Yes, Republicans have a strange appetite for eating their own. But in bellwether state Colorado; Republican incumbents are on the menu as big money, big-government Republican “moderates” spend hundreds of thousands of dollars to slime their own statehouse conservative stars in primary races. Vicious smear direct mail attacks with heinous lies about these incumbents are flooding voters’ mailboxes prior to the June 28 primary. Establishment Republicans want to eliminate the smaller-government conservatives who stand against crony capitalism and the lobbyist agenda of business favors. Indeed, Colorado is a mini-me version of the D.C. big boys.
An “Independent Expenditure Committee” calling itself “Colorado Right Now” materialized out of thin air in early June, just days before it began spending over $220,000 on nasty mailers against incumbent Republicans. They also sent a blitz of despicable mailers accusing state senate candidate Jess Loban of advocating for open borders, legalization of all drugs including heroin, and allowing ISIS “to terrorize the world.” A veteran and committed Christian businessman and community activist with a wife and four kids and deep ties to his district, the very conservative Loban of course holds exactly the opposite views. But libel isn’t against the law if it’s called politics.
Even as they trash Loban, Colorado Right Now is promoting his opponent, recent move-in Ben Lyng, with a blizzard of direct mail and over $45,000 in TV ads. In addition, Lyng has donations of nearly $40,000 while Loban has mustered only $9,452. Colorado Senate seats are getting expensive. It’s significant that Lyng is a VP with Chase Banks, but you won’t find that big-biz insider info on his election web site, campaign materials, or hear it in his speeches. Why does Lyng hide his job title? Perhaps he doesn’t want voters to suspect he would be sympathetic to the posse of banking lobbyists that stalk the capitol.
Republican conservative insiders agree that Colorado Right Now, which Secretary of State website documents show is lavishing its $222,000 on just four primary races, is a stealth offshoot of a group called Colorado Pioneer Action. CPA is headed by Bob Beauprez, a prominent member of the Republican aristocracy who has chaired the Colorado GOP, served as a Congressman in D.C., and twice lost Colorado gubernatorial elections to Democrats, most recently in 2014.
Beauprez wants to keep his leading role in attacking fellow Republicans under wraps but the fingerprints are there. In campaign filing documents on Tracer, the Secretary of State’s website, one Justin Prendergast is listed as the “Registered Agent” of Colorado Right Now’s spending orgy. The two aren’t talking; neither Beauprez nor Prendergast have responded to my numerous attempts to contact them by phone, email, and on social media.
The Secretary of State reports reveal the other Republican primary candidates either supported or attacked by Colorado Right Now, include three conservative incumbents: Rep. Lori Saine (HD 63), and Rep. Janak Joshi (HD 16) and Rep. Gordon Klingenschmitt who is now running for Colorado Senate, District 12.
Gordon Klingenschmitt (Air Force Academy, ’91) has been a religious liberty hero to conservatives ever since he was booted by the Navy in 2005 for the crime of disobeying a policy banning prayer “in Jesus’ name.” When he prayed in this scandalous manner, he was fired as a U.S. Navy chaplain after 20 years of service, igniting national headlines and conservative outrage. The policy of “non-sectarian prayers” was later rescinded by Congress due to his case, but not before Klingenschmitt had been punished at a misdemeanor court-martial in 2006. His case is now headed to the Supreme Court.
Among the flurry of dishonest attack mailers Colorado Right Now has launched against Klingenschmitt is another clue to behind-the-scenes Bob Beauprez. The latest sleazy June mailer has no “paid for” line as required by Colorado election law, but it’s an exact twin of the March attack mailer that carried the name of Beauprez’ Colorado Pioneer Action.
These nasty postcards picture Klingenschmitt with dollar signs in his eyes, accusing him of profiting from his nonprofit ministry, PrayInJesusName.org and operating “ a religious nonprofit …taking over 1 million in donations from faithful people across the country with no accountability.” The incredulous candidate responds, “They know this is untrue, since I’ve already provided the Colorado Springs Gazette third-party audits of my nonprofit’s finances which are published online at charitynavigator.org. And the Gazette confirmed I take no salary from my non-profit.” He adds, “Our charity built an orphanage, pays for widows’ utility bills, and broadcast the gospel, and my opponent’s friends lie that I use charity for profit? It’s quite upsetting to me personally.”
Screenshots of the website of Klingenschmitt’s opponent, Bob Gardner, again show the not-so-invisible hand of Bob Beauprez and his big bucks influence group, CPA. In March Gardner’s website included the line, “paid for by Colorado Pioneer Action,” but suddenly in June as the primary neared the attribution line had changed to “Paid for by Colorado Right Now” which was created that same month. Boom.
But why would likable Republican stalwart Bob Beauprez be trying to purge conservative incumbents in his own party, which is working hard to gain a Republican House majority, and has only one seat more than the Democrats in the Colorado Senate?
The chatter consensus among Republican legislators is that Beauprez wants to put in place a team of loyal retainers who owe him for their election as he plans a third run for the governor’s office. Rep. Klingenschmitt says the millionaire politico, buffalo rancher, onetime banker and sometime developer wants more “moderates” who will go along with big-business tax breaks and welfare handouts to developers, bankers, health insurance companies, and other pay-to-players.
Colorado is a microcosm of the same bloody struggle in Washington, D.C. between “establishment” Republicans beholden to their corporate pals versus upstart Tea Partiers fervently loyal to nothing but their principles of smaller constitutional government, lower taxes, and no favors for the big boys.
A conservative representative observes, “They’re trying to replace true conservatives with moderate squishes and the general consensus is Bob Beauprez’ people are behind it. They’re devouring their own, but they don’t consider us their own, they consider us a bad part of the party who need to go away. They think if conservatives go away, everything will be peachy keen.”
And a former leading Republican lawmaker told me, “If Bob ever wanted to run for Governor again he just ended that pipe dream. I think he wants to be a player behind the scenes by getting involved in GOP primaries and electing big business statists…who won't get anything through the Senate if the conservatives control the caucus.”
Leadership power and a chance for a Colorado conservative comeback are at stake. Another legislator told me, “They think, here’s our opportunity to take out some conservative Republicans who are giving us trouble with our agenda and change the face of the party.”
He predicts if the conservatives win their primaries they’ll have enough votes for the staunch Tea Party leadership team to take over both House and Senate. “If you have leadership saying no to the corporate interests, the pay-to-play isn’t going to work anymore. But if Pioneer Action is successful – and I give them a 50/50 chance -- we’ll have moderate leadership in both houses and things will go on as usual.”
Rep. Justin Everett, a leader of the conservative caucus, says, “I’m hopeful but I’m concerned. I’ve never seen so much money spent in primaries. It’s unnerving. When you get outspent three or four to one and the other side is willing to lie, too, it puts you at a disadvantage. It’ll be a sad day for liberty and conservative values on June 28 if Colorado Right Now is successful in taking out good conservatives.”
Joy Overbeck is a Colorado journalist and author who writes for Townhall.com, The Daily Caller, The Washington Times, American Thinker, BarbWire and elsewhere. More columns: https://www.facebook.com/