DENVER – The war for control of the state House is being waged in mailboxes, TV and radio ads – and neighborhoods swarming with door-to-door canvassers pitching for candidates. But appearances may be deceiving – Republicans largely depend on a cadre of volunteers; Democrats deploy an army of paid canvassers in the state’s top 12 competitive races.
Democrats have pumped more than $7.4 million into winning legislative seats – excluding individual candidate campaign tallies – most was raised by 527 committees registered by Julie Wells. The 527s fuel the money into a half-dozen independent expenditure committees that, by law, cannot communicate or coordinate with candidates and their campaigns.
Yet, some wonder if there is indeed coordination between the campaigns and independent committees – and if the conduit may be the Democratic Party. The party arranged photo shoots for Democrat candidates, some were printed in their campaign mailers but others ended up in mailers paid for by the Colorado Accountable Government Alliance Independent Expenditure Committee, registered by Wells.
Wells did not respond to requests for comment.
The state Democratic Party paid IRN, Inc. for the photos, which were listed as a $292.86 in-kind contribution to each of 14 state House candidates. The cost of the photos was included in $35,802 paid by the party to IRN, Inc., which specializes in opposition research and polling.
IRN, Inc. also was paid by independent and 527 committees registered by Wells. Colorado Accountable Government Alliance 527 paid more than $270,000 and Coalition for Colorado’s Future 527 paid at least $134,000 for unspecified polling, research and consulting.
IRN, Inc., registered by Rachel Kaygi, is located at 1624 Market Street in Suite 475 – its former Suite 205 is occupied by Grassroots Campaigns (GRSC). According to the Denver County Tax Assessor’s records, the suites are owned by the Colorado Democracy Alliance at a Scottsdale, Arizona address.
Colorado Democracy Alliance was formed by heavy hitters Pat Stryker, Tim Gill, District 2 Congressman Jared Polis and Rutt Bridges – dubbed the “Gang of Four.”
In August, The Community Information Project 527 reported $176,100 in payments to GRSC, including $5,100 for rent and utilities, $24,550 for office supplies, $36,000 for travel and lodging, and nearly $12,000 for ads to recruit canvassers and perform background checks.
GRSC dispatched hires for door-to-door canvassing for a dozen Democrat legislative candidates including Reps. Daniel Kagan of Greenwood Village in HD 3, Pete Lee of Colorado Springs in HD 18 and Millie Hamner of Summit County in HD 61, former state Rep. Dianne Primavera inn HD 33 and Brittany Pettersen in HD 28.
The 527-paid GRSC canvassers distributed pro-Democrat candidate walk pieces created by award-winning Gumbinner & Davies of Washington, D.C. that also created the mailers attacking GOP candidates and independent Kathleen Curry in the HD 61 race against Hamner and Republican Debra Irvine.
The mailers, paid for by Colorado Accountable Government Alliance Independent Expenditure Committee, were deemed vicious by Republicans and even some Democrats in HD 61. In that district, nearly $107,000 was spent to boost Hamner, distort former state Rep. Curry’s voting record and attack Irvine.
“It’s so over the top. It’s awful. Women are offended by their mail pieces,” said Curry of a mailer falsely claiming she’d voted against insured mammograms. Colorado Accountable Government Alliance “has abandoned all sense of morals and ethics.”
Some Democrat candidates paid Florida-based Mad Dog Mail to produce campaign walk pieces and mailers, and Rocky Mountain Voter Outreach to knock on doors throughout their districts. In addition, candidates Lee of Colorado Springs and Brittany Pettersen of Lakewood enlisted the canvassing help of New Era.
As Colorado Peak Politics reported, Pettersen posed in a photo with canvassers for New Era for whom she had been employed – and would likely have known that the nonprofit cannot coordinate with any candidate.
In a newsletter to insiders, Lee invited fans to join him on Saturday, Oct. 20, when “New Era Colorado will be in town for the last big walk of the campaign season. It’s a ‘bus-stache’ tour – and we’re delighted to welcome this energetic group of young people.”
His Republican opponent Jennifer George has endured repeated mail and radio ads that claim that she’s “too extreme” – distorting her positions on issues to fit the negative message, according to critics.
“From its inception, my campaign has been one of integrity, honesty and positivity. We’ve experienced tremendous support from the local community and volunteer efforts, financial donations and overall enthusiasm for my candidacy,” said George, who noted that Lee’s campaign has been heavily financed by special interests outside of El Paso County.