Former attorney general candidate Brad Levin is suing the company he hired to help him petition onto the ballot, claiming it failed to fulfill a contract and that it committed fraud and was negligent in representing its abilities and process for collecting signatures.
Levin and his campaign, represented by Marc Levy of Levy Law, claim that Five Corners Strategies and Turnout Strategies prevented Levin from gaining access to the primary ballot for attorney general. According to the lawsuit, the campaign consultant didn’t take opportunities to collect signatures, misrepresented its process for collecting signatures, came up with excuses for why it didn’t meet its schedule and failed in a contractual agreement to collect enough verified signatures for Levin to make the primary ballot.
In Colorado, candidates seeking to make the primary must either petition onto the ballot or go through the state assembly process. According to the lawsuit, the assembly process is “convoluted” and risky.
A poor state assembly performance — where a candidate receives less than 10 percent of the vote —would keep a candidate off the ballot, regardless of whether they collected enough signatures. Because of the competitive Democratic pool, where Levin was one of four candidates and was one of the lesser-known candidates running, an advisor, Richard Schlackman, recommended he only try to petition onto the ballot.
“Part of this has to do with the arcane system for getting onto the ballot, and a result, Brad needed to get expert advice,” Levy said. “We are confident these are accurate allegations,” he continued.
Schlackman, also recommended Levin’s campaign hire Five Corners to oversee the petitioning process. The lawsuit claims Schlackman has significant ties to one of Five Corners’ principals. Another principal is listed as CEO of Turnout Strategies, which also worked with the campaign. Schlackman is not a defendant in the suit.
Five Corners describes itself as a grassroots advocacy group and the company has offices throughout the U.S., including in Denver. The company’s website cites successful campaigns to gain public support for land use projects in Washington, D.C., and San Francisco among other locations but does not cite other campaigns for office.
According to a statement from Five Corners, the company has received notification of the lawsuit and is currently reviewing the claims. “We are confident that once all the facts are heard, it will be clear the suit does not have merit,” the statement said.
Levin and the campaign claim that they have a signed master agreement with Five Corners and Turnout, which states that Turnout would collect the required number of signatures prior to the deadline to file with the Secretary of State and that it would conduct signature validation. According to the lawsuit, the company didn’t meet the requirements and made key errors such as opting not to collect signatures at the Women’s March in Denver early in the three-month window for signature collection.
According to the lawsuit, roughly 50,000 people attended the Women’s March and “a significant portion of these persons were politically-engaged Democrats who resided in various congressional districts around the state and were eligible to sign the petitions to obtain ballot access for the campaign.” According to the complaint, no signatures had been collected one month into the process.
The lawsuit also claims that Five Corners and Turnout made other errors in the signature collection process, such as knowingly using signature collectors who were not registered Democrats, which invalidated any signatures they collected, and blaming the slow start on the departure of a campaign coordinator. The complaint also states that the campaign was contractually prohibited from controlling the signature-gathering process, but because of the lack of progress by Five Corners and Turnout, Levin’s family members began collecting signatures in an attempt to make up ground.
According to the campaign, by the end of the signature process, Turnout provided a breakdown of the signatures collected. The campaign claims that Turnout acknowledged the count was inaccurate and the number of signatures was likely short of what was needed. According to the lawsuit, a Turnout principal sent the campaign an email saying, “We cannot tell you this evening with absolute certainty whether the Secretary of State will certify you for the ballot… I do recognize that our job was to get you on the ballot. If we fall short, you have my sincerest apologies.”
Following the petition process, Levin’s campaign filed lawsuits challenging the statute governing the petitioning process and the Secretary of State’s determination that the campaign had failed to collect enough verified signatures, which the lawsuit states would not have been necessary were it not for Five Corners and Turnout’s conduct.
Levin’s campaign is seeking damages for breach of contract, breach of covenant of good faith and fair dealing, negligence, fraud, fraudulent concealment, negligent misrepresentation and unjust enrichment.
— Tony Flesor