Western Skies Coalition lists Owens, Bennett on executive committee

The Western Skies Coalition, a conservative advocacy group incorporated in Virginia but with an office in Littleton, touts former Colorado Gov. Bill Owens and former U.S. Secretary of Education and George H.W. Bush drug czar Bill Bennett as two of the noted members of the organization’s “constantly growing” executive committee.

In a launch press release obtained by the Colorado Independent and dated Oct. 10, 2007, the group makes the following mission statement: “Western Skies Coalition, a 501(c)(4) tax-exempt organization, is dedicated to promoting issues that make America great: protection of individual freedom; a pro-growth economic agenda; a strong national defense strategy; and the preservation of the environment.”

Western Skies, which is allegedly backed by at least four oil and gas companies with operations in Colorado and Wyoming, has been running television ads in two key Colorado state Senate races, painting Republicans as alternative-energy advocates despite records to the contrary.

Western Skies has organized as a 501(c)(4), according to its Web site, but has yet to file with the Internal Revenue Service, according to a search of IRS records. Sean Tonner of Phase Line Strategies, a conservative consulting firm based in Highlands Ranch, filed Western Skies as a foreign entity with the Colorado Secretary of State’s office on April 2 of this year.

Tonner, who did not return several calls requesting comment for this story, is the former chief of staff for Owens, who conceived the now-defunct Trailhead Group, one of the most notorious and wealthiest 527 GOP hit squads of 2006.

“Former Colorado Gov. Bill Owens and former U.S. Secretary of Education Bill Bennett are two of the noted members of the constantly growing Western Skies Coalition Executive Committee,” the press release reads. But no other members of the executive committee are listed on the group’s Web site.