The dark money groups, shady astroturfers and wealthy locals backing Measure 1A, the public safety sales tax

Tim Pollard of “Back the Badge’s” board is the brother-in-law of Josh Penry, who, with Penry operates the astroturfing group EIS Solutions, which is pocketing much of the money raised to promote 1A

Ballot Measure 1A will increase the sales tax in Mesa County by 0.37% to fund the Mesa County Sheriff’s Office and the District Attorney’s office.

It sounds like a good idea, but much of the money behind 1A is coming from unaccountable sources, and the astroturfing groups promoting it may give some people pause. In particular, one big-money donor backing 1A is an aggressively pro-gun group that refuses to reveal its funders and works to push lawmakers out of office who support policies to reduce gun massacres in the U.S., like the one that occurred in Las Vegas on October 1, 2017. Such massacres are becoming daily occurrences in our country and are causing massive death, injury and untold grief.

Self-dealing?

The main local supporter of 1A is Back the Badge, whose board consists of nine people. One of them is Tim Pollard, Chief Operating Officer of the astroturfing group EIS Solutions, which has offices in G.J., Denver and Washington, D.C. Another member of Back the Badge’s board is Tim Pollard’s wife, Kristi Pollard, who is also the sister of former Republican gubernatorial candidate Josh Penry, a politician-turned lobbyist and another principal of EIS Solutions. It should be of no surprise, then, that money Back the Badge raises to promote the measure is getting funneled right back to the Pollards and Penry in the form of contracts with EIS Solutions to coordinate the Yes on 1A campaign in Mesa County.

Josh Penry, brother of Kristi Pollard and brother-in-law of Tim Pollard

EIS Solutions is in the business of astroturfing — creating fake grassroots and non-profit groups to mask the actual sponsors of a measure and give the public the illusion that there is widespread public support for oil and gas drilling in Colorado. EIS Solutions has earned a shady reputation by repeatedly stepping well outside of respectable practices. In one case in 2013, EIS Solutions was caught faking signatures on a pro-fracking, anti-regulation petition in Ft. Collins. 

EIS Solutions works for the Koch-backed group Americans for Prosperity, and loads of oil and gas companies use EIS Solutions to defeat measures to protect public health and the environment from the harmful effects of drilling and fracking. EIS Solutions insulates these companies from backlash by forming nebulously-named front groups, like Vital for Colorado, which staunchly opposes oil and gas-related environmental and public health initiatives.

Aggressive pro-gun group backs 1A with big money from secret donors

Another one of Back the Badge’s biggest donors is the dark-money group “Colorado Citizens Protecting our Constitution” (pdf) (CCPoC), which can take in unlimited donations to influence elections while keeping it’s donors secret, hence the label “dark-money” group. It has over $1 million in the bank and is an aggressively pro-gun group that works to harass and recall Colorado legislators who propose policies to reduce mass gun slaughters. CCPoC donated $20,000 to Back the Badge. Unsurprisingly, CCPoC also has close ties to Penry and Pollard’s EIS Solutions. In fact, CCPoC shares the same address in Greenwood Village — 5910 S. University Blvd. — as other front groups EIS created to push anti-environment and anti-public health measures, like Vital for Colorado. And, as with Back the Badge, the Republican cronyism can be found in Vital for Colorado, too: Penry’s wife, Kristin Strohm, is on Vital for Colorado’s board. Penry and his wife have been called the “First Couple of Fracking.”

Kristi Pollard is married to Tim Pollard of EIS Solutions, the astroturfing company that was caught faking signatures on a petition to oppose a fracking ban in Fort Collins 2013

Tim Pollard is involved with all three groups — Back the Badge, EIS Solutions and Colorado Citizens Protecting our Constitution — and was responsible for placing full page ads in newspapers across the state in 2013, including in Durango and Colorado Springs, attacking legislators who proposed gun safety policies by trying to link them to former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg, who launched a $50 million challenge to the National Rifle Association in 2014.

