34 search results for "Western Tradition Partnership"

Western Tradition Partnership and ExxonMobil in Montana

From The Colorado Independent:

Anti-green group with Colorado ties rushes to defend ExxonMobil in Montana oil spill

Republican who filed complaint against WTP sees ranch covered in oil

By David O. Williams | 07.19.11 | 8:43 am

A moderate Montana Republican who says her bid for state lawmaker last year was torpedoed by the illegal campaign tactics of an anti-green, pro-drilling political group registered in Colorado has seen her ranch on the Yellowstone River near Laurel inundated with ExxonMobil oil.

Debra Bonogofsky

Debra Bonogofsky filed an official complaint with the Montana Commissioner of Political Practices against a Colorado 501(c)4 called Western Tradition Partnership, alleging the group failed to properly register in Montana or post “paid for” notification on its attack mailers.

The executive director of the group, now called American Tradition Partnership (ATP), earlier this month flew to the site of ExxonMobil’s Yellowstone River pipeline spill to praise the cleanup response by the oil and gas giant and to laud the efforts of state Rep. Dan Kennedy, the Laurel Republican who beat out Bonogofsky in last year’s primary.

read the rest at The Colorado Independent

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Western Tradition Partnership – Political Hitmen

I keep seeing this disclaimer:

WTP does not advocate the election or defeat of candidates.  Supported by grassroots members, WTP is a fast-growing non-profit organization dedicated to fighting environmental extremism and promoting private property and responsible development and management of land, water, and natural resources.  WTP is incorporated in Colorado, and Coloradans account for much of the group’s large and fast-growing membership.

My opinion is that WTP is nothing more than a tiny fig leaf for a group of vicious, deep-pocketed theocrats. Their actions in Longmont prove quite clearly that this disclaimer is one long lie.

The people promoting them are, in my opinion, thugs and paid henchmen.

The public is warned to consider any involvement by this organization a sign of far-right interference in our local politics by out of state money – something the supporters of Mayor Baum decried loudly.

American Tradition Partnership again targets Longmont

With now-Secretary of State Scott Gessler as lead attorney, in 2009 Western Tradition Partnership filed suit against Longmont’s Fair Campaign Practices Act.  Western Tradition Partnership also funded the Longmont Leadership Committee who conducted a political campaign that unabashedly lied in order to oust certain council members in 2009 and replace them with members who would promote their radical agenda and who would consistently vote their rabid anti-environmentalism and their absolutism on property rights.

After Bryan Baum, mayor, and his majority won the 2009 election, they directed that the Campaign Practices Act lawsuit be settled, and Gessler was paid $68,500.  Following that the Campaign Practices Act had much, if not most, of its transparency removed.  Only 19 words were changed because of the lawsuit.  The rest of the changes were instituted because the Baum majority wanted those changes.  They were dutifully following the Republican playbook which opposes campaign contribution restrictions and transparency.

Western Tradition Partnership renamed itself American Tradition Partnership.  Even though they are a 501c4 and can’t officially endorse candidates, they have thus far sent out two mailers — one that essentially endorses Bryan Baum and Heath Carroll (at-large) and the other against Sean McCoy and Sarah Levison.

Contrary to the assertion in the mailer, American Tradition Partnership is NOT a local organization.  They were organized first in the state of Montana by two Republican state legislators.  They later registered in Colorado.  However, I have no doubt that there are members of our community, who have had and likely will have business before the city, who have chosen this avenue to contribute sums in excess of the $200/per person candidate campaign limit and to keep those contributions secret.

Under their previous name, Western (now American) Tradition Partnership was taken before the Montana Political Practices Commission for their campaign practices and attacks against Democratic candidates in Montana for the same practices that WTP used in Longmont in 2009 through the Longmont Leadership Committee.

The Montana Political Practices Commission in its ruling effectively called the organization “corrupt.”  The Commission heard testimony from a former employee of Western Tradition Partnership that indicated that the organization promotes itself by telling contributors that their identities will never be known and that some of WTP’s contributions had origins in foreign countries, a violation of U.S. law.

Why all the interest in Longmont from an organization such as American Tradition Partnership?

In Western Tradition Partnership’s 2008  IRS “990” filing , Western Tradition Partnership had $665,725 in contributions.  That was their first year in existence and the only documentation located to date.  These contributions clearly come from the oil, gas and coal industries whose interests are the first priorities of Western/American Tradition Partnership and ultimately motivate other political activities.

During the first decade of the 21st century, Colorado’s state government shifted Democratic after a long history of being Republican.  This change did not facilitate the interests of American Tradition Partnership.  Longmont, a community that Republicans had consistently counted on as a Republican stronghold, was moving Democratic as well.  In order for Republicans to retake control of state government, Longmont needed to be recaptured.

TOP Operating Oil/Gas Drill Sites

Because of advancements in oil and gas extraction technology, it is now possible to retrieve oil and gas that was previously uneconomical to recover.  These techniques include directional and horizontal drilling and hydraulic fracturing.  Colorado is among those states that have many of these deposits.  The Wattenberg field is the 10th largest gas field and 13th largest oil field in the nation.  It may come as a surprise that some of these deposits are under property owned by the City of Longmont.  At least 54 of the identified wells are at the edge of or under Union Reservoir itself!

There is a confluence of interest between the supporters of American Tradition Partnership and the developers, builders and real estate interests in Longmont.  And, of course, the Baum majority has an unequivocal ideological alliance with both the anti-environmental and property rights positions of this radical organization.

Citizens and voters of Longmont are losing control of their community.  It has become a pawn in the political games, games by those with large sums of money at their disposal and who will stop at nothing to accomplish their goals.  Ignore what is happening in Longmont at your peril.

SPECIAL INVESTIGATION: Who’s behind the ‘information attacks’ on climate scientists?

Editor’s Note:  Free Range Longmont is pleased to be able to reproduce this in depth investigative report and expose on American Tradition Institute/American Tradition Partnership/Western Tradition Partnership.  The report details the vast network of funding by interrelated businesses and think tanks who are determined to manipulate public perceptions of the environmental and economic threats of climate change.   

We are also honored to have been able to contribute to the extensive research performed by the Institute of Southern Studies (ISS).  ISS has been in existence since 1970 and has established a national reputation as an essential resource for grassroots activists, community leaders, scholars, policy makers and others working to bring lasting social and economic change to the region.


This article is reproduced in its entirety from the website for The Institute for Southern Studies.

This week, in a courtroom in Prince William County, Virginia, a hearing will take place that could have implications for the privacy rights of scientists at colleges and universities across the country.

It’s part of a lawsuit brought by the American Tradition Institute, a free-market think tank that wants the public to believe human-caused global warming is a scientific fraud. Filed against the University of Virginia, the suit seeks emails and other documents related to former professor Michael Mann, an award-winning climate scientist who has become a focus of the climate-denial movement because of his research documenting the recent spike in earth’s temperature.

By suing the university, the American Tradition Institute wants to make public Mann’s correspondence in an effort to find out whether he manipulated data to receive government grants, a violation of the state’s Fraud Against Taxpayers Act.

But a Facing South investigation has found that the Colorado-based American Tradition Institute is part of a broader network of groups with close ties to energy interests that have long fought greenhouse gas regulation. Our investigation also finds that ATI has connections with the Koch brothers, Art Pope and other conservative donors seeking to expand their political influence.

‘A Hostile Environment’

Michael MannThe controversy involving ATI began in January, when the group submitted a Freedom of Information Act request to U.Va. seeking documents connected to Mann (photo at left), who now directs the Earth System Science Center at Penn State. After the school was slow to produce the materials, ATI along with Virginia Del. Robert Marshall (R), another global-warming skeptic, filed a lawsuit in May seeking to expedite the documents’ release. This week’s hearing will consider Mann’s motion to intervene in the case in order to protect privacy interests he does not think will be adequately protected by the other parties.

A physicist and climatologist with advanced degrees from Berkeley and Yale, Mann’s research contributed to the “hockey stick graph,” which shows a sharp rise in the earth’s temperature in recent years. He was also among those caught up in the so-called “Climategate” controversy, involving emails hacked from a British university that climate skeptics claimed showed global warming was a fraud. Multiple investigations by Penn State, the National Science Foundation’s Inspector General, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and British parliament have cleared Mann and others of misconduct and determined that the content of the emails in no way changed the scientific consensus that global warming is occurring as a result of human activity.

