Republicans across the country are doing some hard thinking about the future of their party after four years of Donald Trump’s presidency came to an end, but not before a violent attempted takeover of the United States Capitol on Jan. 6. In El Paso County, which had one of the biggest voter shifts in the state away from Trump when comparing the 2016 and 2020 elections, longtime Republicans are now dealing with an attempt by political activist group FEC United to commandeer the party.
The divisions within the local GOP — between the relatively moderate voices of career Republicans and those willing to embrace the angry far-right — have come to a head in recent weeks. Many party members, some of whom were hesitant to speak on the record, are concerned about the growing influence of Douglas County-based FEC United, and its controversial founder Joe Oltmann, on local politics. Since its inception, FEC United (the FEC stands for faith, education and commerce, the three pillars of the group’s focus) has used doxxing and intimidation tactics in an effort to silence critics and secure political power and influence in Colorado.
On Jan. 24, FEC United’s Facebook page shared a call for members to report to the El Paso County GOP’s headquarters to fill precinct leader positions, an unusual move that sparked rebuke from El Paso County Vice Chair Wendy Miller, according to emails obtained by the Indy, which were sent to GOP Chairwoman Vickie Tonkins. Tonkins was re-elected as chairwoman during the Feb. 6 El Paso County Republican Central Committee Meeting.
“It is completely illegal for you to send a message that the El PASO GOP is part of the FEC group as well as using resources to violate our By-Laws,” wrote Miller to Tonkins. “While I appreciate you trying to get volunteers to sign up, your approach in reaching [out] to [an] outside group like FEC using party resources to control the outcome of an upcoming election is illegal and a misuse of county resources! This is not an equal playing field for the other candidates that are competing.”
The concerns over Tonkins’ actions with FEC United are just the latest in a series of problems that have plagued her term as chairwoman. “There is a huge disconnect in the El Paso County GOP between Vickie Tonkins and the mainstream, true conservative GOP members, and it’s tearing the party apart,” says Curtis Sehon, a 40-year Republican who recently changed his party affiliation over his disgust with how politics often attributed to Trump have impacted the party. “Considering how terrible the Republican Party has acted recently, you could almost say ‘Well, that’s a good thing,’ but it’s not. We need parties on both sides. We need a right and we need a left and we need a center that can work together for the American people. If you eliminate the right, which they’re doing by suicide, then you’re only going to have a left, and that’s not necessarily a good thing either.”
In response to Miller’s Jan. 24 intra-party email to Tonkins criticizing Tonkins’ move to fill leadership positions with FEC United members, Oltmann sent a response to a number of high-ranking members of the party using personal email addresses that are not publicly available for members and elected officials. In a multi-paragraph response to the El Paso County GOP, sent at 12:12 a.m. on Jan. 31, Oltmann defended Tonkins, admitted someone within the El Paso County GOP provided him the contact list and claimed his fundraising efforts entitled him, a Douglas County resident, to get involved with El Paso County matters. Oltmann also admits that FEC United’s goal was to fill leadership seats in El Paso County: “Sorry you do not like that we worked to fill the Precinct leaders positions…. Sounds like some of you are working overtime to be obstructionists and stop those in the community from serving and being involved.”
FEC United’s partisan activity might be illegal, according to El Paso County GOP executive committee member Missy Ward. “[FEC and UADF] are both registered as nonprofits with Colorado Secretary of State, and according to a FEC video (with Kristi Burton Brown and Joe Oltmann), they are seeking nonprofit status with the IRS also,” said Ward via text message. “They do not show as registered yet. It is absolutely illegal for any nonprofit to engage in partisan activities. Specifically, they cannot actively recruit for one party over another. Nonprofits, including [501(c)4s], are restricted to issue and education based activities and must [remain] non-partisan.”
Oltmann then accused the El Paso County GOP of racism for criticizing Tonkins, who is Black. Similar claims were made by Tonkins and El Paso County GOP Treasurer John Pitchford after Tonkins was asked by party members to resign this summer for suggesting that COVID-19 was a “PSYOP,” or a psychological operation as part of a broader conspiracy against the American people.
Sehon was one of the Republicans who called on Tonkins to resign. “Basically what Vickie Tonkins is claiming is rampant racism and corruption within the El Paso County Republican Party,” says Sehon, who shared emails and a phone call with Tonkins about the incident. “I said, ‘If you feel that way, if it’s racist and corrupt, why are you staying?’”
