“When you have excluded the impossible, whatever remains, however improbable, must be the truth.”-Sherlock Holmes, “The Adventure of the Beryl Coronet.”
Why would a shadowy 527 committee, “Citizens for a Sound Government” spend thousands of dollars attacking an apparently random group of Colorado Springs City Council candidates, including Joe Barrera and Don Knight in District 1, Joel Miller in D-2, Brandy Williams and Jim Bensberg in District 3, Dennis Moore in District 4, Bernie Herpin in District 5, and Ed Bircham and Andres Pico in District 6?
CSG’s attacks were far from random. They were conceived and created by an experienced GOP political operative, Alan Philp. Given his bio, it’s fairly remarkable that he’s involved in such petty contests, unless there are folks out there who are willing to pay him well for his time. The effort, which includes targeted mailings, radio/TV spots, and Facebook ads, has cost plenty – but we’ll never know how much, nor will we ever know who funded them. As long as they don’t call directly for the election or defeat of specific candidates, 527 committees can remain utterly anonymous.
Philp is a principal in CAP Public Affairs, Republican political consultants with offices in Washington, D.C. He’s been a major player in Colorado politics for years, and has been frequently accused of running vicious, take-no-prisoners campaigns that delight supporters and infuriate opponents.
Here’s Philp’s bio, from CAP’s website.
“Former Policy Director to Florida Governor Jeb Bush and former Deputy Chief of Staff to Colorado Governor Bill Owens. Coordinated 2010 Republican pick-up efforts in nine Western states, including the election of the first Hispanic female Governor in the country. Ran the groundbreaking 527 Trailhead Group through the 2006 cycle. Served as Executive Director of the Colorado Republican Party. Has managed several candidate and issue campaigns across the nation.”
Philp ran Jeff Crank’s unsuccessful campaign for Doug Lamborn’s seat in Congress in 2008. Here’s what Cara DeGette had to say about Philp’s appointment to the post in the March 20, 2008 issue of the Independent.
“Oh, yeah, oh yeah. The down ‘n dirty, hardball Republican 527 committee that two years ago tracked a bloody path of slash-’em politics all over the state? Founded by former Gov. Bill Owens and funded by beer magnate (and failed U.S. Senate candidate) Pete Coors, along with oilman (and just-named University of Colorado president) Bruce Benson?
“It was run by an operative named Alan Philp, who was flogged for broadcasts and campaign fliers attacking Democratic candidates like now-Gov. Bill Ritter, state Sen. John Morse, Pueblo state Rep. Buffie McFadyen and Lakewood state Sen. Betty Boyd. The tactics included misleading attacks and outright lies, and Trailhead was investigated for criminal wrongdoing.”
As you might gather, Philp apparently looks upon Democrats as coyotes look upon housecats – as tasty snacks. And despite his scorched earth tactics, he’s an establishment guy, not a Tea Partier.
So who benefits? Put another way, which credible candidates aren’t being attacked by CSG?
Tim Leigh in D-1 (although Leigh is drawing fire from a different, equally shadowy 527), Angela Dougan in D-2, Keith King in D-3, Deborah Hendrix in D-4, Jill Gaebler and Al Loma in D-5, and David Moore in D-6. With exception of Gaebler, that’s the HBA slate – so are they the secret funders?
Nope. They operate in the open – hiding behind a 527 wouldn’t make any sense.
Is it Mayor Steve Bach? Nope – Bach’s a tough guy, but he’s been careful to avoid endorsing any candidates except Dougan, in whose district he resides. Bach will have to work with whoever gets elected, and he’s got enough fights on his hand without starting new ones.
Is it Americans for Prosperity, run locally by former congressional candidate Jeff Crank (yup, the guy who hired Alan Philp in 2008) and former Gazette editorial page editor/ City Councilmember Sean Paige?
Nope. They’re just out with their very own nastygram, a full-sheet mailer accusing Brandy Williams of all kinds of things. Their accusations are as absurd and exaggerated as those of CSG, but at least AFP operates in the open (sort of).
So who is it? I’d put my money on any of half a dozen conservative local businessmen, who share many of the goals and beliefs of AFP and similar organizations. $100,000 strategically invested might just make the crucial difference in all six races.
And if you succeed, woo-hoo!! You’ve just bought an election for $100K – cheap at twice the price. Too bad you can’t brag about it, unless you want to delegitimize the newly elected Council. I can see it now – silver haired businessman strides into Council, demands the floor, and says:
“Listen, you people! I own you – and I’ll be sending you action memos every week. Be sure you read them carefully. And remember: ‘Every breath you take/Every smile you fake/Every lie you make/I’ll be watching you.’”
But Alan, Sean, Jeff: you have a problem. The ballots were mailed out three weeks ago, and most of them have already been returned. You may have mobilized the vast right-wing attack machine, but you let the dogs of war doze in the yard until the fight was almost over. C’mon, get going!! As Will Smith said to the alien in “Independence Day,” “Is that all you got?”
Joking aside, it’s sad to see the extent to which nasty partisanship has inserted itself into Council campaigns. We don’t need Republicans, Democrats, liberals or conservatives on Council – we need effective representation. Washington-style character assassination won’t get us there.