Richard Skorman maligned by dark money group in City Council race


The assault on Richard Skorman continues.

In case you missed it, the Gazette has published two critical editorials recently against Skorman, a candidate for the open District 3 City Council seat who's vying with Chuck Fowler. You can read our blog about one of those editorials here.

Fowler is backed by developers and business groups.

Now, a flier has dropped in District 3 mailboxes promoting Fowler and maligning Skorman.

It's paid for by Colorado Citizens Protecting Our Constitution Independent Expenditure Committee, a shady group housed in Greenwood Village. It's organized as a 527 organization, meaning it doesn't have to disclose who's funding it.

In the local race, CCPOC's efforts are being run by Dede Laugesen, the wife of Gazette editorial page editor Wayne Laugesen. (A disclaimer on the daily's endorsements states Wayne Laugesen abstained from that process due to his wife's involvement.)

Back to the flier, which carried a return label saying it was paid for by CCPOC IEC and giving an address of a UPS store in Monument, (where Laugesen lives), it labels Skorman, a two-term councilor and former vice mayor, as a "liberal lobbyist," and cites several references to support that claim.

Each is footnoted, though it's almost impossible to detect those notations. We needed bright lights and a magnifying glass to make them out.

We'll give you one example. The flier states, "Skorman lobbied for more than $4 billion in debt for various "water projects," and attributes that to "Colorado Springs Independent 10/29/03."
That Indy issue carried an article that discussed a statewide ballot measure that called for issuing $2 billion in bonds to fund water projects to protect the state's interest in waters that originate in the state. Skorman initially voted with others on City Council to support the measure, which was seen as a way to help other parts of the state, not Colorado Springs, secure a water supply.

Here's the portion of the story that mentions Skorman, emphasis added:
[Gov. Bill Owens' spokesman said] the likelihood of the state having to pay is "so remote, so far remote, that it's extremely, extremely, extremely unlikely."

Either way, the Colorado Springs City Council has unanimously endorsed Referendum A, upon the city-owned utility's recommendation.

Asked whether the measure would benefit Colorado Springs in any way, Colosimo replied, "No, but we thought for the state as a whole, it's an important thing to support."

Councilman Tom Gallagher said he voted to endorse the referendum because, "You've got to think big picture. ... For us to get ours, we've got to make sure others get theirs."

Vice Mayor Richard Skorman, meanwhile, has changed his position and now opposes the measure.

"It just kind of came up quickly," he said of the Council's endorsement. "Afterward, I regretted my vote."

Skorman says he's concerned about the environmental impacts of damming rivers. And the money would probably be better spent on water conservation than on storage, he says.

"I wouldn't vote for it today," Skorman said. 
Another item from the flier states, "As a lobbyist, Skorman proudly helped raise taxes by $326 million." This comes from the Nov. 7, 2002, Denver Post, which reported:
Even with the tough economy, Colorado voters approved three of five open space initiatives on Tuesday's ballot, raising $326 million to protect parks and open space in Fort Collins, Greeley and Louisville.
"People are very protective of their communities," said Richard Skorman, the conservation finance director for the Colorado Trust for Public Land. "They want to make sure those special places are there for them and their children."

Skorman: Seeking the District 3 City Council seat. - COURTESY OF THE CANDIDATE
  • Courtesy of the candidate
  • Skorman: Seeking the District 3 City Council seat.
In response to the flier's allegation regarding the $326 million, Skorman says via email:
After the huge growth boom in Colorado in the 90's, I became the Conservation Finance Director for the Colorado Trust for Public Land in 2001/2002. I did help 18 cities and counties around the State to place in front of their voters, time-limited tax increases to protect special open spaces and parks from development. The one I am the most proud of is our own TOPS Initiative, without which Stratton Open Space, Red Rock Canyon and Cheyenne Mountain State Park would have been developed.
Another claim the flier makes is that Skorman supported a 300 percent increase "to his own salary."

Says Skorman, "Council currently gets $6,250 a year for a more than 40 an hour a week job, or about $3.75 an hour. I did support that Council get $12,000 annually, as recommended by the Charter Review Commission, or $6.00 an hour. If voters had approved that raise, it would have taken effect after my two terms were up."

A Gazette story referenced in the flier, that ran March 25, 2003, reported that Skorman and others thought the salary should be increased to $20,000 to $30,000. One of the others who agreed with that salary range was Sallie Clark, who at that time was running for Colorado Springs mayor. She recently completed three consecutive terms as El Paso County commissioner.

The CCPOC has purchased air time on Comcast to promote the candidacy of Lynette Crow-Iverson, who's opposing incumbent Jill Gaebler in centrally located District 5. Dede Laugesen's news release about the TV ads also stated CCPOC would be engaged in other races in the city election.

Both Crow-Iverson and Fowler are endorsed by developers and business groups, including Colorado Springs Forward. While those interests have shoveled a lot of money to their slate, including Crow-Iverson and Fowler, it's impossible to make a connection between CSF and CCPOC, other than candidates they both endorse, because neither discloses names of individuals who give money to them, for the most part.

Colorado Springs Forward has not reported any spending on consultants. Its only expenses have been donations to its slate of candidates, which also includes Greg Basham, Deborah Hendrix and Andy Pico, and a donations to the "vote yes" committee for a ballot measure seeking voter permission to keep excess revenue to spend on stormwater projects.

For example, the latest campaign finance filing by CSF's political action committee shows it received $30,000 from Colorado Springs Forward itself and $1,000 from a board member, Kathy Loo.

The next campaign finance reports are due Wednesday, March 15.

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