Despite those exonerations, however, Mann became the target of a separate ongoing investigation launched last year by Virginia Republican Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli, a global-warming skeptic who issued civil subpoenas for Mann’s emails and other documents. A Virginia judge dismissed the investigation, but Cuccinelli — who previously challenged the Environmental Protection Agency’s finding that greenhouse gas pollution endangers public health — is now appealing that decision to the Supreme Court of Virginia. ATI is seeking the same documents as Cuccinelli.

ATI’s lawsuit has been widely condemned by science, academic and civil liberties groups, who describe it as a politically motivated intrusion into academic freedom. The board of the American Association for the Advancement of Science said that such legal challenges “have created a hostile environment that inhibits the free exchange of scientific findings and ideas.” Earlier this year, public-interest groups including the American Association of University Professors sent a letter to the U.Va. president noting that the Virginia public documents statute expressly exempts scholarly data of a proprietary nature that has not yet been publicly released, published, copyrighted or patented.

“While we need freedom of information laws to hold public officials accountable, the law has exemptions for good reason,” said Francesca Grifo, director of the Scientific Integrity Program at the Union of Concerned Scientists, one of the letter’s signatories. “Scientists should be able to challenge other scientists’ ideas and discuss their preliminary thinking before their analyses are complete and published.”

But ATI has fired back against the scientists and academics, accusing them of taking part in a conspiracy to mislead and defraud the public.

“Once again these self-interested groups — who hope to protect their billions of dollars in government funding of dubious, unsupportable research — accuse ATI of ‘harassment and intimidation’ of scientists,” ATI Executive Director Paul Chesser said in a statement. “It shows how blind they are to the fact that ATI has acted in the interest of sound, verifiable science and for the protection of the hard-earned money that taxpayers are forced to relinquish for such research.”

ATI’s Western roots

American Tradition InstituteThe American Tradition Institute’s foray into the Virginia case marks the expansion of a controversial group already known for its fierce advocacy on behalf of oil, gas and coal interests in Western states.

The American Tradition Institute was launched in Colorado in February 2009 as the nonprofit Western Tradition Institute, changing its name to ATI last year.  WTI, in turn, was a spinoff of the Western Tradition Partnership (WTP) — a 501(c)(4) political advocacy group backed by energy interests.

“They are offshoots from the same poisoned roots,” said Peter Fontaine, the attorney representing Michael Mann in the ATI lawsuit.

WTP, which has since changed its name to American Tradition Partnership (logo above), describes itself as a “no-compromise grassroots organization dedicated to fighting the radical environmentalist agenda.” It was first registered as a Colorado nonprofit in 2008 by Scott Shires, a Republican operative with a checkered past: He was fined over $7,000 for campaign finance violations in Colorado, pleaded guilty in a scheme to fraudulently obtain federal grants for developing alternative fuels, and was tied to an illegal gambling ring. WTP was active on behalf of oil and gas industry interests in the 2008 commissioners race in Garfield County, a center of Colorado’s energy industry.

Last year, the then-Western Tradition Partnership also backed a Colorado ballot initiative that would have allowed voters to opt out of the state’s renewable energy standard, which requires 30 percent of the electricity produced by investor-owned utilities to come from renewable sources by 2030. WTP missed the filing deadline to put the measure on the ballot, but ATI is picking up the slack: The group has sued Colorado over the standard, and is targeting similar renewable energy promotion programs in Delaware, Minnesota, Montana, New Mexico and Ohio.

The groups have not only been fighting on behalf of the energy industry: They’ve also been targeting laws that restrict corporate money in elections and that require disclosure of contributions. In 2009, Western Tradition Partnership sued the city of Longmont, Colo. over their local Fair Campaign Practices Act. The city eventually settled the suit and agreed to drop requirements that political donors have their identities disclosed on campaign advertisements.

And in the wake of the U.S. Supreme Court’s 2010 Citizens United decision, WTP successfully challenged the constitutionality of the Montana Corrupt Practices Act of 1912, which prohibited independent expenditures by corporations to influence political campaigns — a law originally aimed at powerful mining and railroad interests in the state.

But even while it has fought to weaken election laws, WTP has at times run afoul of them. A decision issued last year by the Montana Commission of Political Practices found that the organization had broken state campaign laws by failing to register as a political committee or properly report its donors and spending. The investigation discovered that the group had solicited unlimited contributions to support pro-mining, pro-logging and pro-development candidates in Montana and avoided disclosing the contributions by passing them along to a sham political action committee that in turn ran attack ads against Democrats.

As Commissioner Dennis Unsworth said in his decision, the group’s wrongdoing “raises the specter of corruption of the electoral process.”

A window into the climate-denial industry

Paul ChesserIn the Western Tradition Partnership’s Winter 2010 newsletter, the group announced that it changed its name to the American Tradition Partnership. It also reported in an article datelined North Carolina that it had launched the American Tradition Institute, a think tank that would be “battling radical environmentalist junk science head on.”

The group would be led by Paul Chesser, who they described as a “noted climate scholar.” In fact, Chesser (photo at left) is not a scientist but has long worked in what environmental advocates call the “climate denial machine”: a network of organizations, many backed by energy interests, that work to create doubt about the science of human-caused global warming.

According to his bio, Chesser grew up in Rhode Island and worked as an accountant in Los Angeles. He launched his reporting career in North Carolina, where he edited two weekly conservative Christian newspapers, The Raleigh World and The Triad World. Now defunct, the papers were owned by World Newspaper Publishing, whose stated purpose is to “bring journalism informed by a distinctly Christian worldview to major cities across America.”

From there, Chesser moved to the John Locke Foundation (JLF), a free-market think tank based in Raleigh, N.C. that has been a leading voice of climate denial in North Carolina. The Locke Foundation decries what it calls “global warming alarmism” and promotes the views of global warming skeptics like Patrick Michaels, who left the climatologist’s office at the University of Virginia in 2007 over controversy about his funding sources and fringe views.

The Locke Foundation was founded and is largely funded by Art Pope, a North Carolina millionaire and leading conservative benefactor. As a national director of the free-market advocacy group Americans for Prosperity, Pope has close ties to the Koch brothers, the billionaire owners of the Kansas-based Koch Industries oil and chemical conglomerate and leading funders of global warming denial efforts. The Koch Family Foundations have also contributed at least $70,000 to the Locke Foundation.

It was at the Locke Foundation that Chesser began his crusade against the growing scientific consensus about climate change. He served as an editor of Carolina Journal, the group’s monthly newspaper that relentlessly attacks the science of global warming in its climate coverage. While there he also began working with Climate Strategies Watch, an initiative that sought to discredit the Center for Climate Strategies, a nonprofit group that helps states figure out ways to reduce greenhouse gas pollution.

Climate Strategies Watch was a joint project of the Locke Foundation and the Heartland Institute, a corporate-backed think tank in Chicago where Chesser also served as a special correspondent. Heartland has received at least $676,000 from ExxonMobil since 1998. Between 1997 and 2008, they also received $30,000 from foundations connected to the Kochs and another $50,000 from Pope’s family foundation. One of Heartland’s government-relations advisors also served as Exxon’s senior environmental advisor.

Chesser was soon fully immersed in the climate-denial network. He became an associate fellow for the National Legal and Policy Center, a conservative think tank heavily funded by the Scaife Foundations, which are controlled by the family that owns Gulf Oil. He blogged for the Cooler Heads Coalition, an industry front group led by the Competitive Enterprise Institute — a fierce opponent of greenhouse gas regulation that has taken over $2 million from ExxonMobil as well as funding from the American Petroleum Institute, Texaco and the Koch, Scaife and Pope foundations. (ATI’s director of litigation, Christopher Horner, is a CEI fellow.)

Now at the American Tradition Institute, Chesser again finds himself speaking for a group largely bankrolled by fossil fuel interests. According to its most recent filing with the IRS, ATI last year received $40,000 from its sister group ATP, which in turn is supported by oil, gas and coal interests. It received another $5,000 from the Atlas Economic Research Foundation, a Virginia-based think tank that since 1998 has received over $1 million in funding from Exxon Mobil; between 1997 and 2008, Atlas also received $122,300 from the Koch foundations and $735,000 from the Pope foundation.

But ATI’s biggest funder is Montana businessman Doug Lair and his Lair Family Foundation; they contributed $5,000 and $135,000 respectively to the group last year — over 75 percent of its total income.

