go toward building a wall. If they had left off the percentage and simply stuck to their nationalistic fear mongering and thrown up a roll of chain link, he would probably be sitting in a second home in the mountains by now.

That is probably the lesson here: Ineptness and moral ambiguity can make you rich on the backs of the American far right, just do not go overboard promising results.

2 views0 comments


bottom of page