Local donors are a Who’s Who list of Chamber of Commerce members

Make no mistake about it. The campaign promoting Ballot Measure 1A in Mesa County is well-funded by some of the most powerful businesses in the area. Most of them are long time members of the Grand Junction Area Chamber of Commerce, which routinely takes positions opposing public health and safety, and the interests of workers, families and the environment. In 2017, for example, the chamber opposed a bill to give workers unpaid leave to attend their children’s academic school meetings. In 2016, the chamber opposed a ballot measure to raise the minimum wage, citing conclusions made of an out-of-state economist and Uber driver who works out of his home in Portland, Oregon who said it would be bad for Colorado. The chamber is also squarely opposed to protecting citizens’ health and safety when it comes to drilling and fracking.

Here are some of the biggest donors to Back the Badge Vote Yes on 1A, and their donations:

  • Central Distributing – $20,000
  • Enstrom Candies- $5,000
  • Fisher’s Liquor Barn- $5,000
  • FCI Constructors- $5,000
  • Whitewater Building Materials- $5,000
  • Laramie Energy (of Denver)- $5,000
  • Steven Meyer of Shaw Construction (and after whom the Meyer Ballroom at CMU is named)- $5,000
  • Martin’s Mortuary- $5,000
  • Rocky Mountain HMO (now owned by United Health)- $5,000
  • Western Slope Auto- $,5000
  • Fuoco Motors- $1,000
  • Home Loan- $2,000
  • Timberline Bank- $1,000
  • Elam Construction- $3,000
  • Bozarth Chevrolet- $2,000

Perhaps most interesting of all, Dan Rubenstein, the District Attorney whose office would benefit greatly from the funding 1A would provide, donated just $100.

One last additional bit of information: While all Grand Junction residents will pay the tax, the Grand Junction Police Department will not get any of the funds. All the funds from the tax will go to the Mesa County Sheriff and the District Attorney’s Offices.

The tax may sound like a good idea on it’s face and it may even be needed, but at the very least, all the shady characters backing it along with their bad deeds and reputations should give voters great pause and a good reason to think twice before supporting it.

 

 

CBS/Washington Post: U.S. Congress complicit in advancing the U.S. opioid epidemic

Colorado House Rep. Scott Tipton. The bill that hobbled DEA’s pursuit of out-of-control opioid pharmaceutical distribution passed the House on a voice vote, so no record of individual votes was made.

A blockbuster CBS News/60 Minutes and Washington Post investigation reveals that after the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) cracked down on big pharmaceutical distributors who were knowingly pumping millions of addictive opioid drugs into the black market in cities and towns across the country, the U.S. Congress passed a law to block DEA from freezing such highly suspicious drug shipments to keep them from getting to the streets.

CMU 20000 Steering Committee asks City Council to reconsider changing name of North Ave. to “University Blvd.”

The CMU 20000 Steering Committee has formally asked the Grand Junction City Council to reconsider it’s decision to change the name of North Avenue to “University Boulevard,” saying the matter has “become an inadvertent distraction” from the overall goals of the CMU 20000 effort. The steering committee sent a letter to City Council on October 13 asking them to reverse their decision, and City Council has added the item to the agenda for it’s next meeting.

Grand Junction Chamber backs scary candidates for the contested seats in School Board election

The chamber is endorsing pretty scary candidates for school board

It’s no surprise that in the contested District 51 School Board races, the Grand Junction Area Chamber of Commerce is endorsing candidates who are demonstrably the worst of the pack. That’s par for the course.

What IS surprising is that you can figure this out from reading the Chamber’s very own “Mesa County Valley School District 51 Voter Guide,” (pdf) in which the chamber endorses Thomas Keenan for District E and Dusti Reimer for District D.

For the voter guide, the chamber asked each candidate to answer four questions. Apparently the chamber printed the candidates’ responses verbatim, without editing.

The results are pretty damn scary for the two candidates they endorsed.

Thomas Keenan, the District E candidate, had a hard time putting together a coherent sentence. Below is a screenshot of Mr. Keenan’s answer to the chamber’s Question #4: “Why should members of the Grand Junction Area Chamber vote for you?” Immediately beneath his barely-comprehensible answer, the chamber endorses Mr. Keenan:

Republican Colorado State Senator Ray Scott can’t even fix a typo

Ray Scott

Denver Post: State Senator Ray Scott (R- Mesa County) cast a “spiteful, obstructionist vote” against fixing an error in a bill passed in Spring, 2017 that is costing western slope transportation districts crucial funds needed to operate

Governor Hickenlooper called a special session in early October so legislators could fix a mistake in Senate Bill 17-267, passed last spring, that is costing public entities across the state millions of dollars in lost pot tax revenues.

