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Secret money funds gun ads

Group seeking McLachlan recall denies any link but welcomes the help

McLachlan Enlarge photo

McLachlan

DENVER – Experienced Republican campaigners have entered the fight against Rep. Mike McLachlan, D-Durango, although it remains to be seen how much they will assist in an effort to recall him.

A new nonprofit group called Colorado Citizens Protecting Our Constitution took out Web ads and a full-page print ad in the Feb. 17 Durango Herald to criticize McLachlan’s votes on four gun bills.

The Web ads link to a one-page website that duplicates the print advertisement, attempting to link McLachlan to New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, a gun-control advocate.

Three other Democrats were targeted with nearly identical full-page ads in their hometown newspapers. The ads mentioned Diane Mitsch-Bush of Steamboat Springs, Tony Exum of Colorado Springs and Dave Young of Greeley.

The group’s funding and leadership remains a mystery.

It does not appear to be affiliated with an ad-hoc group called Colorado Accountability, which announced a recall campaign against McLachlan on Saturday and warned he would be the first of several legislators to face recall elections because of their votes on gun bills.

Colorado Accountability will file a recall petition with the secretary of state next week, said Anthony Garcia, the group’s spokesman.

“We want to get all our ducks in a row” before filing, Garcia said.

The recall proponents face a difficult task. They will have 60 days from the date they file the petition to get about 10,600 signatures from registered voters in McLachlan’s district – a largely rural and mountainous district that isn’t easy to travel even in good weather.

Colorado Accountability now has its eyes on an even bigger target – Senate President John Morse, D-Colorado Springs.

Morse introduced Senate Bill 196 on Wednesday, which cracks down on assault weapons. Morse told reporters Tuesday that people don’t have a constitutional right to own dangerous assault weapons.

“We’ve been taking a strong look at him because of that, and we’re probably going to go ahead with a campaign against him, too,” Garcia said.

Colorado Accountability is not affiliated with the Herald ads, Garcia said, but he welcomed the help.

Colorado Citizens Protecting Our Constitution paid for full-page color ads in four newspapers, including the Herald and The Gazette of Colorado Springs.

But little is known about the group or its funding. As a 501(c)4 nonprofit, the group does not have to reveal its donors.

It was registered Feb. 13, five days before McLachlan’s votes on the gun bills.

Tim Pollard placed the ads for the group. He is chief operating officer for EIS Solutions, a Grand Junction political-advocacy business that often works for the natural-gas and oil industry. Josh Penry, a former Senate minority leader and Republican candidate for governor, is EIS’s most well-known employee.

EIS has worked in Southwest Colorado before as a consultant for Varca Ventures, which owns gold mines in La Plata Canyon, according to a document on file with the Securities and Exchange Commission.

Andy Nickel filed the registration papers for Colorado Citizens Protecting Our Constitution. He and his business partner, Jon Anderson, have registered many of the leading campaign groups and political nonprofits associated with Colorado’s Republican leadership.

Nickel served as the registered agent for Colorado Citizens for Accountable Government, the main House Republican campaign committee, which spent $1.9 million on the 2012 election statewide. McLachlan’s race was one of the group’s prime targets.

Neither Pollard nor Nickel returned a call and an email requesting comment.

So far, no Democratic groups appear to be mounting a defense for McLachlan.

But Denver-based political committees from both parties lavished spending on his race against former Rep. J. Paul Brown, R-Ignacio, last year. Democratic committees spent at least $164,000 on his race, in addition to the $147,000 he raised and spent on his own, campaign-finance records show.

jhanel@durangoherald.com

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