Hiding in plain sight

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

What should Colorado Springs do, now that we are challenged with political interference from an out-of-town entity whose actions are disruptive and unpredictable? And where's all their money coming from?
Colorado Springs Government Watch (CoSGW) was formed in October 2014, with Monument as their principal office address. Denise "Dede" Laugesen has proclaimed to be the executive director and spokesperson. Records suggest Dede lives in Monument, and is not a Colorado Springs voter. Her group's stated purpose: "to ensure government is open, ethical and accountable to the public." It's classified as a 501(c)(4) "social welfare organization."

Out of the blue in November, Dede and the CoSGW aggressively targeted two of our elected City Council officials, demanding not only CORA records, but also their personal emails, and threatened to sue. These lawyered-up fishing expeditions fizzled; evidently yielded nothing newsworthy, or surely we would have heard about it.

But CoSGW pressed on anyway, supported a recall of our city councilor and, according to records, paid a business $14,122-plus to collect more than 3,000 of their 3,007 reported total signatures.
None of our City Council members are accused of criminal activity. We all have our differences, but I don't like our City Council treated like dirt. Who will be targeted next?
501(c)(4)s have been controversial in the past few years. They can influence local politics without disclosing the sources of their special interest money — donors' identities and motives are hidden. This selective political intrusion into Colorado Springs through an extraordinary venue enabling their own secrecy — the 501(c)(4) — is appalling. All while spewing "openness" and "accountability."
Regarding 501(c)(4) the IRS says: "Political activities may not be the organization's primary activities." But political activities are CoSGW's primary focus, evidenced by their webpage content and political manipulation.

— Emily Anderson