For Immediate Release:
SIGNATURE GATHERING FIRM RETURNS STOLEN PETITIONS AFTER FLEEING THE STATE AND FAILING TO PAY HUNDREDS OF EMPLOYEES
INITIATIVE 97 CONTINUES TO COLLECT SIGNATURES DESPITE INDUSTRY HARASSMENT AND LEGAL BATTLES
DENVER – Last night, Colorado Rising, the proponents of Initiative 97, filed in Denver District Court to request an emergency hearing for the retrieval of seven large boxes of completed petition packets that were stolen. The boxes were taken without permission by the signature-gathering firm Direct Action Partners (DAP) when they abruptly left the state last week. After a press conference this morning in Denver, Colorado Rising received information about the whereabouts of the petitions from DAP. The boxes were retrieved by Colorado Rising proponents at a Greyhound station around 5:00 p.m. in Denver without contingency.
In a recording released by Colorado Rising and confirmed by shipping receipts, DAP President Mike Selvaggio admits to shipping the boxes to Oregon on July 18. Direct Action Partners attempted to use the petitions to demand money and an agreement waiving DAP of responsibility and requiring Colorado Rising to keep DAP’s actions secret. Colorado Rising did not sign the contract and has not paid for return of signatures.
During the press conference, Colorado Rising attorney Joe Salazar stated, “we have initiated legal action to preserve the rights of thousands of Coloradans to sign petitions. The constitutional rights of Coloradans are being implicated.”
In a separate recording taken the day before signatures were shipped to Oregon, Mr. Selvaggio acknowledged that Colorado Rising made all payments and acted according to the contract. “You guys have acted in good faith, and I appreciate that,” Selvaggio said in the recording. “It pains me we have got to this point and I realize that it’s my fault—and my attorney would probably slap my face and tell me to shut up.” Colorado Rising is still considering further legal action.
“It’s illegal and immoral for DAP to have taken signatures that belong to the campaign,” said Suzanne Spiegel a proponent for Initiative 97. “This blatant betrayal was an awful shock to everyone who has been working so hard to get this initiative on the ballot. The good news is we have more than 550 committed volunteers across the state and an amazing and dedicated grassroots donor network who are fired up and who won’t let this keep us from protecting the health and safety of our communities.”
This comes at a time where oil and gas companies are also being linked to calculated harassment of Initiative 97 signature gatherers. Since signature gathering began, both volunteer and paid gatherers have been continuously stalked, harassed, and intimidated by paid protestors. A leaked email from Anadarko shows the company set up a hotline for employees to report to Protect Colorado, an oil and gas funded group, the locations—in real-time—of signature gatherers.
The harassers have been recorded numerous times admitting they are being paid and have followed gatherers for hours, sometimes all the way to their homes. Protect Colorado spent $15 million on a “Decline to Sign” campaign in 2016 and has spent more than $10 million on the 2018 election. Oil and gas companies Anadarko, Noble, and Extraction have each contributed more than $2 million to Protect Colorado, since the beginning of the year. A harassment complaint has been filed with the Boulder DA, and the DA’s office is informing other district attorneys along the Front Range about the widespread problem of harassment of Initiative 97 circulators.
“This is a movement led by mothers, grandmothers, teachers, and health professionals,” said schoolteacher Therese Gilbert of Greeley. “We are looking out for our families and the neighbors next door. This reckless industry is spending millions on ads, lobbyists, and dirty tricks, but they cannot drown out our voices to protect our homes, schools, and everything we love about this state. This is a volunteer led-effort and we have spent thousands of hours working hard to ensure Coloradans have the opportunity to protect themselves and their community from fracking. We will not back down!”
Colorado Rising needs to collect 98,492 valid signatures in by August 6, to have their 2500 ft oil and gas setback initiative on the ballot. The initiative would create a safe buffer zone around occupied structures, waterways, and other sensitive areas. More than 80 organizations and more than a dozen elected leaders have endorsed the initiative, including the Colorado State Democratic party.