Search Results for: Recall grift

Recall Cashola: From Grifting To “Gifting”

FRIDAY UPDATE: Amateur hour continues, writes Marianne Goodland of the Colorado Springs Gazette:

After Colorado Politics reported that a Polis recall committee had disclosed distributing $11,000 in contributed funds as gifts to people involved in the group, the committee has amended state filings to say that the payments were for “consultant and professional services” instead of “gifts.”

The amended report from “Official Recall Governor Jared Polis” group — filed at 4:15 p.m. Thursday, hours after CoPo’s story was posted — labels the purpose of those expenditures as “BOARD APPROVED – THANK YOU FOR CARING ABOUT COLORADO.”

The previous filing identified the purpose as as “BOARD GIFT – THANK YOU FOR CARING ABOUT COLORADO.” Other information about the payments was not changed.

That’s a swell amendment, but we’d say the grounds for the mother of all campaign finance complaints have only been reinforced by this act of ex post facto backside covering. We assume that will be the next shoe to drop–unless it just plain becomes time to start arresting people for fraud! We’ll leave that question to the lawyers, who should be coming directly.

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As the Denver Post’s Anna Staver reports, the end of the road has come for the Official Recall Colorado Governor Jared Polis Issue Committee–and after diverting $29,000 into a committee calling itself Colorado For Trump, thousands of dollars in donations to the committee are being given out as “gifts” to the abortive campaign’s organizers:

The Official Recall of Colorado Gov. Jared Polis group — which didn’t participate in the recent failed recall attempt by two other groups — has given $11,000 of the money it raised for the effort as gifts to staffers.

According to online campaign finance records filed with the Secretary of State’s Office, committee manager Shane Donnelley got $5,000 as a “thank you for caring about Colorado” gift, and secretary Lisa Pascoe and Weld County lead Rene McGill both received $3,000.

“Whether you call it a grift or a gift, this is just the latest in a string of events that show these recalls are being driven by scammers who are looking out for their own interests at the expense of unwitting voters,” said Curtis Hubbard, the spokesman for the Democratic group working against the recalls, Democracy First.

When we last checked in on the ashes of the failed push to recall Gov. Jared Polis earlier this month, the chair of the committee Juli-Andra Fuentes said she was waiting for a phone call (that wasn’t coming) from President Donald Trump personally before deciding what next to do with the $29,000 she diverted to “Colorado For Trump” from the Recall Polis committee–which might include legal defense if she’s sued by the Trump campaign for misuse of their brand.  Shane Donnelley, as readers know, is one of the original organizers of the committee, but stepped back from a public role after anti-Semitic posts from Donnelley and another principal organizer Judy Spady wound up on the evening news.

The diversion of tens of thousands of dollars into the bogus Trump committee, and the thousands paid to local political operatives like Jon Caldara and Scott Gessler for their “Freedomfy” fundraising platform and legal fees respectively are well-known scandals at this point. But this latest disclosure of $11,000 given away as “gifts” to organizers after a campaign that accomplished absolutely nothing–helping principally to discredit the Polis recall petition drive after it commenced–is absolutely gobsmacking in its audacity.

This is a campaign whose donors literally contributed their SSI checks.

And they’re pocketing the money.

It may not be on a grand scale, but it is easily as disgraceful as anything we’ve seen in this business.

“Recall Polis” Grift Descends To New Depths Of Griftiness

With the campaign to recall Gov. Jared Polis now consigned to the dustbin of history, we’ve been following developments surrounding the roughly $100,000 raised by the “Official” Recall Jared Polis committee–which readers will recall is the committee that decided not to launch a recall attempt without the huge financial and volunteer commitment that would be necessary and condemned the “Dismiss Polis” campaign for moving ahead without the resources to succeed. Earlier this month, we took note of a large transfer of funds from the “Official” Polis Recall committee to a committee named “Colorado For Trump,” and took that as a sign that their operations were winding down.

But as 9NEWS’ Kyle Clark reports in the video above, that’s not where this sorry story ends:

You read that correctly: “Colorado For Trump” is not affiliated with the Trump campaign whatsoever, and is in fact run by the same Juli-Andra Fuentes who ran the “Official” Recall Polis committee. The Trump campaign is threatening legal action, and now Fuentes is talking about all kinds of alternative destinations for the committee’s remaining cash:

Of course Scott Gessler gets some of the money! Gessler attaching himself to the revenue stream of this summer’s failed recall attempts has got to be one of the most under-reported angles on the whole story and we hope somebody catches up with him for a few questions. As for the rest of the cash, this boils down to a hard lesson in the pitfalls of political giving–in particular giving to PACs and other entities without a clear purpose and accountability for the monies raised.

This is a campaign that literally had donors pledging their disability and Social Security checks to make donations in their misguided low-information fervor to bring Gov. Polis down. To see that money now slushing around in the hands of obviously marginal people with no sense of responsibility to the donors they spent months fleecing is…well, it ought to be a crime. The only reason it may not be is because the “ScamPAC” industry pays the mortgages of a lot of people in politics. Like Scott Gessler.

When does it stop being a political campaign and just become a fraud? This situation is pushing the boundary.

The Pivot–“Official” Polis Recall Committee Shifts The Grift

As predictable as sunrise, 9NEWS’ Marshall Zelinger reports:

One of two groups seeking contributions to try to recall Gov. Jared Polis (D-Colorado) recently diverted nearly a third of its money to a different effort.

“Official Recall Colorado Governor Jared Polis” has received $108,000 in contributions since forming in March.

In a campaign finance filing on Monday, that group reported giving $29,657.47 to “Colorado For Trump.” The reason stated was “Board approved expenditure for pivoting purposes.”

To recap, since it’s been awhile since the Recall Polis campaign(s) have merited much attention, with the doomed effort to collect over 600,000 voter signatures heading for its September 6th day of reckoning–this is the “Official” Recall Polis campaign, not the “Dismiss Polis” effort currently conducting the petition drive to get a recall question on the ballot. Readers will recall that the “Official” Recall Polis campaign denounced the “Dismiss Polis” campaign as a sham with no resources, and Dismiss Polis responded with similar allegations against the “Official” campaign excepting the significant resources the “Official” campaign has raised and refused to spend. Because none of these efforts have a snowball’s chance in hell of actually succeeding in placing a recall question on the ballot, all of the money raised by these committees can be reasonably categorized as scammed loot from conception to execution.

With all of this in mind, this decision by the “Official” Recall Polis committee to “pivot” a third of their cash to Colorado For Trump might seem like an attempt to do right by their donors, some of whom had posted on social media about spending their disability and welfare checks on donations to the campaign. The problem is, only a third of the money raised to recall Gov. Jared Polis going to any electoral purpose is still a scam no matter how you sugar-coat it. What’s the status of the other $70,000 this committee took in? We know that some of the biggest checks early in the campaign were written to former Secretary of State Scott Gessler and online payment processors like the Independence Institute, but there’s tens of thousands of dollars slushing around that this rerouting of funds to the Trump re-election campaign does not account for. If it was our money, we’d want to know how to get it back. It’s easy, after all, to donate to the Trump campaign ourselves if we want.

And yes, this is further confirmation that the movement to recall Colorado’s popular freshman governor less than a year after his double-digit victory is just about to be relegated to the dustbin of history! Hopefully that part, anyway, is not news to anyone.

Grift Alert: Complaint Filed Against “Official” Recall Polis Campaign

We’ve discussed at length in this space about the nascent “official” campaign to recall Gov. Jared Polis, which has raised somewhere north of $25,000 online despite not being able to start a petition campaign due to a constitutional requirement that a sitting governor be in office for six months before being recalled. The signature requirement to initiate a recall of the governor is well in excess of 600,000, which would require an unprecedented petition drive with a presumed cost in the millions. This raises questions the feasibility of the campaign, and invites questions about how the tiny fraction of the required total raised so far is being spent.

We’ve discussed the role of local political organizations like the Independence Institute in the Polis recall campaign’s fundraising, with Jon Caldara’s Freedomfy website skimming an unusually large percentage from online donations to the campaign and former Secretary of State Scott Gessler the group’s largest expenditure so far for “legal expenses.” During the past month, the campaign’s online fundraising has apparently moved away from Caldara’s platform, but it’s evident that fundraising is slowing not exponentially growing in the manner that would be needed for this campaign to ever get off the ground.

To this climate of uncertainty and questionable objectives you can now add a finance complaint filed last week against the campaign alleging potentially thousands of dollars of unaccounted for funds–a complaint sure to make donors to this campaign feel much better:

In short, this complaint alleges that the campaign has raised funds that have not been reported, and juggled fundraising platforms to obfuscate the total amount raised. The Secretary of State’s office is now evaluating this complaint to determine whether to proceed to an investigation, but this is very much in line with the concerns we’ve been raising about this campaign for months now. Once you realize that recalling the governor is logistically so difficult that an effort dwarfing the scale of anything that has been attempted in Colorado history would be needed, it’s obvious that even if they’re hiding a percentage of the money they’ve raised this is never going to happen. Money donated to this campaign would be better used to literally light a charcoal grill.

And that’s before the grifting! Usual suspects like Caldara and Gessler got their cut, but at least there was some disclosure. If it turns out that much larger percentages of the campaign’s take have been pocketed along the way as this complaint suggests, we’re talking about a whole new level of “ScamPAC”–perhaps even a matter to be referred from the Secretary of State to a criminal prosecutor.

In the meantime, we can only say again: if you’re dumb enough to make a donation to the Official Recall Polis Campaign, please don’t spend your SSI check. It stops being funny when needy folks get scammed.

Recall Polis Campaign Literally Grifting Welfare Checks

The campaign to recall Gov. Jared Polis’ fundraising appears to have stalled out over the past few weeks. Almost a month ago on May 6, the Independence Institute’s “Freedomfy” fundraising page for the Polis recall showed $23,740 raised toward the effort. As of this writing on June 3, the page shows only $24,046 raised–less than $500 in a month, seemingly a dramatic slowdown from their early trajectory. But that might not be the whole story–if you visit the “Official Recall Polis” website, they’re now directing to a non-Freedomfy fundraising page. We’re not sure exactly when that change was made, but the new page does not publicly show donations or a cumulative total raised.

Regardless as we’ve discussed in detail, the campaign to recall Gov. Polis has such a meager chance of success that its true goal cannot be to actually get a recall question on the ballot. Unlike recalls against state lawmakers, a successful petition to force a recall election of the sitting governor would require over 600,000 valid Colorado voter signatures–many times the amount required for any statewide ballot question, and far in excess of what has ever been collected for any purpose in this state. The logistical requirements to conduct a petition drive on that scale are infeasible and at a cost that’s frankly difficult to accurately estimate.

To anyone who understands the extreme difficulty of making good on the Recall Polis campaign’s eponymous promise, it’s clear that the real purpose of the operation is the funds being raised to support it. The Independence Institute’s Freedomfy “fundraising platform” skimmed a large percentage off the top of every online donation for the $24,000 raised through that site, more than double what GoFundMe charges–and the largest recipient of the funds raised so far has been to former Secretary of State Scott Gessler for legal fees. If they can’t raise the untold millions they would need to actually recall Gov. Polis, and it definitely looks at this point like they can’t, the consolation prize is the cash reaped by conservative organizations and lawyers.

