(Promoted by Colorado Pols)
Recently Kevin McCarney was quoted, first in the Denver Post and later in the Grand Junction Daily Sentinel, in stories about how the IRS went after conservative groups and how Western Slope Conservative Alliance (WSCA) was hassled by the IRS and still does not have its not-for-profit status. These days WSCA is calling themselves Freedom ! Colorado.
There is a long and quite sordid story behind this story, and it is about the Republican Party being scared to death of the Tea Party. The Tea Party, truly a grass roots movement, grew out of discontent with government spending. But locally it got hijacked by Western Slope Conservative Alliance, an invention of the Republican Party. Kevin McCarney, recently transplanted from Chicago, eventually joined the hijackers. However one of the first hijackers was Janet Rowland, Mesa County Commissioner at the time, previous candidate for Lt. Governor, and current Director of the Center for Local Government at Colorado Mesa University, another Tim Foster Republican hire.
I’ve been told that Richard Shoenradt, a previous Tipton staffer and one of the first directors of WSCA advocated for WSCA to be called Western Conservative Coalition (WCC) just to irritate Western Colorado Congress (WCC), which works diligently to protect the air, water, and soil quality on the Western Slope, and frequently is at odds with the oil and gas industry. Full disclosure, I sit on the board of Western Colorado Congress.
But I digress. The original Tea Party event in Grand Junction was put together by GJResult/Tea Party. It was a rally in Lincoln Park with as many as 3,000 attendees protesting what they perceived as runaway spending by the government. At the time Janet Rowland offered to put organizers in touch with a local DJ with a sound system. With the day of the event approaching, Rowland announced that she had promised speaking slots to several Republicans and that the Republican Women would handle the sign-up for the event. GJResult/Tea Party considered themselves non-partisan and did not want the GOP to control their event. Rowland threatened to cancel the P.A. system, effectively blackmailing the Tea Party into submission on that day.
I heard much of this story from a local activist who calls himself American Patriot. His frustration with trying to tell the story to local reporters led him to start posting comments at my blog. To his surprise, even though I’m a known liberal, I did not delete his comments. You see, I actually believe in free speech. I rarely agree with American Patriot on policy issues, but I do believe he has a right to speak his mind, so I had no problem with allowing those posts to stay available to the public. Eventually Kevin McCarney started posting there also. Still further along the time line, McCarney dictated that nobody should post anything at my blog, although American Patriot continues to post occasionally to this day.
It didn’t take long for GJResult/Tea Party to realize that the Republican Party was not a trustworthy partner in their grass roots efforts. Two months after its founding, the two Tea Party friendly members of WSCA were voted off the board. Once these individuals were removed, the remaining board was a who’s who of Mesa County Republicans: Jennifer Bailey, President (Two Rivers 9:12 Representative); Janet Rowland, Vice President (At-Large Member); Rose Pugliese, Secretary (Mesa County Young Republicans Representative, and current County Commissioner); Richard Shoenradt, Treasurer (At Large Member); Lois Dunn (At Large member and current Mesa County GOP Chair); Ruth Ehlers (Mesa County Republican Women Representative, and immediate past Mesa County GOP Chair), Karen Kulp (At Large member); Jeff Laney (At Large member); Duncan McArthur (At Large member); Sandy Peeso (Pro Second Amendment Representative); Kelly Sloan (Americans for Prosperity- Mesa County Chapter Representative, advisor to Steve King and a Canadian citizen); and Doug Thompson (At Large Member).
When WSCA refused to allow the grass roots to vote on board members, GJResult/Tea Party, the actual grass roots group, officially resigned from WSCA. They believed in the democratic process. Eventually, in order to accept tax-deductible donations, WSCA allied themselves closely with Americans for Prosperity, at least that is where their on-line donations at the website were directed.
Another thing sticking in the craw of GJResult/Tea Party was their support of Bob McConnell for the CD3 seat. WSCA endorsed Tipton, who won the primary with 56% of the vote to McConnell’s 44%. GJResult/Tea Party felt the wishes of the grass roots were steam rolled by the local Republican Party which was on the Tipton bandwagon. To this day, GJResult/Tea Party does not support Tipton, despite his occasional teabag lapel pin.
GJResult/Tea Party began chaffing at the notion that WSCA would call themselves “THE” Tea Party. This hubris on the part of WSCA is largely why they are now known as Freedom ! Colorado. GJResult/Tea Party registered Western Slope Conservative Alliance/Tea Party with the Secretary of State in order to thwart WSCA efforts to call themselves “The” Tea Party and anointing their candidates with the tea party label. It took almost two years for WSCA to realize that they did not own the Tea Party iteration of their name.
Thus began the name game. Both WSCA and the grass roots GJResult/Tea Party began searching for names, although for different reasons. GJResult/Tea Party needed a name for a sister group in Delta which had been using the name Western Slope Conservative Alliance/Tea Party. Various names were considered, including Colorado Liberty Alliance which was already taken by a Colorado Springs consulting group, which didn’t stop McCarney from using it for a while. Another choice was Colorado Freedom Alliance, which GJResult/Tea Party registered on 1/17/13. But that name was tainted when Kevin McCarney used it as his group name in sponsoring an “open carry” rally two days later. On 2/14/2013, GJResult/Tea Party registered the name Freedom Colorado. A little more than a week later, Kevin McCarney’s group sponsored a fundraiser, as a not-for-profit, at a local Grand Junction restaurant. This was a cash only fundraiser, presumably because they did not have the documentation required to open a checking account anywhere. Freedom ! Colorado is the name currently being used by the group formerly known as WSCA, although they frequently forget to use the exclamation point in communcations.
Kevin McCarney is the current leader of Freedom ! Colorado, but he lost his position as Vice Chairman of the local GOP during the last reorganization. It seems the Country Club Republicans got a little tired of the sleazy and controversial “educational” events promoted by Freedom ! Colorado, i.e. Agenda 21 conspiracy theories and “open carry” events.
It isn’t likely that McCarney decided on his own to go to the Denver Paper. American Patriot, co-founder of the GJResult/Tea Party, theorizes that Janet Rowland made the suggestion. It is a strategy that she has used in the past. McCarney is not the most reputable person on the planet, so it is amusing that he is now being given a voice by Front Range newspapers. For the record, Ray Scott and Kevin McCarney are friends. McCarney managed Ray Scott’s last campaign. There are unsubstantiated rumors that Scott helped McCarney hide assets from the IRS when McCarney pursued a personal bankruptcy, bringing the IRS story full circle.