Rep. Doug Lamborn is not a moderate on the abortion issue. He has a 100 percent rating from the National Right to Life Committee, which has endorsed his re-election bid, and a 0 percent rating from the Planned Parenthood Action Fund. But someone is financing attack ads that claim Lamborn voted to secure hundreds of millions of dollars in funding for the nation’s leading abortion provider. Republicans in Colorado will have no idea who that someone is before they cast their votes in this month’s competitive primary in Colorado’s 5th Congressional District.
Clean Up Congress PAC officially formed in late May, and began running ads against Lamborn last week on two Colorado Springs network-TV stations, according to Federal Communications Commission filings. It’s spent $56,000 on those ads so far, and hasn’t reported supporting or opposing any other candidate. “Doug Lamborn voted to fund Planned Parenthood with more than $500 million in taxpayer dollars,” the group’s ad declares, referring to an omnibus spending bill that maintained the status quo of Planned Parenthood funding. Clean Up Congress is also running a pair of websites devoted to attacking Lamborn on his omnibus vote and other charges.
So who’s funding the group? It won’t have to tell the Federal Election Commission until the end of the month, after the June 26 primary, and that information won’t be public until mid-July. It’s the latest in an increasing number of PACs (some covered in previous issues of PAY DIRT) formed, whether by intent or coincidence, on a schedule that allows them to engage in significant politicking before disclosing their donors, often until after a key electoral contest.
But we do have some breadcrumbs. Clean Up Congress has bought all of its ads by way of a Colorado Springs vendor, Bullhorn Communications, whose principal, Kyle Fisk, is a veteran Republican operative in the state. Fisk told The Daily Beast in an interview that he had helped create and place the PAC’s ads. Fisk has previously done consulting work for two of Lamborn’s primary opponents, attorney Darryl Glenn and state senator Owen Hill, and also ran communications for an unsuccessful legal effort to get Lamborn’s name removed from the ballot. Clean Up Congress’s lawyer works for the same firm that represented Lamborn’s opponents in that legal effort.
The PAC’s treasurer is an Arizona political consultant named Ashley Ragan. She works for the firm Total Spectrum, and also serves as the vice president of a dark-money group called Prosper Inc., and as an officer of its sister nonprofit, the Prosper Foundation. The latter’s annual tax filings show it’s funded by Randy Kendrick, the wife of Arizona Diamondbacks owner Ken Kendrick. She was a top fundraiser for Sen. Marco Rubio’s presidential campaign, supported Sen. Ted Cruz when Rubio withdrew, and then, aghast at Donald Trump’s candidacy, helped finance a super PAC that opposed the eventual winner.
Business interests have tried since the 2010 Tea Party wave to knock off more conservative members of Congress, and Lamborn certainly is that. But Lamborn’s primary opponents are similar on the issues, and have mostly battled on effectiveness in Washington and the need for new representation in the district. Lamborn challenger Darryl Glenn, who is polling closest to the incumbent, has expressed more skepticism about Trump than others in the race, perhaps suggesting more appeal among Republicans who remain wary of the president.
The donors funding Clean Up Congress PAC, and their reasons for funding it, will remain a mystery until after a GOP nominee is chosen. In the meantime, voters will have to sit through ads claiming a stridently pro-life congressman actually supports Planned Parenthood.
This post has been updated with additional reporting.
Get the data:
- ProPublica FEC itemizer
- Federal Communications Commission public inspection files
- Foundation Center 990 database
- Arizona lobbying disclosure database