ProgressNow Colorado (PNC) is one of 20 state-level progressive groups under the ProgressNow umbrella. It was founded in Denver in 2003 as the Rocky Mountain Progressive Network in an attempt to replicate the success of the state’s conservative Independence Institute. It bills itself as part of a network of state-based communications hubs that function as a marketing department for progressive ideas and as an answer to conservative propaganda. In 2005, the group changed its name to ProgressNow and brought on noted business consultancy McKinsey & Company in an effort to broaden its reach.
In the 2010 book The Blueprint: How Democrats won Colorado, and why Republicans everywhere should care, the authors described PN as the “crown jewel” of the progressive investor’s effort to flip the state.
PNC claims to have 350,000 online members in Colorado whom it has leveraged to become a major force in advancing progressive policies such as the Affordable Care Act, tax increases, and environmental regulations in the state. But its main goal is politics not policy. It seeks to build and power a permanent progressive majority in the state and it will advocate for whatever policies best achieve that end.
PNC’s current executive director is Amy Runyon-Harms, but its de facto leader is “political director” Alan Franklin, longtime progressive advocate.
PNC is backed by major local wealth including Colorado progressive titans Tim Gill and Patsy Dykstra. It also receives major funding from its ProgressNow parent that is funded by George Soros’s Open Society, Democracy Alliance, and Tides Foundation. Both ProgressNow and PNC also receive significant funding from unions.
Huge Web of Dark Money
PNC has access to ProgressNow’s huge web of dark money. ProgressNow’s founding board member is Rob McKay, the heir to the Taco Bell fortune. He is the chair of the George Soros-backed Democracy Alliance, which is made up of at least 80 wealthy progressives, all of whom have pledged $1 million or more to various progressive causes.
The shadowy Tides Foundation gave ProgressNow and its partners $285,000 in 2012. The Tides Foundation was created by Democracy Alliance Treasurer Drummond Pike and widely considered one of the most important donor funds on the left.
Soros’s billion dollar Open Society, arguably the biggest funder of progressive causes, has also given ProgressNow $250,000. ProgressNow also receives significant funding from wealthy Colorado funders. These include the Gill Foundation – a Denver-based group founded by Colorado software developer Tim Gill – which gave $443,125 in 2011, and The Bohemian Foundation – funded by Colorado medical-equipment heiress Pat Stryker – which gave $580,000 in 2011.
Other ProgressNow board members have close ties to other big-moneyed groups such groups as the AFL-CIO, America Votes, EMILY’s List, the League of Conservation Voters, the National Education Association, the National Environmental Law Center, Planned Parenthood, the Sierra Club, and U.S. PIRG.
However its support from left-wing foundations is dwarfed by its support from unions. In 2011, ProgressNow received more than $1.13 million in union donations. Notable union support came from the AFL-CIO, AFSCME, the American Federation of Teachers, the National Education Association, the Service Employees International Union, and UNITE HERE! Other big donors to PN include the Bauman Family Foundation, Color of Change, Common Cause, the Educational Foundation of America, the and Energy Foundation.
PNC was caught trying to slander tea party protesters by making it appear that they were comparing Obama to Hitler. According to Conservative personality Michelle Malkin:
I speak from direct experience about the underhandedness of Tea Party smear merchants. On Feb. 17, 2009, at one of the country’s first tax revolt rallies in Denver, a man approached me amid a throng of bona fide anti-stimulus protesters and thrust a camera in my face. I obliged cheerfully, as I usually do after such speaking events. I later learned from the character assassins at Progress Now, a left-wing outfit that just happened to be there and just happened to snap a close-up photo of the interaction, that the man pulled out a sign at the last minute (which I didn’t see until later) sporting Obama’s name with a swastika on it. He held the sign away from me, but in direct view of the Progress Now cameraperson.
That cameraperson just happened to be a former CNN producer, whose blog post on the photo just happened to be immediately disseminated by the local press and to the hit men at the radical-left Media Matters website. The narrative was set: A conservative supporter of the nascent Tea Party movement posed for a photo with a man holding up a swastika at a protest against out-of-control spending! Ergo, the anti-stimulus protesters and the entire Tea Party membership are all racist, fascist menaces to society!
Class Warfare Hypocrisy
In its aggressive attack against Joe Coors Jr., who was threatening to run against PNC-backed Congressman Ed Perlmutter, PNC ran one of its classic campaigns of division and class warfare and attacked Coors for being a “millionaire” and “country club president.”
However, PNC hypocritically fails to mention that Perlmutter is also a millionaire – a trial lawyer one at that. And, not only is Permutter also a country club member, but he is a member of the same country club as Coors.
Also, in attacking millionaires and the rich, apparently PNC does not recognize their very attacks are funded by the rich – their donors who are millionaires and billionaires. Such hypocrisy pervades much of PNC’s work.
Hypocritical Stance on Big Money in Politics
A common diatribe from PNC and similar groups is to get money out of politics. They are of course entitled to their opinion – even if the Supreme Court has ruled it a clear violation of the First Amendment. However it is difficult to take them seriously when they are engaging in political discourse funded by big money, much of which isn’t obtained voluntary but coerced through the union dues of mostly low wage members.
Politicizing of Tragedy
As part of their annual #proudtopay Tax Day Twitter game, where PNC staffers say how happy they are to pay for government programs, and less than an hour after the attack took place, political director Alan Franklin tweeted, “First responders. #proudtopay.” Besides being a dirty implication that his opponents are not proud to pay for the basic government service of first responders, to make a claim so soon after the attack was a shameless way to publicize the tragedy.
Similarly, following the Aurora movie theater massacre, PNC was quick to politicize the tragedy to make a call for gun control. It sent out a petition asking Colorado representatives to keep fighting for gun control and pushing other elected leaders to join them. Most shamefully, it used the email to fundraise, with a big “DONATE” button at the bottom.
Making Fun of Those Who Disagree With Policies
In response to calls from conservatives to secede from Colorado, PNC political director Alan Franklin posted a fake “State of North Colorado” flag on the 51st State Initiative’s Facebook page that featured pictures of a pig, two rifles, an oil derrick, and a fetus.
“Farms. Fetuses. Firearms. Fracking. Freedom!” tweeted Franklin in a Twitter post. Ironically, this joke actually genuinely represents the interests of many of the disaffected voters who want to secede. One such voter said the joke simply shows the disconnect between Colorado’s urban elite and its rural residents, many of whom really do support causes such as gun rights, the pro-life movement, and natural resource production. “The flag was meant to mock Northern Colorado, but we kind of feel like it represents us,” he said.