Who benefited from outside influence?

(as it appeared in Longmont Ledger, November 8, 2009)

Longmont has been under political attack from outside of Longmont and outside of Colorado.  Aligned with these powerful and well-funded entities are individuals and groups within Longmont who have been furious since the November 2007 election produced a progressive-leaning majority.  They are using outside money and their own deep pockets to “take back Longmont.”   And they have succeeded resoundingly.

Western Tradition Partnership (WTP), headed by Bozeman, Montana Republicans (former US representative Ron Marlenee and state representative John Sinrud) is the lead plaintiff in the lawsuit against Longmont over electioneering provisions and independent expenditures in the Longmont Fair Campaign Practices Act.

WTP is rabidly anti-environmental and absolutist on property rights with the stated purpose to target local and state governments.  It receives its backing primarily from the oil-gas-coal industries.

Longmont Leadership is a party to this lawsuit along with former mayors Julia Pirnack and Bob Askey, both Republicans, the Longmont Area Realtors Association, and Republican activist Chris Rodriguez.  It was formed to unseat current mayor Roger Lange and Ward 2 councilmember Karen Benker, and did so with a contribution in excess of $10,000 from Western Tradition Partnership, almost the entirety of Longmont Leadership’s funding.

Western Tradition Partnership is registered with the IRS as a nonprofit 501c4. According to Luis Toro, general counsel for Colorado Ethics Watch, these nonprofit groups have come to replace 527 organizations as the favored shell for political contributions.  They became popular after 527s faced greater disclosure requirements at the state and national level.

Aspen Daily News reports that “527s…lack the spending caps that other political groups have, but they must now release contribution and expenditure information.”  501c4s are allowed “greater anonymity but are required to pursue mostly nonpolitical activities, which they don’t always do. Groups that get involved late in the process don’t have to disclose much at all until December, long after the races are decided.”

The Colorado registered agent for Western Tradition Partnership is their attorney Scott Gessler, who is also the Republican candidate for Secretary of State in 2010.  It is not at all coincidental that Gessler is likely to use WTP’s lawsuit over Longmont’s Fair Campaign Practices Act as a platform for further degradation of campaign financing regulations.

Scott Shires is also listed as a WTP registered agent. He is a Republican operative and front man for many 527s and he has a history of violating campaign reporting regulations.  Shires has also been indicted on an alleged money laundering scheme to hide an illegal gambling operation.

Shires is behind the Colorado League of Taxpayers who attacked Longmont council candidate Richard Juday in a January 2008 mailer.  A similar event occurred in Garfield County.  Colorado Ethics Watch sued Shires for campaign violations in that case and he was fined in excess of $7,000.

Western Tradition Partnership also had an electioneering violation complaint filed against it with the State of Montana’s Commissioner of Political Practices in October 2008.

Reporting for the Missoulian State Bureau on 5/4/08, Charles S. Johnson asked WTP who else was helping the organization and was told that Christian LeFer was helping with graphics and web design work.  (LeFer is a public figure in both the Montana and Colorado Right-to-Work organizations.)

LeFer is also the web registrant for the “Greeley Report” with a striking similarity to the anonymous “Longmont Report” that appeared in January 2008 to defeat Juday in favor of current councilmember and former Rep. Tom DeLay staffer Gabe Santos.  After the election it targeted Benker and councilmember Sean McCoy.  .

Stephanie Baum, “Take Back Longmont” blogger and wife of mayor-elect Bryan Baum, wrote to Doug Wray about the person responsible for Longmont Report, saying that she “knows who he is” because she “met with the owner of Longmont Report.”  Baum and Chris Rodriguez move in the same political circle.  Rodriguez is well known for his blog vitriol.

Who benefitted—politically and financially—from the Western Tradition Partnership lawsuit and other suits targeting the City of Longmont?   Who benefitted from the bombardment of expensive mailers that are appeared in mail boxes all over Longmont?  Who benefitted from attack blogs, push-polls and robo-calls against candidates? With the results of the November 3rd election now in, the answers are self-evident.

Kaye Fissinger is a former educator and a retired business woman with experience in marketing, communications, and strategic planning.

A similar version appeared on YourHub.com under the title  “Big Money, Republican Machine Buys Longmont Election” (http://denver.yourhub.com/Longmont/Stories/Elections/Story~705977.aspx)