Meet Colorado’s anti-union ‘clean team’

The campaign by the Independence Institute, a conservative think-tank, to weaken the political power of labor unions in the state has gone digital, with a Web site now extolling the virtues of “clean government” via the “clean team,” a supposed grassroots effort meant to back an anti-union proposal being sponsored by the organization.

A Web site has been launched supporting Amendment 54, a measure backed by the Institute that would prohibit both unions and sole-source contractors with the state unions from giving to political campaigns, essentially snuffing out the traditionally pro-Democratic contributions that are given by labor.

While the Institute is quick to assail the “out-of-state union money” being used to promote a number of ballot measures submitted by labor groups, the Institute is naturally mum on how its own political efforts have been funded.

Here are the facts.

Clean Government Colorado, the political committee supporting Amendment 54, has raised more than $1.5 million dollars. At least 90 percent of that money has come from the nonprofit organization Colorado At Its Best, created by Institute fellow Dennis Pohill in 2001 and directed by New York libertarian activist and real-estate developer Howard Rich, according to documents filed with the secretary of state’s office.

Because Colorado At Its Best is a nonprofit, it is not required to release the names of its contributors, meaning that the ‘clean’ campaign has been funded primarily from donors who are anonymous.

The pro-Amendment 54 campaign is correct in stating that unions have spent millions in Colorado, including funds that came from out-of-state labor groups and other national union affiliates. But the difference is that members of the public can see exactly where the union money is coming from, and in the example of Colorado’s ‘clean team, that’s just not the case.

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

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