Over the last few weeks, we've been talking about the incipient recall campaigns against several Colorado legislators in the wake of passage of gun safety legislation this year. There hasn't been much good to report on the recall campaigns so far, with public leaders and visible organizing efforts both revealing themselves to be, to put it charitably, less than ready for prime time. Our assessment of the potential success in getting any of these recall campaigns on the ballot has been pretty dim up to now.
That's about to change.
We've just learned that one of the most prominent (and ethically questionable) petition signature gathering firms in Colorado, Kennedy Enterprises, has been hired to take over petition drives for some or all of the recall campaigns presently underway. This new development has not yet been reflected in spending disclosure forms, but should be public knowledge in the next week. It's not known yet which of the recall campaigns that have been filed will be taken over by Kennedy, but this represents a major development: an outside capitalization by unknown funders of what had been an amateur and disorganized effort…
Kennedy Enterprises has a long and often dubious history collecting signatures for ballot campaigns in Colorado and elsewhere. In 2008, opponents ran the ad you see above, positing that criminals had been employed by Kennedy Enterprises to gather signatures for that year's right-to-work ballot initiative Amendment 47. Alleged shenanigans from the 2008 led to legislation the following year to crack down on some petition gathering abuses, as the Colorado Independent reported:
Last year complaints were filed with the secretary of state concerning the petition process for at least four of the state’s ballot initiative proposals, which numbered well into the double digits. Fourteen initiatives made it onto the Colorado ballot, the longest ballot in the country.
In the run up to the election, for example, petition circulators paid by Colorado Springs-based Kennedy Enterprises to gather signatures for proposed Amendments 47, 53 and 59 allegedly told citizens it was legal to sign someone else’s name and that you didn’t have to be a registered voter to sign the petitions. Both suggestions are in clear violation of the state’s petition laws. [Pols emphasis]
That legislation was recently invalidated in court, and in any event did not apply to recall campaigns.
In 2010, Kennedy conducted the paid petition gathering campaign on behalf of the "Bad Three" anti-tax initiatives, Amendments 60, 61 and Proposition 101. You might recall that the petition campaign for those initiatives became quite controversial, as the Colorado Springs Gazette reported during the litigious aftermath:
Grueskin submitted extensive correspondence between Dan Kennedy — head of Kennedy Enterprises — and [Doug] Bruce, which outlined direct orders from Bruce on the petitioning process. One of the orders was for petitioners to not identify Bruce as the prime backer of the measures.
In one missive, Bruce told Kennedy to make sure petition circulators use only medium-point pens, because “fine point are too hard to read.” In another, Bruce suggested that circulators wear disguises and give fake names to avoid being framed for crimes.
Here is what we have been tipped to so far on Kennedy's involvement in these recall campaigns: as in 2008 and 2010, they are not conducting background checks of any kind on job applicants, who are being hired as independent contractors. Signature gatherers are reportedly working on a tiered pay plan, where the earnings of $1.00 per signature can increase up to $2.50 or more per signature depending on the total number gathered. That high payout per signatures means that Kennedy Enterprises will make many thousands of dollars for any of these recall campaigns, and it means whoever is paying for this has little regard for the cost. As we said, we don't know if all of the petition drives are being taken over by Kennedy, but their involvement increases the chances of at least some number of costly, ugly pro-gun recall elections actually making the ballot this year.
And before we get there, get ready for more shenanigans.