On Tuesday, July 31st, Colorado Rising, the group behind the Initiative 97 campaign to create a 2,500 hundred foot buffer zone between oil and gas drilling and homes, schools, hospitals, drinking water sources and other vulnerable areas, recorded a conversation with Dan Fessler of Petition Connection LLC in which he admits he was paid to stop circulating the anti-fracking initiative and immediately leave Colorado. KGNU’s Hannah Leigh Myers has the story.
Colorado Rising released that audio directly to KGNU.
In the recording, in addition to confirming the buyout, Fessler says the unnamed source of the buyout also asked him to turn over the signatures he collected for Initiative 97. He refused that request but agreed to take the money, drop the project and leave town. Although Fessler does not divulge exactly who paid him to abandon the project, at times in the recording he hints that a group fighting the Initiative and backed by the oil and gas industry may be behind it.
For months Colorado Rising has collected videos of their volunteers being harassed by people following them, usually with signs. Those people picket the volunteers that are trying to collect the 98,462 signatures required to get their setback initiative on the ballot. Thus far there have been at least 80 reported cases of harassment.
Colorado Rising also released all of the raw harassment videos to KGNU and after reviewing dozens of recordings, there were some obvious similarities between the people that showed up to disrupt the signature collection process.
First, their messages are nearly identical. They yell “don’t sign” “don’t trust this person with your info” or “save Colorado jobs” and most of their very basic signs carry one of those three messages. The alleged harassers are almost all quite young with many appearing to be high school age and they don’t appear to be able to explain why they are opposed to the anti-fracking initiative. In multiple videos, the young picketers seem to slip up and admit they are, in fact, not volunteers but are being paid for their time.
What’s more, just last week Colorado Rising publicly announced the theft of roughly 15,000 signatures by Mike Selvaggio of Direct Action Partners, LLC – the firm originally contracted to gather signatures for the campaign. Selvaggio and his firm left the state overnight with seven boxes of petitions on July 18th and then, according to Colorado Rising, help them ransom. The petitions have since been returned.
Colorado Rising is currently collecting buffer signatures before the deadline Monday, August 6th. They want to make sure they have enough to make the ballot after signatures are inevitably thrown out because of mistakes. Colorado Rising says it’ll be a close race to the end to get enough signatures to make the November ballot. Just this week, Colorado Rising started a new program that pays people for collecting ballot signatures.
You can find out more at corising.org.
Image courtesy of Colorado Rising.