Legislators passed the bill with an error in it that keeps voter-approved special districts across the state from collecting marijuana sales taxes to fund their services. Many of the affected districts, like the Denver Regional Transportation District, the Denver Zoo, the Denver Botanic Gardens and Museum of Nature and Science are on the front range, but western slope entities are losing critical funding as well. Western slope districts losing funds because of the error include the Gunnison Valley Regional Transportation Authority, the Summit Combined Housing Authority, the Roaring Fork Regional Transportation Authority, the San Miguel Regional Transportation Authority and the Edwards Metropolitan District.

At a special session convened to address the problem during the first week of October, a bill to fix the error that originated in the Democratic-controlled House passed by a 37-25 vote, mostly along party lines. Our very own Rep. Dan Thurlow (R-Mesa County), was the only Republican House Representative who voted for the fix. In arguing to pass it, Thurlow said, “We’re here. We spent the money [for the special session]…I think we should just go ahead and fix it.”

The Chamber’s North Ave. Name Change is One of a Long String of Losing Proposals

Grand Junction Area Chamber of Commerce President Diane Schwenke

The Grand Junction Area Chamber of Commerce is driving the effort to rename North Avenue to “University Boulevard.”

Oh, boy. Here we go again.

This proposal is just another one in the chamber’s long track record of pushing ill-fitting projects onto Grand Junction citizens, whether they like them or not. The chamber’s proposals typically range from unpopular to disastrous and almost invariably go down in flames. The promises they make about their proposals’ costs and outcomes often contain misinformation, too. So who can blame people for not supporting yet another one?

Cidney Fisk Sues the Delta County School District

Cidney Fisk, speaking at California Freethought Day last fall

Cidney Fisk filed a lawsuit (pdf) Monday, September 25, 2017, against the Delta County Joint School District 50J for sabotaging her grades and college scholarship opportunities because of opinions she expressed publicly while in their school system, and due to her atheistic beliefs. She is seeking compensatory and punitive damages for economic and emotional distress.

Cidney appeared on the front page of the Grand Junction Daily Sentinel on April 1, 2016, criticizing the Delta County School District (DCSD) for persistent Christian proselytizing on school grounds during school hours. After she was quoted in the paper, her counselors threatened to tank her college scholarships and her teachers gave her failing grades. Cidney was an A+ student throughout her time in high school, was on the debate team, served in student government as treasurer, wrote for the school paper and had amassed over 400 hours of community service by the time she was a senior.

Make a Difference with this Little-Known Way to Give Powerful Feedback to City Council

Are you irritated that the Grand Junction City Council voted to change the name of North Ave. to “University Boulevard” without asking people what they thought about it first? Are you tired of tourists getting killed on Horizon Drive while the City pleads it has no money for pedestrian safety, while at the same time the City gives away half a million taxpayer dollars every year to Colorado Mesa University, and almost $6,400/year to the Grand Junction Chamber of Commerce?

What would you say to City Council if only you could?

Sen. Ray Scott Doesn’t Want to Do His Job

State Senator Ray Scott is upset that he must attend a special legislative session being called to fix a serious problem affecting a huge number of Colorado citizens.

State Senator Ray Scott doesn’t want to be bothered with having to fix a huge mistake the Colorado legislature made in 2017 that is blocking dozens of entities from getting crucial funds they need to function.

A Solution to the Palisade Gas Station Sign Dilemma

You’ve seen these signs. They’re big and bright and everyone looks for them on I-70 when they need gas, food or a rest stop.

Palisade residents are gearing up to oppose a 60-foot tall, lit gas station sign that Golden Gate Petroleum, the owners of a proposed 11-pump gas station and convenience store to be built at the Exit 42 offramp in Palisade.

Current town code limits signs to 20 feet in height.  Golden Gate says people on I-70 won’t be able to see a 20 foot sign. The Palisade Town Council has already bent the rules and handed the company a variance to build a 60-foot sign, but they shouldn’t have caved so easily. Their town is really worth the fight.