A new report shows tens of thousands of dollars in super PAC money going to the re-election campaign of Republican Congressman Scott Tipton. One of those PACs, the report says, has a single source of funding, a drilling company with controversial leases in the Roaring Fork Valley.
Campaign disclosure documents show SG Interests, a Houston-based drilling operator, has given 25,000 dollars to a political action committee called the Colorado Future Fund. That money’s mostly been spent on direct mail flyers against President Obama and the Democrat running against Tipton, state representative Sal Pace.
Late last week the nonpartisan Sunlight Foundation released a report suggesting a close relationship between the Future Fund’s leaders and the Tipton campaign.
The Super PAC’s treasurer is based in a law firm run by Tipton’s election lawyer. The two even share the same address.
“We have set up numerous and significant procedural Chinese walls and safeguards to prevent any kind of coordination between the two,” says John Zakhem, Tipton’s election lawyer. He says even though the Super PAC has ties to his law office, it doesn’t mean there’s coordination going on. Any coordination between a super PAC and the candidate it spends money on behalf of is against federal election law.
SG Interests also appears to be the only organization funneling money into this particular fund. They’re making moves to drill for oil and gas in the Thompson Divide outside Carbondale, with plenty of local pushback. SG Vice President Robbie Guinn says his company played no role in creating the Super PAC, it was just a good fit for their donations.
“Well the committee had a set of goals that we were in support of and we donated to the committee to to further those goals,” Guinn says.
The oil and gas leases in the Thompson Divide have become a heated campaign issue in the 3rd District. Tipton’s been called on to file legislation that would keep drilling out of the Divide. He’s yet to do so, and has said in the past he wants compromise from both sides. Zane Kessler with Thompson Divide Coalition says his group wants to work with whomever wins next week. But says the newly created Super PAC is disheartening.
“It’s disappointing to know that there are out of state interests that are working to trump the voices of over 3,500 constituents in the Roaring Fork Valley and the surrounding areas,” Kessler says.
Once the Sunlight Foundation report came out, it didn’t take long for Tipton’s opponent, Sal Pace, to paint the sitting congressman as a lackey to the oil and gas industry.
“This is certainly a perception issue. I’m not an attorney and I’m not going to pretend to be one, but it certainly doesn’t look good,” Pace says.
Calls to Congressman Tipton’s campaign for this story weren’t returned.