Lair’s fortune comes from Lair Petroleum, the family business that was sold in 1989 to William Koch, the lesser-known brother of Charles and David Koch. As recently as 2010, Lair Petroleum was listed as Lair’s employer in state campaign finance reports, although now he’s also an investor in commercial and agricultural real estate.

Along with the American Tradition Partnership, Lair and another Montana resident recently filed a lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of Montana campaign finance laws, arguing that limits on donation amounts and corporate contributions are impermissible under the First Amendment — a suit similar to others filed by the group. The plaintiffs are represented by James Bopp Jr., a prominent conservative attorney who worked as a legal adviser to the group behind the Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision that successfully challenged strictures on corporate money in elections.

“The Supreme Court has ruled that corporate political speech is protected by the First Amendment, and you cannot ban political speech just because the speaker is a corporation,” said Bopp.

A chilling trend for academic freedom

David SchnareThe hearing on the American Tradition Institute’s Freedom of Information Act lawsuit against the University of Virginia seeking Michael Mann’s records is set for Tuesday, Nov. 1 before Judge Gaylord Finch in Prince William County Court. The hearing was postponed from September after Finch said he wanted to allow more time for arguments because of the case’s significance.

“If it wasn’t clear before, it should now be clear to everybody,” David Schnare (photo at right), pro bono director of ATI’s Environmental Law Center, said at the time. “This is an extremely important case, and we appreciate Judge Finch’s careful attention to detail as we proceed.”

Critics say the case not only symbolizes the industry attack on climate science but is part of a growing trend of using public information requests to target academics for political reasons.

Earlier this year, the Republican Party of Wisconsin filed a records request seeking materials from University of Wisconsin history professor William Cronon after he criticized Republican Gov. Scott Walker’s push for legislation to weaken public-sector unions. Soon after, the Mackinac Center for Public Policy — a free-market think tank based in Michigan — submitted Freedom of Information Act requests seeking materials related to the Wisconsin union battle from labor studies faculty at the University of Michigan, Michigan State and Wayne State.

In the Cronon case, the University of Wisconsin’s Faculty Senate passed a resolution arguing that open records laws are abused when they become partisan tools. “What was begun as a classic notion of sunshine being the best disinfectant has turned into a law that’s used as a weapon to target not government officials and offices but individual public employees,” said professor Howard Schweber, one of the political scientists who helped craft the resolution.

In the end, the university released some Cronon emails but withheld others, including exchanges with students protected under the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act and what it considered private exchanges among scholars. In the Wayne State case, the think tank’s action led the university to take down some pages of its Labor Studies Center’s website and investigate whether they had violated state campaign finance laws.

The American Tradition Institute is also using open records law to target another prominent and award-winning climate scientist: James Hansen, director of NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies. In January, ATI filed a federal FOIA request with NASA seeking information on how Hansen “has complied with applicable federal ethics and financial disclosure laws and regulations, and NASA Rules of Behavior.” An outspoken advocate for limiting greenhouse gas pollution, Hansen has long been a target of global-warming skeptics for his research and activism. ATI has sued NASA for withholding documents over concerns about Hansen’s privacy rights.

Peter FontaineIn the upcoming hearing on the U.Va. case, Mann’s attorney, Peter Fontaine (photo at left), told Facing South that he will argue his client should be permitted to intervene in the ATI lawsuit because of his personal interest in protecting his private email correspondence with other scientists — what Fontaine calls the “raw materials of scholarship” that lead to finished science.

“If this information is disclosed and allowed to be cherry-picked, distorted and mischaracterized, it will result in a terrible chilling of the rights of scientists to exchange their ideas,” said Fontaine, co-chair of Cozen O’Connor’s energy and climate change programs and an EPA air pollution enforcer in the early 1990s. “It would be a blatant violation of my client’s copyrights to his private emails, as well as his First Amendment rights and the right to academic freedom.”

Fontaine faces a formidable adversary in ATI’s Schnare, who holds advanced science degrees from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and worked as an attorney with the Department of Justice and Virginia Attorney General before serving in the same EPA air-pollution enforcement job as Fontaine from 1999 until his retirement four months weeks ago. Schnare dismissed the idea that the lawsuit is targeting Mann or his scholarly position on climate science, and said he plans to argue that the professor should not be allowed to intervene.

“This case is about FOIA, not Mike Mann,” Schnare said. “If he had wanted to protect himself from embarrassing emails, he should not have pressed ‘send’ to begin with.”

(PHOTOS: Michael Mann by Greg Grieco via Wikipedia, Paul Chesser via John Locke Foundation website, David Schnare from ATI website, Peter Fontaine from Cozen O’Connor’s website.)

Open, transparent, fair and just Elections?

Open, transparent, fair and just Elections?(Note:  After the paragraph wherein Mayor Baum was quoted in the Times-Call and the topic turned to Western Tradition Partnership, Council Member Witt sought to interfere with the speaker’s address.   The Speaker responded, “I am exercising my freedom of speech, Council Member Witt.”  She then proceeded with her prepared remarks.)

Address to Mayor Baum and Longmont City Council:  May 4, 2010

On your agenda this evening is one of the most important pieces of legislation that City of Longmont can consider.  You are to decide whether Longmont will have open, transparent, fair and just elections or whether the interests of those who would control our local government will be able to exercise their privileged positions and do so even more under the radar of full disclosure.

Today’s article in the Times-Call left me incredulous. That justification to abandon Longmont’s efforts to provide transparency to our local representative democracy defies moral foundation, is unprincipled and plays into the hands of those who believe they have a birthright to control government to their own personal, corporate and ideological gain.

Mayor Baum, you are quoted as saying that, “We are a target (to sue); we have been identified as such.  We’re labeled now, and we have to be really careful because we’re on everybody’s radar screen.”

And who is this “everybody” to which you refer?

The lawsuit brought against the city last year by Western Tradition Partnership was an unscrupulous and cynical strategic attempt to gain control of the Longmont City Council by radically conservative forces both out-of-state, within the state and indeed by local powerful political interests and their toadies.

Organized as a 501c4, Western Tradition Partnership can simply create an entity and have the sources of their funding unknown to anyone without a federal case and court order.  Its money can come from out of the country, around the nation, and locally by cowards who want to keep their public image as untarnished as possible.

Republican Scott Gessler was the attorney for this lawsuit debacle.  He drools at the possibility of using his attacks on Longmont as a platform for election to Colorado Secretary of State, a position that would allow him to influence our state elections in the manner of Katherine Harris in Florida in 2000 and Ken Blackwell in Ohio in 2004.

Previous mayors of Longmont, Republicans Julia Pirnack and Bob Askey, joined this suit as well as the Longmont Area Realtors Association, and  unsavory blogger Republican Chris Rodriguez.

Four city council members benefited by the support of Western Tradition Partnership who funded Longmont Leadership who viciously attacked your opponents; the Realtors Association who endorsed the current council majority; and the aforementioned individuals who either endorsed or executed the dirty work.

The settlement you authorized used city taxpayer funds to reimburse the very organizations and people who provided most of the impetus for your election to office.

The people of Longmont must be made aware of the decadent undercurrent operating behind the scenes of Longmont and Colorado politics.  With the foregoing, now they are.

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)

Behind-the-scenes story of oil and gas in Longmont

Who's behind all the oil and gas influence? Western/American Tradition Partners

Who’s behind all the oil and gas influence? Western/American Tradition Partners

Once upon a time not too long ago, our terrific city was growing and evolving. Not in the usual sense of the words, but in forming a fresh identity that would lead us forwards in this new century. That is the best, most meaningful definition of “home rule,” albeit not the legal one.

And then along came the oil and gas industry. The behind-the-scenes story began in 2009 when Longmont first lost control of its elections to outside interests with big money to spend. An organization known then as Western Tradition Partnership, now American Tradition Partnership, slipped into Longmont elections more or less under the radar. It fully funded a political committee who attacked candidates that it perceived as being unreceptive to their intended future agenda.

WTP/ATP is an IRS 501c4. It doesn’t have to reveal its donors. But its mission makes it clear just who those donors are. ATP is funded by extraction industries and backers who support that agenda. What do I mean by “extraction industries”? In a nutshell – mineral extraction. And for the purposes of Longmont, that means oil and gas. And that means fracking.

WTP (ATP) funded a slate of candidates to redirect the vision for Longmont. Their motive, vague and blurred at the time, was to pave the way for oil and gas drilling by means of hydraulic fracturing inside Longmont; and in doing so, to transform our fair city into something we would not recognize or want.

