A leading liberal environmental group is urging voters to "take the cough out of Congress" in a TV ad campaign launched Tuesday aimed at unseating U.S. Rep. Mike Coffman, the Aurora Republican seeking reelection in the swing 6th Congressional District.
Tom Steyer is back in Colorado politics. Well, actually, he never really left. Anyone who follows politics in our state should know Steyer well. He’s the environmental activist and California hedge-fund billionaire who spent more than $7 million on a failed campaign against U.S. Senator Cory Gardner (R) in 2014. He poured at least $2 million more into Colorado politics in 2016, spending big on the presidential election and another failed campaign to seize control of the Colorado state legislature.
Democratic congressional candidate Joe Neguse is one of nine candidates nationwide to win support from the Congressional Progressive Caucus in its first round of endorsements, his campaign announced Monday.
Former Colorado Gov. Bill Ritter, a leader in the push for clean energy, on Monday endorsed Joe Neguse, one of three Democrats running for the 2nd Congressional District seat, saying the former University of Colorado regent will lead the fight against climate change.
The political arm of leading environmentalist advocacy group League of Conservation Voters on Tuesday got behind congressional candidate Joe Neguse, one of three Democrats running in a primary for Colorado's 2nd Congressional District seat being vacated by U.S. Rep. Jared Polis, who is running for governor.
Well, now the state’s largest environmental group, Conservation Colorado, has endorsed two candidates for the traditionally conservative-leaning city council. The group has endorsed Crystal Murillo in Ward 1 and Nicole Johnston in Ward 2 for the council. There are 26 candidates vying for five seats on the council.
“We were impressed by their commitment to protecting Aurora from pollution, their desire to ensure that growth is reflective of community needs, and their passion for creating a more inclusive government in Aurora,” spokesperson Jessica Goad said in an email to Colorado Politics.
While the Denver-based group has in the past prioritized state legislative and statewide races, with an occasional county commission race thrown in the mix, Conservation Colorado endorsed candidates for municipal office for the first time this election cycle, Goad said. Last year, the group spent $1.3 million on state legislative races.
As the third-largest city in the state, Aurora drew the group’s eye because of its ethnically-and racially-diverse populace and hopes to help elect candidates that can influence city policy on environmental issues like oil, gas and public transportation.
“We are planning to knock doors, make phone calls, and hit the pavement to help these candidates win,” she said.
The group already organizes in Aurora, through its Protégete program, a joint Conservation Colorado and League of Conservation Voters program which seeks to “elevate Latino voices.” Though the seats on the City Council are non-partisan, Aurora City Council is known for its conservative leanings. A Westword report in 2015 detailed Aurora as among the 10 most conservative cities in the country.
After the failure of statewide anti-fracking ballot measures in Colorado last year, national activist groups are regrouping at the local level. This is history repeating. Several years ago, the push for a statewide oil and gas ban started with local campaigns, led by Washington, D.C.-based Food & Water Watch and other out-of-state groups.
Today, the activists are using local governments once again to win statewide attention. This time, they are trying harder to conceal their national ties and portray their lobbying as authentic and spontaneous. But if you know where to look, it’s clear these revamped local campaigns are just as contrived as ever.
Take the anti-oil and gas campaign in Thornton. Officials there are debating new local restrictions on oil and gas development, including wider drilling setbacks than state law allows.
The state attorney general’s office recently warned Thornton officials about the proposed regulations, according to ColoradoPolitics.com. In a letter to the city, assistant attorney general Kyle Davenport cited the Colorado Supreme Court’s 2016 ruling on local and state authority over oil and gas. In that landmark case, the court said a local ordinance “that authorizes what state law forbids or that forbids what state law authorizes” is preempted and will be struck down.
Even so, Thornton officials seem unfazed by the potential for litigation. Perhaps they are getting different legal advice, but if so, where is that legal advice coming from?
Both groups have close financialand political ties to Tom Steyer, the anti-oil and gas billionaire from California. In 2016, Conservation Colorado endorsed an anti-fracking ballot measure that would – you guessed it – legalize local energy bans. “When national politics are daunting, it’s time to back to the basics: Organizing local support,” the group said last year.
Were Thornton taxpayers told about this? Do they know their oil and gas attorney sits on the board of an anti-oil and gas group? Do they know that expensive legal battles between local officials, state regulators and the energy industry play right into the hands of the environmental lobby?
Are Thornton officials being advised – or lobbied – by their own lawyer?
So that’s the inside game. Let’s examine the outside game.
“I’ll take care of any responses and questions … and Food & Water Watch can do the heavy lifting in terms of calling folks,” he told activists recently while distributing campaign flyers under the Facebook pseudonym “Greg Charles.”
Food & Water Watch also sponsored an activist training session with Josh Joswick of Earthworks to “build power at the local level.” Joswick has called the campaign against energy development a “back-alley fight,” urging his fellow activists to “fight it any way you can,” including with local regulations.
Eichhorn also testified in favor of Thornton’s proposed regulations last month, without disclosing his role with a national group that wants to “ban fracking everywhere.” He wasn’t alone.
National environmental groups have a First Amendment right to lobby and campaign at any level of government they choose, of course. But let’s be realistic about who’s really running these local campaigns, and what they really want.