Friday, March 8, 2013

UPDATE: Doing the nasty amid the city election

Posted by on Fri, Mar 8, 2013 at 12:49 PM

Ed Bircham says in an interview, "I've never heard of them [Citizens for a Sound Government]. If I hadn't gotten that from you, I still wouldn't have heard. The things they're saying is lies."

—————————ORIGINAL POST, THURSDAY, MARCH 7, 12:40 P.M.—————————————

You knew it had to happen, and it has. The mud-slingers, including a high-level Republican operative who's been involved in statewide politics, have gotten involved in the April 2 city election, in which voters will elect six district representatives to Colorado Springs City Council.

First, a group called Citizens for Sound Government has created three anti-candidate websites targeting Joe Barrera in District 1, Brandy Williams in District 3, and Ed Bircham in District 6.

The Barrera website likens him to President Obama, saying, "Joe Barrera worked for 15 years as a 'community representative'. Sound familiar? Barrera's job title isn't the only thing that bears a great deal of similarity to Barack Obama. Barrera identifies with some of the most liberal policies and organizations in all of Colorado. Joe Barrera's far-Left ideas are wrong for Colorado Springs."

city council april 2 election
  • Williams: Targeted as a 'queen of indecision and ineffectiveness' by a secret group.

The Williams website calls the incumbent "the queen of indecision and ineffectiveness."

And the Bircham site calls him "extreme" and "bigoted" and says he has "a years-long record of divisive and hateful comments."

Citizens for a Sound Government is a 501(c)4, donations to which are secret and non-tax-deductible. It legally must file a Form 990 with the IRS; however, there's currently no such filing on the GuideStar website, where where nonprofits' IRS filings normally can be found.

The group identifies itself on its website as "a nonprofit organization committed to reducing the size, scope and cost of government through responsible fiscal, economic and regulatory policies." It's working to overturn the Affordable Care Act, for example.

The 501(c)4's attorney is Mario Nicolais of Denver, who once defended the Senate Majority Fund for Republicans, which funds state legislative races. In a telephone interview, he says the group has "been around for a few years and has done work in discussing issues in various different places, not just in Colorado."

But he declines to identify specifically which issues it's worked on, saying only they involve "economic as well as regulatory issues and the effect of public office holders on those issues."

Asked about the local City Council candidate websites, he says, "I think the communications speak for themselves."

As for the nonprofit's not reporting the sources of its money, Nicolais said that's simply the result of unintended consequences of campaign finance reform. "The more regulation created around it, the more it’s driven money to other places."

So that doesn't tell us much.

Barrera had plenty to say about the ad and called the 501(c)4 a "shadowy group" that represents "an extreme Right-Wing" viewpoint. "I am sure that they are contributing to some of my opponents in District One," he writes in an e-mail. "I am disgusted about the scurrilous attacks these people make, and saddened that people running for Council in District One would associate themselves with this extremist group."

He also called the allegations against him "almost completely a pack of lies and distortions."

Patrick Davis, a political operative who's run congressional campaigns across the country, is heading up Set It Straight, a 527 organization. In a report filed with the City Clerk's Office on Feb. 28, it reported one donation, for $900, from Renew Colorado, which is a 501(c)4. So we're back to square one, because 501(c)4s, as previously stated, don't have to disclose the source of donations. And it, too, couldn't be found on GuideStar.

Set It Straight has a website and a billboard targeting Tim Leigh in District 1 and Angela Dougan in District 2, alleging they, along with Obama, Mayor Steve Bach and the Sierra Club, want to drive utility rates upward. "Tell Them NO on Election Day," the site says.

Davis, who's run campaigns in Indiana, Colorado and Kansas, says in an interview the goal of the organization is to "educate the voters about the positions that Angela Dougan and Tim Leigh have taken to destroy our utility and raise our utility prices."

He says the group has plans to make phone calls and send mailers in the two districts. Davis, who has worked as a consultant for Neumann Systems Group, which is installing pollution-control equipment on the city's Martin Drake Power Plant, says company owner David Neumann isn't a donor to the group.

Leigh says via e-mail:

That others are so vigorously chasing after me, tells me that my persistent questions must be scaring a lot of people who want them to quit avoiding full conversations. What is it they say about smoke and fire? I have chosen the high road of honest conversation. It is what the citizens deserve from their elected leaders.

Lastly, here we go again with the theft of campaign signs, an age-old strategy to keep your opponents off the radar.

Joel Miller, an Air Force Academy grad, reservist and FedEx pilot, has seen 150 of his campaign signs disappear throughout the northern district since Monday, his wife, Anita, tells us via e-mail.

city council april 2 election
  • Miller: Victim of theft.

"The first night (Monday) was very organized and orchestrated, with about 50 signs stolen from various
locations," she writes. "Tuesday we replaced many of the signs, but picked them up before dark. We left some on our own quiet street corner, however, and those were stolen during the night. Wednesday we placed lines of signs at a couple locations on Voyager Parkway during the day, thinking we'd pick them up
before dark. Between 1:00 and 4:00—in broad daylight—those signs were stolen."

"This whole thing bites," she adds, "but we're still going strong and working 12-hour days to get the word out about Joel."

As a footnote, one candidate, Bill Murray, who's also running in District 2, isn't getting much traction on his attempts to get endorsing organizations to disclose candidates' answers to questionnaires.

city council april 2 election
  • Murray: Transparency, please.

After asking the Regional Business Alliance, which didn't endorse him, to disclose its questionnaire responses from candidates, executive director Joe Raso wrote to him, saying the group did its questioning with the understanding that candidate answers would remain secret, though some candidates have published the questions and answers on their own websites.

"We will be making the questions available to our member/investors, along with reiterating who the organization has endorsed, but will exclude details of the interviews and question responses," Raso wrote.

In response, Murray wrote Raso: "We have all asked for transparency from our politicians. It is strange that these are the same individuals who want to be public figures. I am a dues paying member of the alliance and am now formally requesting all the answers from all the candidates."

We've asked the candidates who've been targeted to comment on all of the above, and will update this blog if and when we hear from them.

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