Friday, March 10, 2017

Opposition researcher looking into Council race

Posted By on Fri, Mar 10, 2017 at 2:48 PM

click to enlarge cityelectionsbug-web_360.png
Sarah Jack, who's working for several campaigns, reports she's never heard of Percipient Strategies or Naji Filali.


A researcher in Washington, D.C., is digging for information on Helen Collins and Jill Gaebler, who are up for re-election in the April 4 city election, along with two other incumbents.

In early February, Naji Filali, with Percipient Strategies, submitted an open records request to the city seeking the following:
I hereby request the following:

1. Any and all documents, in any format, submitted to the Independent Ethics Commission by the Colorado Springs City Council or Helen Collins and/or Collins' legal representation for consideration of the IEC pertaining to the aforementioned ethics complaint.

2. Any and all reasonably segregable nonexempt portions of hearing minutes transcribed from any and all ethics hearings and/or proceedings of the IEC related to the aforementioned ethics case.
click to enlarge Helen Collins represents District 4.
  • Helen Collins represents District 4.

3. The final report of the IEC's findings and determination of unethical behavior in the case of Mrs. Collins.

The time frame of this request is December 1, 2014 to June 1, 2016.

Please respond with an estimation of the amount of time it will take to process the request. I also request that, if appropriate, fees be waived as I believe this request is in the public interest. I am partner of a political communications consultancy that routinely shares relevant findings in the public interest with regional and national news media; as such, I am well positioned to disclose the information to the general public.

In the event that fees cannot be waived, I would be grateful if you would inform me of the total charges in advance of fulfilling my request. I would prefer the request filled electronically, by e-mail attachment if available.
Here's some background on Collins' ethics complaint.

Filali also made two records request regarding Gaebler:
Jill Gaebler is seeking a second term in District 5.
  • Jill Gaebler is seeking a second term in District 5.
I hereby request any and all records, in any format, of salary, per diem and mileage expense reimbursements, official travel reimbursements, and office expenses (e.g., long distance telephone calls, office supplies, etc.) related to Jill Gaebler's tenure on the Colorado Springs City Council. The time frame of this request is January 1, 2013 to the date upon which this request is received.
And this one:
1. Any and all applications and development proposals, in any format, submitted to the Office of Housing Development by the community housing development organization, Greccio Housing (Greccio Housing Unlimited).

2. Copies of any and all housing complaints and fines levied against Greccio Housing for violation of municipal statutes.

3. Any and all electronic correspondence and corresponding attachments exchanged between personnel of the Colorado Springs Office of Housing Development and Jill Gaebler (domain: "").

The time frame of this request is January 1, 2007 to March 31, 2013.
Gaebler reports there were no records responsive to the second request. She worked for Greccio as development director prior to being elected to city Council in April 2013.

Here's a description of Filali's abilities — notice he's an expert at opposition research— taken from his company's website:
Naji Filali joined Percipient Strategies in December 2016 and manages the firm’s data mining platforms and public records acquisition operations. Naji brings keen research instincts to bear on the most intractable of client challenges by integrating innovative analytical tools with his intimate knowledge of international public disclosure statutes. As an opposition researcher at the Republican National Committee and America Rising, Naji spearheaded original investigative research to proactively shape regional and national media narratives during the 2016 election cycle. Before formally entering political research, Naji cut his teeth conducting nuanced public policy research for domestic and international accounts at the BGR Group. A New Yorker at heart, Naji graduated from Harvard University and received a post-graduate Fulbright research scholarship to Italy in 2014.
We've reached out to Mr. Filali and others to try to find out who he's working for and will circle back if and when we hear something.

The April 4 election, conducted by mail, will seat six district members who represent two-thirds of the nine-member Council.

Collins, in District 4, has two opponents, Yolanda Avila and Deborah Hendrix. Gaebler, in District 5, has one opponent, Lynette Crow-Iverson.

Other races: District 1's incumbent Don Knight is being challenged by Greg Basham; District 2 candidate David Geislinger has no opponent; District 3's race pits political newcomer Chuck Fowler against former councilor and vice mayor Richard Skorman for a seat vacated by Keith King, who chose not to seek a second term; District 6's incumbent Andy Pico is being opposed by Melanie Bernhardt, Robert Burns and Janak Joshi.

The biggest contributions have come from business group Colorado Springs Forward and developers to Hendrix, Crow-Iverson, Basham, Fowler, and Pico.

Want more election news? Here are a couple other noteworthy developments:

• The Pikes Peak Group of the Sierra Club announced Friday it's endorsing Yolanda Avila in District 4. From its release:
Avila and her service dog, Puma. - COURTESY OF THE CANDIDATE
  • Courtesy of the candidate
  • Avila and her service dog, Puma.
“City Council District 4 has challenges unique to our City and as such requires a representative who has history in the District and can help bring a healthy, clean, and sustainable environment to the South East region of our City. Clean, affordable housing, walkable communities, providing children access to parks and outdoor programs, reliable public transportation, and stormwater investments are areas that Yolanda L. Avila has identified as priorities” said Dave Bryan, Pikes Peak Group Political Committee Chair.

Ms. Avila's commitment to improving public transit is impressive, but what merited the Sierra Club endorsement is her recognition that issues of health, access to quality food, small business development, and quality of life cannot be addressed separately. With life expectancy being 10 years shorter in District 4, Ms. Avila's comprehensive approach is sorely needed in District 4.

• Green Cities Coalition is hosting a candidates forum on Thursday, March 16, from 4 to 6 p.m. at The Antlers Hotel, Summit Room. The public is invited.

If you have an item of interest for the upcoming city election, please email the Independent at, or call Pam Zubeck at 578-2853.

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