We’ve been monitoring the strange story of what appears to have been a multi-pronged insider effort to derail Initiative 97, the controversial ballot measure to dramatically increase setbacks between oil and gas wells and so-called “surface development”–that is, homes and schools built over somebody’s else’s mineral rights. After one petition gathering firm left the state with tens of thousands of signatures, another admitted on tape they were paid by an as-yet unknown entity to stop collecting signatures. Despite these hurdles, the campaign turned in over 170,000 signatures yesterday and still hopes to make the ballot.
In the meantime, the Colorado Independent’s Susan Greene reports on still more shenanigans against the Initiative 97 campaign, again involving the petition contractor who was paid to abandon the effort, and this time involving the “respectable” Denver Metro Chamber of Commerce:
Chamber President and CEO Kelly Brough told The Independent Friday that when her group learned Petition Connection was also gathering signatures for Colorado Rising, it told FieldWorks to stop using Petition Connection to gather signatures for its proposed transportation measure. That measure seeks a 0.62 percent statewide sales tax to pay for transportation and transit.
“We try not to have our (petitions) carried along with issues we would not support,” Brough said, noting that her board has opposed the fracking limitation measure.
Asked if her members in the oil-and-gas industry pressed her to split with the company, she said no…
But that’s not what others are saying:
Sean Duffy, spokesman for the Chamber-affiliated transportation ballot measure campaign, acknowledged later Friday that the oil-and-gas industry “along with a number of other businesses” in the Chamber are very concerned about the setback measure getting on the ballot and were uncomfortable with signature collectors gathering petitions for it at the same time they were gathering petitions for the transportation measure.
“They said, ‘Yeah, that’s a conflict for us’,” Duffy said.
As for the still-unknown party responsible for paying Petition Connection to walk away from the Initiative 97 campaign?
Brough said her group had “nothing to do with that payment” to Fessler.
“Absolutely not,” she emphasized.
But given that Kelly Brough is being more or less directly refuted by Sean Duffy on the original question, we would call her denial unsatisfying at best. There is a lot more to know about what the oil and gas industry did to thwart this initiative, from paying off contractors to their intimidating and aggressive “Decline to Sign” campaign featuring belligerent young men sent to heckle individual petition gatherers. These unsavory tactics stretch, if not the law, at the very least the bounds of civility in politics. It is not behavior that should be honored or rewarded.
We can only say again that all of this can be true even if you don’t agree with the initiative in question, and we recognize that universal 2,500-foot setbacks between wells and homes are not universally supported even among Democrats. The point is that if such dirty deeds become the norm in Colorado politics, everybody is worse off.
Everybody but the bad guys, that is.