That’s a comment late last week from the Official Recall Polis Facebook group, administrator Karen Murray fleecing the faithful for more donations. The comment in response promises a donation to the campaign when “my SSI arrives.” This is a reference to Supplemental Security Income, federal benefits paid to people with limited income and resources who are disabled, blind, or over 65. SSI is not Social Security, but a direct cash benefit paid from general tax revenues to elderly and disabled people who are still too poor to make ends meet.

Would you take this woman’s SSI money for a futile Recall Polis campaign?

Would you sleep well if you did?

One thing’s for sure. We can’t call this a “victimless crime” anymore.

Polis Recall: Never Mind The Details, The Grift Is On

UPDATE: A reader astutely points out that Jon Caldara of the Independence Institute has been using his Denver Post column as a vehicle for enthusiastically promoting recalls of late:

We’d say the opportunity for a “dollar sign” (see below) conflict of interest is rather large. Wouldn’t you?

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In the last 24 hours, the “campaign” to recall Gov. Jared Polis, which kicked off with a spate of nasty revelations about the anti-Semitic and otherwise unpalatably extreme views of its organizers, has shifted gears–into a new operation run by familiar faces in Colorado politics, and with a new sense of purpose.

What’s the purpose? We’ll let 9NEWS’ Kyle Clark explain:

“Dollar signs.” Lots of them. Here’s a TL;DR version:

Yesterday, it was announced that former Colorado Secretary of State Scott Gessler has been “retained” as counsel for the Recall Polis organization, presumably to help the group navigate an unprecedented path to collecting over 600,000 valid Colorado voter signatures–many times the amount ever collected in a petition drive before. And that’s not all:

In a move just as noteworthy, fundraising for the Recall Polis campaign is being taken over by the Independence Institute , run by longtime local political walking clown show operative Jon Caldara, and their recently-deployed “Freedomfy” crowdfunding online platform. And with that bit of news, there’s something every person considering a donation to the Recall Polis campaign on “Freedomfy” needs to know:

Compared to every major crowdsource fundraising platform with the apparent exception of Indiegogo, “Freedomfy” is ripping you off. The Independence Institute charges an exorbitant fee of 6%, plus 30 cents for every individual transaction. That’s more than double the fees charged by GoFundMe, the platform the Recall Polis organization from is migrating away from. What’s more, GoFundMe has an active pool of over 50 million donors. We don’t know how many members “Freedomfy” has, but it’s not anywhere near 50 million.

With that said, there’s one thing GoFundMe hasn’t got–a percentage flowing to Jon Caldara.

We’ve already discussed at length how attempting to recall Gov. Jared Polis, a campaign that can’t even under the state constitution begin until he’s been in office six months, is a fool’s errand logistically. The massive signature requirement to place the question on the ballot would require a multimillion dollar petition gathering operation of unprecedented scale–to say nothing of what the actual recall election would cost proponents if it made the ballot. But that hasn’t dissuaded a strident segment of the Republican base in Colorado from raving.

And where there’s passion, especially poorly thought-out passion, there’s money! Caldara sets up a fundraising stream that he nets the skim from, and Gessler submits billable hours that there is now a stream of money to cover. That’s what they call a sustainable business model. At the end of the day, it doesn’t matter if there’s ever a recall of Gov. Polis–in fact that could be considered a less desirable outcome.

Just like when Ted Harvey discovered he could cash in by sending out fundraising letters with Hillary Clinton’s face on them, turning recalls into cash machines is an end unto itself.

Forget “Recall Polis,” Let’s “Make CO Red Again”–With Nazis!

After the failure of last year’s half-baked recall attempt against Gov. Jared Polis, which limped across the finish line with at most half the required number of signatures need even without factoring for error, one of the two groups nominally dedicated to the recall effort became a headline-making controversy after doling out thousands of dollars in unspent donations to a few original organizers and “friends.” This was particularly offensive to donors since the committee in question, the “Official” Recall Polis committee, publicly disparaged the petition campaign to recall Polis and spent no money on the effort.

When we last heard from the registered agent for the “Official” Recall Polis committee Juli-Andra Feuntes, she was facing potential legal action from the Donald Trump presidential campaign after renaming the committee “Colorado For Trump”–to which Fuentes responded by making an acronym of T-R-U-M-P, which now stands for “Truth will Restore the republic and Unbiased Media gives Power to the people.”

That bizarre report from last October was the last word we’ve had about the “Official” Recall Polis campaign and the recipients of that moribund committee’s loose change, until this week when a budding conflict on a new-ish conservative Facebook group named “Make CO Red Again” was brought to our attention:

Readers will recall that Renee McGill, the Weld County lead organizer for the “Official” Recall Polis Committee, pulled down a $3,000 check from the unspent donations to the committee. McGill is now the administrator of the Make CO Red Again Facebook group. Obviously, given the failure of the Polis recall and the controversy over the money McGill was “gifted,” she should expect to have hurdles to overcome in future political organizing roles.

And she’s not the only one!

The moderator of the Make CO Red Again Facebook is a man our longtime readers know very well: Nate Marshall, a one-time Republican state house candidate whose 2014 run for office against Democratic Rep. Max Tyler imploded after Marshall’s not-so secret online life as an unabashed neo-Nazi became public. Marshall had been allegedly recruited to run against Rep. Tyler by former state Sen. Tim Neville, and was backed by the Rocky Mountain Gun Owners (RMGO) at the party assembly. When it came out in remarkably similar fashion to the recent outing of a neo-Nazi working at local AM radio station 710 KNUS that Marshall was steeling himself for an “Aryan Revolution” that “begins in just over 40 hours,” the chair of the Jefferson County GOP demanded Marshall pull out of the race.

So if by this point you’re thinking that this is not a Facebook group respectable Republicans should ever want to be a member of, we’d say that’s an astute observation. It is therefore a bit perplexing to understand why…so many…Colorado Republicans…are members of Nate Marshall’s Facebook group:

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Colorado GOP Runs From Recalls They Once Hyped

Colorado GOP chairman Rep. Ken Buck (R-Greeley).

A week after the spectacular failure of the last of the recall campaigns from Colorado Republicans, launched against several individual Democratic legislators and Gov. Jared Polis over the summer, the Denver Post’s Alex Burness circled back with Republican leaders for a post-mortem look at what went wrong–Republicans who were willing to return his calls, that is, because evidently many were not.

It’s not easy to capture to full magnitude of the failure for Colorado Republicans without resorting to language that seems hyperbolic, but objectively is not an exaggeration of any kind. After the 2018 elections resulted in an historic bloodbath for the Colorado GOP–destroying their gubernatorial candidate, wiping out the GOP’s hold on the attorney general, secretary of state, and treasurer’s office ,and losing their only remaining legislative majority–Republicans in this state faced a hard choice: to learn the lessons dwindling moderates in their midst were begging them to learn and fundamentally change course, or embrace a future where all the elections look like 2018.

As we now know, Colorado Republicans chose the latter.

Sen. Cory Gardner (R).

This infamous clip of now-state GOP chairman Rep. Ken Buck promising to make Democrats “learn how to spell R-E-C-A-L-L,” cheered on by the state’s highest ranking Republican Sen. Cory Gardner, has become a major embarrassment for the party leadership now that the recalls have failed. The recalls did not fail narrowly, but failed calamitously with juicy attendant details like the conservative operative class in the state glomming on to the cash flow and “gifts” of thousands of dollars to individuals after the campaign had already failed. Any way you look at what happened–from building donor confidence to mobilizing the base to credibility with the media–this summer was another unprecedented disaster for Colorado Republicans on par with their electoral defeats last November.

So we can’t claim to be surprised to see, as the Post’s Alex Burness reports today, Colorado Republicans making absurd excuses to deflect responsibility. Defeat, as they say, is an orphan:

U.S. Rep. Ken Buck, the Colorado GOP chair, told The Denver Post on Friday that the recall failures don’t fall on him in any way. [Pols emphasis]

“I didn’t cast any net,” he said. “There’s a lot of people in the grassroots … who went after legislators. I didn’t direct any recall effort.”

When he was elected to lead the state party on the fourth ballot in March, Buck promised to teach Democrats “how to spell R-E-C-A-L-L.” Now, though, he claims he did not endorse the concept of mass recalls in Colorado.

House Minority Leader Patrick Neville (R-Castle Rock).

Buck’s cowardly denial of any responsibility for recalls he ran for the chair of the state party promising to support is an indicator of just how thoroughly weak and disorganized Republicans are as the last days of October 2019 come to a close. Practically from the moment Democrats visited historic destruction on Republicans in last November’s elections, Republicans had threatened retaliation via recalls. House Minority Leader Patrick Neville openly threatened his Democratic colleagues with recalls during this year’s legislative session. Republican operatives criss-crossed the state spreading the gospel of recalls as a way to “reweight the electorate,” and score victories that are now out of reach in general elections.

History will likely record that the attempted recall of Rep. Tom Sullivan, a freshman Democrat whose advocacy for gun safety is rooted in his son’s tragic murder in the July 2012 Aurora theater shooting, is the moment where the GOP’s recall strategy went off the rails for good. Ironically, this is the recall attempt that Colorado Republicans are most obliged to take ownership of, since it was initiated by Colorado Republican Party vice-chair Kristi Burton Brown personally. Attempts to recast Brown’s action as “personal” after the Sullivan recall was clearly doing more harm than good simply have no credibility.

Cole Wist, a Republican who lost his house seat to Sullivan in 2018 — and who publicly bashed the Sullivan recall effort — said there is an important distinction to be made between staying out of recalls and actively condemning them.

“I didn’t see one elected Republican speak out against it,” he said. “The state party needs to own this failure. [Pols emphasis] They stirred the pot, and when they could see that the strategy wasn’t going to work, they didn’t speak up. They retreated and disappeared while rank-and-file members of the party floundered and were exploited by political consultants.”

When exactly high-ranking Republicans belatedly realized that the recalls were going to fail is irrelevant. The fact is that top Republicans kept up appearances of support for the recalls very late in the game, such as when Sen. Cory Gardner told recall organizers in Pueblo at the end of August that “I’ve never said I was against recalls” about sixty seconds after telling Senate President Leroy Garcia “I’m kind of sorry that this is happening.” For rank-and-file Republicans, any emotional (not to mention financial) investment made in these recalls has been a tremendously demoralizing experience.

And above all, while Democrats have been organizing like it’s an election year to oppose the recalls, the GOP spun its wheels throughout this whole critical off-year when they should have been preparing for the 2020 general election. When all is said and done this could be the most damning of the many indictments against Rep. Ken Buck’s absentee leadership of the party while still trying to serve in Congress, and with the greatest long-term impact. Here we are a year after the 2018 Democratic wave, and Colorado Republicans have totally squandered the backlash they hoped to foment as Democrats carried out the agenda they promised voters. There are many mistakes to point out, but there are no excuses. This was the strategy Republicans chose.

Cory Gardner, Ken Buck, House Minority Leader Pat Neville, the Colorado GOP as an organization.

For Colorado Republicans who really want this nightmare to end, the housecleaning starts there.

