2021 Election, Adams County, Denver, Education, Featured, Jefferson County, Larimer County

Dark money funds same bizarre claims in multiple school board races; opponents of union-backed candidates targeted

DENVER — A dark money group is using bizarre and unsubstantiated claims to attack conservative and reform-minded school board candidates across the state, while supporting teachers’ union-backed candidates.

The Independent Expenditure Committee (IEC), “Students Deserve Better,” recently began campaign mailings to voters in six school districts: Aurora, Cherry Creek, Denver, Jefferson County (Jeffco), Poudre (Fort Collins) and Thompson (Loveland).

Perhaps more alarming than the unsubstantiated statements is that it is unclear who is funding the group, as its filing agent, former State Sen. John Morse — who was recalled in 2013 for his efforts in restricting gun rights — has not reported a single contribution to the organization, while reporting nearly $200,000 in expenditures.

According to the Secretary of State’s office, the group registered as an IEC with the state on Sept. 28, just one day before the end of the most recent filing period, which was due on Oct. 5. On that report, Morse did not file any contributions or expenditures. However, just one day later, he reported the IEC spent just shy of $14,000 on mailers supporting candidates Danielle Jayne, Blaine Nickerson and Mandy Thomas in the Adams 27J School District.

Two days later Morse filed another expenditure report for more than $146,000 supporting teachers’-union backed candidates in Cherry Creek, Jeffco, Aurora, Poudre, Thompson, and Denver.

And again, three days later, Morse reported another $23,500 in additional support for 27J while doubling down on its efforts in Aurora.

All totaled, the IEC spent nearly $200,000 in a week without identifying a single contribution.

Bizarre claims from a mailing in the Jeffco school board race. Click to enlarge.

The mailings — with the exception of those sent out in 27J — mirror language found on the group’s website and do not identify any specific reasons for supporting or opposing the candidates in the six districts.

Although it is against state law for IECs to coordinate with candidates, its website says that all 20 union-backed candidates it supports — in districts that are separated by hundreds of square miles with different demographics and issues — have the exact same priorities, including:

  • Vocational and technical training that leads to good-paying jobs for all students, not just for those who go to college.
  • Giving every student and school the resources, they need to succeed.
  • Providing competitive pay and benefits to keep great teachers.
  • Ensuring every student has a professional and licensed teacher.

Likewise, the IEC claims all 20 opponents of those union-backed candiates have the same exact problems that voters should stay away from, including:

  • Create unsafe learning environments for students and staff by needlessly exposing them to deadly harm.
  • Push out the best teachers.
  • Create inequity with some students having unlicensed teachers when others have professional ones.
  • Meddle in student curriculum despite having no expertise in education.

The group doesn’t identify what it means by “unsafe learning environments” or “deadly harm,” or how “the best teachers” would be pushed out or clarify what it means by unlicensed teacher vs. professional.

The group also points out that the candidates it opposes have “no expertise in education.” Complete Colorado, however, found that half of the candidates Student’s Deserve Better is backing also lack “expertise in education” including:

  • Xóchitl “Sochi” Gaytán, who is running in Denver, is a real estate agent.
  • Michael Carter, who is running in Aurora, is a criminal defense attorney.
  • Kelly Bates, who is running in Cherry Creek, is a homemaker.
  • Kristin Allan, who is running in Cherry Creek, is an attorney.
  • Mary Parker, who is running in Jefferson County, is a small business owner.
  • Kristen Draper, who is running in Poudre, is a digital literacy librarian at the Poudre River Public Library District.
  • Jim Brokish, who is running in Poudre, is former management at Hewlett Packard.
  • Carolyn Reed, who is running in Poudre, is a former UPS driver.
  • Amy Doran, who is running in Thompson, is a registered nurse.
  • Alexandra Lessem, who is running in Thompson, is a nurse practitioner.

The next set of filings are due to the Secretary of State’s office by Monday. Complete Colorado will follow up to see if a donor is named.



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