Minority Office Attack Raises More Questions

As was reported by Colorado Confidential on Monday, Colorado Citizens for Ethics in Government (CCEG), a local non-profit and non-partisan watchdog group, submitted letters to Governor Bill Ritter and Denver District Attorney Mitch Morrissey calling for an investigation of the Senate Minority Office and the Web site ColoradoSenateNews.com, which has been called “the official communications arm of the Senate Minority Office.”

At issue was the fact that a Minority Office staff member had called CCEG, wanting to know information about the group’s funders-information that CCEG is not legally required to disclose.

Shortly after, ColoradoSenateNews posted an article attacking CCEG. The information included in the partisan news report appeared to have been obtained by the staff member, whose salary is paid by state money. Under current law it is illegal to use state time and resources to engage in partisan activities.

But even before ColoradoSenateNews had written its article, an individual representing FaceTheState.com visited CCEG offices and asked similar questions regarding the organization’s funding. Coincidence?

On March 29th, former Republican legislative candidate Aimee Rathburn entered CCEG offices and said she worked for Republican operative Brad Jones and was writing an article about ethics organizations for FaceTheState, according to a CCEG staff member.

“She asked for our [IRS tax forms], which we gave her because an organization like us, we’re required to be able to provide those,” says Jenn Berg, a Research Associate with CCEG.

“She sort of delved into the the world of funding and asked why we wouldn’t reveal our funders and apparently the answer that we aren’t legally required to didn’t suffice, so she started naming names and trying to call us out on the hypocrisy of wanting open government when we wouldn’t reveal our own sources, ignoring the fact that we’re not a government agency, ” Berg says.

The inquiry is estimated to have lasted approximately 15 minutes. In 2006 Rathburn ran against Democrat Jeanne Labuda for a local seat in HD-1 and lost with 44%. Brad Jones, owner of FaceTheState worked as a consultant on her campaign. Rathburn has also worked as a lobbyist for Colorado State Shooting Association in 2000.

On April 4th Colorado Confidential exposed other connections between FaceTheState and ColoradoSenateNews. Later in the day, ColoradoSenateNews changed its domain registration.

As of press time, FaceTheState does not appear to have posted any article regarding ethics groups.

Timeline

  • Jan. 29th:
    Senate Minority Leader Andy McElhany unveils new Web site, marking his “last press release ever.”

  • March 29th:
    Aimee Rathburn asks CCEG about funding on behalf of FaceTheState.com

  • March 30th:
    ColoradoSenateNews.com still has the lines “An online service of the Senate Minority Office” and “Hosted by Brad Jones LLC.” written at the bottom of the Web site.

  • April 2nd:
    Both lines are removed from the site.

  • April 4th:
    Colorado Confidential exposes ties between ColoradoSenateNews, Brad Jones, and FaceTheState. ColoradoSenateNews changes its domain registration the same day.

  • April 11th:
    A staffer at the Senate Minority Office calls CCEG asking questions about funding. The line “An online service of the Senate Minority Office” manages to make its way back on to the site. Later, ColoradoSenateNews releases article on CCEG.

  • April 16th:
    CCEG files complaints with Denver District Attorney and Governor Bill Ritter.

Like this story? Steal it! Feel free to republish it in part or in full, just please give credit to The Colorado Independent and add a link to the original.

Got a tip? Story pitch? Send us an e-mail. Follow The Colorado Independent on Twitter.



About the Author

Erin Rosa

Erin Rosa was born in Spain and raised in Colorado Springs. She is a freelance writer currently living in Denver. Rosa's work has been featured in a variety of news outlets including the Huffington Post, Democracy Now!, and the Rocky Mountain Chronicle, an alternative-weekly in Northern Colorado where she worked as a columnist covering the state legislature.

Rosa has received awards from the Society of Professional Journalists for her reporting on lobbying and woman's health issues. She was also tapped with a rare honorable mention award by the Newspaper Guild-CWA's David S. Barr Award in 2008--only the second such honor conferred in its nine-year history--for her investigative series covering the federal government's Supermax prison in the state.

Rosa covers the labor community, corrections, immigration and government transparency matters.

She can be reached at erosa@coloradoindependent.com.

Leave a Response

Your email address will not be published.

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>