Bloody but unbowed Initiative 97 rages on

A tape was leaked to the NY Times of a June 2014 event in Colorado Springs, where Richard Berman was soliciting money from oil and gas executives, telling them to exploit fear, greed, anger, and to stoke resentment against environments. Protect Colorado follows orders well. [Photo credit: Oil Change International]

*Updated August 3 with links to stories on KDNK and KGNU below

As the August 6 deadline for signatures looms over Initiative 97, the more than 550 volunteers are gearing up for a final statewide effort this weekend. Meanwhile the oil & gas industry has pulled out all their dirty tricks to stop to them.

Initiative 97 is a controversial ballot initiative campaign led by Colorado Rising that would establish 2500-foot setbacks between oil & gas facilities and homes, schools, waterways, and other specified public places. In last week’s episode, Colorado Rising announced that Direct Action Partners, one of 6 signature gathering companies they hired, had quit the campaign and held onto seven boxes of signed petitions. After Colorado Rising attorney Joe Salazar filed suit in Denver District Court, the petitions were returned.

In my post last week, I connected the dots between Direct Action Partners and the pro-industry group Protect Colorado, which has also been linked to harassment of Initiative 97 volunteers. Information gathered by Colorado Rising members shows that Protect Colorado uses text messaging to track locations and alert paid agitators where volunteers are gathering signatures. It is perfectly reasonable to assume Protect Colorado is paying the agitators.

Now another signature gathering company Petition Connection has told Colorado Rising they were paid off by a pro-industry group to quit the campaign. The unnamed-but-we-know-who-they-are-pro-industry-group also wanted Petition Connection to turn over the signed petitions they had completed but the company said no. How big of them.

Westword broke the story last night [emphasis added]:

Petition Circulator Paid to Leave Fracking Setback Campaign

… Colorado Rising disclosed a copy of a recording to Westword in which the group alleges that a “designated agent” for signature-gathering firm Petition Connection LLC admits to Colorado Rising representatives that a competitor paid him to stop working on Initiative 97. The agent couldn’t be reached for comment as of press time.

“Nobody threatened me,” the agent said on the recording. “You know what they’re doing. They’re going around and buying people.”

When asked how much he was paid and if it was worth it, he admitted to Colorado Rising boardmember Lauren Petrie and the campaign’s volunteer community outreach director, Russell Mendell, that the payout “was enough” and that it “was worth it to me.” He said that since he didn’t have a contract with Colorado Rising — he was a subcontractor with Encore Political Services, which came in after Direct Action Partners abruptly left the campaign — that he felt more comfortable “washing his hands” of the campaign.

“Professional petition companies are not paid to believe or disbelieve in an issue,” the man told Mendell and Petrie in the recording. “They’re paid to come out to get the signatures needed for getting something on the ballot, and so we’re not activists in the regard like what you would be. We don’t have the same passion behind any issues. I don’t have to actually even have a moral belief in the issue. I’m getting paid to get a job done.”

All of the signatures gathered by Petition Connection LLC were turned over to the campaign. But the agent admitted that the organization that paid him to quit circulating Initiative 97 also requested that he turn over thousands of signatures, which he said he refused to do. He did not name the group that paid him to exit the campaign.

Encore Political Services, which subcontracted with Petition Connection, also abruptly quit the campaign late last week, days before its contract ended. A signature-gathering firm called 350 Colorado Action is now working with Initiative 97.

“I do hope it’s worth it, because you really fucked over a lot of people. You fucked over a lot of families, you fucked over kids and you fucked over this entire state, so I do hope it was worth it,” Petrie told the agent …

Initiative 97 requires 98,462 valid signatures to make the November ballot. While volunteers have collected at least that many signatures and more, they know they will need up to 25 percent more signatures because of the state’s standard signature verification process, which usually disqualifies at least a quarter of all submitted signatures. In 2016, Initiative 78 for mandatory 2,500-foot setbacks between new oil & gas development and schools, playgrounds and hospitals, required about 99,000 signatures. Volunteers turned in 106,626 but the state only validated 77,109 signatures.

Initiative 97 will likely survive this onslaught of dirty tricks. Come hell or high water (and the industry is capable of producing both) those signed petitions will be delivered to Secretary of State Wayne Williams office on Monday by 3:00 p.m. At which point it will be his turn to do everything within his power to see that Initiative 97 does not make it onto the ballot.

Click here to find out where to sign .

See also: 

KDNK Joe Salazar: Stolen Petitions Returned but Colorado Rising Will Sue

KGNUColorado Rising Releases Recording Confirming Signature Collecting Firm Was Paid To Abandon Initiative 97

Boulder WeeklyA new recording sheds more light on the questionable efforts to stop setback initiative

Daily CameraBoulder-based advocates of anti-fracking initiative facing hurdles

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2 Comments on “Bloody but unbowed Initiative 97 rages on”

  1. amyhaddenmarsh Says:

    Great stuff, Peggy. I interviews Joe Salazar last week. It’s up on the KDNK website. Feel free to link to it. I’m impressed by your investigative skills here. May I use some of your info for my own KDNK piece? Thanks. AHM

  2. Peggy Tibbetts Says:

    Thanks! I owe it all to google. Yes of course, use it all.

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