The Boundless Griftiness of Colorado Conservatives

Juli-Andra Fuentes

Today is the deadline for Republicans to submit petition signatures to the Secretary of State’s office in their efforts to recall Senate President Leroy Garcia. Organizers of the Garcia recall have hinted that they may actually submit signatures today, rather than just letting the deadline pass with a sheepish admission of failure; given the 2019 track record of Republican recall efforts, you have every right to be skeptical of any announcement.

Readers of Colorado Pols are well aware that the various recall attempts of Democratic elected officials that we’ve seen over the past few months have been largely about grifting — using “organizing” efforts to convince poor conservative saps to sign over their social security checks (quite literally). Some recall donors did come to realize that their money was basically being set on fire, but there’s not a lot of recourse for someone hoping to recoup money that disappeared into coffers overseen by self-identified “board members” like Juli-Andra Fuentes.

Fuentes, you may recall, was one of the main public faces of the “Official Recall Jared Polis” organization that didn’t even bother collecting petition signatures and crapped all over attempts by a different Polis recall group to actually attempt a real recall effort. About $30,000 raised by Fuentes’ group was “donated” to another invented organization called “Colorado for Trump,” which seemed to be largely about Fuentes trying to force President Trump to call her personally (you can’t make this stuff up).

Kyle Clark of 9News has kept an eye on the transactions of the “Official Recall Jared Polis” group and their band of gypsies. You probably won’t be surprised to learn that the tale just keeps getting weirder:


CLARK: We continue to track the money raised for the recall of Democratic Governor Jared Polis. The “Official” recall group never attempted a recall, but it kept the money; gave thousands of dollars to its leadership as gifts; then reclassified the money as “consulting fees” when we asked about it. But that’s not even the strangest part.

Almost $30,000 in donations meant to recall Gov. Polis was instead shifted to a new political committee called “Colorado for Trump.” It’s run by the same woman who ran the failed recall group, Juli-Andra Fuentes. The Trump campaign is upset — says it has no association with her group [and] even threatened legal action. Fuentes has told me the President should call her personally.

But now Fuentes has changed her group’s purpose with the Secretary of State’s office. It says the word “Trump” is actually the initials T-R-U-M-P. Says that it stands for “Truth will Restore the republic and Unbiased Media gives Power to the people.”…

…At least we know what happens when a recall fails and the donations land in another bank account. They go, “TWRTRUMGPTTP.”

This is funny…if it isn’t your money.

As we’ve discussed before in this space, there are several downsides to the year of Recall-palooza for Republicans. The 2020 election is just around the corner, and all of this griftiness will undoubtedly make it harder for GOP candidates and staffers to raise money and find volunteers for legitimate campaigns.

For example, as Joey Bunch reports for the publication formerly known as the Colorado Statesman, two notable Colorado Republicans have started a new online platform with the hopes of connecting like-minded conservatives that requires some stringent security measures. Former State Rep. Matt Knoedler and longtime GOP operative Allen Fuller (who is also Bob Beauprez’s son-in-law) are the minds behind “CaucusRoom,” which sounds kind of like a cross between MySpace and the NextDoor app. Knoedler and Fuller say their platform will encourage conservatives to organize online and find like-minded neighbors, but this is the their number one selling point: “Bank-level verification of all members to weed out bots and fake accounts.”

Here’s how the process is explained on the “CaucusRoom” website:

Every CaucusRoom user goes through a verification process that requires more information than other social networks. This allows us to ensure the friends and neighbors you interact with on CaucusRoom are truly your friends and neighbors, and helps to keep out bots and those who are not interested in being positive members of our community…

In order to verify all of our users are real people (no bots or fake accounts!), we require that each user enters complete and accurate information when they sign up. This includes your full name, home address (no P.O. boxes please!) and your real birthdate. [Pols emphasis]

We have no reason to suspect that “CaucusRoom” won’t keep your personal information secure and that your name won’t show up on some weird list in six months, but after all the lies and grifting associated with Republican recall efforts, we’d absolutely think twice about signing up for something like this. That might not be fair to Knoedler and Fuller, but that’s what happens when Republicans let these wacky recall efforts go unchecked.

If you signed your name to a recall petition in the last 6 months, there’s no telling what actually happened to that information (it didn’t get submitted to the Secretary of State, we know that much). If you made a donation to one of these recall efforts, there’s a very good chance that your money went into somebody else’s pocket for purposes that had nothing to do with recalling anyone. If you are a Republican trying to organize for other campaigns and goals heading into 2020, everything you do is tainted by the recall nonsense.

Elections have consequences, and so do recalls — even when they fail.

Ben Engen Cashes In On Moribund Garcia Recall

GOP operative Ben Engen.

As readers know, all of the recall attempts initiated by Colorado Republicans in retaliation for last year’s landslide victories for Democrats in this state have fizzled except one: the recall petition due later this month against Senate President Leroy Garcia of Pueblo, the immediate successor to ex-Sen. Angela Giron who was successfully recalled in the fall of 2013.

By all accounts, that ain’t happening again in 2019. Everything we’ve heard from Pueblo is that the signature drive against Garcia has flatlined much like the failed campaigns against Sens. Brittany Pettersen and Pete Lee, Gov. Jared Polis, and the particularly ill-fated recall attempt against freshman Rep. Tom Sullivan–whose advocacy for gun safety legislation after his son was killed in the Aurora shooting made him an audacious but in the end self-injurious target for Colorado Republicans.

But as we learned with the failed but financially lucrative Recall Polis drive, success isn’t the only objective! Not when there’s cold hard cash to be made along the way by all those friendly and super “helpful” for-profit political consultants–consultants who get paid win or lose. And sure enough, in the Committee to Recall Leroy Garcia’s latest fundraising report, you’ll find big line-items for consultants:

Recall Garcia started the reporting period with $2,378 on hand, and reported $4,429 raised, $4,844 spent, with $1,962 cash remaining on hand. Given the pitiful amount of money we’re talking about here, it’s fascinating to see that the biggest expenditure, over $1,700, is for “fundraising consultants!” That suggests to us that the return on investment was…rather poor.

But at least as interesting to us is the $1,200 paid to Ben Engen of Constellation Political Strategies, the young Republican operative who became infamous as the “Johnny Appleseed of recalls” after a video surfaced of Engen very frankly admitting to a GOP audience that recalls were about a “re-weighting of the electorate”–giving Republicans the chance to sneak otherwise unobtainable wins via a recall “that just comes out of nowhere and blindsides” Democrats.

In the end, it’s Republicans who got burned by “recall season.” But for the for-profit side of Republican politics, the checks still cashed. And that’s all that matters.

Colorado GOP In Chaos After Recalls Crash And Burn

Yesterday afternoon, the recall campaigns targeting state Sens. Pete Lee of Colorado Springs and Brittany Pettersen of Lakewood announced the failure of their efforts after having collected an unknown number of signatures short of the requirement in both districts. This news yesterday afternoon came following Friday’s announcement that the “Dismiss Polis” recall petition campaign gathered less than half the required signatures to qualify a recall question against Gov. Jared Polis for the ballot. Back in June, the recall petition campaign targeting Rep. Tom Sullivan failed after intense national news coverage highlighted the offense of trying to recall the father of an Aurora theater massacre victim for passing gun control legislation.

 

The Recall Polis “creeper van.”

Last March, Rep. Ken Buck was elected chairman of the Colorado Republican Party on a promise to teach Democrats “how to spell R-E-C-A-L-L.” The ill-fated recall attempt against Rep. Tom Sullivan was filed by Colorado Republican Party vice-chair Kristi Burton Brown, who subsequently tried to distance the party from her actions as it became clear to all parties that a serious political and moral error had been made in attempting to recall Rep. Sullivan.

The recall campaign against Gov. Polis kicked off, as readers know well, over the strenuous objections of the “Official” Recall Polis committee who (as it turns out correctly) predicted the effort would fail. Two competing fundraising operations nominally dedicated to the same extremely unlikely goal of recalling Gov. Polis confusingly solicited Republicans for funds, and laid out opposing but always unrealistic visions for how the recall would proceed. In the end the “official” committee denounced the petition drive managed by GOP attorney Korry Lewis, and wrote a big check to Colorado For Trump in hope of deflecting allegations of defrauding its donors–in spirit if not in legal point of fact.

The Polis recall petition campaign claimed to have collected around 300,000 signatures, less than half the required total let alone the 30%+ margin required to cover invalid signatures during the verification process. Because these signatures will never be turned in, no one will ever know if even these claimed numbers are accurate. Likewise with the now-dead recall petition drives targeting Sens. Lee and Pettersen–those campaigns did not disclose even an estimate of signatures they had collected, and it would be impossible to verify any number they provided. On the other hand, Democrats used these petition drives to mobilize large canvass operations in the targeted districts, giving them a jump on the next cycle.

“Herbie The Hate Bug.”

The collapse in just the space of a few days of recall campaigns that have dominated political news coverage in Colorado for most of 2019 has been so stunning that the magnitude of the defeat for Republicans risks not being fully digested by the relentless news cycle. There’s an understandable desire in the wake of this defeat to lay blame on the recall organizers, from the freaks and ghouls of the Polis recall to Nancy Pallozzi, the silly-season caricature who ran the recall campaign against Sen. Pettersen in SD-22 after losing to Pettersen by 20 points in her House race three years ago. In retrospect, yes, these were fringe types who did not deserve the attention they were paid–but the responsibility for what they did goes right back to GOP chairman Ken Buck, House Minority Leader Patrick Neville, and every other high-placed Republican who led the party to this state of ruin instead of preparing for the next general election in 2020.

The red-on-red recriminations are already starting. Buck’s absentee leadership of the Colorado Republican Party while radical subordinates like Kristi Burton Brown run amok, the chokehold of the Neville clan and Rocky Mountain Gun Owners (RMGO) on the GOP House caucus as well as county sheriffs and party organizations across the state, occurring against the backdrop of the Republican Party’s massive losses in Colorado in the 2018 elections–all of this is now a burning issue for every Colorado Republican who wants to avoid another wholesale disaster in November of 2020.

House Minority Leader Patrick Neville (R-Castle Rock).

Over the years as Republicans have faced ever-greater defeats in Colorado both in accordance with and opposed to national trends, voices within the party have made half-hearted and in many cases disingenuous calls for a fundamental shift in direction. After sweeping losses in 2012, Republican strategists Josh Penry and Rob Witwer said flatly that Republicans “must improve or die”–and then Penry in particular got rich as a grifting “consultant” for losing Republican campaigns. In 2016, two-time gubernatorial loser Bob Beauprez, himself no stranger to fringy self-destructive politics, tried unsuccessfully to purge the GOP’s slate of legislative candidates, incumbents and fresh faces alike, whom he believed were doing more harm than good for the party in the long term.

Today, Colorado Republicans find themselves at another such crossroads. Almost a year has been wasted in foolish pursuit of revenge for the losses of 2018 instead of getting ready to minimize what’s shaping up to be yet another Democratic wave in 2020. The state party is in the hands of unserious radicals who do not possess elementary political sense based on their own actions, and still tightly bound to RMGO and the Nevilles even as it costs them their last vestiges of relevance.

In 2010, Dan Maes led the Colorado GOP to an 11% finish in the governor’s race.

