Contacts: Lauren Petrie: 720-663-0735

Russell Mendell: 802-318-1135




DENVER – On Tuesday evening, Colorado Rising captured an audio recording of a conversation with Dan Fessler of Petition Connection, LLC admitting that he was paid to stop circulating Initiative 97 and to immediately leave Colorado instead of fulfilling his commitment to collect thousands of signatures for the measure. Fessler was subcontracted by Hiram Asmuth of Encore Political Services just days before abruptly dropping his work on the initiative. Although Fessler refused to say exactly who provided the buyout, he mentioned working with Tracy Taylor, of Taylor Petition Management, LLC and confirmed that Taylor is known for buying out petition entities, subcontractors and petition circulators to stop them from working on ballot initiatives.

Fessler also says he was asked to give all of the petitions that his team had collected to the party responsible for providing the buyout instead of releasing the signatures to Colorado Rising, which Fessler declined to do. When pressed about who was involved in making the request, Fessler did not refute that it was Protect Colorado – an oil and gas industry front group largely funded by Anadarko and Noble Energy – was involved. Protect Colorado has already spent millions campaigning aggressively against the initiative. Just last month, a leak from inside Anadarko, showed a company email encouraging employees to report the locations—in real time—of signature gatherers for Initiative 97 to a hotline connected to Protect Colorado. Karen Crummy of Protect Colorado recently claimed this was simply for opposition research, but on more than 100 occasions paid harassers have shown up specifically to intimidate Initiative 97 circulators shortly after a time and location was provided to the hotline.

Fessler’s admission comes less than a week after Colorado Rising publicly announced the theft of roughly 15,000 signatures by Mike Selvaggio of Direct Action Partners, LLC – the firm originally contracted to gather signatures for the campaign, but closed its doors and left the state overnight with seven boxes of petitions on July 18. The petitions have since been returned to Colorado Rising’s possession but these very serious incidents of harassment, theft, and buyouts raise questions as to whether this is part of a larger coordinated effort to interfere directly with the democratic initiative process, specifically against Initiative 97.

“It’s absolutely disgusting to hear rumors that these firms are being bought out, but even more disgusting to find out that the rumors are true, straight from the horse’s mouth,” said Colorado Rising Board Member Lauren Petrie. “It’s unforgivable that these so-called professionals, along with the oil and gas industry, are willing to screw people out of their right to have a voice at the ballot box.”

“The level of corruption from the oil and gas industry in Colorado is astounding,” said Colorado Rising volunteer Russell Mendell. “They are pulling out every dirty trick in the book to subvert democracy. Luckily we have more than 600 volunteers hitting the streets who refuse to give up. We are doing everything we can to make sure that we make the ballot in November despite a coordinated harassment campaign designed to stop us. The industry knows they can’t win playing fair, so they are stooping to the lowest of lows to keep the people of Colorado from having a say.”

“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 neighbors. This reckless industry is spending millions on ads, lobbyists, and scandalous tactics, 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!”

Despite these blatant attacks to rob voters of having a voice this November, Colorado Rising is continuing to gather the required 98,492 valid signatures it needs to qualify the initiative for the statewide ballot. Initiative 97 aims to create safer setbacks from new oil & gas infrastructure by creating a 2500 foot buffer zone around homes, schools, hospitals, drinking water sources, and other vulnerable areas such as parks and playgrounds. The deadline for submitting signatures is this Monday, August 6th. The campaign is calling on volunteers during the final days to help offset time and resources that were lost as a result of this heavy-handed corruption and undermining.


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