Bryan Baum, a former mayor now serving as a proxy for the oil and gas industry, made his motives clear in early 2010 when he stated that he wanted the city to get into the oil and gas business by exploiting its own mineral rights. I watched for council agenda items on minerals. They did not appear. But they WERE there – hidden from view, without the knowledge or consent of the Longmont public, but as part of an ATP-sponsored and council majority endorsed trajectory to invite the oil and gas industry to bully its way into Longmont, leaving Longmont citizens and the city to pick up after them.

The oil and gas industry’s intention to drill in Longmont came out of hiding in an ATP election survey in October 2011. And with that, “all hell broke loose.” It was staff’s intent to bring a TOP Operating conditional use permit before the Planning and Zoning Commission in November 2011. That, as they say, would have been that. Longmont would have been fracked and we wouldn’t have known what hit us.

As the people of Longmont became aware of what was in store for their hometown, over and over they said, “Oh, no you don’t. This is OUR Longmont and we get to say whether or not we get fracked.”

Over 8200 people signed the petition sponsored by Our Health, Our Future, Our Longmont to place Question 300 that prohibits hydraulic fracking and fracking waste disposal inside Longmont city limits on our ballot. Now there are those with big, big industry money behind them who are trying to silence those voices and hand over the keys to this great town to the oil and gas industry. Oil and gas companies and their trade associations (28) from all over the country and even Canada have contributed nearly a half million dollars to defeat the will of the people of Longmont. How high will that total go? One million dollars? More?

You’ve seen their eight full-page ads with seven mayors pretending to care about the health and safety of Longmont, all the while shilling for the industry who would pollute our air and water and threaten our property values by using false and deceptive quotes from politicians they’ve never supported (and likely never will) to manipulate Longmont voters. They’ve spent or accrued almost $338,000, including television ads and eight mailers. They’re determined to stomp Longmont into submission.

In 2009 and 2011 another industry spent huge sums of money (over $600,000) to make Longmont believe that they cared about us. Longmont voters saw through that scheme and sent them packing.

Pay no attention to the “wizards” on this smokescreen. Tell the oil and gas industry and their local puppets, former or current, that you want them to go away and stay away. This is our Longmont that they are trying to destroy and we won’t allow that. Constitutional and moral rights are on our side.

Vote Yes on 300 to stop them from fracking Longmont.

Deer in the headlights

Cory Gardner 2011 - photo by M. Douglas Wray

Cory Gardner, getting asked the tough questsions

On a roll.  Or so he thought.  His script was down tight.  Celebrate the free market even though it’s far from free.  The deck is stacked for the 1% and I’ll bet he damned well knows that.  The house always wins.   But, hey, as long as you’ve got gullible people who can’t find their rear end with both hands, it works.

Lots of old fogies, as my parents used to describe them.  Not because they were old, but because they lacked that which the “conservatives” think they have – common sense.

How many lifetimes will it take for some of these people to grasp the fact that they are never going to be part of the 1%.  The 1% doesn’t want them.  In fact, they’d be more than happy to see the number be half a percent or smaller.

With the help of wordsmiths like Frank Luntz and a year of practice, one of the 1%’s water carriers has got that political “pivoting” maneuver down pretty well.  But someone’s always going to show up with that question, the one not expected, the one that wasn’t included in the script.  And then the guy would rather run for the door – but that would be way too humiliating.  So what to do, blabber a little and quickly, and then look the other way, call on someone else, and be very glad that the scheduled hour is almost over.

Here’s the question:

There is a 501c4 that is rabidly anti-environment and places property rights ahead of all other rights.  This organization inserted itself into Longmont’s municipal elections in 2009 and again in 2011.  It began in Montana and the Montana Political Practices Commission described the campaign practices as raising “the specter of corruption.”  There was testimony that the organization even accepts money from outside the United States.  Recently the Montana Supreme Court  in its ruling against Western Tradition Partnership, now known as American Tradition Partnership, said, “We take note that Western Tradition appears to be engaged in a multi-front attack on both contribution restrictions and the transparency that accompanies campaign disclosure requirements.”  Mr. Gardner, you have accepted campaign assistance from this corrupt organization.  Will you renounce American Tradition Partnership, its policies and its political practices?  Yes or No

Here’s the answer:

I don’t know.  I can’t give you a yes or no because I don’t know the organization’s contribution.  I don’t know if they did, when they did it, so I don’t know what you’re talking about.  So there’s lots of different opinions in this room and you may have a different opinion on the group than someone else in the room.

Now that might have worked, but there was a little problem with evidence that was raised high for all in the room to see.

“Cory Gardner has pledged 100% support for Western Tradition Partnership’s agenda…”

“With jobs fleeing Colorado and your prosperity in danger, you need to know where the candidates for Congress stand.”

 

And Mr. Know Nothing from a Do Nothing Congress controlled by a Know Nothing Party verifies it:

 

“I don’t know…I don’t know the organization’s contribution…

I don’t know what you’re talking about.”

 

Hey, but who and what ya gonna believe?  Your lyin’ eyes.  The evidence?  Or Colorado Congressional District #4 Representative Cory “I don’t know what you’re talking about” Gardner?

Sorry, Cory.  The headlights gotcha.

Connections – January 3, 2012

“Despots themselves do not deny that freedom is excellent; only they desire it for themselves alone, and they maintain that everyone else is altogether unworthy of it.” —Alexis de Tocqueville

Vol. 9, No 1

The Nation’s economy is not akin to your household’s economics. Yet that is the misleading metaphor leading to a false analogy that far-right pundits would have you accept. Deferring maintenance on one’s home may be a way to help family finances when weathering an economic downturn; putting off repairs may little affect one’s quality of life. But building equity in your home is not the same as increasing equity in a nation; improving one’s home will not add to your income or your ability to pay back the costs of improvements. On the other hand, strengthening the nation’s infrastructure, adding to our common wealth – improved highways, stabilized power grid, expanded internet capacity, and an improved educational system – all have a direct and positive effect on the nation’s productive earning capacity. That can, according to leading economists, create jobs while enabling the country to pay off its cost and reduce the national Debt.

Economic historians remind us it was the great public investments in infrastructure from the 1950s through the 1970s that made us a singular world power, the most advanced nation on earth. That taxpayer-funded industrial and business foundation helped lift the economy as businesses’ and workers’ incomes rose, enabling us to become the richest and most equal society in the world (CEO’s incomes were 40 times those of workers –  now CEOs take home 340 times workers’ pay).

When President Reagan introduced his divisive “government is the problem” ideology, we began to drift away from our common commitment to each other. We substituted a privatized “immediate gratification” philosophy to replace our long-term public purpose investment policy. His cut-taxes mantra was sold to both parties and helped frame the political discourse at all levels of government. As local taxes were cut, local schools lost their funding and programs atrophied. Maintenance for roads was cut and transportation systems fell into disrepair. At the state level, higher education support funding was slashed, transferring the cost of college to students and their families, leaving the poor behind. The nation began producing an under-educated workforce unprepared to grow with the increasing demands of our new knowledge-based economy.

In this new year, as the politics of the Presidential election close in, it’s time to reclaim our interest in the “common good” with initiatives that make us whole again, stronger than the arithmetic sum of individual persons, cities, states or private interests. Yet none of the current gaggle of Presidential intenders, based on their debate assertions, would even consider such an initiative. They offer no suggestions to protect, much less broaden the vital social safety net necessary for an American renaissance – nothing to benefit other than their own 10 Percent.

Where are Congressional proposals to put American workers back to work rebuilding the nation’s infrastructure? We should be investing in ourselves – now, not further subsidizing  a corporate plutocracy. Every time we auction off parts of our common wealth, the goods that we inherited from our forbearers – land, above and below ground; water; clean air and air waves — we give away a part of our legacy to our children. Portions of our natural inheritance are being monetized, marketed to the highest bidder whose interest is personal/corporate profit, not the welfare of all our citizens and their legacy. It’s time to take our country back, to invest in us.

This is the time to be heard. The Presidential nominating process is under way (you will know the results of the first round of caucus/primaries shortly after I send this letter). You will have many opportunities to talk with, write to or contribute to politicians at all levels in this election season. Make sure your voice is heard. Candidates at all levels are listening.

Speaking of listening, once again I’m including the questions I asked last week. I invite you to give me your opinions about potential areas for initiatives to take the country (and perhaps the global economy with which we’re deeply connected) out of our depressed status. Please rate the following five areas for possible governmental action to restore the economy – and our nation’s status among the leaders of the global world.