The hole they’re in today is every bit as deep, with no one but themselves to blame.

BREAKING: Recall Attempts Against Sens. Lee, Pettersen Fail

WEDNESDAY UPDATE: 9NEWS’ Kyle Clark plants a suitable headstone on the day’s news. Republicans lose, but the grift wins big!

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UPDATE #4: Denver7’s Blair Miller:

This is the fourth recall petition against Democratic lawmakers this year that has failed.

Last Friday, organizers of an effort to recall Gov. Jared Polis announced they had failed to gather enough signatures for a recall. They claimed to have gathered around 300,000 of the necessary 631,266 but provided no proof…

“It’s hardly a surprise that these bogus recalls failed to find support beyond the grifters, extremists and sore losers who hatched the ploys in the first place,” said the group’s spokesman, Curtis Hubbard. “These scams were designed to raise money and collect data on voters in competitive districts, and all Coloradans — regardless of political affiliation — should be disgusted by the abuse of the recall process.”

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Sens. Brittany Pettersen, Pete Lee (D).

UPDATE #3: Here’s the statement from “Recall Et All,” blaming the failure of the Lee and Pettersen recalls on big bad nasty union thugs, et al. — who target 60-80 year old women, no less — while promising like good Scooby Doo villains to be back next time for total victory!

Recall Et All is suspending the recall campaigns for Senators Pete Lee (SD11) and Brittany Pettersen (SD22). We are confident in the success of our future efforts to recall both of these elected officials. In the meantime, we will continue to educate the public regarding the party-line politics being played in both districts that completely undermine the will of the people.

We want to thank each and every volunteer who fought through extreme heat, countless sunburns, and the harassment of dissenters which was not limited to vile name calling and crude gestures. Our dedicated volunteers also went up against the onslaught of paid protesters whose only purpose was to harass and intimidate. We learned that the leftists will stop at nothing to impede our signature-gathering efforts, as they focused on 60-80 year-old volunteers, mostly women.

We are so proud of our volunteers for standing up for freedom. They did not back down from these juvenile, dirty tactics! This opposition only showed the citizens of Colorado their true colors, making the decision to sign that much easier.

To our law enforcement officers and security guards, thank you for checking on us, treating us with dignity and respect, and recognizing our First Amendment rights.

Lastly, our sincere gratitude to the businesses in and around Senate Districts 11 and 22, both large and small, that protected our volunteers’ signature-gathering activities and their right to petition in parking lots, store fronts, etc. Protecting our freedoms is what this whole movement is about, and we will continue to fight that battle for the people of Colorado. The fight isn’t over, it’s just begun.

We’re so confident in future recall efforts that we’re just going to stop altogether! That makes lotsa sense.

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UPDATE #2: Colorado Democratic Party chair Morgan Carroll:

Considering that both Senators Lee and Pettersen won their 2018 elections overwhelmingly by double digits, it is hardly surprising the sore losers running these sham recalls are throwing in the towel. As has been the case with the previous failed recalls, this was never about their votes. These were far-right activists who are upset they lost so badly in 2018 and were desperate for a redo through these ridiculous recalls. The people of SD11 and SD22 saw through this sham, which is exactly why they rejected this cynical effort to overthrow their 2018 votes.

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UPDATE: Colorado Times Recorder:

An attempted recall of state Sen. Pete Lee (D-Colorado Springs) fizzled today, as proponents will not meet the deadline to submit over 11,000 signatures.

Resist Polis PAC board member Kristina Finley confirmed that signatures will not be submitted by 5:00 PM today…

Recall Et Al, the issue group behind the recall, still has a donor pages for Sens. Brittany Pettersen (D-Lakewood) and Kerry Donovan (D-Vail). However, the local leader of the nascent movement to recall Donovan recently posted on Facebook that “it seems the effort is dying as more people are refusing to help or won’t volunteer.”

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That’s the late-breaking word this afternoon from the Colorado Secretary of State–after a 60-day period to collect 11,304 signatures in the case of Sen. Pete Lee and the recall petition against Sen. Brittany Pettersen nearing its deadline next week, both campaigns are announcing failure–via Colorado Public Radio’s Bente Birkeland:

They’re “confident in the success of their future efforts?” We’ve seen this one before:

And with that, another singularly stupid chapter in Colorado politics comes to an ignominious end–four recalls in succession now crashed and burned. We’ll update shortly with statements and coverage.

“Official” Polis Recall Celebrates Impending Failure Of Polis Recall

If you don’t have the pleasure of being on the “inside” of the 41,000-strong private Facebook group ostensibly devoted to the recall of Gov. Jared Polis–note that the 41,000 did not all join this group for that purpose, since the group has been around threatening the same fate for some years to Gov. Polis’ predecessor–you have to rely on windows into their peculiar little world such our occasional updates.

Readers will recall that the “Official” Recall Polis group distanced themselves from the petition campaign that comes to a close at the end of this week, suggesting that the task was so disproportionate to the resources available that the faction plowing ahead must be supported by Polis himself. And as that fateful deadline approaches, “ORCGJP” chairwoman Juli-Andra Fuentes wants you to know it was all one giant scammy scam-scam just like she told you:

Recalling a statewide official is an immense, difficult and expensive task as putting the recall issue on the ballot requires 631,266 valid signatures, and with a 30% rejection rate, means collecting over 900,000 signatures. Further, with only 60 days to conduct the recall (11,000 signatures a day), means that a statewide governor recall has much less time allotted than a statewide ballot initiative, which only requires about 100,000 valid signatures over 180-day period; still even ballot initiatives often fail.

The recall petition currently being distributed has not even come close to having the resources necessary to get on the ballot. Merely printing petition sections costs roughly $65,000 and those numbers generously assume $5 per section and 70 signature lines per section. According to the most recent campaign finance reports, Dismiss Polis, Resist Polis and Recall Et ALL combined, did not have enough to even cover printing costs and printing is only the first step. The best and most successful volunteer efforts have collected about 40,000 signatures over a six-month timeframe; with only approximately 3,000 Facebook followers, it would be unrealistic to expect Dismiss, Resist and Et ALL to collect 11,000+ signatures a day. Paid signature collectors cost between $3 to $15 a signature so, between that the cost of printing, the math is simple…

The organizers of Dismiss Polis, Resist Polis and Recall Et All are not going to get a recall on the ballot, and it is our belief that was by design. The undertaking of a project of this magnitude needed a tremendous amount of planning and resources for it to be successfully executed. As we all know, if elections have consequences then obviously so do recalls. The consequence of them filing a petition prematurely is they have likely ruined any chance to recall the governor at this time. [Pols emphasis]

Last week, 9NEWS reported that the “Official” Recall Polis campaign divested itself of a large percentage of its funds by writing a $29,000 check to Trump For Colorado. As the statement above indicates this is a committee winding down its operations, not planning to rise again from the ashes of what everyone expects will be a failed attempt to recall Gov. Polis come close of business Friday. As for the stillborn petition drive, we’ve heard rumors that they are “six digits short” of the needed 631,000 signatures to meet the minimum threshold–let alone the hundreds of thousands of additional signatures needed to cover the always-hefty percentage of invalid signers.

They’ll try to spin whatever they get, of course, but what will be no surprise is that their stated goal of 900,000 was a fool’s errand. We’ll be working backward from that figure to calculate just how egregiously this campaign has wasted all of our valuable time.

Recall Donations Have a Funny Way of Disappearing

You could donate to a Neville recall campaign…or keep warm for a few minutes.

As we’ve discussed in this space on numerous occasions, various efforts to recall Democratic elected officials in Colorado are about two things: 1) Figuring out a way to get around the fact that pesky Colorado voters won’t support Republican candidates, and 2) Raising money by any means possible.

The fundraising aspect has become so intense, in fact, that it has sparked some nasty infighting among right-wing groups scrapping for loose change. One of the main financial beneficiaries of Recallpalooza is the Neville Clan, led by House Minority Leader Patrick Neville and his political consultant brother, Joe Neville. This isn’t just speculation on our part. The Nevilles openly admit that they are promoting recalls in order to profit financially, which is perhaps somewhat more honorable than pretending otherwise but no less disgusting in general.

As Marianne Goodland reports for the publication formerly known as the Colorado Statesman…well, let’s just say you can color us unsurprised:

A political fund controlled by state House Minority Leader Patrick Neville of Castle Rock and his brother, Joe Neville, has been attempting for months to raise money for the effort to recall Colorado Gov. Jared Polis.

But groups involved in the recall effort say they haven’t seen any of that money yet. [Pols emphasis]

House Minority Leader Patrick Neville (R-Castle Rock)

The most recent fundraising email was sent Aug. 5 under the name of Take Back Colorado, asking respondents to reply to a survey on whether the governor should be recalled. It included a link to a donation site, operated by Values First Colorado, the 527 campaign committee run by Joe Neville that primarily supports Republican candidates for the Colorado state House.

Under tax law, 527 committees can raise unlimited funds to influence an election or issue but can’t coordinate with a campaign.

Joe Neville told Colorado Politics that any money received through that Aug. 5 fundraising email would go to the Resist Polis PAC, one of two groups involved in the petition effort to recall the governor. He did not respond to a request on how much money was raised by the Polis-recall emails.

But Resist Polis PAC spokeswoman Korry Lewis said the group’s dealings with the Nevilles have been frustrating, because while “we’ve been talking to them since April” about the fundraising emails, it hasn’t seen any money yet.

As we’ve already seen with failed recall attempts targeting Democratic Rep. Tom Sullivan, you had better hold on to your receipts if you decide to write a check to one of these grifting operations. Some recall donors have in fact figured this out and are asking for their money back, which is sort of like waiting for a check from Bernie Madoff.

This is not the first time that the Nevilles and their friends at Rocky Mountain Gun Owners have made campaign donations disappear. Since Republican donors don’t seem to be learning anything from these mistakes, it surely won’t be the last time, either.

Please, Please Don’t Throw Me Into the Recall Thicket!

“Everywhere you look, people are circulating petitions to recall elected officials throughout the state. And yes, it’s all a little silly.”

The Pueblo Chieftain (July 18, 2019)

As you may have heard, there are a lot of nonsense recall campaigns being instituted by a handful of disgruntled Republicans still steaming over big election losses in 2018. Most, if not all, of these recall efforts appear doomed to fail because of disunity, disorganization, and a general lack of sense.

On Thursday, Republican Nancy “Don’t Call Me Pelosi” Pallozzi received official approval to restart her recall of State Sen. Brittany Pettersen (D-Lakewood), apparently after the group realized that they were basing their complaints in part on legislation that Pettersen never even had a chance to vote on (not to mention that the group was trying to collect petition signatures well outside of Pettersen’s actual Senate district).

Newspaper editorial boards across the state have been calling out these recall efforts for months. On Thursday, the editorial board of the Pueblo Chieftain took its turn at the piñata:

If you support the brand of democracy that our country’s founders intended, then you should be worried by all this…

Absent some scandals or demonstrations of monumental incompetence, these recall efforts have to be viewed as what they really are — attempts to undo the will of the voters. The recall supporters are like those kids on the playground who always insisted on a “do-over” every time they lost a game. [Pols emphasis]

Do you want to make this summer a little less silly? Then don’t sign a frivolous recall petition.

