DENVER — The Secretary of State’s approval of a recall petition aimed at Gov. Jared Polis may be the first time in Colorado history a group has undertaken such a tall task, but it’s not the first time it’s been thought of.
In fact, it’s not the first time its been thought of by one of three groups fighting to get Polis out of office. In 2014, Shane Donnelley, the head of one of those groups, started the Facebook page “Recall Hickenlooper.” Since then, he’s changed the purpose of his group three times and the name five times.
Donnelley first changed the name of his group on Feb. 4, 2017 to “Recall Hickenlooper 2017.” On Jan. 26, 2018 it became “Recall Hickenlooper 2018.” On that same day, he changed it again to “Good Riddance Hickenlooper 2018.” Then on July 8, 2018, Donnelley changed it to “Keeping Colorado Officials Accountable.” Finally, on Feb. 26, of this year, he changed it to what it is now the “Official Recall Colorado Governor Jared Polis Group.”
Yet, despite collecting nearly $100,000, Donnelley and his board of directors, have never attempted a recall of anyone they’ve purported to want out of office. Instead, they’ve fought with another Polis recall group, which has led to misinformation and confusion for the voter, as well as a third independent group stepping in to get the petition process started.
In this report, Complete Colorado fact checks the information being disseminated.
- “Official Recall Colorado Governor Jared Polis Group.” — Although the name says it’s the official group, technically, it’s just a name. There is no process or designation to become an “official” group. The Issue Committee has not filed for a recall petition and admits on its Facebook page it may never do so. According to the Secretary of State’s (SOS) website, “Official” registered on March 12, 2019, and has raised $96,714.91 while spending $34,181.71. However, the group used Go Fund Me account for some of its fundraisings before officially registering and has been accused of failing to accurately report donations. A campaign finance complaint was filed against the group in June but was eventually dismissed for lack of information.
- “Resist Polis PAC” — Although it has the acronym PAC in its name, “Resist” is an Independent Expenditure Committee, not a Political Action Committee. As an IEC, it cannot circulate an issue petition, including recalls. According to the SOS, the group registered with the state on July 5, 2018. It has raised $45,506 and spent $12,820.
- “Dismiss Polis” — The Issue Committee first registered with the SOS on June 17. In its first filing, which was due two weeks after registering, it had contributions totaling $20,325, with no expenditures. “Dismiss” is the only group that has a valid, approved recall petition from the SOS. It began gathering signatures on Monday and has until Sept. 6 to gather more than 600,000 valid signatures or 10,000-plus per day.
Initially, the two founders of “Resist Polis PAC” joined efforts with “Official Recall Colorado Governor Jared Polis Group” and brought its Issue Committee with it. Soon after, the founders of each group couldn’t agree on several things and “Resist” left and went back to encouraging a recall on its own. The two groups have been fighting since March. The “Official” group has sought to discredit “Resist,” including banning people from its Facebook page for seemingly just asking questions, doing media interviews claiming theft and other issues.
Now “Official” is targeting “Dismiss” with many of the same accusations.
“Dismiss” spokeswoman Karen Kataline said her group formed with the hopes of becoming an independent group organized only for paying for the printing of petitions. The group’s founders reached out to leaders from both “Official” and “Resist” to be the source of volunteers and monetary support for the effort, which would allow the two groups to work independently from each other while still working toward a common goal.
However, only “Resist” signed onto the effort. “Official” is now accusing “Dismiss” of being fraudulent and trying to steal “Officials” logos, ideas and goals.
Kataline said “Dismiss” is only focused on its own effort and is not concerned with the other groups or their mission.
“The recall is fully underway, and I am watching people work exceptionally hard to make this successful,” Kataline said. “There will always be people that want to throw stones, but we welcome anyone who is serious about recalling Gov. Jared Polis.”
FACT CHECKING —
Much has been said by the “Official” group about the recall effort and “Dismiss’s” role in it. Complete Colorado checked with the SOS, state statutes and Kataline to clarify the group’s efforts and the accusations that have been leveled against them.
“Official’s” Claim: Anyone who signs “Dismiss’s” petition will dilute “Official’s” effort because voters can only sign one petition.
Fact: Almost true. If you sign “Dismiss’s” petition, and it is submitted to the SOS for validation, you cannot sign any other petition recalling the Governor or your signature will be invalid. However, if the petition is never turned in to the SOS you may sign a different one circulated by any group because the recall was never certified. Kataline says the group will not turn in an incomplete petition.
“Official’s” Claim: The petition being circulated by “Dismiss” is “fraudulent.”
Fact: Untrue. The petition being circulated by “Dismiss” could be technically seen as the “official” petition, as it is the only petition that has been certified and approved by the SOS. The letter approving the circulation can be found here.
“Official’s” Claim: “Dismiss” is an “extension” of “Resist”
Fact: Untrue. “Resist” was founded and run by Tom Good and Korry Lewis. “Dismiss” was founded by Alan and Julia Gentz of Sterling. Arthur Graham of Whitewater and Barbara Hernandez of Lamar are the official filers on the petition. “Resist” agreed to work with “Dismiss” after several failed attempts to come to an agreement with “Official.” “Official” was also asked by “Dismiss” to work with them but has refused.
“Official’s” Claim: “Dismiss” does not have the war chest or the volunteers to pull off the recall.
Fact: According to Kataline, “Dismiss’s” sole purpose is to pay for the petitions to be printed. Its hopes are that other groups such as “Resist” and “Official” will support the effort using contacts they already have in place.
“People are hesitant to donate to an effort that makes promises, but doesn’t deliver,” she said. “We’ve been told by our supporters that not having a solid game-plan scares donors away. We have an organization with a serious plan in place, and we will print every petition we have said we will print.”
Although “Official” boasts donations totaling nearly $100,000, and despite having no official recall in place, they have already spent nearly $35,000, mostly on legal fees, meals, and convention/booth rentals. Additionally, “Official,” says on their Facebook page that “Our petitions will not be coming out soon.”
“Official’s” Claim: Any petitions that don’t say “Official Recall Colorado Governor Jared Polis” on it will dilute the effort.
Fact: Anyone can pull a petition to recall a state elected official after his or her first six months in office. If the petition against Polis is deemed sufficient, an election is held, but if the recall is unsuccessful, Polis cannot be the subject of another recall attempt unless registered voters equal to 50 percent of the total votes cast in his original election sign a new petition. “Dismiss” is the only petition currently approved to be circulated. Should “Official” or anyone else pull a petition now, multiple groups will be competing for signers.