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Opinion: A young Coloradan is stronger, wiser after state ethics complaint

Allie Killey kept hoping it would all just go away. Maybe it was just a bad dream.

Last week, the Colorado Independent Ethics Commission dismissed as frivolous a case filed against Allie Killey.

Never heard of her? That’s probably because she’s not a politician, candidate or high-profile public official.

In fact, you probably weren’t meant to remember her; she was only useful to the Democrats last summer as collateral damage in their attacks on other targets. She triggered their rage when she appeared in a commercial for then-U.S. Sen. Cory Gardner.

Suzanne Taheri

Allie is a 24-year-old fifth-generation Coloradan with a degree from Metropolitan State University of Denver. As with other Coloradans, she loves the environment and wildlife. It is a part of who she is, and her passion is so strong that she hopes to pursue a career that preserves outdoor Colorado for generations to come.

Allie studied environmental policy in college and continued to educate herself by attending Colorado Wildlife Council meetings. She spoke to commissioners and policy makers and she took a minimum-wage job working as a legislative aide to Republican state Sen. Paul Lundeen in the Capitol.

Like a lot of young people, Allie was full of ideas and enthusiasm. She registered an organization last March, Wild for Colorado, with a mission of getting more young people involved in the cause of wildlife protection.

Allie wasn’t tied in with any big-money political/environmental groups, she didn’t seek grants or pay herself a salary. Instead, she bought a bucket and some trash pickers and organized young people to pick up trash in the parks. 

After the commercial, everything went sideways.

The Democratic Party would have none of it. They immediately started investigating Allie and, either tainted by their elitist lens or limited by their own imaginations, they were unable to accept that anyone could have a stake in Colorado’s environment without their permission. 

This led the executive director of the Colorado Democratic Party, Halisi Vinson, and their attorney, Martha Tierney, to file an ethics complaint against Allie with the Independent Ethics Commission. 

Allie Killey (Photo provided by Suzanne Taheri)

Without any evidence (because there was none), they alleged that while working for Lundeen, she colluded with Sen. Gardner to create a “phony,” “sham” organization. They accused the 24-year-old activist of committing official misconduct to “perpetrate a fraud on Colorado voters.” 

The Democrats accompanied the complaint with a media blitz and put their social media trolls out in full force.

None of what they alleged was true. None of it. She had never met with or spoken to Sen. Gardner herself. Her organization was not a sham, she didn’t use public resources and she hadn’t done anything wrong.

Allie felt like her life had been turned upside-down. Her name was trashed through today’s drive-by journalism. At the time she didn’t have an attorney or government slush funds to pay her legal fees; she had no staff to help her navigate the process. She didn’t even know what the penalties were or if she could go to jail. She felt very alone and wasn’t sure how she would recover. 

Allie kept hoping it would all just go away. Maybe it was just a bad dream. But the Democrats had to keep it alive through the election. Otherwise, what was the point? 

Eventually, John Hickenlooper – at the time a Senate candidate beset by the first Ethics Commission conviction of a governor in Colorado history – helped move the bogus story along when he dragged the 24-year-old environmental activist’s name through the mud during a televised debate.

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Finally, in December, the Ethics Commission requested an interview with Allie. This interview directly resulted in the case being dismissed, but to her it seemed like this was going to follow her forever. (I began representing her recently on a pro-bono basis.)

The commission decision was a welcome relief, but it would come with no press release, no media blitz, no social media. 

Allie will emerge from this stronger (in a good way) and wiser (in a bad way). The Democrats will pretend like it didn’t happen, and in the end the people accusing Allie of perpetrating a fraud on Colorado voters will have done just that. 


Suzanne Taheri is an attorney and a former deputy Colorado secretary of state.


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