  1. Economic stimulus, creating jobs:
    1. upgrade the nation’s infrastructure
    2. create a civilian conservation corps
    3. expand Americorps program for all youths
  2. Investment in People:
    1. improve/expand basic and higher education
    2. enhance and extend health care to all
    3. cultivate programs to promote social cohesion
  3. Social Safety Net:
    1. stabilize Social Security
    2. strengthen Unemployment Insurance benefits
    3. restore human and social service support systems
  4. Invest in the Economy:
    1. bolster technological access for all
    2. support and expand basic scientific research
    3. increase job training programs for new technologies
  5. Regulations
    1. provide necessary environmental protections of earth, air and water
    2. regulate banks so they act as utilities, not speculators
    3. support domestic security

Please send me an e-mail (blakechambliss@yahoo.com) with your ranking of the five areas based on your order of priority (1 most important to 5, least important) for rebuilding America’s integrity, first, for its people, then second, as a leader among the world of nations. I would also appreciate your comments on why you chose as you did. Or maybe you want to make your own list, and give me your critique of this list (what’s missing?) with your additions. I will compile your answers and report back over the next few weeks. Thanks.

For this week’s Moment of Mirth, check here.

This Week’s Report:
Smarter, Better, Leaner, Greener
12 New Year’s Resolutions for the 112th Congress in 2012
Sally Steenland, 12/13/2011, Center for American Progress

Special Tribute:
The Progressive Honor Roll of 2011
John Nichols, 12/21/2011, The Nation

Connections articles this week include:
The Damage of 2011
The Editors, 12/30/2011, The New York Times
After they took power in January, the hard-line Republicans who dominate the House reached for a radical overhaul of American government, hoping to unravel the social safety net, cut taxes further for the wealthy and strip away regulation of business. Fortunately, thanks to defensive tactics by Democrats, they failed to achieve most of their agenda.

But they still did significant damage in 2011 to many of the most important functions of  government, and particularly to investments in education, training and transportation that the country will need for a sound economic recovery.

Also See: “Tax Gift to the Rich,”  John Aloysius Farrell, 01/02/2012, Nation of Change
Montana High Court Says ‘Citizens United’ Does Not Apply in Big Sky State
Steven Rosenfeld, 01/01/2012, AlterNet
Montana’s Supreme Court has issued a stunning rebuke to the U.S. Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision in 2010 that infamously decreed corporations had constitutional rights to directly spend money on ‘independent expenditures’ in campaigns.

The Montana Court vigorously upheld the state’s right to regulate how corporations can raise and spend money after a secretive Colorado corporation, Western Tradition Partnership, and a Montana sportsman’s group and local businessman sued to overturn a 1912 state law banning direct corporate spending on electoral campaigns.

Also See: “Has America’s Stolen Election Proces Finally Hit Prime Time?
Bob Fitrakis and Harvey Wasserman, 12/30/2011, Common Dreams

Federal judge accuses SEC of misleading court
David S. Hilzenrath, 12/29/2011, The Washington Post
A federal judge who has accused the Securities and Exchange Commission of negotiating weak settlements in Wall Street cases on Thursday accused the agency of misleading a federal appeals court.

The judge and the SEC are locked in an extraordinary battle over how the government should police financial fraud, and just when it seemed that the conflict could not get more contentious, Thursday’s development added a dimension.

Rakoff, who presides over major Wall Street cases from his bench in Manhattan, has been pushing the SEC to stop negotiating settlements in which firms accused of securities fraud neither admit nor deny wrongdoing. In a recent case involving a Citigroup mortgage deal in which investors allegedly lost more than $700 million, he rejected a settlement under which Citigroup would pay $285 million, saying it was “neither fair, nor reasonable, nor adequate, nor in the public interest.”

Also See: “Still Waiting for Cleanup in Foreclosure Mess,”
Marian Wang, 12/27/2011, ProPublica

A brainpower revolution
Eugene Robinson, 12/26/2011, The Washington Post
This is a moment when policymakers should be thinking big, not small. History will little note nor long remember that the payroll tax holiday was extended for two months rather than 12. The complex and difficult questions we’re avoiding, however, may haunt us through the century.

Let me be clear that I applaud President Obama and the Democrats for the political victory they won last week. The impact was to weaken the influence of the most reactionary and clueless faction in Congress – the Tea Party Republicans – and strengthen the hand of both progressives and pragmatic conservatives. This can only be a good thing.

But let me also be honest: It’s crazy to have spent so much brainpower and energy on a skirmish that was purely tactical, while blithely ignoring the enormous challenges we face.

Also See: “Keynes Was Right, ” Paul Krugman, 12/29/2011, The New York Times

The 12 Most Hopeful Trends to Build on in 2012
Sarah van Gelder, 12/31/2011, Nation of Change
The viral spread of the Occupy Movement took everyone by surprise. Last summer, politicians and the media were fixated on the debt ceiling, and everyone seemed to forget that we were in the midst of an economic meltdown-everyone except the 99 percent who were experiencing it.

Today, people ranging from Ben Bernake, chair of the Federal Reserve, to filmmaker Michael Moore are expressing sympathy for the Occupy Movement and concern for those losing homes, retirement savings, access to health care, and hope of ever finding a job.

This uprising is the biggest reason for hope in 2012. The following are 12 ways the Occupy Movement and other major trends of 2011 offer a foundation for a transformative 2012.

Also See: “Fighting the Good Fight,” Norman Lear, 12/30/2011, Common Dreams

I look forward to your comments and suggestions – Contact me at blakechambliss@yahoo.com
Please feel free to forward this to a friend.

WTP: “…as slippery an organization as one finds in modern politics.”

Everything has a price - but should it?In a ruling on Friday, December 30th, the Montana Supreme Court issued a rebuke against Citizens United that leaves most “human persons” loudly cheering.  Citizens United refers to the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in 2010  wherein the activist Roberts’ Court decreed corporations had constitutional rights to directly spend money on ‘independent expenditures’ in campaigns.  That ruling effectively codified a doctrine of “corporate personhood.”

The 80-page Montana ruling against a suit brought by Western Tradition Partnership attacked the thinking behind the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision, the impact of big money in political culture, and the premise that corporations deserve the same political speech rights as citizens.

The Montana Court’s ruling asserted that the Citizens United decision did not remove all bans on corporate speech. “The Supreme Court held that laws that burden political speech are subject to strict scrutiny, which requires the government to prove that the law furthers a compelling state interest and is narrowly tailored to that interest,” the court said.  The ruling details the history of 1912 state law banning direct corporate spending on electoral campaigns and provides explanations of sufficiently compelling state interests to merit sustaining the century-old law.

“Organizations like WTP that act as a conduit for anonymously spending by others represent a threat to the political marketplace,” wrote Mike McGrath, Chief Justice of the Montana Supreme Court, for the majority. “Clearly the impact of unlimited corporate donations creates a dominating impact on the political process and inevitably minimizes the impact of individual citizens.”

Steven Rosenfeld, in reporting on the ruling, stated “the lead group that sued to overturn the Montana ban on direct corporate spending in campaigns followed a very deliberate course of clashing with virtually every aspect of Montana campaign finance law. The lawyers behind the litigation believe that they should face no limits or accountability for any political fund-raising or spending.”

The court noted that Western Tradition Partnership’s lawyers claimed that it should be allowed to spend freely because the group would have to disclose that activity under Montana law when the same group, using another name, actually had sued the state to overturn those very disclosure laws.  WTP is also involved in a third suit challenging the state’s campaign spending disclosure law.

Rosenfeld’s description of Western Tradition Partnership (now known as American Tradition Partnership) as a political organization that  is “as slippery an organization as one finds in modern politics” leaves no doubt about its ethics and modus operandi and is solidly supported by its history, practices and assertions.

Western Tradition Partnership sued to overturn the 1912 Montana Corrupt Practices Act, an irony not lost on those who have experienced the corrupt political practices of the organization up close and personal.  WTP first surfaced in Longmont, Colorado, when it frivolously sued the city over its Fair Campaign Practices Act, represented by Scott Gessler, now Colorado’s Secretary of State.  In Longmont’s 2009 election, WTP was responsible for abhorrent political practices that it had debuted in Montana and for which it was held responsible by the Montana Political Practices Commission.  WTP returned again in the 2011 election to once again elect council members who would advance their agenda.

