‘Soft side’ campaign groups are turning Matt Solomon’s words against him in Senate District 8 election
Here's where the money and the messaging is coming from as money pours into SD8 race from 'soft side' groups
A group called All Together Colorado has been making ad buys on YouTube for a 30-second spot targeting Republican Matt Solomon, who is running for Colorado’s Senate District 8 seat, saying “even he calls himself a hustler.”
The claim is, in fact, true, although his opponent said he has no idea who is making the claim.
Solomon’s book, “Fortunate Accidents,” released in November 2021, has a chapter titled “Nomadic Hustler” in which Solomon says he often replies “I hustle” when people ask him what he does for work.
From the book:
“Someone recently asked me what I do for work. I said, as I often do, ‘I hustle.’
“What do you mean, ‘hustle’?
“I replied, ‘I advise companies and help people solve problems. I wear a lot of hats and travel to a lot of places. I guess that you could say that I’m a nomadic hustler.’”
Solomon said this line from his book and many others are being taken out of context to mischaracterize him to voters.
“The anecdotes that they are using are lies,” Solomon said. “They have twisted what’s in my book and misused words to create a false dialogue.”
The All Together Colorado video spot also claims that Solomon “bragged about the use of bribes to get ahead,” another claim from his book. In “Fortunate Accidents,” while describing his time working at the SIA Global Executive Summit in Las Vegas, Solomon says Sportube owner Paul Hields taught him “skills like bribing the union workers to get our pallets first.”
In mailers from All Together Colorado, Solomon is also accused of not showing up to 20% of the Eagle Town Council meetings held during his term in office, a statistic that he said in a text, “does not include the meetings that we had on the off weeks and it does not show that my absences were excused so that I could work with the military.”
Further claims include selling drugs to college kids and refusing to conduct background checks on private gun sales.
The claim about selling drugs is also taken from “Fortunate Accidents.” During his junior year of college, after being suspended from the football team, Solomon claims he “dropped thirty pounds of weight, eschewed my regularly scheduled haircuts, got a job at UPS, worked security, bartended, and started selling drugs on the side.”
The final claim from All Together Colorado, that Solomon “refused to conduct background checks on private gun sales,” comes from Colorado Springs Gazette coverage of a 2014 Colorado Senate Affairs Committee meeting. Solomon, in testifying before the committee, said his gun-selling business “decided we cannot support and will not participate in background checks for private gun sales.”
Solomon said that claims of bribery and refusing to do background checks are false, and that his time selling drugs ended over 27 years ago.
“I never refused to do background checks, that would be illegal for a federally licensed firearm dealer, so that is 100% a lie,” Solomon said. “I’ve never accepted bribes, I’ve never given bribes, they are misusing another story about someone else from the book and applying it to me. My criminal history has nothing but three speeding tickets on it, so all of these out-of-context mistruths and lies are offensive.”
While Solomon’s opponent, Democrat Dylan Roberts, said he knew nothing of the creation of the mailers, Roberts did admit that the group that created the ads displayed some rigor in citing its sources.
“Fidelity to the facts is definitely good,” Roberts said in a text.
The Vail Daily is among the sources cited in All Together Colorado’s claims. The mailer, in a “check the facts” box, points to the Vail Daily in verifying the claim that Solomon resigned part way through his term on the Eagle Town Council.
It’s an unnecessary citation, as this fact is easily verifiable in source material like the meeting’s minutes or the meeting itself, captured on video. But in reading the referenced story, readers will learn that Solomon’s motivation to quit came from learning about “a piece of municipal code stipulating that he had to leave now for his seat to be filled in the November election rather than by appointment,” according to the Vail Daily’s coverage.
By stepping down early, Solomon’s seat was contested in the town’s regular election, which is the outcome Solomon said he desired in stepping down.
“I’ve sat through four appointments in the last five and a half years, and it’s a horrible process, it’s a horrible thing,” Solomon said in the meeting. “The community should have a voice in that.”
Soft side of beef
All Together Colorado is what Roberts calls a “soft side” group, which has nothing to do with his campaign. Soft side groups, by not having a direct affiliation with those running for office, can accept larger donations than the maximum $400 contributions from individuals and businesses that a candidate can accept for their campaign.