The Chieftain makes a very succinct point in this regard by using the example of the various convoluted recall efforts targeting Gov. Jared Polis:

There’s been no indication he’s done anything illegal or improper during his first six months-plus on the job. To the contrary, he’s shown himself to be pretty much the person he advertised himself to be on the campaign trail last year. [Pols emphasis]

Are there people who disagree with some of his initiatives? Sure. Those were, in large part, the same people who voted against him last November. But guess what? Polis won that election, with the support of the majority of the state’s voters.

From The Durango Herald (April 12, 2019)

The Greeley Tribune made a similar argument in March about recall efforts targeting then-Rep. Rochelle Galindo:

The best advice we can offer recall backers is put your money into electing a better candidate in 2020. [Pols emphasis] In 2018, 22,783 people cast ballots, with more than 12,000 voting for Galindo. Republican candidate Michael Thuener received more than 10,000 votes, but still lost by 7 percentage points.

Recall elections are costly, especially considering the two-year timeline of elections for the District 50 seat. Instead, it’s fine to oppose Galindo, but let her do her job. Then if she’s not working for this community, elect a new candidate, but do it in 2020.

The Galindo recall was the first such effort of 2019…and also the first to acknowledge that its actions were strictly an attempt to re-do the November election. Back in April, former Weld County GOP Chairwoman Stacey Kjeldgaard candidly (or accidentally) admitted that that Galindo recall effort was mostly about the fact that she was a Democrat and not because of any of her actions or votes at the State Capitol.

“Recall is a tool voters should use only to remove people from office who are seriously negligent in performing their duties or are engaged in official misconduct.”

The Grand Junction Sentinel (June 18, 2019)

A few months later, the Grand Junction Sentinel hit on the same points:

Some Coloradans don’t like recent legislative outcomes, so they’re interested in either changing them or punishing lawmakers for taking certain positions…

…Throughout its history, The Sentinel has taken the position that recalls are only appropriate in cases of malfeasance or incapacity. Competence is in the eye of beholder. One voter’s anger over a legislator’s record is another’s joy. There’s a huge difference between recalling someone because they are corrupt and trying to remove them from office because you disagree with their policies.

Ditto Aurora Sentinel editor Dave Perry from May 14:

There’s a handful of loosely related far-right extremists trying to undermine Colorado’s election system to serve their own political purposes. Among them is Joe Neville, who runs a political action committee called Values First Colorado. He’s the brother of GOP state Rep. Patrick Neville, a champion for snuffing bills like Colorado’s red flag law in favor of arming teachers with guns in schools. Joe Neville wants to recall a few Democratic state lawmakers because they voted for bills focusing on things like protecting children from sexual abuse by providing better sex ed at school, and a bill making sure local cops aren’t tools of national immigration police.

We’re not talking about extreme measures like making kids get their vaccines or making bikers wear motorcycle helmets, we’re talking about no-brainer legislation that real people in Colorado have repeatedly said they want.

These recalls are beyond Colorado crazy. This is Trump crazy.

About a month earlier, the editorial board of the Durango Herald explained how previous recall efforts merely proved that organizers were the ones who were out-of-touch with Colorado voters:

Colorado in this respect has been spooked by 2013, when two Democratic members of the state Senate were recalled, including the Senate president, after they supported gun-control measures. (Durango Rep. Mike McLachlan, another Democrat, also was targeted.) Republicans were elected in their stead, and then, in the 2014 election, they were defeated by Democrats. It was a circular exercise.

Last year, an effort to recall La Plata County Commissioner Gwen Lachelt, one of two Democrats on the three-seat board, fell just short of the number of petition signatures needed. Then, in November, voters put a third Democrat on the commission.

“Oh, please don’t try to recall me.”

And here’s the editorial board of the Denver Post from April 10:

Some of the folks who are spinning this web of outrage, especially state House Minority Leader Patrick Neville, R-Castle Rock, should know better. His vocal support of the recall efforts of Sen. Jeff Bridges, Rep. Meg Froelich and Rep. Rochelle Galindo is painting him and the caucus he leads as political operatives rather than thoughtful lawmakers doing the work of the people at the Capitol.

Colorado Republicans aren’t really pretending that these recall efforts are anything other than an attempt to line the pockets of consultants and sidestep Colorado voters in order to sneak in a few more Republican lawmakers. As these editorials show, the folly of these recalls look the same anywhere you travel in Colorado.

We’ve thought for awhile now that the idiocy of these recall efforts is backfiring on Colorado Republicans by giving Democrats new reasons to organize and reach out to voters a year ahead of the next election. Ol’ Brer Rabbit would be mighty proud.

Disunity Rages As Polis Recall Petition Drive Kicks Off

TUESDAY UPDATE: The Greeley Tribune’s Trevor Reid reports:

The Official Recall group said that the Dismiss group’s “premature” filing suggests malicious intent, adding the Resist and Dismiss groups may attempt to hijack the Official Recall name and logo.

Asked about such attempts, Karen Murray, co-chairwoman of the Official Recall group, shared a screenshot with the Greeley Tribune showing the main image for a Facebook event, with text reading “Official Recall Colorado Governor Jared Polis Facebook Page.” The event is not supported by the Official Recall group, and calls to remove the Official Recall name have gone unanswered, Murray said. That includes a July 5 post to the event page pointing out the use of the Official Recall name…

Tom Good, chairman for the Resist Polis PAC, said in an email that the Official Recall group’s “actions and decisions fit well into the losing tradition conservatives in Colorado experience due to personality-driven politics and self interests.” [Pols emphasis]

As you can see, this is starting off extremely well.

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UPDATE: The Denver Post’s Anna Staver reports that Sen. Cory Gardner is hedging hard on the recall of Gov. Jared Polis–which may not sit well with the Republican faithful he needs in 2020:

Polis beat his Republican opponent, former state Treasurer Walker Stapleton, by 10 points just eight months ago and a recent poll from Keating Research showed 55% of Coloradans think the state is on the right track.

Even the state’s highest-ranking Republican officeholder, U.S. Sen. Cory Gardner, danced around the question when asked about the Polis recall.

“You know what, we gotta focus all we can on winning in 2020; getting our congressional seats back, getting our state legislature back … ,” Gardner said at a recent Republican Party event in El Paso County. “That’s where I’m at. You may agree or disagree, but boy I think we gotta get our nuts and bolts together so that we can win.”

Pretty far from a vote of confidence.

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Gov. Jared Polis (D).

As Marianne Goodland of the Colorado Springs Gazette reports, a longshot attempt to gather an unprecedented 600,000+ voter signatures to place a recall of Gov. Jared Polis on the ballot will start its 60-day clock this week–this being the product of the Resist Polis PAC headed by local political operative Tom Good in alliance with the “Dismiss Polis” organization fronted by the daughter of far-right Rep. Kimmi Lewis:

The first petition to seek the recall of Gov. Jared Polis — submitted by the group Dismiss Polis — was turned in Monday morning, according to a spokesperson for the Secretary of State.

Monday marks six months since Gov. Jared Polis was sworn into office. It’s also the day that those who seek his recall can officially begin circulating petitions.

A second recall, targeting state Democratic Sen. Brittany Pettersen of Lakewood, could be underway by the end of the week, according to a Monday Facebook post from Republican Nancy Pallozzi, who leads that effort.

The combined effort to push a petition to recall Gov. Polis along with petitions to recall specific targeted legislators has been long anticipated by Democrats. Although the Polis recall itself is extremely unlikely to succeed, the thinking is that a Polis petition will serve as an “icebreaker” with potential petition signers for the legislative recalls–since in many cases prospective signers may not even know who their state lawmakers are.

But as we reported last week, the largest of the groups working to recall Gov. Polis, the “Official Recall Colorado Governor Jared Polis Issue Committee,” is actively opposing the Dismiss Polis/Resist Polis petition drive. In a press release that went out earlier this morning, ORCGJP announces they will not cooperate with the Dismiss/Resist petition campaign, and urge their 40,000+ members not to sign:

The Official Recall Colorado Governor Jared Polis Issue Committee (Herein after referred to as ORCGJP) is NOT associated with any other recall groups. After careful consideration and financial review of the conglomerate group Resist Polis PAC, Recall Et All [sic] and Dismiss Polis, it is clear to us that a petition filed at this time will be a failure due to lack of adequate resources and no defined strategy. This conglomerate has stated their intention to file July 10th under the Dismiss Polis Issue Committee.

Combined money in the conglomerate equal $45,882. ORCGJP on-hand contributions are $62,533. Millions of dollars, not thousands, will be required to circulate a petition of this size to recall multi-millionaire Jared Polis. When a petition drops, we expect a mass media offensive by Polis’s team. Without adequate funding or clear plan of action, Dismiss does not have the necessary infrastructure in place to conduct this recall, and while the intention may be good, we believe the recall needs to be handled with proper due diligence and the highest degree of planning to ensure the greatest chance of success.

ORCGJP believes Dismiss’s premature filing also suggests malicious intent, and though we hope that is not the case, we have evidence suggesting Resist/Dismiss may attempt to hijack our ORCGJP name and logo. We feel we must warn potential signers that ORCGJP will not file a petition until we know we can win and have a well-oiled machine ready to roll. While we wish Resist/Dismiss well and hope they are successful, we anticipate “picking up the pieces” after the likely failure of the Dismiss recall petition. While some of their members’ intentions may be in the best interest of this recall, their leaders’ actions do not reflect a desire to successfully recall Jared Polis.

Estimates of what would be necessary in terms of funding to successfully gather the over 630,000 valid Colorado registered voter signatures vary considerably dependent on input factors like the amount of volunteer vs. paid-per-signature canvassing, advertising costs, and other expenses. The absolute bare-bones lowest number we’re heard is somewhere around $1 million for a campaign assuming unprecedented grassroots mobilization and minimal overhead, with higher estimates in the $5-$15 million range utilizing for-profit consultants on the scale that would be needed.

However you arrive at your estimate of the total cost, the tiny fraction that has actually been raised so far makes hope of success for the campaign presently getting underway simply irrational. They haven’t raised enough to physically print the petition forms, let alone carry out a successful campaign to collect the signatures. Meanwhile all the other attendant overhead costs of running a campaign chip away at the amount they’ve raised. Keep in mind that the bulk of fundraising for these groups appears to have come during and immediately following the legislative session, with two intervening months now for momentum to sputter out.

What does this all mean? It means that for all their considerable optics problems, the “Official” Polis recall group is right. The campaign kicking off this week cannot succeed, and because it is doomed to fail risks doing collateral damage–not just to the drive to recall Polis but to any other recalls Republicans may be planning against state legislators. We’ll leave it to readers to decide whether the Dismiss/Resist Polis alliance is a deception being run by allies of Gov. Polis, because in the end it really doesn’t matter.

When you’re your own worst enemy, the outcome is the same.

“Dismiss Polis” Moves Ahead, “Official” Recall Rages

We’re monitoring fresh developments in the long-discussed longshot movement(s) to recall Gov. Jared Polis, which as of next week will finally be able to open their 60-day window to collect an unprecedented 640,000+ signatures–an effort certain to fail without a massive infusion of cash, and even then in pursuit of an historically improbable objective just to reach the ballot. The slim likelihood of success has given rise to countercharges of grift and bad character between the two principal committees, both backed by considerable damning evidence–leading to a third Dismiss Polis campaign which yesterday claimed it will shortly begin circulating petitions.

