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.
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.
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.”
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.