Tim Gill’s latest liberal political “527” creation, the Colorado Accountable Government Alliance (CAGA), recently came under heavy fire from candidates across the state on both sides of the aisle for approving what are being billed as slanderous hit pieces and political bullying tactics.
Within the last month, CAGA ran nearly half a dozen propaganda ads against candidates currently seeking office in Colorado. These negative ads were filled with outrageous and unfounded claims, causing candidates to threaten lawsuits and even prompting a local county government investigation into the newly formed CAGA campaign committee.
One ad run earlier this month in the form of a direct mail piece accused Republican Rick Enstrom of being a cocaine dealer and getting arrested over twenty years ago for selling “drug paraphernalia” out of his car. Enstrom assured and the police records confirmed that while Enstrom was pulled over, he was never jailed or charged officially for such accusations.
Colorado Open Government Instiutute filed a legal complaint against CAGA after reviewing the evidence and finding it lacking. Enstrom himself has also threatened a lawsuit.
Brian Watson, a Republican running for a state House seat near Denver, was called a “deadbeat” and accused of owing $278,000 in taxes by a CAGA ad a week later. A shocked Watson responded by calling the flyer “blatantly untrue.”
On Wednesday, Independent House candidate Kathleen Curry was attacked by CAGA for allegedly voting to block mammogram screenings, which she ardently denied. After Curry explained that her own mother was a breast cancer survivor and that she had no idea what vote CAGA was referencing, local DAs in Summit County began an ethics violation investigation into CAGA and its independent expenditure committee.
CAGA does not have a website, contact information, or any publicly available information on the mission and goals of the organization other than what is found in the campaign finance report filings required by the Colorado Secretary of State. These filings ask the organization to list the “purpose” of the political committee and the nature of its work. In CAGA’s filings, the only “purpose” and explanation given is “to educate and inform Colorado voters.”
The reports also reveal CAGA was officially created as a political issue committee in the state by liberal figurehead Julie Wells, the registrant for nearly every group in the Colorado left’s political network in recent years.
While the basic “527” side of CAGA was created in December of 2010, Wells was just recently recruited again to help launch the independent expenditure arm of their PAC in August. This allowed for the recent influx of direct mail hit pieces and other advertising for or against specific candidates with the intention of influencing the November elections at a local level.
The vast majority of money spent by CAGA goes directly to the newly formed independent expenditure committee and consulting services for the group. CAGA reported $2,244,104 spent from its genesis at the end of 2010 through September of 2012. Eighty percent of that money, or $1,775,897, was spent last month alone. Before September, the average monthly expenditure for CAGA was just over $20,000.
The breakdown of CAGA’s September expenditures shows just under $1 million of the nearly $1.8 million spent being directly transferred to the independent expenditure committee for use in attack ads. The remaining roughly $800,000 was paid to political and communication consultants.
CAGA is one of only three groups receiving direct funding from Time Gill and the Gill Foundation in Colorado this election cycle. Official political filings for CAGA reveal more than $250,000 in contributions from the Gill Action Fund in the last three months. Numerous national unions such as the Public Education Committee (PEC), the Service Employees International Union (SEIU), American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME), and American Federation of Teachers (AFT) have given over $1 million in donations through their DC-based political organizations.
Of the candidates targeted by CAGA this election cycle, three are Republicans, one is a Democrat, and one is an Independent candidate.