A post to the smaller of the Polis recall Facebook groups, Resist Polis PAC yesterday announced the details:

A newly drafted recall petition, submitted this week by the Dismiss Polis Issue Committee to the Colorado Secretary of State’s Office, appears to be the solution concerned Coloradans wanting to recall Governor Jared Polis have sought for months.

Dismiss Polis is not affiliated with any previous recall efforts and will act as a neutral, third-party organization, being the solution to the necessity of only one petition circulating to recall the Governor.

Leadership from the Resist Polis PAC team has voted to circulate the petition of Dismiss Polis this summer, as it fits with our consistent message of unity across the state.

Polis recall petitions will be printed by Dismiss Polis and can be distributed to volunteer signature gatherers across Colorado by any recall organization wishing to assist in the recall efforts. Completed, notarized petition packets would then be returned to Dismiss Polis before all signatures are turned into the Secretary of State.

Our team at Resist Polis PAC encourages any other recall groups to make the right decision for Colorado and circulate the Dismiss Polis petition. Filing a second petition will cause division in a time when Coloradans need unity more than ever. [Pols emphasis]

Sounds like they’ve got their ducks in a row, right? Think again! The above post was to the Resist Polis PAC’s Facebook group, which consists of about 2,000 people. But over at the vastly larger “Official” Recall Polis Facebook group, which has over 40,000 users, alarms are being sounded by group administrators that “Dismiss Polis” is a doomed effort–and worse, even a diversion set up by Gov. Polis himself:

It’s no secret that there are three “Recall Governor Jared Polis” groups. We have ‘Official Recall Colorado Governor Jared Polis’ (ORCGJP), a Political Issue Committee (PIC), ‘Resist Polis’, a Political Action Committee (PAC), and now ‘Dismiss Polis’, another PIC.

I want you to read this knowing where I stand on this issue, so I will begin by saying I am heavily involved in the ORCGJP group. I was approached by the Resist group, did some research, and figured out they were actually working for Polis, [Pols emphasis] trying to thwart the efforts of of ORCGJP, so I got in with ORCGJP. You will have to figure out this for yourself, but I have already…

We believe, due on their behaviour, that the other two groups exist only to thwart the efforts of ORCGJP… Evidenced by the fact that THE VERY PERSON who took the money from ORCGJP is the head of the Recall Group (Tom Good), and has proof of past run ins with the law including theft as well as embezzelment within a leadership position. How can one support the Recall or Dismiss groups? There are even documented admissions from the other groups, bragging about shutting down ORCGJP’s website over Memorial Day…. Does this sound like behaviour of like minded individuals, getting together on a common goal?… I think not…

Bottom line… DO NOT SIGN ANY RECALL POLIS PETITION 🇺🇸 UNLESS IT IS FROM ORCGJP 🇺🇸.

To summarize, there is a good chance that a petition to initiate a recall election against Gov. Jared Polis will be approved by the Secretary of State on or near the July 8th date they can legally begin to circulate. At the same time, the overwhelming majority of grassroots supporters of a Polis recall are being told that this petition effort is fraudulent and being warned not to sign. All of this combined with the yawning gap between even the most optimistic fundraising estimates and the expected need raises hard questions about the utility of the entire effort–questions that donors will be understandably reticent to answer in the form of a check. As for using a Polis recall petition as a segue into signing petitions against legislators? This controversy could be all it takes to make that strategy a loser.

How will it end? Most likely with a whimper. But like any temper tantrum, it has to play itself out.

Polis Recall Descends Into Chaos

For several months now, we’ve been closely following the competing efforts working toward the possible but highly unlikely recall of Gov. Jared Polis–a campaign that would be unprecedented in size and expense, and so far hasn’t attracted even a fraction of either the financial or popular support that would be necessary for a successful outcome. That hasn’t stopped a number of local conservative political usual suspects like Jon Caldara’s Independence Institute and former Secretary of State Scott Gessler from raking in the dough providing “services” to the campaigns. In recent weeks, however, the early split between two principal Polis recall groups further has blossomed into still another group hoping to put previous highly negative press behind them and unify the fractious groups into one cohesive effort.

Into this mess wades local reporter Sandra Fish for the Colorado Sun in a must-read story today that diligently follows up all of these confusing characters and storylines, bringing readers to the undeniable conclusion that the campaign to recall Gov. Polis is, as we’ve maintained all along in this space, a financial black hole where the “backlash” against Colorado Democrats for daring to win an election in 2018 is headed to die. There is no way that we can adequately recount the full details of this nearly 2,000 word story, so make sure you click through and read it all:

Juli-Andra Fuentes, who leads the Official Recall committee, confirmed the current situation. She said she estimates it will take at least $4.4 million, and her group won’t initiate the recall process until it has more money, enough volunteers and a candidate to replace Polis…

Some GOP political observers say the gargantuan effort to recall a governor in Colorado — especially one who spent $23 million from his own pocket to get elected — requires more financial and strategic resources than any of the groups appear able to marshal.

“They’re good people,” said Jon Caldara, a prominent Polis critic and president of the Denver-based libertarian Independence Institute, referring to those behind the recall efforts. “I don’t think anyone really believes they’re going to recall Polis.” [Pols emphasis]

Jon Caldara.

Given the fact that Caldara’s organization has directly profited from the fundraising for the “Official” Recall Polis campaign by hosting the transaction page and charging fees more than double that charged by GoFundMe, this frank admission that no one “really believes” the Polis recall will succeed is nothing short of astonishing. We noted earlier this month that the “official” campaign appears to have migrated away from Caldara’s Freedomfy site to another platform with (presumably) lower fees. Perhaps they realized Caldara’s not really there to help?

Fish reports that the campaign finance complaint we originally wrote about on June 17th has been dismissed by the Secretary of State, not terribly surprising given its amateurish literally handwritten composition. But the Sun’s own investigation confirms major problems with the recall committee’s reporting, including multiple unexplained corrections to fundraising reports with respect to Freedomfy fees in particular and in numerous cases donations appearing to lack proper itemization. Any future complaint can build on this much more credible investigation, and if not written in crayon should go over better with the Secretary of State.

Despite all of this uncertainty and the admission that they won’t be able to kick off their campaign on schedule, Fish reports the “Official” Recall Polis is warning its 41,000+ supporters to not sign on to any other petition or ally with the competing campaigns. There’s nothing stopping any of these groups from simply pulling a petition and starting their 60-day clock to collect the over 600,000 valid voter signatures required, but once a voter signs any recall petition the first petition turned in is the only one that will count.

As Sun Tzu famously observed, “tactics without strategy is the noise before defeat.” From the outset the desire of Colorado Republicans for retaliation against Democrats after their victory in the 2018 general elections at all levels has been stymied by infighting and terrible political judgment. Republicans frittered away crucial weeks when they arguably possessed momentum from the legislative session pursuing a recall against the worst possible target in Rep. Tom Sullivan, and now a longshot recall against Polis that might have at least had utility coat-tailing a couple of legislative recall petition drives is mired in division and scandal.

Bottom line: Jon Caldara is right that Gov. Polis won’t be recalled, and legislative recalls at this point are a distraction from the general election getting closer every day. If all of this doesn’t amount to a compelling argument for Colorado Republicans to give it up and start focusing on the next election where majorities are actually in play, it’s tough to know what does.

Will The Real “Recall Polis” Please Stand Up?

We’ve been following for weeks now the sordid developments inside the multiple committees who have organized ostensibly for the purpose of initiating a recall campaign against Gov. Jared Polis. Because of the extremely daunting logistics of recalling a sitting governor, especially relative to even the most generous estimates of the fundraising so far for the various committees, the odds of a successful campaign sit somewhere between miraculously slim and none.

What the Recall Polis campaign(s) do(es) represent, however, is an opportunity to raise accountability-free money from the conservative base still smarting from the landslide defeat dealt to Republicans in the 2018 elections. We’ve discussed in this space the glomming onto this campaign’s fundraising stream by local political usual suspects like the Independence Institute and former Secretary of State Scott “Honey Badger” Gessler. Both have been paid significant sums of donated money for “services rendered” to this longshot campaign.

The two original “Recall Polis” groups were estranged early on in the process, with Tom Good’s Resist Polis PAC having exposed some fairly eye-popping anti-Semitism on the part of leadership of the “official” Recall Polis group. Shane Donnelly’s “official” group responded via Jon Caldara of the Independence Institute by publicly scumbagging Tom Good for alleged misdeeds while working at the Independence Institute and firing one of the more blatantly anti-Semitic offenders, Judy “Israel Did 9/11” Spady.

If reading all of this helps explain why fundraising to the “official” committee seems to have stalled in the last month, it probably should. What responsible person would invest actual money into this tangled web of crackpottery and grift? The answer to that question, as we broke on Monday, is at least partly unknown–because in a finance complaint filed last week, it’s alleged that a good deal of the money raised by the “official” Recall Polis group may be unaccounted for.

Today, Marianne Goodland of the Colorado Springs Gazette published an important update to this ongoing story, with a new third “Dismiss Polis” committee having been filed in an apparent attempt to unite the warring factions under a common banner. This new committee is backed by the daughter of far-right GOP Rep. Kimmi Lewis., who claims to have a statewide network ready to get started on gathering a laugh-track goal of 900,000 signatures. We’ll be respectful of the Gazette’s paywall, but in addition to introducing this third legit-no-really-this-time campaign committee, Goodland also followed up on the complaint we wrote about Monday:

According to those reports, the [Official Recall Governor Jared Polis] group has spent more than $3,200 on fundraising, almost all of that to online donor platforms. Of the 75 non-itemized donations filed through the end of May, only one is identified as coming from Freedomfy. The platform’s website claims it raised more than $24,000 for the recall, but only $172 of that has been reported to the Secretary of State, and that was as a non-itemized monetary donation.

The issue committee has also spent $4,851 on consultants, with $3,000 of that going to attorney and former Secretary of State Scott Gessler.

In addition to unanswered questions about the multiple fundraising platforms this committee has used in just a couple of months of operations, it appears that contributions through the Independence Institute’s Freedomfy site haven’t been properly reported. Again, it’s necessary to wait for the Secretary of State’s office to do their due diligence before we say definitively that something illegal happened here–but the questions are growing quickly. And we’re certainly talking about enough money to be a big deal if much of it turns up missing.

Although this isn’t what anyone should considser a serious threat to Gov. Polis, before the end it could be the biggest political crime story in Colorado since Jon Keyser’s petition gatherer decided to start scribbling in names off the voter rolls. With that in mind, we’ll be staying tuned.

Former Rep. Cole Wist Blasts RMGO, Recalls in New Op-Ed

Former Republican State Rep. Cole Wist is fed up with right-wing recall madness.

Earlier this week, former Republican Rep. Cole Wist raised eyebrows with a direct and thorough rebuke of Rocky Mountain Gun Owners (RMGO) and their latest recall attempt against Rep. Tom Sullivan (D-Aurora). What makes this particularly noteworthy is that Wist was defeated by Sullivan in the 2018 election cycle, in part because RMGO went after him for his 2018 support of “red flag” legislation.

