UPDATE: A reader writes in to remind us that Craig Hughes, Michael Bennet’s Campaign Manager, is a partner at RBI Strategies. How Sherry could not have reported RBI’s partisan role in the affair is beyond us.

While Brandon Shaffer isn't returning any journalists' calls or admitting to what everyone knows now that Steny Hoyer let the cat out of the bag, that doesn't mean he hasn't started campaigning. Even a brief review of the changes to his online presence signals clearly that he, or someone acting on his behalf, is tying up all the loose ends in preparation for a run for Congress in the 4th Congressional District.

It's a whole lot more than just spiffing up his website to include perfunctory compliments from Republicans on the floor of the Legislature. He has already begun the assault on Cory Gardner. Or that is to say, Shaffer's campaign-in-waiting along with shady special interests from Washington, DC have already begun the assault on Cory Gardner.

Last week, Allison Sherry of the Denver Post "reported" on a protest outside of Cory Gardner's office by the "non-partisan" Taxpayers for Common Sense (TCS) who were complaining about oil "subsidies." If Sherry had actually done her job and looked into the group and its claims, rather than basically reproducing their press release in blog form, she might have discovered an early campaign. Other blogs have covered Sherry's troubles with objectivity, so we don't need to rehash them here. Needless to say, she missed the real story.

First off, TCS is not a "non-partisan" group. Sherry's first sign should have been her first sentence:

"A non-partisan tax group is targeting freshmen Republican Reps. Cory Gardner and Scott Tipton for not supporting the end of oil and gas companies tax subsidies."

Non-partisan groups don't generally only target freshman members of one party. Secondly, the press release for the group's protest/press conference was sent out by a Democrat consultant group, RBI Strategies. Truly non-partisan groups don't generally hire partisan consultant firms to announce their press conferences. But guess who works at RBI Strategies? Tyler Chafee, who is rumored to be Brandon Shaffer's soon-to-be Campaign Manager.

The blog post on The Spot seems as if it was almost written by RBI Strategies itself. It leaves the environmentalist claims about oil and gas production without any fact checking (Energy Information Agency data would have helped), doesn't say whether Gardner supports the "subsidies" which he is being attacked for, nor does it report anything on the group doing the attacking. It's an attack ad via earned media. An attack ad on behalf of Brandon Shaffer.

So let us do the journalistic legwork for our readers. Taxpayers for Common Sense is a Washington, DC-based 501(c)3. Nowhere in Sherry's article does she mention that TCS is DC-based. It is not non-partisan. It's Board of Directors consists of environmentalists and renewable energy sector folks. That would have been useful and important information for readers to note when weighing their "protest" of the oil and gas sector. A number of top staff, including the co-founder and President, came from Common Cause, a liberal group financed by George Soros. Again, this information exposing TCS as a little more than a "non-partisan" group would have been important for readers to know. 

While we'll save the issue of Sherry misreporting oil "subsidies" for a later post, needless to say this post has a number of huge journalistic shortcomings. In fact, the blog post was so shoddily researched and written that it may be in the running for our "Worst Journalism of the Year" award. 

But the biggest problem we have with the piece is Sherry missed the real story. She should have been asking — why is this group only attacking freshman Republicans? Why is RBI Strategies the one organizing the "protest/press conference"? Why is a DC-based group holding an event in Colorado?

The reason: it's the beginning of Brandon Shaffer and his Washington-masters in DC attack on Congressman Cory Gardner. Shaffer not only is going to run — he's already running.