When 20-year old Meaghan Croghan, a registered Republican, visited the January 27th meeting of the Denver Metro Young Republicans (DMYR), she never thought she would be unwelcome. Amid concerns that Croghan was there to track a candidate for state party elections, board members had her tossed from their meeting.
Newly elected DMYR President Ellie Reynolds formally endorsed state chair Ryan Call for re-election and may have been trying to protect her candidate. The endorsement was signed with her title as DMYR President which may also be in violation of the group bylaws. A 2014 cached version of the DMYR bylaws show that Reynolds acted in direct violation of section 10.1, titled Endorsement of Republican Primary Candidates. The section reads:
“The Association and the officers, in their capacity as officers of the Association, shall not publicly endorse, approve, or disapprove any designated Republican candidate who is opposed by any other designated Republican candidate prior to a primary election; nor shall such endorsements be made in elections for county and state Republican Party officers.”
DMYR is an independent Republican club, not affiliated with the Young Republican National Federation.
Justin Buxman, Chair of the Colorado Federation of Young Republicans, clarified the Denver group is not associated with other chartered Young Republican groups. “Because the Denver Metro Young Republicans have chosen not to associate with the state Young Republicans or any of the other chartered YR clubs, they are free to do as they wish. In regards to their endorsement in the Colorado GOP chair race, they are not a part of the Colorado Federation of Young Republicans and we do not condone endorsement of Republican candidates against Republican candidates—as is normal for almost all political groups in the state.”
Aside from her position as DMYR President, Ellie Reynolds is a paid tracker for Revealing Politics. Croghan was incorrectly identified as a tracker for challenger and former gubernatorial candidate Steve House.
In a podcast discussing her tracking of Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper (D), Reynolds offered this definition of a tracker: “A tracker essentially follows a candidate or an issue around with a camera hoping to be able to get that real honest footage that often the media doesn’t.”
Reynolds said in the podcast:
“There should be no reason that a public official does not, you know, think that they’re going to be on camera or, you know, need to have their staffers physically, you know, censor the video that’s being done. There’s absolutely no reason.You are a public official. You got into this arena and you knew you were going to be video taped. And to take it to the next level of intimidation when you most definitely have the upper hand in this scenario, it’s just not necessary.”
Croghan, who expressed interest in starting a Young Republicans group closer to her home, stated in a phone interview that she attended the DMYR meeting because she wanted to hear candidates for state and party positions inspire young voters. Croghan said that she asked for permission to video tape the speakers, but was told by past-president Matt Zielinski that the speakers were unaware of recording taking place and that the group valued the privacy of their speakers. Croghan said that she obtained permission to take still photos before being escorted out of the meeting.
A staff member at Cap City Tavern confirmed that group leadership told restaurant staff they wanted Croghan removed from the meeting because she was not part of their Young Republicans group. However, an investigation by Politichicks revealed that other visitors and non-members were allowed to stay.
Typically, political groups welcome visitors—so long as they are not disruptive. After Croghan posted her account of the events at the meeting on Facebook, Reynolds’ colleague Devan Crean of Revealing Politics came to Reynolds defense, accusing Croghan of behavior unbecoming of a young Republican. He wrote:
“Ellie Reynolds is NOT tracking Steve House. The organization Ellie and I both work for ONLY tracks politicians and policy makers who are left-leaning. We DO NOT track fellow Republicans. Meaghan, it is my understanding that you were sent to the DMYR meeting to track fellow Republicans. If that is truly the case, any negative attention should be directed towards you, NOT Ellie or Matt or DMYR, as that is just sickening. We as Republicans should be focussing (SIC) our efforts on the opposition, not instigating fighting within our party. Also, in regards to Colorado’s Sunshine Law…that only applies to elected public officials and there must be two or more and they must be conducting public business. There were NO elected public officials speaking at the meeting and DMYR is a private organization. Ellie and Matt were well within their rights to ask you to leave, especially since you were disrupting the meeting. Before you try to attack an organization and its leadership, be sure you know the facts and that YOU are also sharing the truth yourself.”
Despite Crean’s accusation of Croghan disrupting the meeting, some attendees tell a different story. State Chair Ryan Call—who was present at the meeting—stated in an email, “The mood at the meeting was positive and upbeat, and all of the candidates running for city council and local party office that attended were given time to speak. Part of the meeting included an open and positive Q&A session about how the Republican Party was organized and how more young people could get more involved in our political process.” Croghan did not get to hear the speakers or participate in the Q&A on how young Republicans like herself could get more involved in party politics.
Call continued, “I am not aware that anyone was asked to leave the meeting. If you are looking to invent controversy or an excuse to be outraged, better look somewhere else. To characterize the meeting as anything other than very positive would be dishonest and inaccurate.”
Other attendees agree that the meeting was positive in general, but they were surprised to discover that a fellow Republican was asked to leave.
Denver Republican County Chair candidate Sue Moore described her interactions with Croghan: “Before the meeting started, I was talking to Meagan Croghan, a young woman I had met at another event a few months ago. I remembered being very impressed with Meagan. She’s only 20 years old, but has very well-thought-out positions on political issues. She and I have become Facebook friends and I follow her postings on occasion. Our conservative values appear to be very much aligned and I’m always impressed with the way she articulates her positions and/or arguments.”
However, the investigation uncovered that a tracker was indeed present. The real tracker, who asked not to be identified, reported that Croghan’s presence was obvious because she did not “look the part” when compared to how member females typically dress, noting that she appeared more conservative and modest. The tracker stated that Croghan did not engage in any inappropriate behavior and witnessed her walking compliantly out the door. The tracker confirmed that a few minutes afterwards, past-president Matt Zielinski approached Croghan’s seat and grabbed her purse for her. Prepared to secretly audio record the meeting, the tracker listened for controversial statements by candidates running for state or county party positions. When asked if working for a candidate, the tracker said that no candidates were aware of any tracking and that it was solely a grassroots initiative.
State chair candidate Steve House corroborated that he did not send a tracker to the meeting. “Ryan asked me about it and I told him truthfully that I had no idea that someone was at the meeting tracking him nor do I condone it, and I invited him to come to any meeting I speak at anytime because we are both Republicans,” said House.
Ellie Reynolds and Matt Zielinski did not reply to a request for comment.