Walker Stapleton endorser Tom Tancredo has partnered with State Sen. Tim Neville (R-Littleton) and his son Joe Neville to promote political messaging that reflects the anti-immigrant rhetoric of President Trump and pushes the limits of inflammatory and race-baiting statements.
The new Tancredo-fronted group, Citizens for Secure Borders, claims to be “dedicated to providing the public with information regarding key issues related to preserving and promoting the safety and security of the public.” The group’s 501(c)4 articles of incorporation lists the home of Sen. Neville as its “principal office street address.” Its three board members are Joe Neville and two of his employees at consulting firm Rearden Strategic. Both Aaron Yates and Brandon Wark, like Joe Neville himself, are former employees of Dudley Brown’s right-wing gun rights advocacy groups, Rocky Mountain Gun Owners & National Association of Gun Rights.
On May 22, Joe Neville shared a Citizens For Secure Borders post using an uncredited AFP news photograph of an MS-13 gang member. The image is the first result returned by a Google image search of “MS 13.” By crudely superimposing it on a fence with the sign “Please Do NOT Feed the Animals,” the meme embraces the degrading insult “animals” in reference to other human beings. The post’s text reinforces that concept with a tagline about “a trip to the zoo.” From there it’s a small leap to the commenter, (who identifies himself as the father of Rearden ally and state treasurer hopeful State Rep. Justin Everett (R-Littleton) who implies these people should be shot like rabid dogs.
Rearden Strategic is also responsible for another 501(c)4, Advancing Colorado, which has repeatedly created and promoted personal attacks as part of its own aggressive Facebook images, from pro-gun memes to the attack ads on fellow Republicans, including state treasurer contender Polly Lawrence and attorney general candidate George Brauchler.
The group also embraces overtly racist and anti-semitic comments, such as those made on a post about Michelle Obama, and more recently a comment on a post about Congressman Polis describing him as an “openly gay commie jew.”
As broadly offensive as Rearden Strategic is, the fact remains that the group is part of the Colorado Republican establishment. Joe Neville’s brother Patrick is the House Minority Leader. His father Tim Neville’s far-right conservative agenda has shaped his caucus’ actions for years. Both legislators regularly share Advancing Colorado’s posts, as do many of their caucus colleagues in the House and Senate.
In addition to the family connections, Rearden runs the House GOP independent expenditure committee “Values First Colorado,” which is likely responsible for spending the lion’s share of political advertising dollars dedicated to electing Republicans to the Colorado House of Representatives this fall.
At the statewide level, Treasurer Walker Stapleton, the front runner to be the GOP’s nominee for governor, paid Neville’s firm well over $8,000 just in the month of April to do his digital advertising.
On April 10, Stapleton wrote a letter to the secretary of state acknowledging that his petition gatherers committed fraud and that he was abandoning the petition process, instead planning to seek nomination via the assembly. The next day, the campaign wrote its first check to Rearden Strategic and Tom Tancredo announced his endorsement of Stapleton.
As a Bush relative and establishment favorite, Stapleton clearly needed the conservative credibility that Tancredo’s endorsement provided. However, binding himself to those positions and messages may prove damaging to his attempts to appeal to all voters in November. Colorado is widely acknowledged as a purple state with a rapidly growing immigrant population. Beyond Stapleton, all Republicans relying on Rearden Strategic may find that the clicks generated by the Neville-Tancredo brand of virulently pro-gun and anti-immigrant messages, personal attacks, and alt-right memes may come at an electoral cost in the fall.