In Tonkins’ defense, Oltmann wrote, “We had a meeting with a not so local billionaire at the Broadmoor last week. The overwhelming conclusion he had among others present (Vickie was not in attendance for the record), was that the old guard in the Colorado GOP are racists. Not my words, theirs.”
Despite Oltmann’s claimed concerns about racism in the El Paso County GOP, he maintains a relationship with Michelle Malkin, a pundit and podcaster who has close ties to white nationalists like Nick Fuentes, leader of online troll group the Groyper Army, and Patrick Casey, former leader of now-defunct Identity Evropa and American Identity Movement. On Nov. 7, FEC United organized a “Stop the Steal” rally at City Hall in Colorado Springs, where Malkin was one of the featured speakers.
Oltmann’s co-host on the Conservative Daily podcast, Max McGuire, regularly mocks people of color, like Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot, on the show, and McGuire is the sole contributor to the website illegalaliencrime.com, which posts arrest data of undocumented Hispanic and Latino immigrants. According to domainbigdata.com, the website is registered to Oltmann. Website registration data also shows that fecnevada.com, a website that currently redirects users to fecunited.com, was registered with GoDaddy, a website hosting service, by a Colorado company called Pidoxa. Pidoxa is registered as a contractor with the federal government by Franklin Sain, using the same East Tufts Avenue, Denver address as Shuffling Restaurants, a short-lived venture Oltmann started that was sued by Shamrock Foods Distribution and Supply in 2018. The case was ultimately dismissed. Sain, whose company registered websites for Oltmann, was charged with harassment involving ethnic intimidation and attempting to influence a public servant in 2013 for sending racially and sexually offensive emails to Colorado Rep. Rhonda Fields, D-HD29. The charges against Sain were dismissed at the urging of Fields.
When asked by the Indy about his connection to Pidoxa and Sain, which is listed on whois.com as the registrant for , Oltmann responded via email, “No idea who that is.”
FEC United grew out of Oltmann’s involvement with Reopen Colorado, a group dedicated to resisting public health measures designed to curb the spread of COVID-19, which has killed 5,828 Coloradans as of Feb. 8. FEC spent the summer backing several unsuccessful candidates, including CD7 candidate Casper Stockham, who came under scrutiny for self-dealing campaign finance actions, and Colorado SD19 candidate Lynn Gerber.
With FEC’s electoral hopes dashed, the group turned its attention to the education pillar of its platform, doxxing Douglas County School District interim superintendent candidate Damon Brown. On Sept. 20, FEC United made a Facebook post revealing Brown’s 2019 DUI conviction. On Sept. 21, The Denver Post reported that Brown had withdrawn himself from consideration.
Oltmann’s history of doxxing critics is particularly concerning to members of the El Paso County GOP, including an elected official who declined to speak on the record with the Indy. Not only have Oltmann and FEC doxxed critics, but Oltmann also has a history of harassment. According to the Colorado Bureau of Investigation, Oltmann was arrested by the Cherry Hills Village Police Department on Jan. 20, 2020, for harassment and booked into the Arapahoe County Jail. The court records are sealed, which is common under Colorado law when charges are either dropped or dismissed. When asked about the arrest during an August 2020 Zoom interview, Oltmann responded, “There’s nothing involving harassment. There’s a guy who stole $15,000 from me.”
Doxxing would continue to be a tactic employed by both FEC United and Oltmann. FEC began gaining attention from the Colorado press following a “Patriot Muster” event in Denver on Oct. 10, 2020, where attendee Lee Keltner was killed by Matthew Dolloff, a Pinkerton contractor working for 9News. After the event, Colorado Times-Recorder reporter Erik Maulbetsch wrote about Oltmann’s ties to FEC United and Conservative Daily, as well as United American Defense Force, the militia associated with FEC United, and their unique, dues-paying membership model. Maulbetsch’s coverage inspired Oltmann, during an Oct. 15 rally at Bandimere Speedway, to threaten to dox people who he viewed as “antifa journalists.” Oltmann’s definition of “antifa journalists” included, based on his social media posts and statements: Maulbetsch, Kyle Clark of 9News, Chase Woodruff of Colorado Newsline and an Indy reporter.
