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 fundsAll the funds from the tax will go to the Mesa County Sheriff and the District Attorney’s Offices. 10/21/17 CORRECTION: This is an error. Ballot Measure 1A specifies that the Grand Junction Police Department and Fire Department will in fact be entitled to a total of 6.97% of 15.88% of the sales tax revenues generated by Measure 1A. This means that out of the 37 cents collected on every sale of $100 within Mesa County, the GJPD and GJFD will be entitled to split .004 (four one-thousandths) of one cent. See page 7 of The text of the entire tax measure is here. (pdf)

The tax may sound like a good idea on it’s face and it may even be needed, but at the very least, 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.

 

 

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

  1. Happy Valley on Prozac
    October 22, 2017 at 1:16 pm

    Ah the things you don’t read in the local rag, the most heavily subsidized and monopolistic business in Mesa County, by the way.

  2. Eric niederkruger
    October 20, 2017 at 9:21 pm

    What we have here is a failure to administrate! I don’t think that people realize that no new taxes are needed for public safety. In fact the viscerally challenged Commissioners are keeping pretty low profiles on this one. Always a great read,especially angry comments!

  3. Dennis Simpson
    October 20, 2017 at 4:48 pm

    Janet, you left out one member of the inner circle—Seaton

  4. American Patriot
    October 20, 2017 at 9:09 am

    A Peek Behind the Curtain

    EIS Solutions, Fusion GPS; astorturf for sale to the highest bidder, which nine out of ten times means the GOP.

    Now, that’s not exclusive ownership. It’s more like the people with the most money own the first right of refusal. There are no rules. There are no limits. If the Koch brothers don’t buy, maybe George Soros will?

    The only common ground to be found are among those who don’t like what’s happening to our politics, and to our country. Would it be prudent for us (plural) to find out if we’re capable of fixing what’s broken in our country, sometime before we take the show global?

    The chicken or the egg? Which will come first? Global domination or global damnation? But this is a limited time offer. Or can’t you see that our time may be more limited than it appears?

  5. Dennis Herzog
    October 19, 2017 at 8:07 pm

    And just what are the “bad deeds and reputations” of the following group of people and organizations? Seems to me to be a group that has done much more for Mesa County than just about any other bunch of people you could name, and in fact your fact-less claims to the contrary amount to libel.

    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

    • Anne Landman
      October 21, 2017 at 3:39 pm

      Laramie Energy (which bought Occidental Petroleum) sued Mesa County, the Plateau Valley school district and other local government entities in 2016 demanding $1.8 million, claiming it had made overpayments to the county. Laramie claimed the overpayment was based on their own errors. This was in your paper at this link: http://www.gjsentinel.com/news/articles/tax-lawsuit-headed-to-colorado-high-court/

      Enstrom Candies isn’t as sweet as some may think, either. Doug Simons, the owner of Enstrom Candies, served for 8 years on the Grand Junction Regional Airport Authority Board (twice as chair) during the time the FBI raided the Airport Authority offices looking for evidence of fraud. When former mayor of G.J. Bill Pitts joined the Airport Board years ago and asked to see the minutes of their meetings so he could catch up, he was told there weren’t any. A public board without minutes of their meetings? Kind of shady, no? A former city council member also informed me that Doug Simons has contributed tens of thousands of dollars to the Chamber’s dark money political lobbying group, the Western Colorado Business Alliance, which doesn’t disclose it’s donors. The WCBA spent tens of thousands of dollars in 2013 to have chambermades take over City Council. They spent $10,000 — more than had ever been spent on a G.J. city council race, ever — to run Rick Brainard against Bill Pitts for Council in 2013. Four days after being elected to Council, Brainard was arrested for beating up his girlfriend so badly he turned her face black and blue. Brainard eventually pled “no contest” to the charges, but despite public pressure refused to relinquish his seat on Council. Simons, who was on the chamber’s board at the time, did not renounce Brainard or ask him to step down from his seat. Neither did the chamber, which represents most of the big business in the list above, including Enstroms.

      Also, not one of these big, powerful businesses — long time members of the chamber — stood up to renounce the chamber after Chamber CEO Diane Schwenke posted an offensive anti-atheist joke on her Facebook page in 2013. Her joke actually said atheists “don’t know shit.”: http://annelandmanblog.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/05/DSchwenkesFBPage2013-05-13.jpg

      Does the chamber think there aren’t any atheist business owners in town? Do they think atheist business owners in town don’t matter? Why does the Grand Junction Area Chamber of Commerce’s most prominent representative feel free to publicly insult people at all? Why do prominent area businesses like those listed above support a chamber of commerce that openly insults people?

      BTW, truth is the defense against libel.

  6. Anne Landman
    October 19, 2017 at 5:44 pm

    The following note is from Dennis Simpson, a local CPA who watches the budgeting processes of Mesa County and the City of Grand Junction:
    —-
    The proponents of Ballot Issue 1A are relying on the use of the term “public safety” to convince voters to vote yes on this issue. If voters look just a little deeper, however, they will see that this proposal is actually a wolf disguised in sheep’s clothing. This tax increase is nothing more than an increase in the general sales tax.

    This issue, if approved, with add approximately $6 million to 2018 budgets of the Sheriff and the DA and the tax generated from this tax increase will be earmarked in future years for public safety. The fact not discussed by the proponents is that $6 million is not nearly enough to run the departments in question. The 2017 budget for public safety is in excess of $28 million. This amount was determined by the Commissioners after considering all of the other requests for County services. The proponents would like you to believe that passage of this issue will guarantee that the total public safety funding will jump to $34 million and that this level of commitment will remain into the future. The truth is that only the portion of tax added by this issue will be guaranteed. Current or future Commissioners will be allowed to reduce public safety funding as they see fit as long as they don’t go below the $6 million or so that this ballot issue raises.

    If the Commissioners had at all been interested in citizens being fully informed before the election, they would have disclosed the real nature of their proposal as explained above. Instead, they have chosen the strategy of focusing on buzz words that tug at the heart strings of voters.

    Not talked about by the Commissioners is the fact that there is $20 million of annual revenue some of which could, with voter approval, be allocated to public safety needs and no tax increase at all would be needed. For 30 years, this revenue source was used to pay off debt on major roads built in the early 1980’s. When the debt was paid off, annual revenue exceeding $3 million became available to use elsewhere and has been diverted to questionable areas. For example, in recent years the County has given $1.5 million to Colorado Mesa University which many would say is a blatant violation of what the voters approved in 1981.

    Many tax increases include sunset provisions. This one does not. It will never go away. The logical thing would have been to ask us for the tax for five years at which time the voters could decide whether public safety has improved.

    Proponents are likely to spend a lot of money in advertising and opponents will likely spend none. Please do not be fooled. Vote NO on Issue 1A.

  7. Janet Johnson
    October 19, 2017 at 3:05 pm

    Thanks Ann…. seals the deal for me. I especially do not like the exclusion of the police department.
    The County Commissioners are not responsible stewards of the Federal Mineral Lease funding and Matt Lewis’s lunching with John Marshall of CMU fame completes the Penry, Foster, Pollard circle

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