Political group that attacked Dems in GarCo goes after Longmont candidate

An Astroturf group with ties to Colorado Republican political operative Scott Shires has apparently shifted its focus from oil and gas issues on the Western Slope to defending the religious right in a Longmont City Council race.

The Montana-based 501c4, Western Tradition Partnership, is reportedly one of two groups behind a Sept. 23 push poll targeting incumbent councilwoman Karen Benker, who filed a complaint with the city clerk’s office on Monday, according to the Longmont Times Call.

Her opponent, Katie Witt, said she had nothing to do with the poll, which asked leading questions like this one: “If you knew that Karen Benker discriminated against a Christian church organization unfairly based on their religion, would that make you more or less favorable toward her?”

That’s a reference to a controversial no vote two years ago on a commercial project proposed by LifeBridge Christian Church. Witt, according to ColoradoPols, is a failed state Senate candidate from last year who’s being groomed by the state GOP for bigger and better things but needs to win something first – like a Longmont City Council race.

Western Tradition Partnership first reared its ugly head in the 2008 Garfield County commissioners race on Colorado’s gas-happy Western Slope, where two Dems were targeted by big oil and gas money in a smear campaign that cost both of them the election and led to Shires being fined for campaign violations.

Although, Western Tradition Partnership was first formed last year in that bastion of political tolerance, Montana, it was also incorporated in Colorado by Shires, although the registered agent was later changed.

Former Marilyn Musgrave congressional staffer Jacob Leis is WTP’s executive director, which makes the whole religious right, “drill, baby, drill” connection come full circle. WTP has gone after Betsy Markey, the Dem who finally ousted the arch-conservative Musgrave last year, for her yes vote this summer on climate change legislation.

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About the Author

David O. Williams

is an award-winning reporter who has covered energy, environmental and political issues for years. His work has appeared in the New York Times, Chicago Tribune and Denver Post. He's founder of Real Vail
and Real Aspen.

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