campaign contributions, Colorado, DCSD, Douglas County School District - Colorado, Education, mask mandate, political syndicate, school board, schools
Four people are all it takes. Four people can take over the control of a school district of 67,000 students and implement a political agenda that has nothing to do with educating young citizens. It also requires a small, well-financed political syndicate to put those four people into public office. That is what happened in Colorado’s Douglas County.
Last November, four new members were swept into the non-partisan seats on a unified conservative platform. The candidates were united in opposing basic health precautions during a pandemic. They also opposed teaching facts about United States history that make some caucasian people uncomfortable. It was a clear, partisan agenda.
Once sworn into office, their first move was to elect themselves as the President and Vice President. The vote was 4 to 3 with the newly elected members banding together to control the vote. The following week they held a Special Meeting where, on another 4 to 3 vote, they then made pandemic health precautions for students and staff voluntary.
Their next step was even bolder. In a possible violation of open meeting laws, the new President and Vice President of the board met with the Superintendent of Schools and told him to resign or be fired. He refused to resign, so on 4 February, they called a special meeting and fired the Superintendent without cause on a vote of 4 to 3.
These unilateral actions have injected chaos and anger into the school district. The new Board members have followed a ‘Shock and Awe’ strategy to replace educational-based leadership with a politically-motivated dictatorship.
Four People Elected By One Campaign
In June of last year, Mike Peterson, Becky Myers, Kaylee Winegar, and Christy Williams all filed as candidates for School Director of the Board of Education in Douglas County, Colorado. What is unusual about their filing is that all four candidates filed on the same day, in consecutive order, and all used the same mother/daughter team as their Registered Agent (Marge Klein) and Designated Filing Agent (Tammy Klein). According to NBC News, all four candidates also shared Holly Osborne Horn as their joint Campaign Manager.
Marge Klein is the President of SWS Polifi, and according to LinkedIn, Tammy Klein (aka Tammy Ann Scott) is the Director of Operations of the company. The company is located in the small town of Ft. Lupton, Colorado, in rural Weld County. According to the website, the purpose of the company is to handle the management, media, finances, and reporting for political campaigns. SWS Polifi has been contracted by several Republican campaigns including the 2020 Congressional campaign for Lauren Boebert. The company received over $20,000 from that campaign.
The campaigns for all four candidates were registered under different campaign committees but were, in fact, packaged under one political syndicate titled “KidsFirstDCSD“. The KidsFirstDCSD website only lists the candidates’ names and not who is managing or overseeing the organization.
As part of the campaigns, the syndicate created slick, professional videos featuring each candidate touting their support for parents, teachers, and students. The candidates also had equal access to other media and publicity material normally reserved for a State or Federal office.
Who is the Syndicate’s Leader?
The orchestrator of the political syndicate is not obvious. Horn, the campaign manager, has no obvious background in mounting a political campaign prior to becoming part of the KidsFirstDCSD syndicate. It would seem that she lacks the experience to organize and lead a single campaign, let alone manage four campaigns at once.
Horn’s role with the syndicate may have been as simple as being the correct person, in the correct place, at the correct time. In December 2020, she gained the attention of the Denver CBS news affiliate by leading a small protest in Castle Rock over business restrictions during the pandemic. This public exposure may have led to gaining the attention of the political syndicate, which benefited by having a campaign manager that actually lived in Douglas County.
When is this going to end? When is this going to stop? The data and the science are there…
Holly Osborne Horn
Marge and Tammy Klein both are more likely to be the driving force behind the syndicate. Both have more experience as political operatives and connections to donors and conservative leaders in Colorado. Of the two, Marge Klein is the matriarch of the business and no stranger to Douglas County School Board elections.
Lessons Learned From 2017
The 2017 election school board election served as a dress rehearsal for conservative forces in Douglas County. Republican political operative Marge Klein also served as the Registered Agent for all four of the 2017 conservative, anti-public school candidates. Klein’s candidates raised $147,586 but they were defeated by opponents that raised $64,000 less in campaign contributions.
In 2021, Klein returned with four new conservative candidates and a pipeline of donor cash that was over one and a half times greater than 2017. The combined campaigns of the KidsFirstDCSD political syndicate raised almost $390,000. Eighty percent of that money came from seven donors that were filed as giving the same amount to all four candidates.
The Big Seven
Who are the seven big donors? The list is an unusual group.
Eric Garrett – Total donations: $120,000
Major donor, Eric Garrett is not a resident of Douglas County…or of Colorado. He is a resident of Indiana with business interests in many states, including Colorado. He is the Founder and President of The Garrett Companies. The company was founded in 2014 with small apartment projects and now has expanded into multifamily property development, construction, and other real estate ventures.
His involvement in the political syndicate that elected the four members of the Douglas County school board seems to be ideological. His Facebook page indicates a strong dislike for Democrats and includes a post of a Covid19 conspiracy theory.
Mike and Andrea Slattery – Total donations: $120,000
Both Mike and Andrea Slattery are residents of Douglas County. Their source of money is not obvious. Mike is associated with Sierra Aircraft Sales, LLC, Jmjk Managment, Inc., and the Slattery Family Foundation, all in Florida. They own a 1,400-acre equestrian center in Sedalia, near Castle Rock and they recently purchased The Emporium in Castle Rock. Both are in their mid-30s and they have children.
R. Stanton Dodge – Total donations: $50,000
Donor R. Stanton Dodge is not who one might expect to be a part of a conservative political syndicate. He is an attorney and a resident of Douglas County. Dodge serves as Chief Legal Officer for DraftKings, the world’s largest daily fantasy sports platform, with its headquarters in Boston, Massachusetts.
