Fear Factor

In his first week running his new website, Brad Jones crashed a state representative. What will he do for an encore?

Jones left campus after graduating in 2005, and he quickly moved to Denver to pursue a career as a political consultant. In 2006 he worked on several Republican campaigns and scored a position as campaign manager for Aimee Rathburn in State House District 1. Rathburn, a skeet-shooting fifty-year-old conservative, was a long shot for the southeast Denver seat, but she never hesitated to hire a 22-year-old who had never run a campaign. "He never got freaked out during my campaign. He would laugh at things that I would get freaked out about," she recalls. "He has the ability to step back and look at the big picture. He doesn't sweat the small stuff."

Rathburn lost to her Democratic challenger with 45 percent of the vote, but Jones continued on as an independent political consultant under the title Brad Jones LLC and built websites for the Denver GOP and conservative talk-show host Amy Oliver.

He also built www.coloradosenatenews.com, the official press site for the Republican Senate. Records show that Jones was paid to build the site, and many critics accuse him of also maintaining it and posting content, including a press release about the Merrifield e-mail that referenced FaceTheState.com.

Brad Jones leaves a wake of controversy wherever he goes -- and he's going everywhere.
Tony Gallagher
Brad Jones leaves a wake of controversy wherever he goes -- and he's going everywhere.

It is these cozy connections that make some suspect that Jones's open-records request was a politically motivated attack strategized by Republican legislators.

"I cannot ever remember a press release that came out of a state office where Democrats or Republicans referred to political blogs or websites about anything," says former Colorado Democratic Party chairman Tim Knaus. "That's not the job of press officers. They're state, taxpayer-funded employees whose job it is to communicate with voters. I think there should absolutely should be an ethics complaint filed right now."

Jones maintains that his efforts with FaceTheState.com are not under the direction of Republicans in the legislature, but an independent project. "I'm not doing a favor to a political party," he says. "I think if you look at the landscape of independent political reporting in Colorado, there's a need for journalistic standards."

Still, he doesn't classify himself as a reporter: "I'm not the one writing all of the stories," he says. "I kind of see myself as more of a ringleader of the site. I keep all the pieces moving in the right direction."

But is it possible for Jones to label himself as an online journalist when he's also a scrappy conservative activist and a for-hire Republican insider? An example of these multiple personalities was on display recently when Jones guested on Jon Caldara's Channel 12 talk show, Independent Thinking, alongside state school-board member (and former congressman for which Jones once campaigned) Bob Schaffer. Caldara, a longtime mentor to Jones and president of the Independence Institute, kept discussion lively with a dissection of Merrifield's "Hell" statement. After the taping, however, Jones was much more interested in a scoop Schaffer had clued him in to on charter-school opponents in Estes Park.

Jones leaned in and asked, "What can I do to help on this?" In his first week running his new website, Brad Jones crashed a state representative.

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