He’s hardly the only politician being bombarded by voters urging him to take stands on issues they care about. But he sets himself apart with the claim that many of those deluging his office with correspondence are “paid protesters,” not Coloradans.
Gardner first made the allegation Friday in an interview with Denver TV station CBS4, speculating that some of the unusual volume of calls he’s receiving come from out of state area codes, so they must be “paid protesters.”
The comment prompted “massive backlash,” the station reported in a followup. Gardner told CBS4 many callers had area codes from California and New York.
Gardner dug deeper on Wednesday in an interview with NBC affiliate 9News.
”There is certainly a number of people calling from out of state,” Gardner said. “New York, California. That’s happening. There are certain paid activists through Craigslist. We’ve seen the advertisements.”
Gardner’s office did not respond to a request for comment from The Huffington Post.
It actually makes sense that Gardner would be fielding more calls from California and New York phone numbers. Colorado has seen a spike in new residents from outside the state in recent years, with Californians and New Yorkers leading the pack.
According to IRS tax return data, more people moved to Colorado from California in 2014 and 2015 (the most recent data available) than from any other state. New Yorkers also moved there in large numbers ― the sixth-largest source of new residents.
That migration trend has been the same since at least 2011, the earliest year that IRS tax data is readily available. Californians consistently lead new residents moving to Colorado, with New Yorkers not far behind.
And, as anyone with a cellphone will tell you, unless you go out of the way to get a new phone number, your old area code goes with you, regardless of where you move.
At least one of Gardner’s colleagues in the House has floated a similar “paid protesters” theory.
Rep. Dave Brat, (R-Va.) told Republican supporters on Monday he was upset with protesters. “The women are in my grill no matter where I go,” Brat complained.
In a followup interview with the Richmond Times-Dispatch, Brat claimed many of the protesters are paid activists. One of those protesters said Brat’s claim is absurd.
“Nobody is being paid or put up to this by an outside organization,” Karen Conley, who called Brat’s office, said. “Everybody is putting in their time and effort because they’re dissatisfied with the representation. They feel dismissed, and that their concerns aren’t valid because they’re not being responded to.”