For Immediate Release:
EXPOSED: OIL AND GAS INDUSTRY SECRETLY PAYING ACTORS TO HARASS AND INTIMIDATE CITIZENS WITH COLORADO RISING BALLOT INITIATIVE CAMPAIGN FOR SAFER SETBACKS
CAMPAIGN CALLS ON SECRETARY OF STATE TO STOP THE BULLYING
DENVER – Today, the Colorado Rising ballot campaign held a press conference to expose a harassment and intimidation campaign using paid actors targeting petition circulators. The initiative would allow voters to create safety zones around schools, homes, playgrounds and drinking water so that oil and gas operations will be kept 2500-foot away. Across the nation, in failed efforts to extort democracy, energy companies and other powerful interests have funded similar “astroturf” (fake grassroots) tactics with paid actors pretending to be local protestors.
“The oil and gas industry should be ashamed of itself, for using paid actors – fake protesters – to harass citizens who simply want to ask voters to better protect schools, homes, playgrounds and drinking water from oil and gas operations,” said Micah Parkin, a Colorado Rising Board Member. “Who do they think they are? We know the truth now. They’re bullies who’ll do anything to get their way. What kind of a lesson is this for the sons and daughters of energy executives? Here’s how we can thank them for their attempt to extort democracy: Sign the petitions and vote to protect our schools, homes, playgrounds and water sources this Fall. Keep oil and gas operations 2500 feet away from our neighborhoods. That’s called payback.”
Here’s what Colorado Rising volunteers and workers are reporting: In multiple cities across Colorado recently, the secretly paid harassers are specifically seeking out petition circulators for Colorado Rising at public events and locations. They then call in other harassers who stand uncomfortably close to the petition circulator and follow them around holding handmade signs with messages like “Would you trust this person with your info?” and yell at people not to sign the petitions. The harassers are typically large males whose behavior seems intended to intimidate both potential signers and petition circulators alike.
Anne Lee Foster, signature gatherer: “They shook signs and yelled that I was untrustworthy and generally smearing my character. The experience was scary, outrageous, dishonorable and unacceptable. Everyone has the right to participate in the democratic process. So, to have a big powerful corporation manipulate and try to extort that process, that so many have fought and died for, was alarming and incredibly saddening. The energy industry hired an actor, a fake protester, a harasser to try to scare me. Well, listen up: It didn’t work. Voters will have the final say.”
Why is the energy industry doing this? Because they fear the voters. They fear they won’t make as much profit as they could. They fear better protecting schools, homes, playgrounds and water will hurt their bottom line.
Cameron Baller, signature gatherer: “I was harassed by paid disruptors on three separate occasions. As tools of the oil and gas industry, these people were paid to hold signs, menace voters who wanted to sign my petition, and intimidate and follow me. They’re trying to steal the democratic process! Who do they think they are!? At one event, these people followed me for more than a half hour before I had to flee the event fearing for my own safety.”
In 2016, oil and gas companies funded similar “Decline to Sign” efforts through front groups like CRED (Coloradans for Responsible Energy Development), Protect Colorado and Black Diamond to keep from the voters greater protections for neighborhoods from fracking. Inside sources have told Colorado Rising volunteers that these same groups are responsible for this year’s harassment as well.
Colorado Rising is exposing these big money bully tactics and will deliver a log of the harassment to the Secretary of State’s office in a plea for help to stop what the campaign believes are illegal actions to prevent voters from deciding.
Susan Secord, signature gatherer: “Who do they think they are? Why do these people fear the voters? What is the oil and gas industry afraid of? This harassment happened to many of the volunteers. It’s a flagrant disregard for our democratic process. It’s disrespectful to America. It’s a failed attempt to keep the voters from deciding.”
Visuals: photos and video footage of the harassment can be found here and is open for use by the press.