In an era of political deception it can be difficult to separate the genuine from the phony. One tried and true strategy to weed through campaign propaganda has always been to follow the money. The Colorado initiative that most demonstrates the need for the “money test” this election is Amendment 71, also known as Raise the Bar.
If you haven’t read into the amendment, your first exposure might’ve been the barrage of television ads claiming 71 will “protect Colorado’s constitution from special interests.” This valiant yet vague assertion should cause you to pause and wonder who are these so-called constitutional guardians of Colorado. A dig into the latest reporting reveals that $3.75 million from a total of $4.16 million in contributions to Raise the Bar came from large corporate interests including, but not limited to, oil and gas, big ag, for-profit healthcare, banking and business lobbying groups like Colorado Concern. Talk about a situation with the foxes offering to guard the henhouse.
The common thread between all these corporate lobbies is that they are terrified of progressive grassroots change through the ballot box. That is why 71 attempts to shut down the right of initiative to everyone but the ultra-wealthy. It would require initiatives to get at least 2 percent of people from all 35 Colorado senate districts to sign, a prohibitively expensive task in an already expensive process. The new rules would also open the door for lawsuits from any senate district, allowing a conservative region to essentially veto an initiative through legal delays. By now you can start to see that the motives for proponents of Amendment 71 aren’t exactly pure, and a deeper dive further reveals the true masters of deceit behind Raise the Bar.
So far, the lion share of pro-71 funding comes from the oil and gas industry. As of Oct. 3 they have contributed $3.1 million or just over 75 percent of the amendment’s funding. Most of the oil and gas money pouring in can be attributed to two Texas-based companies, Anadarko and Noble Energy. So why do these out-of-state special interests care so much about the Colorado constitution?
It just so happens that Noble and Anadarko also funded most of the $20 million dollars to keep the Yes for Health and Safety Over Fracking initiatives off this November’s ballot.
The two initiatives fell just short of reaching the nearly 100,000 validated signatures that would have allowed Coloradans to vote on increasing oil and gas setbacks and local control for fracking. While the grassroots effort for fracking safeguards recruited over 1,000, mostly volunteer, circulators, they were met with billboards, television ads and dozens of people paid to harass petitioners.
The money Anadarko and Noble spent to keep Coloradans from voting on the initiatives was unprecedented for a statewide amendment. Independent polling done on the initiatives reveals their desperation. Both initiatives are very popular with Coloradans, with the setback initiative showing nearly double the support as opposition, with 57 percent in favor and just 30 percent against. This overwhelming support is not surprising given the numerous studies that show people living half a mile from a fracked well have increased rates of asthma, birth defects and other health impacts.
The local control initiative has a deep-seated resonance with Colorado voters. From 2012 to 2013, Colorado voters made national news as five Front Range cities passed local bans or moratoria on fracking for oil and gas. These grassroots victories were then overturned by lawsuits brought by Gov. John Hickenlooper and the Colorado Oil and Gas Association. The battle over local democratic control on oil and gas came to a head earlier this year, when the Colorado Supreme Court stripped communities of their local bans.
Because Gov. Hickenlooper is essentially a fracking advocate, the industry is much more concerned about grassroots democratic initiatives than any kind of legislative action. At the oil and gas conferences the governor frequents, there are numerous breakout sessions on how to deal with these constitutional amendments. With Amendment 71, they’ve conjured up a plan to appear like they are protecting a sacred document, when they are truly only concerned about protecting their own interests.
If you vote for 71, you’ll be giving a helping hand to billionaire oil CEOs in their Texas mansions. You’ll also make Monsanto very happy, and the health insurance CEOs too. But you certainly won’t be protecting the constitution from special interests. They are the special interests and they are funding this ballot initiative. If 71 passes, only the obscenely rich will have access to the initiative process. Just like Citizens United did, this amendment will take power away from the people and consolidate it in the hands of the few.
They know they can’t stop progressive change if they allow democracy to do its work. So they are taking extraordinary measures to stop your voice from being heard. They assume you’ll buy their propaganda and vote against your own best interest. Call their bluff; vote no on 71.