New cavalry in town will help fight taxation

By Stephanie Clary
THE COLORADO STATESMAN

Former Colorado Senate President John Andrews compared the national grassroots group Americans for Prosperity to a truly mighty force during the June 24 launch of its Colorado state chapter at the Capitol.

“When I heard that Americans for Prosperity was coming to Colorado … my thought was, ‘Here comes the cavalry at last,’” said the former Republican legislator.

However, his praise of the organization, which has a history of opposing tax increases in other states, fell on the ears of only a few members of the media.

Without that small amount of reporters, the steps below the podium would have been entirely empty as the opening of the organization’s 22nd state chapter was announced. Well, there were a few who passed by, including Gov. Bill Ritter.

“If you’re so prosperous … is this all you can afford for a sign?” Ritter joked as he stopped his stride to examine a small cardboard placard taped to the lectern.

But the lack of an audience didn’t stop Jim Pfaff, the state director for the organization, from discussing the need to “educate, train and mobilize” Colorado’s taxpayers, specifically on the issue of energy.

“Colorado is an energy economy,” said Pfaff, the former president of the Colorado Family Institute. “We are at risk because of growing environmental alarmism in this state.”

Pfaff criticized movements such as the one against drilling the Roan Plateau, saying more energy means lower prices for consumers.

Democrats Ritter, U.S. Sen. Ken Salazar, U.S. Reps. John Salazar and Mark Udall, and environmental groups have opposed a plan to open environmentally sensitive sections of the area to oil and gas leases. A coalition of environmental groups has announced it will file a lawsuit against the Bureau of Land Management over the plan.

Colorado Sen. Shawn Mitchell, R-Broomfield, Rep. Kent Lambert, R-Colorado Springs, and Tim Phillips, president of the organization, also spoke, mostly about how government interference and the Democrat-dominated Legislature have hindered Colorado’s businesses.

The term “environmental alarmism” echoed throughout the speeches.

When all those topics had been addressed briefly, Phillips summed up the group’s goal by saying “Our model is really simple … simply standing for economic freedom.”

Phillips said the group is nonpartisan, which seemed at odds with the fact that only Republican members of the Legislature attended the conference, using it as an opportunity to criticize their Democratic colleagues.

Americans for Prosperity generally is characterized by the media as libertarian, conservative and anti-tax.

Pfaff said Americans for Prosperity is called a lot of things, but “There’s a core belief in less government, lower taxes and individual freedom,” adding that the organization works to hold all parties accountable.

The group is planning to use town hall meetings “to put heat on politicians,” with energy policy being a main issue this year, Pfaff said.

The paltry turnout did little to discourage Pfaff, who stressed that this was just “Day One’’ of the grassroots movement in the state, noting there are “thousands of members already in the state” he will be reaching out to.

“People know my reputation (in grassroots) … and the principle of liberty runs straight,” Pfaff said, alluding to his previous role with the Colorado Family Institute. “Families are not just hurt when it comes to social issues.”

He offered no details concerning future meetings, saying only to expect announcements soon.