In an Op-Ed published today by The Colorado Sun, Wist elaborates on his social media comments from earlier in the week and goes into greater detail about the recall grift that we have regularly discussed in this space:

Too many in politics are in it for their own personal gain, not any actual desire to affect policy or make life better for our communities

Take my experience as an example. I sponsored a bill that was opposed by the Rocky Mountain Gun Owners, a group whose stated purpose is to advocate for gun rights. They didn’t like my bill, so they raised money to attack me and littered my district with nasty fliers hoping to elect my Democratic opponent, Tom Sullivan, who is an outspoken supporter of sweeping gun control.

Why would a group that says it’s about gun rights help elect a gun control supporter? Well, so they can raise more money. And that’s just what they are doing now. They are trying to recall Tom Sullivan, whom they helped elect, so they can raise more money. [Pols emphasis]

Since the 2018 election, it seems there has been a steady drumbeat for recall elections. What’s behind recall fever? Yes, many voters are frustrated with sweeping legislation passed by the legislature this year on a number of fronts, but for many trying to instigate these recalls, it’s mostly about money and feeding the political election machine.

Wist later makes it clear that while he disagrees with Sullivan’s politics, he doesn’t dispute what happened in November:

I disagree with Rep. Sullivan on a number of policies. And, I am opposed to numerous pieces of legislation that he voted for this last session. However, Rep. Sullivan won the election, and I lost. He ran on gun control and then pursued it.

Recall enthusiasts are still pushing their nonsense rhetoric, of course, as Nic Garcia reports for the Denver Post:

Yet, according to the Republicans behind the recall, Sullivan duped voters.

When I pushed Kristi Brown – the state GOP’s vice chair and leader of the charge to recall Sullivan – on this logic, she acknowledged Sullivan’s track record as a gun control activist. But she added that the legislation he sponsored went further than a previous version of the bill. She added that his votes on sex ed and oil and gas reform were part of the “overreach.”

RMGO leader Dudley Brown

One of the major problems with this, um, logic is that RMGO’s Dudley Brown already blew it up in an interview with RealVail.com last week:

REAL VAIL: Some sheriffs and prosecutors who supported red flag last year, including Eagle County Sheriff James van Beek, switched sides this year and opposed it. Why do you think that is? Did the bill change that much from 2018 to 2019?

BROWN: Nope, I don’t think they were that different, last year and this year’s bill. [Pols emphasis] I don’t think it was different enough to warrant some massive swing. It’s just this year sheriffs are able to read the tea leaves and that their constituents are now understanding what the concept of red flag is. And now they’re realizing that they’re going to face a big backlash from their constituents if they’re forced to carry out these, quote, protection orders. They don’t want to do it.

It’s tough to claim that the Sullivan recall is about “overreach” when one of the recall leaders admits that the “red flag” legislation that so angers them wasn’t much different than a similar bill in 2018. That’s pretty much the exact opposite of the meaning of the word “overreach.”

Efforts to recall Democratic lawmakers in Colorado are about two things, and two things only: 1) Making money for Republican consultants, and 2) trying to find a back door for Republicans to capture seats that they can’t otherwise win in a regular election. Every other rationale is just another way to justify one of the first two reasons.

Steve House Says the Quiet Part Out Loud on Recalls

Republicans gathered at the Pueblo Convention Center last Saturday for their annual “Derby Day Lincoln Dinner,” promoted as an “Evening with James O’Keefe of Project Veritas.” Inbetween dinner and O’Keefe hawking his latest book, Republicans in attendance heard a lot about recall elections in Colorado — perhaps a little too much.

One of the speakers at the Pueblo event was Steve House, the former GOP State Party Chair who is now the “CEO” of the State Party under new Republican Chairman Ken Buck. As you can hear in the audio clip below, House lays out a handful of priorities for the Colorado Republican Party that include supporting recall efforts across the state:

“We are going to support the recalls. We have to support the recalls, because, people…people are justifiably angry about what’s going on. And we need to, first of all, give a voice to that anger. And secondly, the process of identifying more voters for Trump, and for Cory Gardner, and for getting the State Senate back, starts as well with those recalls.” [Pols emphasis]

D’oh!

Recalls are how Republicans can start “getting the State Senate back.” This is the part about the recall efforts that House shouldn’t be discussing out loud: That Republicans see this as a way to subvert a regular election process that they are no longer capable of winning. 

Ken Buck and Steve House

Recall enthusiasts admitted last month that the rationale behind trying to oust Rep. Rochelle Galindo (D-Greeley) didn’t really have anything to do with her actual votes on issues; former Weld County GOP Chairwoman Stacey Kjeldgaard told the Greeley Tribune that they would be working to recall Galindo regardless of how she voted in the legislature. As we first reported in this space last month, GOP consultants have been caught explaining how recalls should be viewed as a neat way to elect more Republicans because of the opportunity to catch the majority of voters napping.

Hearing these sentiments from House is a bit different, however, because House is the guy running the day-to-day operations of the Colorado Republican Party. While Buck has generally tried to avoid specifics on the subject of recalls, House doesn’t even pretend that this isn’t about sneaking Republican candidates in through the back door.

As we’ve discussed in this space before, recall elections in Colorado are — first and foremost — about grift for Republican consultants and “issue groups” looking to make some cash in a non-election year. Various Republican-aligned groups and individuals are spending as much time attacking each other as they are promoting their recall elections, because nobody wants to share their space at the fundraising spigot.

Once you get past the wallet-stuffing aspect of the recall elections, the strategerie is clear. Galindo, for example, was first elected in November and must stand for re-election in just 18 months. The State Republican Party could should be spending their time organizing for November 2020, but those darn General Elections are too hard!

Even More Sicko Speculation From Recall Polis Admins

We were forwarded this exchange on one of the Facebook groups devoted to the logistically unlikely but still popular to speculate about campaign to recall Gov. Jared Polis from office once he is constitutionally eligible after being in office six months. Unlike the targets of opportunity in the legislature for whom the threshold of signatures needed to recall is arguably much too low, the massive requirement to gather over 600,000 valid voters signatures to qualify a recall of Gov. Polis for the ballot makes it a silly proposition–but also a guilt-free cash cow for enterprising Republican grifters.

It also has a tendency to attract, as we saw in the aftermath of another threat of violence against area schools last month, unhinged conspiracy theorists convinced that nothing is as it seems:

That’s Bob Tocarciuc, one of the administrators of the Resist Polis PAC Recall Facebook group operated by local political operative with ties to the Independence Institute named Tom Good–who had a falling out with a larger Recall Polis group, then helped expose nasty anti-Semitic leaders of the group in local media one of whom was later ousted.

If you Google Bob Tocarciuc, which having a last name like “Tocarciuc” makes pretty straightforward, you’ll find the KKTV news story yesterday referenced in the Facebook post about a town hall in Colorado Springs Saturday featuring the very same Gov. Jared Polis–a town hall that apparently ended in a scuffle between security and a recall supporter. In this story, Bob Tocarciuc’s role as an administrator of a recall group is curiously omitted, and he’s presented as an innocent bystander:

As the governor left, one woman pulled out a scarf that said “Recall Polis.” 11 News spoke to bystanders who watched what happened next. They say the woman was dragged over to her granddaughter, who was sitting down.

“He went from zero to complete hands-on physical, you know, submission methods,” said Bob Tocarciuc, a man who helped the woman up.

Tocaciuc also happens to be a security guard, but he was not working the event, just attending as a citizen.

“I heard screaming to my left. I was approximately 8 feet away from the lady that got assaulted, I guess. It’s the only way I can describe it,” he said.

To be clear, the incident in question didn’t directly involve Gov. Polis, but a school district security guard involved in an altercation with an attendee as Polis was leaving the town hall event Saturday evening. But it’s not really accurate to say Tocarciuc was “just attending as a citizen” either, when he’s an administrator of a group supporting Gov. Polis’ recall. This also calls into question his impartiality as a witness to the incident.

But definitely, the false flag insanity in response to yesterday’s school shooting in Highlands ranch discredits Bob Tocarciuc much more. Since it seems to be a regular occurrence based on two similar local incidents in recent weeks, we’ve been trying to understand what makes some people immediately leap to the unfounded assumption that such events must be part of a grand deception tied to contemporary politics instead of the predictable and preventable tragedies they invariably turn out to be.

For today, we can only plead with our local media to stop giving these people airtime.

Caldara, Gessler Rake In Recall Polis Cash

Here’s a look at the latest report of contributions and expenditures for the Official Recall Colorado Governor Jared Polis committee, as filed with the Secretary of State:

As you can see, committee has raised somewhere a little north of $20,000 so far, which is consistent with the total shown raised via the Independence Institute’s “Freedomfy” online fundraising website. As we’ve explained previously, the Independence Institute skims a 6% flat percentage cut off the top of all donations made through their platform, plus a 30 cent per-transaction fee–more than double the fees charged by GoFundMe which the campaign used before migrating to Freeedomfy. As of today, that means the $23,720 the committee has raised so far has netted $1423 in percentage fees plus $162.60 in transaction fees from 542 donors for the Independence Institute.

But looking at the expenditures from this period, Jon Caldara’s cut is just one piece of the action:

That’s right, folks! As of the latest expenditure report filed with the Secretary of State, the #1 expenditure of the Official Recall Colorado Governor Jared Polis committee is $3,000 to former Secretary of State Scott Gessler for legal fees. We wrote last month how the co-opting of this campaign by Caldara and Gessler represented a major shift in the focus of what is universally agreed to be an extreme longshot effort due to the unprecedented requirement to gather over 600,000 valid voter signatures–from a grassroots effort, at least nominally intended to actually go through with a recall, into a campaign primarily interested in grifting money off “low-information” conservatives riled up about unified Democratic control of state government.

Caldara’s growing skim and Gessler cashing the largest check written so far…doesn’t prove us wrong.

Republican Training Exposes the Naked Truth About Recalls

TUESDAY UPDATE: The internet is forever, folks–as Constellation Political is learning belatedly:

You’re welcome (see below).

—–

UPDATE: David O. Williams picks up the thread for RealVail.com:

Eagle County is indeed a very blue county these days, with Sheriff James van Beek the only elected member of the GOP currently serving.

Still, that clearly won’t thwart Republican efforts to regain power. But instead of moderating and trying to win over independents, the state GOP, which recently inducted Eagle County Republican Party Chairwoman Kaye Ferry into its hall of fame (despite that record of just one elected party member), is going the recall route…

…Extremism and recalls taking precedence over moderation and reaching out to the state’s growing electorate of registered independents. That’s the modern Colorado GOP approach. How’s that working?

—–

People are going to be traveling for Christmas. They’re not going to care. They’re not going to know that there is an election happening because they probably just turned a ballot back in a month earlier.”

We’ve demonstrated at length in this space about how Republican efforts to recall freshman Rep. Rochelle Galindo (D-Greeley), Gov. Jared Polis, and other Democrats are as much about political grift as they are about legitimate policy gripes. For those who don’t stand to profit financially off of recall election “fundraising,” the real motivation for these recall efforts is about trying to win seats that Republicans can no longer defend in a regularly-scheduled election.