FEC’s doxxing efforts didn’t just stem from Oltmann. On Dec. 28, lead chair of the Parker Republicans and FEC member Mark Hall posted the names and addresses of Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment workers on Facebook over frustrations about public health measures. Hall came under scrutiny in July for threatening a King Soopers employee on the Facebook page of DCF Guns, after DCF Guns doxxed the employee. DCF Guns is co-owned by Oltmann.
Additionally, following the presidential election loss of Donald Trump in November, Oltmann began calling the integrity of the election into question. He accused Eric Coomer, an executive with Dominion Voting Systems, of using Dominion’s software to steal votes from Trump, giving the win to Democrat Joe Biden. During numerous appearances on far-right podcasts with hosts like Malkin and Eric Metaxas, Oltmann laid out how he was allegedly able to sneak onto, but not record, an “antifa conference call.” During this call, Oltmann alleges Coomer claimed to ensure that Trump would not win the election. Oltmann’s claims spread across social media. Bots on Twitter spammed his appearance on Eric Metaxas’ show, as dozens of generic accounts with stock photo profile pictures and usernames ending in strings of numbers tweeted, verbatim, “Joe Oltmann discusses how a security genius at Dominion Voting promised antifa members a Trump loss.”
Oltmann signed an affidavit where he repeated the above claims for former Trump lawyer Sidney Powell, who filed it with her lawsuits in battleground states to challenge the outcome of the election. All of Powell’s lawsuits were dismissed.
Oltmann is currently facing legal action as a result of his claims. On Dec. 22, 2020, Coomer filed a defamation suit against Oltmann, FEC United, Conservative Daily, Sidney Powell, Rudy Giuliani, and a number of the podcasters and outlets that had hosted Oltmann. The suit claims, “Oltmann’s dubious claims are premised on one unverified speaker referring to another. With no legitimate attempt to confirm the identity of these alleged speakers, Oltmann attributed their alleged statements to Dr. Coomer. With no additional evidence, Oltmann then used these statements to falsely assert that Dr. Coomer subverted the results of the election.”
The suit goes on to mention the impact Oltmann’s claims had on Coomer’s personal life, “The deluge of misinformation has caused immense injury to Dr. Coomer’s reputation, professional standing, safety, and privacy. Once an esteemed private election technology expert, Dr. Coomer has been vilified and subjected to an onslaught of offensive messages and harassment. In response to multiple credible death threats, Dr. Coomer has been forced to leave his home in fear for his safety.”
Oltmann also mentioned Dominion Voting Systems in his email to the El Paso County GOP on Jan. 31. On Dec. 22, 2020, Dominion Voting Systems sent Oltmann a letter formally demanding that Oltmann, “cease and desist making defamatory claims against Dominion.” Oltmann also critiqued Colorado Springs at-large City Councilor and former Secretary of State Wayne Williams, who has publicly denounced conspiracy theories regarding Dominion Voting Systems. “I left the Mormon Church 20 years ago because of racism,” wrote Oltmann, “so I am not surprised given Wayne Williams touting of his faith and lack of basic ethics as it relates to Dominion Voting Systems and his ignorance yet hubris on the dangers that company poses to free and fair elections… but I digress.”
Oltmann’s claims about Dominion Voting Systems are gaining traction within the El Paso County GOP. During the Feb. 6 Central Committee Meeting, both Tonkins and Rep. Dave Williams (R-HD15) mentioned — unfounded, debunked, and contested by Dominion — claims that Dominion Voting Systems contributed to fraud in the 2020 presidential election.
As a result of Oltmann’s alleged involvement in the harassment campaign against Coomer and his continued election conspiracy claims, Oltmann was asked to step down from his position as CEO of PIN Business Networks, a data marketing company that counts among its clients the Douglas County GOP. According to Oltmann, FEC United is working to expand into other states, and is currently engaged in fundraising efforts. On Jan. 29, an email with a video from Rep. Lauren Boebert, R-CD3, went out to members asking for $250 donations to help them meet their first quarter fundraising goal of $750,000.
FEC United did not respond to a request for comment.
Disclosure: Heidi Beedle has contributed articles to antifascist blogs and was formerly involved in antifascist activism in Colorado. As a professional journalist she is no longer involved in any form of political activism.