He also serves on the Board of Directors of National Jewish Health and the Colorado Supreme Court Nominating Committee. He has supported Republican candidates for public office. Of note, he contributed to moderate Republican, Mike Coffman during his successful campaign to be Mayor of Aurora.
Roy Klein – Total donations: $8,000
The filed campaign report of donors states that Roy Klein is employed by Western Development Group in Denver and gives an address for him in Lone Tree. The company website only has a contact page and doesn’t offer any other information. It is unclear if he is related to Marge Klein of the KidsFirstDCSD political syndicate.
George Solich – Total donations: $6,000
George Solich is listed on the filed campaign report as connected with Energy IV, LLC in Greenwood Village in Arapahoe County. He is also associated with FourPoint Energy and LongPoint Minerals. Solich a significant figure in the energy and mining industry.
In 2019, he was named as President of the Castle Pines Golf Club; however, it is unclear if he actually lives in Douglas County.
Ralph Nagel – Total donations: $4,000
Ralph Nagel is has an interesting background. He seems to have little or no connection to Douglas County. He is listed as ‘Retired’ on the campaign donor report but Nagel also is noted as a visual artist in Denver.
Ralph Nagel and his spouse, Trish, were the named donors for a 356 room residence hall on the campus of the University of Denver that was completed in 2008.
In the past three decades, Nagle has been associated with multiple organizations in Denver including the Nagel Foundation, Top Rock Holdings, inc., Arvada Meridian, LLP, Cherry Hills Meridian, LLP, Lakewood Meridian, LLP, The Vista Meridian, Ltd., Englewood Meridian, LLP, Hillcrest Meridian, LLP, Temple Meridian, LLP, Meridian Retirement Communities, LLP, Seventy-Three, Ninety-Three Partners, LLP, Ciga, LLP, Amani, LLP, Legan (sh), LLP, and Lumberjack Hill Apartments, LLP.
The Meridian properties were a chain of retirement homes.
Leo Stegman – Total donations: $4,000
Leo Stegman is also listed as retired and living in Highlands Ranch in Douglas County. He serves on the Board of Directors of Step Denver, a program to help low-income men with addiction issues. Like Roy Klein, Stegman maintains a low profile on the Internet. A Google search reveals very little information on his background.
Questions That Remain
There seems to be no legal restriction on allowing the ‘packaging’ of candidates by a partisan political syndicate for election to non-partisan office. This election and the sweeping power being used by the newly elected Directors of the Douglas County School District raise many questions.
- It is legal, but is it the intent of the election rules for non-partisan offices to be packaged and campaigned by a clearly partisan political syndicate?
- Should a handful of donors be able to pump massive amounts of money into a local non-partisan school board to take control of a partisan agenda?
- Who is/are the people behind the political syndicate that actually managed the four campaigns as one?
- Since the amount donated is almost identical for all four candidates under the KidsFirstDCSD political syndicate, and since eighty percent of the money came from only seven donors, was some or all of the money coming from another source and channeled through straw figures?
- Should there be a full investigation of the KidsFirstDCSD political syndicate and an audit of all of its records and communications, including the campaign manager and the agents of record?
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Terry Cannon said:
Thank you! Great and very valuable reportiing.
Mary Wilson said:
Thanks for the article.. There is plenty more! The Kleins were involved in several Colorado school board elections including Poudre and Durango…this was a systematic attack on our public education.
Paul Kiser said:
Thank you! I’ve discovered that they were involved in the Mesa County elections as well. More to come.
Shawn Martinez said:
How can we support this investigative journalism? Keep digging!
M Mitchell said:
Thank you for your through article and investigation. Is this the same syndicate that is working in Mesa County too?
Paul Kiser said:
Marge Klein, the Registered Agent for the Douglas County political syndicate, is also the Registered Agent for the Mesa County School District races for Andrea Haitz (won), Willie Jones (won), Angela Lema (won). Tammy Klein was also their Designated Filing Agent. I’ll have to dig into the campaign donors to see if some of the same names come up, but yes, this is the same political syndicate.
Lloyd guthrie said:
The current situation is Reformers Redux. The same people and $$. Koch Network funds State Policy Network, SPN controls six CO think tanks, six think-tanks provide support to the archconservative slate, FAIR and the DougCo Cabal.
Holly Osborne said:
Though I appreciate the effort, almost entirely off base. The Klein’s handle financial reporting for all of these campaigns. Nothing more. They don’t bring in donors and aren’t involved in any other aspect of the campaign. They file Financials with the SOS. That’s it.
Paul Kiser said:
Thank you for your response. In the interest of correcting this misunderstanding, are you the person who made the contact with the donors? Since you were the campaign manager for all four candidates and the seven major donors all gave the same amount to each candidate it seems logical that you could provide the evidence that the donors all worked through you.
Sharon Bolles said:
Thank you for this detailed and insightful reporting, Paul. I live in Douglas County, and my granddaughters attend elementary school here. I am horrified at what is happening to the school district, as well as how the new 4 were elected. One “small” example of the impact is my granddaughters live in a household with strict rules around COVID protocols. Now that no one in their school is masked, they have both come down with it. As you allude to in your final points, we need laws to prevent situations such as this. I would like your permission to share this on my Facebook page.
Paul Kiser said:
Of course you can share it. I’m currently working on a followup article about several school districts in Colorado that were impacted by this syndicate but it is taking a long time to sort out the campaign information. Thank you!