This may seem like a cynical view of Republican politics in Colorado, but it is not merely an opinion. Behind closed doors, Republican operatives are completely open about the real reason for trying to recall Democrats across the state.

Republicans first started talking openly about recall elections in November 2018 — just days after the General Election took place. The current legislative session was barely a week old when House Minority Leader Patrick Neville threatened recall elections in an interview with 9News.

The video below was posted to Facebook by someone who attended a recall election training seminar on April 11 in Buena Vista, Colorado. The “recall training” is conducted by Ben Engen of Constellation Political Consulting, a Republican political consulting firm with clients that include the Colorado Republican Party and the GOP-led Senate Majority Fund. This is the full version of a video that was later redacted by Engen over concerns about what might happen if regular folks happened to get a glimpse behind the curtain. The frank discussion that takes place is almost unbelievable.

 

You can watch the entire 90-minute training session at your leisure, but let’s start by jumping ahead to the 37:30 mark where Engen explains why recall elections are the best chance for Republicans to steal a few seats while most Colorado voters aren’t paying attention:

ENGEN: Recalls are uniquely powerful because they change the dynamic of the electorate. You know, people are generally aware of midterm elections. They’re very aware of Presidential elections – everyone shows up and votes in those. They aren’t as aware, you know, of a special election like a recall that just comes out of nowhere and blindsides them. [Pols emphasis] That was one of the things that really helped us in 2013. We aren’t going to be able to count on all of those advantages again, so we have to be extra cognizant of the timing and executing things in a way that will preserve that power.

Opening screenshot from recall campaign training conducted by Constellation Political Consulting

Engen references a pie chart on a screen at the front of the room showing the voter makeup in Senate District 11 (Sen. John Morse) during the 2013 recall effort:

So, what you’re looking at here is the difference between the electoral mix in a midterm and in a recall. So this is Senate District 11. In a typical midterm for a Republican, to win Senate District 11, they would have to get 65% of the Unaffiliateds to break their way. I mean, that’s huge. Republicans in the Metro area are never going to be able to do that. [Pols emphasis]

But in the recall, in 2013, a Republican would have only had to get 46.3% of the Unaffiliateds to break their way. That is supremely doable. That’s, like, right on the cusp of what Republicans do in the Metro areas without really trying. So, the fact that people weren’t really as aware of this election – there was a differential in the motivation [that] made a big difference…

This next section is particularly damning:

…So, it’s changing this makeup of the electorate that allows us to be successful in recalls, and for Republicans to carry seats that traditionally would not break our way. Or, in the case of, you know, these seats in 2013, we’ve NEVER been able to hold. So, as you’re moving through this, that’s the thing you want to keep in mind. What you’re really trying to achieve is this re-weighting of the electorate, and there are some more points here about timing to make that happen. [Pols emphasis]

A few minutes later, Engen walks the audience through forming official committees in order to start raising money for their recall efforts. Take a look at how Engen responds to a question about whether these committees can accept donations from businesses:

Yeah, so this just happened up in Weld – that Weld recall that just started. The whole reason they kicked off right now is because they had a business cut a $100,000 check to get them started.

“What you’re really trying to achieve is this re-weighting of the electorate.”

Engen is likely referencing Steve Wells, the businessman/rancher who donated $100,000 to one of the Galindo recall efforts. Engen then explains the importance of creating a website for your recall effort — or, rather, that the only reason to have a website is so that you can collect donations. Engen even recommends a specific platform for fundraising and wonders openly about the cost of other recall fundraising efforts (such as those directed by Jon Caldara of the Independence Institute):

What you want to use is a platform called Anedot to raise your money. It’s just a wee bit more expensive than using something like PayPal, but it’s a lot less expensive than whatever the Polis [recall] guys are using for some reason. [Pols emphasis]

At the 44-minute mark, Engen gets a question about how to differentiate between different recall groups. His response is telling:

UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN: I find it hard to differentiate between which ones are real and which ones are not. There’s a ‘Recall Polis’ and there’s a ‘Resist Polis.’

ENGEN: You and me both. I don’t know how to help you with that (room erupts in laughter)…

…You want to make sure that the committee that you’re giving to is the committee that’s approved for that [purpose]. There are already three separate committees up in House District 50 trying to do this recall. Only one of them has any money. Only one of them actually has petitions. But now these other guys are just sowing confusion. So, for the love of God, people, work together… [Pols emphasis]

…Try not to get yourself in that trap that they are [caught] up in Weld. Granted, they’re well-funded already, so they’ll probably still be successful, but it’s going to hurt them because people are giving money now to other organizations that aren’t going to do anything with it. You know…who knows, it’s just up in the wind. [Pols emphasis]

We’ve written previously about these red-on-red recall turf battles that Engen is referencing.

At the 45:50 mark, Engen gets a question about involvement from the State Republican Party:

This question has come up a lot, kind of amongst the Republicans, about how involved the Republican Party can be or should be. At the state level, the way that this used to work – the state party would get involved after petitions were accepted. So, like in 2013, that’s when the State Party really got involved. They contributed money and resources to help get that done.

But the reality is, there is an infinite number of candidates that can be recalled, and the Republican Party doesn’t have the resources to be going around handing out money to recall every single person under the sun. [Pols emphasis]  And it’s too tough to call which ones are going to take off and which ones aren’t, so generally the state and in most cases the county parties just avoid that whole thing. Even if they aren’t formally engaged in it, there’s a couple of things they can do to help you. Like, they’ll have access to the voter file and they can give you access to that. The state party does have a “walk app” that they can probably let you use.

As Engen next tells the audience, they are more likely to get help from the State GOP in Senate District 5, which is represented by Democratic Sen. Kerry Donovan:

Now, if your petitions are successful and you do initiate a recall, the state party will almost always find money to support you – and especially if it’s against Kerry Donovan.

Engen goes on to emphasize the importance of finding an actual Republican candidate to run against a lawmaker targeted for recall, at which point another audience member says this:

UNIDENTIFIED MAN: Our biggest challenge will be Eagle County. That’s our biggest problem with Kerry Donovan, because Eagle County is a really blue county, and that’s where the majority of the population is. So, if that county just decides to vote for her in the recall, then she might stay on.

It is indeed quite a challenge to initiate this here recall when you consider that voters in SD-5 actually want Donovan as their State Senator. Donovan was just re-elected to another 4-year term in November 2018 BY A 20-POINT MARGIN.

Before we get to the Q&A section at the end of the discussion, Engen returns to emphasize that the key to winning a recall election is basically to fool the majority of registered voters in a given area:

This is the most important consideration: Do not go out half-cocked. The reason we succeeded in 2013 is because those elections could not be conducted as mail [ballot] elections. So we can’t bank on that this go-round. But we can choose when the election happens. [Pols emphasis]

So you need to think this through and count backwards in time. Once you turn in your petitions, you have 60 days. Once you turn them in for validation, they have 15 days to approve them. After that, the Governor has 30 to 60 days to set the election. So you need to think about that: When is the worst time possible for Kerry Donovan to be dealing with this? Do you want to wait and start this in September so that the [legislative] session is back in and its harder for her to defend maybe? Do you want to try to do this during the holidays, when people are distracted and only your supporters are going to turn in their petitions. Like, start in August and the thing will have to happen in December.

People are going to be traveling for Christmas. They’re not going to care. They’re not going to know that there is an election happening because they probably just turned a ballot back in a month earlier. [Pols emphasis]

Think this through. Don’t run out of the room here and go pull petitions. Give this some thought to when you want the election to happen, because this (timing) is what ultimately determines your success. You can go out and get your petitions validated and approved, initiate the recall, and then get crushed so easily if you don’t have a favorable electoral mix. So, this is the thing, more than anything, that will determine your success – is choosing when you want to have the election and have it happen on your terms. [Pols emphasis]

Colorado voters keep electing Democrats in election after election, so Republicans are focusing their efforts on recall campaigns as a way to get around this pesky problem of Democracy. This isn’t our take on the situation — this is what Republicans are saying to each other. You can see it for yourself.

Click below for more references regarding the recall training and Constellation Political Consulting.

 

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Recallpalooza: Inside a Growing Red-on-Red Turf War

Making sense of the competing interests within the Republican coalition, and the relationships between those interests as they relate to recall campaigns now being organized, isn’t easy. That’s been a deliberate objective after extremely negative press about the early organizers of both the Galindo recall and the longshot campaign to recall Gov. Jared Polis threw both of those efforts into PR chaos.

Today, both the Galindo and Polis recall campaigns insist the variously anti-Semitic and crudely anti-LGBT elements involved at the early stages have been purged. The Independence Institute led by longtime political stuntman Jon Caldara has taken over online fundraising for both campaigns with a sweetheart deal that will financially benefit his organization greatly, and the original Galindo recall committee organized by House Minority Leader Patrick Neville along with Greeley pastor Steven Grant, who declared his intention to recall his “homosexual pervert” representative, was replaced. The “new” committee–although the Nevilles claim they’re still the masterminds of the whole effort–is trying to rebrand the effort away from Pastor Grant.

As readers may already be aware, there has been a long-running “turf war” between two ideologically competing factions within the coalition of Republican-aligned interest groups and allied lawmakers who dominate conservative politics in Colorado. On one side, you have a coalition led by the Neville political machine, along with a core group of Republican lawmakers from El Paso and Weld Counties and hardcore gun rights activists led by the Rocky Mountain Gun Owners. In addition to a “no compromise” position on guns, this coalition is extremely conservative on LGBT rights, abortion, and other such social wedge issues–hence the willingness to work with distasteful figures like Pastor Grant. Mario Nicolais, a moderate Republican who wound up on the wrong side of RMGO’s intraparty wrath, writes in a column for the Colorado Sun informatively:

Galindo and her Democratic allies say oil and gas concerns are just a ruse. They argue the recall isn’t about how she votes, but who she is; specifically, because she is gay and Latina.

That would be a wild accusation except a second recall group, run by state House Minority Leader Patrick Neville’s brother, Joe, began their campaign with a news release touting support from Rocky Mountain Gun Owners and Greeley Pastor Steven Grant.

Grant has used his pulpit to call Galindo a “homosexual pervert” who is “trying to insert her lifestyle into our lives.” From personal experience, I know RMGO front man Dudley Brown shares Grant’s beliefs; [Pols emphasis] when I ran for state Senate in 2014, Brown organized and funded a primary challenge against me.

As then-state Rep. Justin Everett explained at the time, I earned Brown’s ire by supporting civil unions in 2012 and 2013, or as Everett put it, “Dudley’s mad about the gay thing.” [Pols emphasis]

On the other side of this internal conflict is the Independence Institute, which serves as a front office for a number of conservative activists and one-off issue groups and is generally well-connected to the state’s large for-profit political consultancy firms and upper-echelon donor class. After the passage of the landmark 2013 gun safety laws that prompted the year’s recall elections, the Independence Institute proposed a compromise measure in 2015 to raise the state’s gun magazine limit to 30 rounds from the 15 round limit imposed in 2013–a measure that briefly entertained some bipartisan support. Unfortunately for Caldara, this compromise was bitterly denounced by RMGO and trounced by Republicans in the legislature, solidifying a rift that has never healed.

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