A feature-length story from Abigail Weinberg writing for Mother Jones published yesterday is getting a lot of attention on both sides of the aisle, an extremely damaging but also insightful look at freshman GOP scandal incubator Rep. Lauren Boebert’s background and rise to prominence as the owner of the Shooters’ Grill in Rifle.
Ever since she came in like a wrecking ball to Colorado’s political scene back in 2019, Boebert has been dogged by questions about her repeated brushes with the law, carefree attitude about public health, compliance with tax and labor laws–and of course, an infamous 2017 food poisoning incident that sickened dozens of people at an area rodeo. Since taking office, Boebert has come under an unusual amount of scrutiny from federal regulators for persistently sloppy campaign finance accounting, donations exceeding the legal limit, and misuse of campaign funds for personal expenses.
Boebert’s former Shooters Grill employees have a message for you: they were there, and it’s as bad as you thought.
[F]ive former Shooters employees tell me that Boebert frequently failed to pay her employees on time. (Two of the former workers wished to remain anonymous because they feared retaliation; another did not want to be named and publicly associated with Boebert.) “The second the restaurant blew up, her head blew up, and it became something entirely different,” one former waitress says. “And I got to meet a new version of her that is a monster.”
Multiple employees say that they were paid in cash, either out of the register or from Boebert’s husband’s wallet, without any taxes deducted. While many workers were struggling to make ends meet, they say Boebert spent exorbitant sums on breast implants, private schooling for her sons, and a new Cadillac Escalade…
Workers say that once Trump became president, Boebert increasingly intertwined her political views with the restaurant. In 2019, Boebert attended a Beto O’Rourke presidential campaign event in Aurora, responding to the candidate’s proposal to take away assault rifles with, “Hell no, you’re not.” “When she went to confront Beto O’Rourke, that’s when she started selling T-shirts and stuff,” one waitress says, “and then so we lost a lot of our customers.” [Pols emphasis]
…Employees tell me they believed that Boebert’s husband, who works as a consultant in the oil and gas industry, was keeping the company afloat. “There were times when we were waiting for him to get his check, so that way she could get us our check,” one former employee says. According to [former cook Josh] Boyington, “He’s the one who paid the rent, all the bills, everything.”
The descriptions of the experience of working for Boebert at Shooters’ Grill in this story corroborate reporting that has already been done documenting the precarious state of the Shooters grill business and the Boeberts’ frequent financial problems. Jason Salzman at the Colorado Times-Recorder reported on the liens filed over Boebert’s failure to pay unemployment insurance premiums all the way back in October of 2020, consistent with the long-held suspicion confirmed in this story that Boebert’s employees were being paid under the table. These are the same liens that were paid off right around the same time Boebert charged her campaign in excess of $20,000 for “mileage reimbursement.”
These are in large part things we knew on paper. But the story in the first person is much more compelling.
But even in this highly damaging look at Boebert’s business history, there are signs that it might not matter:
Referring to Democrats, McInnis, the former congressman, says, “They’re not saying anything about the radicals or some of the people that they are dealing with on their side. And so I don’t think Lauren’s being radical at all. You know, you got to speak up if you want to be heard…”
“I think she’s going to become a very powerful member of the US Congress,” McInnis says.
As readers know ex-Congressman now Mesa County Commissioner Scott McInnis has been under siege for over a year by far-right activists who show up every public comment period to rage at the Mesa County Board of Commissioners, and have threatened McInnis with “civil war” with no apparent consideration for the fact that McInnis is a fellow Republican and they would presumably therefore be on the same side. Although some of the MAGA faithful may be worried now that even Lauren Boebert has sold out to Soros, the fringe activists harassing McInnis are Boebert’s base much more than they are Scott McInnis’–or McInnis’ erstwhile friend Scott Tipton’s, or for that matter Don Coram’s who McInnis seems to be writing off. It’s a disappointing cop-out for McInnis that makes it much harder to have any sympathy as he reaps the whirlwind from Tina Peters.
Acknowledging the truth is only the first step. There’s got to be a will to change course.