In late May, Republican Secretary of State candidate Tina Peters’ campaign made a $50,000 payment to PIN Business Network, a marketing company with ties to election conspiracist and podcast host Joe Oltmann. The payment was marked in the state’s campaign finance database as being for “internet advertising,” and amounts to nearly one-third of Peters’ total campaign expenditures to date.
The Peters campaign’s $50,000 payment is the latest, and largest, in a string of payments made to the company by far-right political campaigns. While the payments are notable on account of the company being owned by a man with a fixation on the mass murder of elected officials, they are noteworthy for another reason: PIN Business Network does not specialize in political advertising. According to case studies available on the company’s website, the bulk of PIN’s work appears to have been dedicated to improving the sales volume of car dealerships.
The seeming mismatch between the company’s profile and the services the Peters campaign is ostensibly paying for raises questions about the underlying purpose of the large payment, and about the connection between PIN, Peters, and Joe Oltmann.
Peters, the current Mesa County Clerk and Recorder and frontrunner to be the Republican nominee for Secretary of State, has made headlines over the past year after being found to have allegedly compromised the security of Mesa County’s voting machines while looking for proof of a baseless conspiracy theory alleging that Dominion voting machines stole the 2020 election from Donald Trump. That conspiracy theory was concocted, in part, by Joe Oltmann, former CEO of PIN Business Network.
Oltmann, a far-right influencer based in Douglas County, rose to prominence in the aftermath of the 2020 election when he contributed to the conspiracy theory that machines made by Dominion Voting Systems were responsible for switching votes away from Donald Trump. The claims made him a rising star in the Republican Party, but also earned him a role as a defendant in a multibillion-dollar defamation suit filed by Dominion. Oltmann is also the founder of Colorado-based FEC United, a conservative organization with its own armed militia division, United American Defense Force (UADF), and has made headlines in recent months for repeatedly calling for the mass execution of elected officials. Oltmann has repeatedly contested claims that UADF, which frequently appeared at protests and events in body armor and bear shields, is a militia.
Oltmann launched FEC United in the summer of 2020, initially in opposition to COVID public health restrictions, but soon began working closely with the Colorado GOP, helping those candidates willing to sign his group’s pledge with their email and field campaigns. By the fall, Colorado GOP Chair Kristi Burton Brown, then the party’s Vice Chair, was simultaneously running FEC United as its president.
After Oltmann received negative attention for his participation in the events of January 6, 2021, PIN Business Network removed Oltmann as CEO. By all indications, the separation between Oltmann and the company was only surface deep: Oltmann continued to list the company as his employer months after he was removed as CEO, and still controls the company which owns PIN, Shuffling Madness Ventures, which identified PIN Business Network as its subsidiary in a lawsuit filed in July 2021. The same lawsuit shows that Oltmann remained active with both companies long after his removal as the PIN’s chief executive officer.
The link between FEC United and PIN Business Network goes even deeper than Oltmann’s involvement with both: a deposition given by Oltmann as part of the defamation suit revealed that PIN and the militia-touting FEC United shared office space when the latter group was formed in 2020.
Over the past two elections, mirroring Oltmann’s rise to prominence, conservative candidates have directed increasingly large sums of campaign cash to PIN Business Network. Whether the payments are in spite of, or because of, the company’s connection to a far-right militia is unclear.
In 2021, FEC United and UADF trained their focus on school board elections, directing UADF members to Cherry Creek School Board meetings in June and then supporting a slate of conservatives seeking seats on the Douglas County Board of Education. In October, shortly before the school board elections, the UADF showed up in force at a Douglas County school board meeting in an effort to intimidate the then-incumbents regarding the district’s mask policy. The conservative challengers ultimately won control of the board, and promptly caused public outcry by firing the school district’s superintendent in a contentious public meeting.
Two weeks after winning their seats on the school board with FEC United’s help, the four conservative candidates paid PIN Business Network a combined $86,100, evenly split between them. The payments were noted as being for “other media expenses.”
The school board candidates are not the only extremists PIN has received recent payments from. Earlier this year, as reported in Vice, QAnon influencer Ron Watkins paid PIN Business Network $5,500, noted as being for “email blasts.” In April, Rae Ann Weber – an FEC United board member who is currently running to be El Paso County Coroner – paid the company $7,000. The entry in the campaign finance records says that the payment was for “marketing.” Weber also paid PIN $10,500 last year during her unsuccessful run for the Cheyenne Mountain School District 12 Board of Education.
Despite the generic labels affixed to the expenditures in campaign finance reports, many questions remain unanswered. Why, for instance, did the four Douglas County school board campaigns pay such large sums to PIN Business Network several weeks after the election? What is the connection between FEC United and the political candidates PIN chooses to work for? Exactly what services does PIN offer to its political clients, and why have these campaigns spent such large sums of campaign cash with the company instead of with a conventional campaign vendor? Why, if PIN is running $50,000 worth of digital advertisements for the Peters campaign, is it so difficult to locate a single digital advertisement for the Peters campaign?
PIN did not reply to multiple requests for clarification on these questions. Every extension on the company’s phone menu goes to a voicemail box, and a detailed request for comment sent by email has not received a response as of press time.
The Peters campaign likewise did not respond to a request for comment on the nature of the payment to PIN or the services the company is providing to the campaign.
The ties between Tina Peters and Joe Oltmann run deep. Not only did Oltmann help invent the conspiracy theory which allegedly inspired Peters to compromise Mesa County’s Dominion voting machines, he has been a vocal booster of her campaign to be Colorado’s chief election official. In April of this year, UADF provided security at a rally for Peters at the state capitol. That same month, the Peters campaign paid nearly $2,000 for an event at Villa Parker, a Douglas County venue owned by Oltmann. This Friday, the two will appear together at an event in Grand Junction.
While PIN Business Network’s role in the relationship remains unclear, the connection between the Peters campaign, Oltmann, and UADF is bright as day: they have risen to prominence on the back of claims that the 2020 election was stolen from Donald Trump, and now they want to seize control of Colorado’s voting systems, via Peters, to stop it from happening again.
Next Tuesday, voters will decide whether or not Peters will carry the Republican Party’s flag into the November election. Between her fundraising, her ties to an extremist group with a militia, and her full-throated embrace of the Big Lie which has been accepted as truth by the vast majority of Republican voters, it’s hard to think she doesn’t stand a shot. Next Tuesday, Peters may be just one step away from controlling the state’s elections.