All Together Colorado is an independent expenditure committee that has raised $6,661,407, according to disclosures filed Oct. 4. It has spent $3,102,796 and has a balance of more than $3.5 million. All Together Colorado’s purpose is, according to filings, “to educate and inform Colorado voters about the state senate candidates, primarily supporting democrats and opposing republicans.”
All Together Colorado also has a 527 political organization, which can be organized under Section 527 of the U.S. Internal Revenue Code for the purpose of electing or defeating candidates for federal, state or local public office. The All Together Colorado 527 political organization has only raised $146,249, according to disclosures filed on Oct. 4. The All Together Colorado groups can use each other to pass funds back and forth.
The registered agent and designated filing agent for both All Together Colorado as an independent expenditure committee and All Together Colorado as a 527 political organization is Ashley Stevens, who refers to herself in her LinkedIn profile as a “Fundraiser at Colorado State Senate.” Stevens is currently tied to 22 active political committees, small donor committees, issue committees, independent expenditure committees and 527 political organizations.
Stevens was unable to be reached through phone and email attempts. Roberts says he’s never met Stevens and has no idea who she is. Roberts said his campaign has nothing to do with All Together Colorado, which, in another mailer, describes Roberts as a candidate who will “protect our right to choose.” An All Together Colorado mailer focusing on women’s rights attacks Solomon’s views on abortion, while also telling voters to vote for Roberts.
“I’ve never spoken to them and never will,” Roberts, in a text message, said of All Together Colorado.
Roberts also said his opponents “have a similar group doing attacks against me and they’ve raised and spent far more than this group,” citing a recent story from ColoradoPolitics.com.
A recent article in the Steamboat Pilot reported that “groups supporting Solomon or opposing Roberts have the edge in spending by a 60% to 40% margin,” with spending to support Solomon at nearly $764,000 and spending to support Roberts totaling about $519,000.
The Senate Majority Fund, another independent expenditure committee with the stated purpose “to support republican candidates for state senate,” has spent the majority of funds supporting Solomon or opposing Roberts since the June primaries, totaling around $688,000.
Local party leaders said that this is the most soft money that they have ever seen pour into a Senate District 8 race, and is likely attributed to the fact that nearly half of the voters in the district are unaffiliated, and it is one of the state senate races that will determine the majority.
Solomon said that while soft money is bolstering both campaigns, those supporting his candidacy have focused predominately on issues rather than funding a smear campaign against Roberts.
“The soft money that I’ve seen that is supporting my campaign is sticking to the issues,” Solomon said. “I haven’t seen any personal attacks or outrageous lies about my opponent. I’ve seen a lot of lies about me.”
An independent expenditure committee called Unite for Colorado Action is responsible for the distribution of a number of mailers against Roberts. One such mailer includes a picture of a ground beef package stamped “Made in China” to claim that Roberts has used his power to side against ranchers and promote foreign businesses, in reference to the fact that a bill called “Beef Country Of Origin Recognition System” failed to make it out of the Agriculture, Livestock, & Natural Resources, on which Roberts sits.
Another mailer attacking Roberts places a mug shot of him next to the president, saying Colorado families are stretched too thin “thanks to Dylan Roberts and Joe Biden.” Those mailers don’t tell voters to vote in favor of Solomon, however, instead using something akin to referendum language in saying, simply, “Vote ‘no’ on Dylan Roberts.”
Unite for Colorado Action has raised $2.4 million as of Oct. 4, and spent $1.7 million, according to disclosures filed Oct. 4. The committee is registered to Katie Kennedy, who is currently tied to 90 active political committees, small donor committees, issue committees, independent expenditure committees and 527 political organizations.
Both Kennedy and Stevens have been connected to dark money in previous elections in Colorado.
Kennedy, in 2016, was the registered agent “for 54 campaign committees, either on her own or in conjunction with Republican attorney John Zakhem,” the Colorado Independent reported. “She has been handling campaign finance filings for committees since about 2010.”
Stevens was also connected with dark money contributions in the 2016 election, when she was also a registered agent on an independent expenditure committee that “raised nearly $2.6 million and spent the vast majority of that supporting or opposing candidates in the Colorado House elections, with the remainder going toward ‘consultant and professional services,’ among other items,” OpenSecrets.org reported. “Of the candidates who were favored by this IE committee, nearly three-fourths of them won their respective elections.”
Vail Daily reporter Carolyn Paletta contributed to this story.
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