The Montana Supreme Court’s ruling quoted a fund-raising brochure that said, “If you decide to support this program, no politician, no bureaucrat, and no radical environmentalist will ever know you made this program possible.”  A visit to its website will reveal the hatred for all things environmental (“Gang Green”) and the absolutism in the advancement of extraction industry property rights.  The organization’s Executive Director and website writer Donald aka Donny Ferguson has never met a lie he didn’t love.  If the only information you had available was that which is presented on www.americantradition.org, you would have perceptions that have no bearing whatsoever on reality.

“We take note that Western Tradition appears to be engaged in a multi-front attack on both contribution restrictions and the transparency that accompanies campaign disclosure requirements,” the Court said.  Its previous attorney of record, Gessler, is now engaged in a multi-front attack on contribution restrictions and transparency from his position as Colorado’s Secretary of State.

The court added in a footnote that the Montana Commissioner of Political Practices called the group a “sham” because it failed to register with the state, and refused to disclose the sources of its funds or its spending—as required by law.

Even the dissenting opinion lambasted the Citizens United ruling notwithstanding its contention that the Montana Court was bound by the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling.

Justice James C. Nelson wrote, “And, to be absolutely clear, I do not agree with it [Citizens United]. For starters, the notion that corporations are disadvantaged in the political realm is unbelievable. Indeed, it has astounded most Americans. The truth is that corporations wield enormous power in Congress and in state legislatures. It is hard to tell where government ends and corporate America begins: the transition is seamless and overlapping.”

“In the real world of politics,” he wrote, “the “quid pro quo” of both direct contributions to candidates and independent expenditures on their behalf is loyalty. And, in practical effect, experience teaches us that money corrupts, and enough of it corrupts absolutely.”

In assaulting the very notion of corporate personhood, Nelson stated, “I find the concept entirely offensive. Corporations are artificial creatures of law. As such, they should enjoy only those powers—not constitutional rights, but legislatively-conferred powers—that are concomitant with their legitimate function, that being limited liability investment vehicles for business. Corporations are not persons. Human beings are persons, and it is an affront to the inviolable dignity of our species that courts have created a legal fiction which forces people—human beings—to share fundamental natural rights with soulless creations of government. Worse still, while corporations and human beings share many of the same rights under the law, they clearly are not bound equally to the same codes of good conduct, decency, and morality, and they are not held equally accountable for their sins. Indeed, it is truly ironic that the death penalty and hell are reserved only to natural persons.”

American Tradition Partnership says that it is a “no-compromise” organization.  And for once it has told the truth.  It is likely to appeal this ruling all the way back to the U.S. Supreme Court.  We can only hope that if that happens, the Supreme Court will have second thoughts about their disastrous ruling in Citizens United.

When Longmont went dirty

Ms Baum, you brought dirty politics to Longmont. I received in the mail dirty political attack campaign mailers from the Steve Monger of the Longmont Leadership aka Western Tradition partnership and from you Ms. Baum. You go after citizens who don’t agree with you. It’s not right what you do. It’s shameful what you do.
— blog post by “Onion” on the article BoCo Dems get first look at HD 11 contenders – Times-Call.com

Some people can lose an election and move on (no pun intended).  Some people can’t.  One has to wonder who in the dangerous duo from November’s election is having the most difficulty, ex-mayor Bryan Baum or the ex “First Lady”.  It’s a toss-up.

Bryan seems to have great difficulty letting go.  Would you be surprised to know that he’s still doing the “Monday with the Mayor” radio broadcast, but under a nominally different banner?  Oh, yes, not making that one up.  News flash, “has-been-mayor” Baum, your term is over.  And in spite of a retained conservative majority, at least you cannot continue to damage Longmont.  No matter how much you stroke yourself, you did cause much damage.  It was delineated in the Moving Longmont Forward mailer.  Could it be that you actually do not recognize the harm you’ve caused?  Naw, not likely.  That you have to protest so often and so publicly suggests that even you worry about having been exposed.  Don’t worry.  Those who agree with you won’t hold your skullduggery against you; they applaud it.

As to Bryan Baum’s other half…  I know the usual expression is “better half” …but it this case there is no “better.”  Stephanie seems to have as much difficulty with truth as her husband does.  She led the way in 2008 with the notorious “pink letter” (reproduced below).

A recent Times-Call article gave her the opportunity to get back in the game.  Likely she chafed at having to keep her mouth shut for two years lest she damage her husband’s re-election chances.  She needn’t have worried.  Baum did that quite well all by himself.   First out of the gate, in the article about the first forum for Democratic HD 11 contenders, Stephanie Baum demands that no one support Jonathan Singer in his House District 11 race because he supported Moving Longmont Forward.  Another news flash, this one for the ex-First Lady., Mr. Singer does not endorse lies and that is why he was able to support the mailer exposing your husband’s record and behavior.  Mr. Singer has personal experience with your husband’s bullying.  He chose not to expose him, a kindness that others would not have been so inclined to offer.  Had the contents of that telephone conversation been revealed to the public, your husband would have lost by a landslide.

In Stephanie Baum’s tit-for-tat on the Times-Call website, back and forth, she effectively dared “Onion” to produce a copy of the “pink letter” and demonstrate the attacks that were leveled.  Free Range Longmont is happy to oblige on their behalf.

The irony of all of the protestations by the Baums is their selective memories not only of the launching of negative campaigning in the 2008 campaign, but ready acceptance of the most vile of political campaigning that Longmont has ever experienced, namely the “The Longmont Leader.”

For those who may have preferred to forget, this was a newspaper-style**, 11” x 17” 8-pager that spent most of its ink in inarguable attack.  Ink, by the way, that was paid for by Western Tradition Partnership, an organization that never was, never will be a local voice (except perhaps to hide contributions by those who do not have the courage to display their agenda publicly).

I am not so naïve as to believe that this will be the last word on political lies and political attacks.  Pandora’s Box was opened by Gabe Santos and Stephanie Baum was more than happy to wield an ax.  In the process, they changed Longmont’s politics for the indefinite future and invited the the likes of Scott Shires (responsible for the first attack piece in the 2008 election and connected to political hit sites) and Western (now American) Tradition Partnership.  I’m certain Longmont hasn’t heard the last of them – they have a lot of money and an agenda.


Transcription of the “Pink Letter” sent to Longmont voters during the 2008 Special Election. Underlining is preserved from original. Color-highlighted text is FRL emphasis. Spelling errors in the original have been marked ‘sic’ to indicate they have been left unchanged.


Stephanie Baum

January 18, 2008

Dear Friend,

I am writing you today as a mother and a neighbor – please forgive me for my informality – as I have never felt called to send a letter like this.

Normally, I am satisfied to take my son to karate practice, plan play dates with other moms and their kids, and spend my free time keeping up with friends through email.

But I have become gravely concerned about our community of Longmont and the sudden change in direction it has taken.

I have lived in Longmont for nine years and have come to love this community and have developed many deep friendships here. Longmont has grown precisely because it is a beautiful, safe place with strong values, where a family can thrive.

That’s why I care deeply about the kind of leadership my son and daughter, Chase and Brooklynn, and I see in Longmont and across our great state of Colorado.

The future of Longmont is important enough that I wanted to personally write to you about Gabe Santos, who is the common-sense Republican running to bring balance back to Longmont City Council.

I first met Gabe over 7 years ago, at a welcome reception in the home of his in-laws, Van and Diane Stow, whom I’ve known for years.

When I met Gabe, I remember thinking “oh great, another Big City guy moving to our little town,” but as soon as I spoke to him I realized he was anything but a “Big City guy.” His engaging personality is obviously one of the many reasons why his wife Vicki fell in love with him.

Now, if you’re like me, you’re recently seen an organized assault on Longmont by a radical element attempting to distort Gabe’s record and hide their harmful agenda, in an effort to take over city council.

I have believed for some time that this sort of negative campaigning is degrading the way we act and feel towards each other.

In response to the distasteful broadsides being directed at my friend Gabe and at some people of faith in our community, I have some nice – and true – things to say.

I know Gabe Santos is a good and decent man. He has spent his entire adult life serving others.

My husband coordinates the Salvation Army bell-ringing for the Longmont Rotary Club, and Gabe rang the bell more than any other Rotarian this year. Gabe and Vicki chaired Longmont’s Relay for Life, taking over for us in that capacity.

