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GUEST COLUMN: What you should know about dark money, nasty postcards

By: Gordon Klingenschmitt
May 11, 2017 Updated: May 19, 2017 at 7:55 am
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Wouldn't you love to know the names of the secret billionaires who pay for all those anonymous, nasty, false postcards in your mailbox before elections? I sure would. Their favorite big-government candidates, even some Republicans, raise your taxes after elections, pilfering your property into their cronies' pockets.

Now thanks to a court ruling, their names may soon be revealed. "Guilty" was the court verdict last week against Bob Beauprez and his group Colorado Pioneer Action (CPA), fined a mere $17,735 in penalties by a judge for campaign finance violations of our state's election transparency laws. But don't feel bad for them. My sources say they've raised $2 million to spend next election cycle.

I attended Beauprez's two-day trial and heard the liberal Republican admit under oath how his organization designed and mailed tens of thousands of nasty postcards against five low-tax conservatives in June's Republican primary.

CPA's donors are still secret, for now, their names in court redacted from big $67,000 and $105,000 checks presented as evidence, among nearly $700,000 total in 2016. (The rest of us mere mortals are limited to $400 donation per candidate). But the judge ruled Beauprez's secret donors' identities must soon be disclosed, thanks to Campaign Integrity Watchdog and unpaid volunteer Matt Arnold's great diligence in fighting for transparency.

But I predict the billionaires remain hidden, since Beauprez's $400-plus per hour lawyers will likely appeal. Your Secretary of State Wayne Williams' office has even vowed to help Beauprez appeal (misusing your tax dollars to mask election bandits) and drag this on for another election cycle - more anonymous postcards coming.

CPA's illegal campaigns helped five caucus-losing liberal Republicans attack five caucus-winning conservative Republicans, Jess Loban, Kimmi Lewis, incumbent legislators Lori Saine, Janak Joshi, and yours truly, Gordon Klingenschmitt. You may have cheered my eventual defeat in June (internal polls showed I was winning 53-47 percent in May before the nasty postcards dropped), but are you still cheering when liberal Republicans just hiked your taxes to pay back their cronies?

Take for example, two of Beauprez's winning candidates, State Sen. Bob Gardner and State Rep. Larry Liston, caucus losers who later won their mail-in primaries thanks to Beauprez's help. Dark money bought them two seats in the Legislature.

Tracer reports confirm Beauprez's 501c4 'social welfare' tax-exempt organization CPA received hundreds of thousands of dollars, which he transferred and spent through his other IEC group Colorado Right Now (CRN), the court ruled illegally, abusing CPA's nonprofit status for electioneering ads. CRN's Tracer filings report spending tens of thousands to advertise for Gardner and Liston, against Joshi and Klingenschmitt. Beauprez admitted this in court. But what payoff did Beauprez's secret billionaire friends get in return?

I'm sure Gardner and Liston, who claim "no knowledge whatsoever" of such illegal activity conducted for their benefit, were simply grateful to win. So grateful, in fact, their first bill co-sponsored together was HB17-1018, "Extend Voter Approval Window for Regional Transportation Authority Mill Levy," to let the local RTA (which Wayne Williams created) try to hike your taxes for 10 more years. If that's not a clear, unethical quid pro quo, I don't know what payback is.

What private business groups benefit from RTA mill levy tax hikes? Cronies. Who is funding the postcards? Cronies. Who is soaking the taxpayers? Cronies. Forgive my cynicism, but as a former legislator I've met the lobbyists who funded my defeat, and they didn't like how I voted "No" on big government spending for pet projects. I earned my consistent A-ratings from taxpayer-liberty-citizen groups, not lobbyists who get legislative payback for anonymous clients who mail nasty postcards to elect liberals at taxpayer expense.

My suspicions are confirmed by recent headlines like these: "Committee with unnamed donors has most money on table in Colorado Springs election" and "Besides Nor'wood, one other 'entity' submitted an undocumented bid for downtown land," and "City Council approves downtown land swap in 8-0 vote." It's no surprise the cronies funded campaigns against Helen Collins and Janak Joshi who would have voted "no." Secret cronies rob taxpayers blind. They laugh at you every time you read their postcards, and vote for their endorsed candidates.

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Gordon Klingenschmitt is a former state representative.

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