A "conflict of interest": In supporting Greeley initiative, KFKA's Oliver omitted that her employer, the Independence Institute, sponsors campaign for it


Amy Oliver of 1310 KFKA during her October 9 broadcast touted a Greeley ballot measure that would limit payroll deductions for public employees in the city. But she did not mention to listeners that her employer, the Independence Institute, "gave money and manpower" to get the measure on the Greeley ballot -- in fact, the free-market think tank sponsors a committee to promote the initiative.

During her October 9 1310 KFKA broadcast, Independence Institute director of operations Amy Oliver touted Initiated Question 200, which would limit payroll deductions for public employees in the city of Greeley, without disclosing that the Independence Institute sponsors a committee promoting the measure. Oliver asked, "Should your taxpayer dollars be used for the infrastructure of private organizations that have political purposes?" then stated, "It's pretty simple. There's an enormous conflict of interest there." However, Oliver failed to tell her listeners that not only did the Independence Institute launch a policy initiative, Ask First, to promote passage of the measure in Greeley and other Colorado cities, the free-market think tank also "gave money and manpower" to help place the question on the ballot, according to a July 7 Greeley Tribune article that describes the measure as one that would "stop the city of Greeley from deducting union dues from city employees' paychecks."

Oliver promoted the ballot initiative while discussing candidates running for Greeley's city council. After stating the positions of several candidates regarding the initiative, she said, "I'm amazed that there are people who are actually opposed to good policy and good government." Oliver also asserted that three elected officials whom she named as opposing the initiative received money from organizations that also opposed it, saying, "There is a conflict of interest there." However, Oliver did not disclose that the Independence Institute, of which she is a paid employee, is promoting the measure.

From the October 9 broadcast of 1310 KFKA's The Amy Oliver Show:

OLIVER: There was another debate last night, as well, that I want to quickly touch on. The at-large candidate -- and this is from the newspaper -- "At-large candidates debate the merits of ballot initiatives, by Andrew Villegas." This is kind of interesting, and one of the things, the lead paragraphs -- "The four candidates for Greeley city council at-large seat are relative newcomers to Greeley's political scene. The group got its feet wet Monday night debating the merit of several ballot initiatives. Four candidates -- Russ Baxley, TJ Marlo, Maria Secrest, and Susanne Villarreal -- are vying for the seat being vacated by Pam Shaddock, who is running for election in Ward 4 against Bill Gillard."

Now by the way, Ward 4 as well, they had a debate last night. Two things you ought to know there: Bill Gillard opposes the .54 percent tax increase for roads and the .25 tax increase for public transportation. By the way, if those both, those were to pass, Greeley would have the highest sales tax in northern Colorado. In Ward 4, I gave you the names of the four candidates. "The group differed most Monday night on Question 200, which is concerning city employees' paychecks. Asking if Greeley should be stopped from deducting most money from its employees' paychecks" -- that is an interesting description. Most money from employees' paychecks. The only thing that would be deducted, that would not be allowed to be deducted from employees' paychecks: dues for private organizations. Should your taxpayer dollars be used for the infrastructure of private organizations that have political purposes? It's pretty simple. There's an enormous conflict of interest there.

Maria Secrest, as far as I'm concerned, got it right. She said no, they shouldn't be. And it doesn't matter what the group is; what if the group is the ACLU? What if the group were the National Rifle Association? What if the group is a labor union? It doesn't matter; that is not the role of city government. Yet it seems that there are those people who don't care if there's a conflict of interest in city government, and by the way -- I know of three people that opposed this measure that received money from organizations that opposed the measure as well.

The local firemen's union opposes the measure. Tom Selders opposes the measure, and he received, and Tom Selders received, in his last election, 750 bucks from 'em. I've gotta pull out my information here, but believe Pam Shaddock received money from them. And I believe as well, yeah -- well, not from the firemen, she received money from another union. And I've gotta, I've got to confirm this one, but another person who opposes it, Susanne Villarreal, also, from what I understand, has received money from labor unions. There is a conflict of interest there.

It's not going to hurt a union or any other organization to go through a private financial institution. And if those unions or other organizations are claiming that without that service from taxpayers that it some how weakens their organization, then that organization is weak to begin with. Weak to begin with. Should not be using taxpayer dollars for private organizations. What if it were a religious organization? Would that be OK? My feeling is it probably wouldn't. So instead of getting into the which organizations deserve special treatment from city government and which ones don't, let's just not let any of 'em. Let's not have any organization get special treatment from city government. I'm amazed that there are people who are actually opposed to good policy and good government. But I guess I shouldn't be; I've been doing this long enough. I truly, truly, should not be.

Despite her criticism of certain city council candidates and "people who don't care if there is a conflict of interest in city government," at no point during the broadcast did Oliver inform listeners that since at least July, the Independence Institute has been working to promote Initiated Question 200. According to the Tribune:

A group of Greeley residents and a conservative think tank are trying to stop the city of Greeley from deducting union dues from city employees' paychecks.

Dave Owen, a Republican former state senator from Greeley, and others, have collected more than 3,000 signatures to force the Greeley City Council to look at the measure. If the council denies the ordinance or decides simply to give the decision to voters, the ordinance would be on the ballot in November.

The proposed ordinance would limit what money the city could take out of city employees' paychecks.


Assisting Owen with the initiative is the Independence Institute, a conservative think tank based in Golden, which also is supporting similar efforts to restrict payroll deductions in Littleton and Englewood.

Jon Caldara, president of the institute, said his group gave money and manpower to help Owen with the petition drive.

"Government should get out of the business of politics," Caldara said. "It should not be doing bookkeeping for any organization."

Furthermore, the Independence Institute's website references a September 20 Rocky Mountain News editorial that "agrees" with the think tank's opposition to "the automatic deduction of union dues from paychecks" while noting the Ask First campaign. According to the News editorial:

Attempts to end the automatic deduction of union dues from paychecks without the prior consent of individual employees have generally gone nowhere. Legislation has failed. So have proposed ballot initiatives. The only paycheck protection measure that had any impact on automatic dues deductions -- a 2001 executive order from Gov. Bill Owens that covered state employees -- was rescinded by Gov. Bill Ritter this year.

The latest foray, however, known as Ask First, has chalked up some victories. Commissioners in Arapahoe, El Paso, Jefferson, Mesa and Weld counties have passed paycheck protection policies covering county workers. Voters in Centennial, Englewood and Greeley will decide in this fall's election whether those automatic deductions would end for unionized workers employed by those cities.

By the end of the year, the free-market Independence Institute, which launched Ask First, says it's possible that paycheck protection provisions might cover cities and counties where more than half of Coloradans reside.

Additionally, the Independence Institute home page displays the Ask First logo and a link to the campaign's website.

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