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Hiccup –medical def. “A spasm of the diaphragm, resulting in involuntary inhalation…”

A new nonprofit that appears to be focused on election processes has joined the more than 150 already operating (among the 334 tax-exempt entities) in Chaffee County and has even applied for a Chaffee County Community Foundation grant. The group’s name has the same abbreviation as the medical term above. The question: is it coincidental, cute, or is there a connection?

Honesty in Chaffee County Under Protest (HICCUP) 

Formed as a Colorado nonprofit on June 26, 2023 by Salida resident Jerry Raski and others, the group is a reincarnation of the Independent Expenditure Committee of the same name.

As reported by Ark Valley Voice, the group supported Chaffee County candidates Adriane Kuhn for County Commissioner and Elaine Allemang for Chaffee County Clerk and Recorder in 2022. On July 24, 2023, Raski also submitted the group’s application to the Colorado Secretary of State as a registered Charitable Organization.

Chaffee County voters braved bad weather on Wednesday, Nov. 2 to turn in their 2022 mail ballots at the Chaffee County Courthouse drop box. Photo by Jan Wondra

Type of organization and stated charitable purpose

The charitable organization filing defines HICCUP using the National Taxonomy of Exempt Entities (NTEE) Codes: Civil rights, social action and advocacy, community improvement, capacity building, and education. Excerpts from the charitable purpose (which should align with applications for IRS tax-exempt status) state:

“Our mission at HICCUP is to promote democracy through transparency by championing election integrity, advocating for accountable processes, empowering citizens, and ensuring fair representation. Together, we aim to build trust in elections and strengthen democratic principles.”

Sounds simple enough. In fact, its words align closely with key focus outreach areas of the Truth Has A Voice Foundation – the parent nonprofit of Ark Valley Voice. But their methods would appear to be somewhat different.

“HICCUP is a nonpartisan group with a focus on ensuring government officials’ accountability and supporting fair and free elections within Chaffee County,” it goes on to say. “We rely on donations from individuals, county, and city governments to promote election integrity.”

While individuals may want to support these goals, the role of the county is to provide the facilities to support elections … the Chaffee Clerk and Recorder’s job as an independent elected official is to …”register voters, conduct all primary general and county elections and, when contracted, municipal, school district and special district elections.”

County and municipal governments do not contribute to any campaigns or third-party groups like HICCUP. The tagline of the long-established League of Women Voters of Chaffee County “Empowering Voters. Defending Democracy” would seem to indicate yet more mission overlap, something we note is prevalent among new Chaffee County nonprofits.

Reading between the lines

Further along in the HICCUP charitable purpose is this section: “The funds we receive will be used to obtain public election records, raise awareness of transparency violations, and cover legal expenses.”

The Colorado Open Records Act “CORA” requires that most public records be available to the public. Fees are charged to help recover actual time and materials costs spent on providing copies of records which all taxpayers would otherwise bear. Expenses incurred by HICCUP to publicize allegations of wrongdoing or engage legal counsel for guidance or litigation would seem to be entirely on them.

AVV and other media outlets follow the same process for CORA requests as private citizens do — yes, we sometimes balk at the costs but realize that someone has to pay for these services.

If tying up the County Clerk’s office with a flood of CORA requests or mounting legal actions becomes the primary purpose of HICCUP, one might argue that their mission is predominantly lobbying or wearing down an election process that has been called “the gold standard” among county and state election processes.

Finally, HICCUP states: “Some of our notable achievements include exposing the lack of video surveillance during the 2020 election, instances of blocking poll watchers, and the absence of a proper chain of custody for election ballot boxes.” These non-fact-based allegations have been well covered by the media, but have yet to result in any proven illegal acts and have also resulted in even further, voluntary improvements in election processes.

IRS Letter of Determination for 501(c)(3) status is not yet available online

As of this posting, a search of the IRS Tax Exempt Organization Search (TEOS) site does not produce any records for the entity “Honesty in Chaffee County Under Protest”, nor under it’s Employer Identification Number (EIN): 87-2958002. Their application, being recent, may still be pending and a call to the IRS customer service line (877-829-5500) was unable to verify status due to a system outage.

AVV reached out to HICCUP registered agent Jerry Raski for comment and asked directly about the Form 1023[-EZ] application for nonprofit status. “I have received the confirmation [Letter of Final Determination]” Raski said. When AVV asked if he would mind sharing the letter since the public record is not yet available on the IRS site, Raski replied “You’re just going to have to wait for the IRS”.

Raski later allowed that “… if you had reached out to the Chaffee County Community Foundation (CCCF) you would have known that we received the 501(c)(3) ‘certification’ because we sent them a copy of that document.” Aware that that foundations typically require such documentation for any prospective partners, AVV asked for a comment about any pending relationship.

“We’re asking them for money to fund our effort into investigating election integrity and transparency in Chaffee County,” said Raski. The group HICCUP hopes to receive a competitive grant from the CCCF during the current grant cycle. Raski allowed that he might share details about their future plans, pending a successful outcome of their grant request.