What do you get when you combine libertarian beliefs with a moxie for mainstream media attention? One possible answer is Brad Jones, the young and politically active founder of FaceTheState.com, a self-described “free market news site” currently embroiled in a hubbub with the Governor’s office over the collective bargaining of state employees.
While friends and acquaintances jokingly refer to Jones as “the Brad Jones show,” an allusion to his zest for media appearances in print and broadcast publications, there is more to the man than media gusto. For one thing, Jones says he’s determined to fight what he calls the “rising tide of the growing nanny state,” and wants to help build a conservative infrastructure to influence politics in Colorado.Readers may remember Jones and FaceTheState from a legislative controversy last Spring, when the Web site came out by divulging an incendiary e-mail message written by Manitou Springs Democratic Rep. Mike Merrifield stating that “there must be a special place in hell” for certain supporters of charter schools. Merrifield later resigned as chairman of the House Education Committee after the e-mail was released, citing health concerns with his then ongoing battle with throat cancer.
Most recently, FaceTheState has graced newspaper pages again regarding public documents showing that Governor Bill Ritter was conversing with labor unions about proposed legislation that could allow state employees to collectively bargain for benefits and wages–with one labor union asking that the conversations be kept quiet for political reasons.
The documents, the e-mail and the labor conversations, were obtained through the Colorado Open Records Act (CORA) by Jones. The act requires members of the public to have access to a wide array of state documents, including legislative communications.
From growing up near the national beltway in Arlington Va., to an active stint as head of the college Republicans at Colorado University (CU) in Boulder a few years ago, to the actions of FaceTheState, Jones is continuing to stay busy, and provided Colorado Confidential with some insight into his political experience and plans for the future.
According to Jones, his parents weren’t strongly political, although he discloses that his father was a self-described socialist at one point. Instead, he says it was an Arlington school district’s move to disband his high school rifle team’s firing range after the Columbine massacre that got him thinking about politics and the Democratic officials who were supporting the action.
In fact, Jones claims that he got involved in Boulder campus politics as “a fluke,” and had never actually visited the city before his freshman orientation, although he had traveled to other parts of Colorado as a Boy Scout.
“When I first got involved with the [college republicans] it was half-a-dozen socially awkward kids sitting around and talking about how much they hated Hillary Clinton,” Jones says on his involvement with the CU student group. “When I left the college republicans, they were a lively full-featured organization that I think offered a lot to students at a traditionally liberal campus.”
While involved with the the campus republicans, Jones organized many controversial and media grabbing actions, including a pro-gun rally, a conservative “coming out” day, and an affirmative action bake sale that suggested different prices for goods based on race. Republican students and Jones also created a Web site where conservative students could report what they felt was liberal bias from university professors.
“He’s friendly and interesting to get into a discussion with,” admits Travis Leiker, who headed the CU Democrats while Jones was president of the campus Republicans. “While both of us were chairs of our respective organizations, I wish that our time wasn’t overshadowed by stirring up controversy, but rather we would have had a more pertinent dialog on campus.”
But Jones defends the actions by saying they opened up a dialog that wasn’t on campus before. “While a lot of our events did definitely have a controversial aspect to them, they were all based on policy. They weren’t just events created to shock. We were interested in moving policy,” he says.
Paula Pant, a reporter for the Colorado Daily who has written on Jones before, didn’t wish to comment publicly on one of her sources, but still says she considers him “an extremely accomplished peer.”
“He is a very friendly guy. And a hard-worker,” says Mario Nicolais, a listed chairman with the Republican Law Society group at CU’s Law School, who has worked with Jones before.
Even though Jones has been paid for consulting work on behalf of Republican candidates like Broomfield Sen. Shawn Mitchell and congressional hopeful Bob Schaffer, he still attests that he is a Libertarian ideologically, and expresses frustration with the national Republican apparatus for straying away from “fiscal responsibility” and “limited government”–ideas which he says made the party so successful in the first place.
Then there’s the matter of building a conservative infrastructure and exposing labor union influence, Jones says.
“The liberal establishment in Colorado has done a very good job of setting up those institutions,” he says, citing examples like Colorado Media Matters and Progress Now. ” It’s important for conservatives to learn a lesson that we are being taught by liberals, which is you need to build infrastructure. You need to build capacity around organizations.”
Ritter spokesman Evan Dryer also came into the conversation, regarding the labor documents Jones requested and later published on FaceTheState.
“He did all the hard work of placing that story with the media, and I thank him for that. [The Governor’s office] released the open records documents to the media before they were given to me,” he says, alleging that office did so in an effort to blunt the impact of what Jones says was an unfavorable story.
Dryer flatly denies the accusations, saying that Jones was notified in the early morning that the documents were ready to be picked up. “A couple hours later, we also provided copies to the media,” says Dryer. “We wanted to be very clear to the press and the public that there’s nothing to hide here. There are no secrets around this, no sinister conspiracy. Being transparent and providing full disclosure seemed the best way to convey that sentiment.”
But wherever the Governor’s discussed labor legislation eventually ends up, Jones plans to continue covering “government accountability” and labor issues on FaceTheState, and if he gets more media attention on the way, he probably won’t mind either.