Boulder, Broomfield Democrats In Close Contact With Activist Who Threatened Oil And Gas Workers, CORA Reveals
Andrew J. O’Connor, the activist at the center of controversy over his comments calling for violence towards oil and natural gas workers, had numerous exchanges this year with leading Democratic officials in Boulder and Broomfield, Colo., according to emails obtained through the Colorado Open Records Act.
Even after O’Connor’s call for violence was published in a letter to the editor, Broomfield City Council Member Kevin Kreeger wrote: “I applaud your energy and your desire to fight for what’s right.”
O’Connor’s anti-industry activism caught the attention of state Rep. Mike Foote (D-Boulder County) months before the letter in the Daily Camera set off a storm of criticism.
“I quoted you about the ‘deeply flawed bill’ in my final remarks,” Foote wrote in a Feb. 23 email to O’Connor regarding a proposed bill that would make local governments financially liable for bans they pass on oil and natural gas development. “I’m happy to discuss severance tax with you sometime. … What is your phone number?”
The following month, O’Connor emailed several local officials about a March 9 meeting with Foote at Spring Café at 3:30pm to discuss his initiative. Foote, whose district includes Louisville, Lafayette and Longmont, sponsored several bills restricting the oil and natural gas industry this past legislative session.
Foote did not respond to a request for comment by Western Wire.
In addition to Foote, O’Connor was in frequent communication with Kreeger, another Democrat who supported O’Connor’s efforts to aggressively lobby city council members over oil and natural gas issues. In particular, O’Connor berated Council Member Elizabeth Law-Evans over e-mail after the city council refused to impose an oil and gas moratorium, calling her an “idiot” who should “resign immediately.”
Law-Evans expressed concerns about O’Connor’s rhetoric.
“I speak only for myself, but I respectfully ask that you refrain from contacting me in any form until you can manage to discuss these issues in a polite, non-belligerent, and non-denigrating manner,” she wrote in a March 1 email. “That’s not how we do things in Broomfield.”
Asked about his email conversations with O’Connor, Kreeger in an email to Western Wire denied “working” with him. Kreeger did not respond to follow-up questions.
“I did read the exchange between you and Liz,” Kreeger wrote to O’Connor on March 1. “I thought you were blunt, and shared your feelings in an unfiltered manner. If you don’t do that, I think council members can say they never realized the importance or passion, and if you do then they can say you’re rude. Damned if you do…damned if you don’t….”
O’Connor responded by calling Law-Evans a “moron,” comparing her to his pet dog. “We have a blue heeler in the backyard and I swear that Einstein is smarter than Liz.”
On April 19, the Daily Camera published O’Connor’s letter to the editor encouraging Coloradans to act violently against oil and natural gas workers and facilities. In the letter, O’Connor asks, “If the oil and gas industry puts fracking wells in our neighborhoods, threatening our lives and our children’s lives, then don’t we have a moral responsibility to blow up wells and eliminate fracking and workers?”
In a subsequent interview with ColoradoPolitics.com, O’Connor also said: “I wouldn’t have a problem with a sniper shooting one of the workers.”
Even after O’Connor’s rhetoric was criticized by local residents, industry representatives, media outlets, and a bipartisan spectrum of elected officials – including state Sen. Larry Crowder (R-Alamosa), state Rep. Chris Hansen (D), the Colorado Springs Gazette editorial board and Denver TV station 9News’ anchor Kyle Clark – Kreeger congratulated O’Connor on his activism. O’Connor’s proposed ballot measure that would double state taxes on oil and natural gas production passed a first hurdle at the Secretary of State’s office.
“WOW! A rare win! Were you the lead on getting this thru Andrew??” Kreeger asked O’Connor in an April 24 email. “Andrew….WELL DONE on the ballot initiative!”
It was only after O’Connor asked Kreeger about his letter to the editor, almost two full weeks after it was published, that he warned O’Connor about the rhetoric used.
“But I think you also walk a fine line if what you say could sound like you advocate violence against people,” Kreeger wrote to O’Connor on May 2. “And if you blatantly call for violence, then you’d be way over a line.”
Kreeger still praised and encouraged O’Connor.
“I applaud your energy and your desire to fight for what’s right,” Kreeger wrote. “I believe you are very bright, so I don’t want to speak as if I know more than you, but since you asked what I think…I think you should tread lightly when it comes to certain statements.”
The emails also reveal another rebuke of O’Connor’s violent rhetoric, though not from elected officials, but from a member of the news media. On April 24, O’Connor pitched Denver Post Opinion Editor Cohen Peart another letter to the editor, this time arguing about a “moral responsibility to blow up wells and thereby eliminate fracking and oil and gas workers” (emphasis added).
Peart refused to publish O’Connor’s letter. “Do you truly believe it would be responsible for The Denver Post to publish a letter to the editor that seeks to incite violence against an industry – and therefore against its workers, who are your neighbors and mine?” Peart asked. “I don’t.”
“I absolutely believe that the Denver Post has a responsibility to publish my letter to the editor. In fact, it would be irresponsible of the Denver Post not to publish it,” O’Connor wrote back. “So, please publish my letter as a public service to the people of Colorado.” The e-mail exchange was captured because in his reply, O’Connor copied a number of elected officials and a special e-mail account for oil and gas comments in Boulder County.
The emails obtained through the CORA request reveal O’Connor’s criticisms of fellow anti-oil and gas activists with East Boulder County United, the group that was accused of bullying and threatening a local chamber orchestra this month, and that subsequently used a concert as a platform to protest fracking.
“Last night, I attended a meeting in Lafayette of Boulder County Protectors of East Boulder County United, a group that opposes fracking in Lafayette,” O’Connor wrote in a Feb. 9 email to a group that includes Foote. “They are mainly interested in civil disobedience, solidarity and prayer which are all good things; but, ineffective in combating capitalism and the oil and gas industry.”
O’Connor revealed more about his political beliefs with Kreeger in a May 2 email.
“Or better yet the workers will overthrow the capitalists,” O’Connor wrote. “I am a proud socialist.”
**Update: following the publication of this story, Council Member Kreeger emailed this response to Western Wire: “I do not know Andrew and have not met him. I do not work with him. He has included me on email blasts that he sent to a number of people, including journalists. I have replied to some of those emails.
With regards to statements he made that were concerning, I have let him know that any calls for violence are wrong and that people can’t write things that may lead others to even think that someone is calling for violence.
I do not know of any other statements of concern that he has made. I would consider clarifying or elaborating if you pointed to specific things you had questions about.