A quick follow-up on the ripple effect that has come after I did a little firsthand reporting on the shadowy third-party group Taxpayers for Liberty (click the link if you need a refresher). I had a friendly phone conversation earlier today with Sue Rehg of Larimer County, whose name initially was listed as the group’s registered agent. Here essentially is her story as she recounted it to me:
In November an unnamed friend contacted Mrs. Rehg asking if she would volunteer her name to be used as a signatory on a letter accompanying a survey to candidates in the 2010 election, and that this also would require her name to be used as a registered agent with the Secretary of State’s office. She said she agreed the next day after three substantial phone conversations, and left convinced that Taxpayers for Liberty was an innocent project to which she had lent her name.
According to Mrs. Rehg, within the next week she and her husband Dick had lengthy conversations and decided she should remove her name and not be involved. She contacted the unnamed friend, asked to have her name removed, and received assurances of the same.
In early March a message was left on their answering machine from a Mr. O’Neill who introduced himself as the new Executive Director of TFL. The message requested any questions with regard to TFL be sent to him. Sue, no longer connected with the organization, did not reply and deleted the message. The next she heard about the group and the use of her name in connection with it was this past Monday after I broke the story.
Mrs. Rehg insists whatever highly limited connection she had with Taxpayers for Liberty began and ended in November, and that she had no direct interaction with the Secretary of State’s office. Yet while the registration with the Secretary of State’s office changed the address for the group from Mrs. Rehg’s to the Denver PO Box on November 25 (13 days after its initial filing), the unnamed friend failed to remove her name and replace it with Andrew O’Neill’s name until February 17.
A longtime Republican activist in Colorado, Sue and Dick Rehg came aboard the Buck campaign in late January of this year as Larimer County co-chairs. As a result of the revelation about Taxpayers for Liberty and the use of her name, a campaign official on Tuesday asked Sue for the sake of avoiding improper appearances to step down. She is obviously upset about the development, and was eager to tell her story to me to provide a more complete picture — which I was happy to do.
In short, to clear up any confusion from my previous post, there is no evidence of any connection between Ken Buck’s campaign and the shadowy 501c4 Taxpayers for Liberty. And by all accounts I can gather, Sue Rehg is a woman of integrity. As it looks like she may have made a careless mistake, perhaps there’s a lesson in this scenario for others. (Similarly, I could have taken greater diligence to contact Mrs. Rehg before publishing either previous post on this topic to provide a more complete picture of the story — a judgment call on my part.)
Mrs. Rehg is not prepared at this time to disclose the identity of the unnamed person behind Taxpayers for Liberty, but we shall see if the name is revealed in due time. Whoever it is, I hope he realizes that this group’s independent actions (in all likelihood, inadvertently) have the potential to hurt Ken Buck more than help him — not to mention the damage they do to the spirit of party unity and the integrity of the political process as a whole.
Yes, I still hope Buck comes out and denounces the tactic used by the group Taxpayers for Liberty. Not only would that strengthen my assessment that there is no connection, but also I believe it would clear up doubts others may have. Ultimately, that decision belongs to his campaign.
Full disclosure: While I have not made any final decisions on whom to support in the primary election for U.S. Senate, I voted for Ken Buck at the straw poll Tuesday night, and respect him personally.
One last note: I do plan to pursue any further leads on Taxpayers for Liberty as they become available. I did receive the press release from the Andrew O’Neill, who by his cell phone number appears to be from Virginia rather than Colorado. A personal email to him, as yet unanswered, will be followed by a phone call when I find a moment. But that makes it a topic for another post….