DENVER | Rep. Jared Polis has become something of a persona non grata among top Colorado Democrats for funding an anti-fracking initiative, and now a Republican gay rights group has turned on him.
The Log Cabin Republicans launched a radio ad campaign Monday attacking Mr. Polis, the first openly gay man to be elected to Congress, highlighting “how Polis is dipping into his vast personal fortune to fund ballot initiatives to limit and potentially ban energy development in Colorado.”
“If that happens, it is estimated that Colorado could lose $8 billion and 68,000 jobs in just the first five years,” says the ad. “Congressman Polis has over 65 million reasons to fund his own selfish agenda. But most people in Colorado can’t afford to pay for his ideas.”
Mr. Polis jumped into in the anti-fracking fight last year by filing a complaint against three oil-and-gas wells near his 50-acre vacation retreat in Weld County, the center of Colorado’s energy boom. Sundance Energy was ultimately fined $26,000 and forced to move two of its wells to comply with the state’s setback rules, according to the Boulder Daily Camera.
The congressman is now providing the financial muscle behind Coloradans for Local Control, which has proposed 15 initiatives for the Nov. 4 ballot, including an environmental bill of rights. Two other groups — Local Control Colorado and the Colorado Community Rights Network — are also backing anti-fracking measures.
The proposed initiatives are awaiting the results of challenges before the Colorado Supreme Court. Each would need to gather about 86,000 valid signatures from registered voters by Aug. 4 to qualify for the Nov. 4 ballot, but none has begun petition-circulating yet.
“Congressman Polis is the latest in a litany of limousine liberals who feels he knows what’s best for everyone, but in reality he’s nothing more than a NIMBY nanny-stater willing to dump millions of dollars of his fortune into a crusade to force everyday Americans to bend to his will,” said LCR Executive Director Gregory T. Angelo.
Mr. Polis’s involvement in the fracking issue has exposed a schism between the Colorado Democratic Party’s top state elected officials and its powerful environmental wing. Leading the charge against the anti-fracking measures is Democratic Gov. John Hickenlooper, backed by powerful state party figures such as former Gov. Roy Romer and ex-Sen. Ken Salazar.
Mr. Polis attempted to mend fences with other Democrats at the April 12 state assembly by placing Mr. Hickenlooper’s name into nomination for reelection.
“None of us in this room, none of your delegation, are ever going to agree on every single issue,” Mr. Polis told the Democratic delegates. “Nor should we expect to.”
The split between Mr. Polis and other top Democrats comes at an awkward time for the Boulder congressman. Mr. Polis is being discussed as a contender for the chairmanship of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, which oversees House Democratic races.
Denver pollster Floyd Ciruli said Mr. Polis may be risking his political future by openly challenging Mr. Hickenlooper and the Democratic establishment.
“I think he has to walk a fine line between becoming a state hero for the environmental anti-frackers and becoming a sort of pariah, a person who is so disliked by the party establishment that he could endanger his own political ambitions,” said Mr. Ciruli.
The state Supreme Court is expected to rule on the legal challenges to the anti-fracking proposals by the end of the month.
Industry-backed groups led by Coloradans for Responsible Energy Development are also spending heavily on television and radio ads promoting the oil-and-gas industry’s safety record and contribution to the economy.
A University of Colorado Leeds School of Business study released in March found that a statewide ban on hydraulic fracturing would cost $12 billion in lost gross-domestic product, 93,000 fewer jobs and a tax hit of $985 million between 2015 and 2040.
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