Colorado

Colorado Accountable Government Alliance’s Hidden Oppo Research Links

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The Colorado Accountable Government Alliance (CAGA) has uploaded opposition research and negative campaign propaganda to “hidden” internet links, a recent Media Trackers investigation uncovered. Negative information about several candidates and campaigns targeted by CAGA in the month of October has now appeared on private web pages not found on any other site.

CAGA currently maintains a seemingly stock website with the URL “cagafacts.com”. The site is void of public-facing content, information, links, an index/site map, or any other data with the exception of a small text box in the middle of the page listing basic information about “CAGA FACTS”. The text notes that the site was paid for by the CAGA Independent Expenditure (IE) Committee, that Julie Wells is its registered agent, and that its work is not authorized by any candidate – the standard fare for disclaimers.

Hidden links to information uploaded to “cagafacts.com” were discovered by Media Trackers while researching CAGA’s campaign activities in nearly two-dozen state level races. Brian Watson, a Republican candidate for House District 3 representative, is one CAGA target. A simple search of Watson’s name combined with “CAGA” revealed a link in the results with the URL “watson-files.com”. The “watson-files.com” domain simply functions as a redirect to “cagafacts.com/brian-watson,” where several pages of opposition research, briefs against the candidate, and mail flyers have been uploaded.

Media Trackers has thus far uncovered a total of six opposition research repositories, all for local Colorado Republican candidates CAGA opposes: Brian Watson, J. Paul Brown, Jennifer George, Rick Enstrom, Robert Ramirez, and Cynthia Acree.

Interestingly, many of the mail piece flyers posted on the “cagafacts.com” pages are not actual CAGA flyers, but rather opposition flyers from another Tim Gill backed group called Fight Back Colorado. Fight Back Colorado is a liberal Independent Expenditure committee created earlier this year that utilizes negative campaign tactics with the intention of defeating supporters of traditional marriage in Colorado.

Many of the flyers uploaded to CAGA website explicitly state that they were paid for by Fight Back Colorado. Cindy Acree’s CAGA opposition page has three flyers attached to it - two are Fight Back Colorado mail pieces and one is a CAGA piece. A total of five Fight Back Colorado flyers appear on the hidden CAGA pages.

The gathering, use, and online storage of opposition research is nothing new. As Brian Sikma, Media Trackers Wisconsin Communications Director, reported earlier this year, the Democrat Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC) uploaded a projected total of 75 opposition research books onto the internet, 35 of which Media Trackers Wisconsin found and shared with the public.

“The digital tomes, ranging from a few dozen to hundreds of pages in length, are a treasure trove of talking points and attacks that the public can expect Democrats and their allies to level at Republican candidates ahead of November,” Sikma said of the DCCC opposition books.

The documents uploaded by CAGA employ a similar strategy; with the opposition pages filled with ridiculing attacks and headings. One such attack reads, “Cindy Acree’s brand of tea does not go down easy,” and is attached to a mail flyer showing a cutout of Acree on a tea box labeled “nutty flavor” with warnings reading “bad for your health” and “bad for children.”

A similar line was used against Jennifer George, with a page titled: “Jennifer George’s brand of tea should come with a Surgeon General’s warning!”

Other comments used on the hidden research pages included one against Representative Robert Ramirez, accusing him of  “herding our children into classrooms like cattle.”

Two especially harsh attacks were used against J. Paul Brown, a representative from House District 59,. One compared him to a dog, saying “that dog won’t hunt for southwest Colorado” and the other compared supporting J. Paul Brown to playing a rigged gameshow.

These folders of online content on the six candidates are not linked to on any of CAGA’s direct mail pieces, in the group’s IE reports, or in any other campaign material.

In addition to both being founded by Tim Gill and sharing campaign materials, CAGA and Fight Back Colorado share the same candidate targets and even hired the same Washington, D.C. based consultant, Gumbinner and Davies, for campaign literature and mail hits.

The hidden CAGA web pages also suggest other signs of liberal coordination. Two of the of the opposition pages link to Colorado Pols, a liberal bullhorn in the state of Colorado, as source documentation for their claims.

In addition, ProgressNow Colorado has utilized its social media accounts to attack CAGA’s targeted candidates in the month of October. ProgressNow Colorado’s Twitter account smeared Cynthia Acree, J. Paul Brown, and Robert Ramirez all within the last several weeks – shortly after CAGA first began running attack ads against all three of these candidates.

ProgressNow Colorado recently put up a new halloween inspired website featuring attacks on Acree, Brown, and Ramirez focused on social issues, despite the fact that the economy is the sole focus of most candidates this election cycle.

Follow Aaron Gardner on Twitter: @aaron_rs

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