My husband Bryan and I have been very active with local non-profits here in Longmont, and Gabe and Vicki have the same passion that we do in those endeavors. Gabe so often puts the needs of others before his own.

He has served his family by providing for them and being a “hands on” dad with his involvement and support – we can’t go to Art Walk, the Halloween Parade, the Festival on Main, Oktoberfest or any other of a number of community events without running into Gabe, Vicki and their daughter Sylvia.

He worked with city government through Focus on Longmont to ensure our community is a great place to live both now and in the future, and Gabe helps meet the needs of others by volunteering with the Longmont Ending Violence White Ribbon Campaign and working with the Education Summit to improve our childrens school experience.

When Gabe told my husband and I that he was going to run for City Council, we knew right away that Gabe’s integrity and wisdom would make him a great city representative.

That feeling hasn’t changed.

As far as his leadership, I would definately(sic) feel safer with Gabe’s kind of policy on public safety, reasonable growth, restraining taxes and spending, and respecting citizens’ private lives than someone who would choose to divide the city further.

And unlike his opponent, Gabe doesn’t plan to spend his entire life on the government payroll – he knows what a challenge life is for families and businesses, which is why today he’s working as an accountant and studying to become a CPA.

Now, honestly, I wasn’t sure what his opponent stood for, because he seems to change or obscure his views on some of the most important issues our city faces today.

In fact, his opponent, Richard Juday has even gone so far as to delete at least four pages from his website – pages that contain very troubling comments about being “more like Boulder;” attacking the beliefs of people of faith; and the most significant one…his promise not to take campaign contributions.

That’s why, when I looked online at the City Clerk’s campaign finance report, I tell you, I was in for a surprise!

The first that jumped out at them was the number of radical left-wing Democrat activists who were supporting Mr. Juday. Many of the same donors are on record supporting cadidates who push a tax-and-spend, anti-family agenda.

Forgive me, but those groups and individuals – which include many of the same Boulder radicals who recently ran a smear campaign against our neighbors at LifeBridge church – do not share my vision for a strong future for Longmont families.

I looked for names of people whom would show some balance, but truthfully, Juday seems only to be supported by the Boulder County Democrat(sic *) Party, MoveOn.org types (whom I’ve never seen active in our community), and out-of-state donors.

Now, I know it takes money to buy yard signs and run a campaign, but when I saw the list of “zero-growth” Boulder Democrats backing Mr. Juday, I decided to look up his vision for the future, and it’s apparent from his own campaign materials he wants to turn Longmont into “Boulder-lite.”

I know Boulder – I grew up there, and my parents still live there. Businesses and families are fleeing “the People’s Republic of Boulder” because of it’s city government’s radical anti-growth policies and dangerous social engineering projects and experiments.

Longmont’s realtors and small businesses are obviously very concerned – because the last thing our local economy needs is repressive taxation and regulation on our housing. That’s why the Longmont Association of Realtors endorsed Gabe Santos.

Now I, like everyone, want to enjoy our surrounding and be a good steward of our environment – but I also know that Longmont’s long-held policies of smart and well-planned growth are the biggest reason our taxes have not skyrocketed like we’ve seen in Boulder.

That’s why I also agree with Gabe about cutting waste in City government to maintain our open space, in a way that doesn’t increase the tax burden on middle class families.

His opponent believes tax increases are the way to go, and several of Richard Juday’s tax-and-spend city council members have already voted to reverse existing, sensible cost-cutting measures in the interest of buying support from government bureaucrats.

Gabe’s belief in fiscal restraint will translate into stronger parks, library, and recreation for all our children over the long term – without creating a heavy-handed bureaucracy that micromanages our every move.

That’s how I know that Gabe is definately(sic) against Mr. Juday’s proposed scheme to institute an “inner-governmental agreement” to “track individual shoppers by their license plate numbers,” while we are inside browsing supermarket aisles.

I know that’s hard to believe – that’s why I posted his deleted pages on my blog, www.takebacklongmont.blogspot.com (and yes, those are my cute kids in the blog’s photo!!)

So, it’s now clear to me why Gabe’s opponent has done everything to hide his own views – candidates with such Big Brother schemes have to cloak themselves – because they don’t stand for anything I believe most Longmont families would agree with.

So it turns out the Boulder radicals are actually the ones propping up Gabe’s opponent.

Our community has several important issue facing us, including public safety and gangs, infrastructure, and responsible growth. I am gravely concerned about the kind of future a city councilman like Richard Juday would give us.

In the end, it comes down to money – lots of it given to Juday from outside our district, and the rest from partisan operatives willing to deceive voters in their attempt to turn Longmont into another “Boulder-utopia.”

I am asking you to find your mail-in ballot, and cast your vote for a family-friendly vision for Longmont’s future that I hope you and I share.

With the underhanded campaign against our community and on Gabe Santos – a truly good man – coming from Richard Juday’s campaign and the radical special interests that support him – I’m not sure I can stomach his vision for Colorado’s future.

So, in the end, I just thought I’d let you know what’s been on my mind.

If you’d like to talk, please give me a call at 303-946-9507.

Sincerely,

(signed) Stephanie Baum

P.S. It has been a blessing to know Gabe Santos and to work with him in our community.

I guarantee, if you will cast your vote for Gabe on the mail-in ballot you recently received, you will love him as a city councilman, as much as his family and those in Longmont already do!

Please remember to vote for Gabe Santos before January 29th.


Scans of original mailer pages used for transcription.

Stephanie Baum

Councilman Gabe Santos

* It’s not the ‘Democrat’ Party of Boulder County, it’s ‘Democratic’ – this is a common and oft-repeated extremist-right slur/purposeful ‘mistake’/hyper-partisan rhetoric.

** Gee… golly… it looked so real. I believe on purpose. Some people believe anything “the newspaper” tells them.

Fracking — coming to a location near you

Plans are being prepared by city staff and others to allow drilling for gas and oil on Longmont properties.  The mineral rights involved are substantially owned by others with Longmont owning only surface land, although the city itself does own some mineral rights.

TOP Operating, a drilling firm, has already held a neighborhood meeting in conjunction with the city for those in the vicinity of Union Reservoir, Sandstone Ranch and the Sherwood property at County Road 20-1/2.  The company’s representative, Dale Bruns (of the LifeBridge/West Union development infamy) also appeared at the October Water Board meeting and Bruns and the owners of TOP Operating appeared at the Board of Environmental Affairs October meeting.

Cougar Land Services, a seismic survey firm that has requested a permit to conduct surveys on Longmont property, is expected to appear before the two boards in November.  The purpose of the seismic surveys is to locate additional oil and gas under Longmont properties.

The TOP Operating plan is to access 80 to 100 wells through five drilling pads located on the Bogott and Adrian water and open space properties west of Union Reservoir that are owned by Longmont, at Sandstone Ranch, on the Sherwood open space property and one additional site.  These plans include directional drilling and hydraulic fracturing (fracking).

Drilling preparations could begin in as little as two to three months.

Frack You Longmont

Frack near Longmont? It's no fairy tale.

Mineral rights issues are complex. Those of you who have seen “Gasland” and/or “Split Estates” will understand that there can be surface land rights and mineral rights for the same piece of property.  Most landowners only own surface rights.  Federal and Colorado law actually permits owners of mineral rights to locate on surface-owned lands of others to drill for the oil and gas (mineral rights) that they own.  In most cases, property owners have acquiesced and leased to them — in some cases for revenue, in some cases for some control over location and/or the number of drills.  If these companies so choose, the can erect a vertical drill for every well.  Outrageous, but true!

While there can be many wells of oil and gas near each other, today’s technology allows for drilling directionally or horizontally to access several of these wells through single drilling sites.  Fracking now makes many of these sources economical for the oil and gas industry.  Fracking uses a combination of water, sand and a chemical cocktail to break apart shale rock and release trapped oil and gas.  Fracking is a serious threat to water supplies regardless of industry propaganda to the contrary.  There are also other environmental hazards with fracking.

About three weeks ago, Longmont voters received a telephone poll conducted by American Tradition Partnership (ATP), formerly known as Western Tradition Partnership (WTP).  Among their many questions was, and I paraphrase, “Would you be OK with oil and gas drilling on Longmont’s open space?”

American Tradition Partnership is rabidly anti-environmental.  They are funded by the oil, gas and coal industries.  Even more significant, the organization is amongst the nation’s best liars who have never had a relationship with shame, and likely never will.

