According to documents obtained by the Indy, the El Paso County Republicans will be using United American Defense Force (UADF), the armed wing of conservative political group FEC United, as security for its Feb. 6 Central Committee Meeting. During the Central Committee Meeting, county and district leaders will be elected by Republican Party members. According to a document provided to the Indy titled, “UPDATED Tentative - Agenda Saturday, February 6, 2021,” the sergeant-at-arms for the meeting is listed as “UADF Security.”
Vickie Tonkins, chairwoman of the El Paso County Republicans, said via email when asked about UADF’s involvement, “We will have security at the meeting as we always do and that includes Police.”
UADF, alongside FEC United, was involved in organizing the Oct. 10, 2020 “Patriot Muster” event in Denver where Lee Keltner was killed by Matthew Dolloff, a Pinkerton security contractor hired by Denver's 9News. Dolloff was charged with second-degree murder and is currently out on a $500,000 bond. In Colorado Springs, UADF was spotted donning body armor and carrying weapons before a “patrol” in the Lowe’s parking lot in University Village in November, prompting a response from the Colorado Springs Police Department, although no one was charged with any crime. On Jan. 25, during an interview with Kyle Clark of 9News, Parker Mayor Jeff Toborg, who was interviewed by Clark after coming under criticism for his support of FEC United, admitted that he didn’t want UADF operating in Parker. UADF was founded by John Tiegen, a former Marine and Benghazi survivor who was part of a group of armed men who set up a sniper position on the roof of a downtown parking garage during a speech made by UCCS professor Stephany Rose Spaulding following the Black Lives Matter protests this summer.
FEC United was founded by Douglas County resident Joe Oltmann, who is currently facing a defamation lawsuit from Dominion Voting Systems employee Eric Coomer, who claims he was targeted by Oltmann for harassment. According to Coomer’s complaint, “defendants knowingly circulated and amplified a baseless conspiracy theory to challenge the integrity of the presidential election. While this theory has been thoroughly rejected, its immediate and life-threatening effects remain very real. The deluge of misinformation has caused immense injury to Dr. Coomer’s reputation, professional standing, safety, and privacy.” As a result of his involvement in election conspiracy theories, Oltmann was asked to step down from his position as CEO of PIN Business Networks, a Denver-area data marketing company whose clients include the Douglas County GOP. Co-defendants in Coomer’s suit include FEC United, Conservative Daily, which is Oltmann’s podcast, and a variety of far-right bloggers and podcasters who hosted Oltmann, including Colorado resident Michelle Malkin, who maintains 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 and UADF provided “security.”
FEC United's involvement in the El Paso County GOP is a point of contention between party members and the party leadership of Tonkins and Treasurer John Pitchford. In August, Colorado Public Radio reported that Tonkins’ powers as chair had been limited by Republican party members. “Tonkins can no longer post to the El Paso County Republicans website or send out official emails or any other party communications without approval from a yet-to-be appointed communications committee,” reported Bente Birkeland of CPR News. “She will also need written approval for any expenses of more than $250. Officials removed the treasurer [Pitchford, whose removal was later ruled invalid by Tonkins] Tonkins appointed after he said earlier this summer that he would battle certain Republicans 'tooth and nail' for not backing her.”
On Jan. 24, the El Paso County Republicans hosted FEC United members at its party headquarters on Centennial Boulevard. When the Indy arrived, a greeter asked, “Here for FEC?” Shortly after, the Indy was asked to leave the meeting. A Facebook post from FEC United about the event read “Pikes Peak FEC United! The El Paso County GOP bi-annual Committee meeting occurs February 6th. In that meeting we have the opportunity to vote out the corrupt RINOs, install anti-corruption / pro-Constitution leadership, and retain Vickie Tonkins and John Pitchford who have led the charge for the past 2 years in the El Paso County GOP! We need you to volunteer to be one of the leaders who can vote in the El Paso County GOP Committee Meeting by becoming a precinct leader, division leader, or House District leader.… A small requirement to help us clean up the local Republican Party and help preserve the Republic! If you’re interested in becoming a precinct leader, contact John Pitchford.”
According to emails obtained by the Indy, party leaders expressed concern about the decision to host FEC United. One member, who asked not to be identified, wrote to Tonkins, “Per the flyer that you have instructed John [Pitchford] to send out this morning at 10:30am, how are you proposing to appoint volunteers from the FEC flyers to Precinct Leaders, Division Leader without the Secretary or Vice Chair signature? 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. 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. You are now opening up the upcoming election to challenges to State Party. Please follow the By-Laws and send only the duly elected Precinct Leaders and appointed Precinct Leader per our By-Laws as Kay has stated on the earlier email. The work that the HD Chairs and I have done AS A TEAM has been submitted to BOTH you and the State. I do not understand why you continue to stand unilaterally to create a separate CC list that does not have any backing from the [House District] Chairs.”
The legality question regarding FEC United’s relationship with the El Paso County GOP stems from the group's claimed nonprofit status. “They 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 Missy Ward, a member of the El Paso County Republicans executive committee 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 maintain non-partisan.”
FEC United has been active in soliciting donations from members. 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.
The Jan. 24 meeting — and confusion over the nature of the meeting and whether existing precinct leaders were bumped for FEC United members — caused a degree of consternation amongst Republicans. On Jan. 30, a group of four party volunteers and Colorado Rep. Tim Geitner (R-HD19) arrived at the El Paso County Republicans headquarters at 6 a.m. to verify paperwork at the invitation of Pitchford, according to an email provided by Geitner. Upon their arrival, Pitchford called 911, asking CSPD to remove the volunteers and elected official for trespassing. No one was arrested or cited as the incident appeared to be civil in nature, according to CSPD public information officer Lt. James Sokolik.
“Unsurprisingly, CSPD said there was no criminal investigation nor will there be any charges as there was no crime,” said Geitner in an email. "The recent actions of the El Paso GOP are extremely puzzling and concerning. A few months ago, they called law enforcement for what now appears to be an erroneous report of a theft in the GOP office. When asked to back up their claims of a break in, according to CSPD, the Party officials stonewalled the official investigation. Now they call the police on four volunteers and a Republican elected official, all conducting official party business, after being invited to the office by county party leadership and the chair? The county party leadership and chair clearly do not understand the role of law enforcement in our community, and hopefully new party leadership will begin to rectify the situation quickly. Frankly, this is just another embarrassment for the local Republican party and needs to end.”
Pitchford did not respond to the Indy’s request for comment. Tonkins said in an email, "It is an ongoing investigation and I cannot share this information at this time," despite the fact that CSPD is not currently investigating the incident.