ATP/WTP fully funded Longmont Leadership Committee in the 2009 Longmont election that conducted the ugliest political campaign in Longmont’s recent memories. That election ushered in a majority on city council that espouses a radical ideology. In this year’s election, American Tradition Partnership has openly endorsed Bryan Baum and Health Carroll and opposed Sarah Levison and Sean McCoy in Longmont’s upcoming election.

Mayor Baum raised the issue of Longmont’s mineral rights at the 2010 council retreat.  The subject was not openly resurrected after that time and most of us who are concerned about potential drilling wrongly assumed that the subject was going nowhere.  It is my belief that American Tradition Partnership has acted with the mayor and his block on council since the 2009 election, if not before.  The dots connect.  In essence ATP/WTP is receiving payback for the support provided to elect Baum, Santos, Witt and Sammoury.

This latest turn of events is appalling and our options are limited.  We are losing control of our city and our environment.  Let your voice be heard in whatever forum you have available or feel comfortable in using.

Don’t defile Longmont’s Open Space

In a recent Guest Opinion, I wrote about Western Tradition Partnership.  WTP funded a Longmont political committee that waged an ugly political campaign to elect Mayor Bryan Baum and council members Gabe Santos, Katie Witt and Alex Sammoury.

Western Tradition Partnership is primarily funded by the oil, gas and coal industries.  WTP is now known as American Tradition Partnership.

Last week ATP polled a substantial number of Longmont voters.  It was an extensive poll.  The poll clearly promoted Baum for mayor and at-large candidate Heath Carroll.

American Tradition Partnership is rabidly anti-environmental.   Halfway through the poll, a second agenda became evident.  Their questions about renewable energy were designed to push respondents to respond negatively to green energy.

But the question that should alarm all of Longmonters was this, and I paraphrase, “Would you be OK with gas and oil drilling on Longmont’s open space?”

American Tradition Partnership is calling in its chits.  It spent money to elect the above-mentioned candidates and now its secret contributors want something in return.

Over the next four weeks Cougar Land Services, already operating in Weld County, will seek permission to perform seismic surveys on our open space.   Make no mistake, this is a precursor to drilling with the belief that it will pass the next council.

Our open space belongs to the people of Longmont and must not be disturbed, defiled and degraded.

If you want to end this threat to Longmont’s open space, you have no alternative but to vote against Bryan Baum and those on his preferred slate.   Protect our environmental, recreational, agricultural and water assets from drilling and likely some hydraulic fracking.  Vote in Dennis Coombs as Mayor and return incumbents Sarah Levison, Brian Hansen and Sean McCoy to council.

This land is our land.

Expect outside influence with negative mailers in 2011 election

They did it before, they'll do it again

The slate of candidates for Longmont’s 2011 election is now determined. Technically, the races for mayor and city council are non-partisan races. That simply means that political parties and their registered voters do not determine candidates in a primary for a general election against candidates from competing political parties. It does not eliminate alignment with political parties or political philosophies. Nor does it mean that campaign tactics that we see in state and national elections will not occur.

The divisions that are so obvious at the national level exist in Longmont as well. They exist on our city council because they reflect the divisions in the Longmont community.

In the Longmont 2009 election, very large sums of money were funneled in support of the rightwing four-person majority of the current city council (Baum, Santos, Witt and Sammoury) by an organization known as Western Tradition Partnership (WTP). Such campaigns are not supposed to be “coordinated” but analysis of campaign reports from 2009 cast doubts.

WTP is rabidly anti-environment and is absolutist on the issue of property rights. They go well beyond belief in a free market into an orthodoxy that believes that if you must have government, its purpose should be of, by and for business interests to the exclusion of all else.

Western Tradition Partnership has surfaced around the nation, but mostly in the West, to target candidates with a “D” after their name or who are known or perceived be to a Democrat in any way, shape or form. The Montana Political Practices Commission stopped just short of accusing the organization of corruption and there was testimony to indicate that some of their money likely came from out of the country and found its way into American elections.

Western Tradition Partnership funded the Longmont Leadership Committee who waged a viciously negative campaign against Karen Benker and Kaye Fissinger. It went so far as to include Sean McCoy in their Longmont Leader “newspaper,” even though he wasn’t running in 2009. McCoy does not back down from deeply held convictions against Crony Capitalism. He is committed to clean, open and honest government. That is enough to put him on the radar of people and organizations that believe they have a birthright to power and government control.

WTP now goes by the name American Tradition Partnership. It is an IRS 501c4 tax-exempt, non-profit organization restricted by law from engaging in predominantly political purposes. But that hasn’t stopped it in the past and it won’t stop it going forward. IRS enforcement is virtually nil and when investigations are launched, they are well after the damage has been done.

Expect much more backdoor negative politics in Longmont’s 2011 election. The names may not be the same because past publicity has exposed them locally, statewide and nationally.

You will receive slick mailers that will slant truth and reality, if not invent outright lies. They did it before and they will do it again. They will target the three incumbents that have been on their radar since 2007 – Sean McCoy, Sarah Levison, and Brian Hansen. They will probably target Dennis Coombs as well – for no reason other than that he is challenging Bryan Baum, whom they adore because he embraces their orthodoxy and is a climate-change denier. Denying the realities and evidence of climate change is the first and foremost mission of WTP/ATP or whatever name it will be this time.

And don’t be surprised if independent mailers even seek to divide Longmont’s Democrats. These political committees know what political party you belong to if you’ve declared. There will be almost no limit to their strategies and tactics.

Money bought the 2009 elections and it will be used again to attempt to buy the 2011 elections. And they are counting on Longmont voters to be paying attention to anything or everything else and to rely on negative mailers to make their decisions about who should establish policies for their city. You will know which candidates they support by who is negatively targeted. By cui bono. Who benefits?

It’s not Longmont and its citizenry that they care about. It’s power for extreme and irrational causes and support for some very, very special interests, local and beyond.

Republicans seek to conceal campaign donors

Scott GesslerAt the Longmont City Council meeting on May 3, 2011, Mayor Baum and Council Members, Santos, Sammoury and Witt aligned themselves with Scott Gessler to set the reporting threshold for Longmont ballot issues at $5,000, an amount far too low for a municipality and not mandated by the U.S. 10th Circuit Court ruling in Sampson v Buescher.

The success of representative democracy rests on the faith that elections are honest, fair and transparent. The office of Secretary of State should NEVER be politicized regardless of the political affiliation of the person holding that office. The Secretary of State is closely and directly involved in elections. He monitors campaign reporting and certifies election results.

Scott Gessler is Colorado’s Secretary of State. Mr. Gessler’s specialty is election law. He is in this specialty solely for the purpose of facilitating Republican partisan objectives. One way or another, Gessler uses his specialty to accomplish partisan goals. It is why he sued Longmont along with Western Tradition Partnership and certain Longmont Republicans who provided legal standing for that suit. It is why Scott Gessler ran for the office of Secretary of State. From this position he can do all manner of damage to the election process. And mark my words, if you are following his actions and proposed legislation, he is trying as hard as he can. For those who want to know much more about Gessler, they can find the information by searching at the website Free Range Longmont.com

Today Scott Gessler held a rule-making hearing on the subject of reporting thresholds for ballot issue committees. It is extremely suspect whether he even has the authority to do this. Law is made by legislatures and signed by governors. Secretaries of State are simply and only charged with carrying out law. Certainly they are free to offer opinions. But that is as far as they can go. They are not a legislature of ONE.

Gessler’s close associate Matt Arnold of Clear the Bench spoke at length today during the so-called rule-making hearing. His position was that NO reporting for ballot issues should be required; but if there is reporting ,a $10,000 threshold should be as low as it goes. Gessler offered an inadequate and insufficient disclaimer. Gessler was the attorney for Clear the Bench. The purpose of Clear the Bench was to remove Colorado Supreme Court justices from office because of rulings the Republican Party didn’t like.

Whatever dollar amount is determined for Colorado, let it be clear that the frame of reference under discussion at the hearing is for statewide ballot issues. Municipalities are, with rare exception in Colorado, much smaller. Contributors are usually fewer and amounts contributed smaller. USUALLY. The blatant exception was the Comcast/Communications Association’s $250,000 contribution to prevent Longmont from fully using its fiber optic network.

The Sampson ruling affirmed the need for voters to know who contributes to what, but did not draw a bright line – intentionally. Longmont should establish a line for LOCAL issues. That line should be somewhere between $1000 and $1500.

Revised address to Longmont City Council — May 3, 2011