Fact checking the blackmail allegation against Adam Frisch: here’s what we know

Adam Frisch, the Democratic candidate seeking to unseat U.S. Rep. Lauren Boebert, pushed back this week against allegations that an Aspen businessman blackmailed him to withdraw support for a transportation deal.

The allegations came from Todd Gardner, who in 2018 owned High Mountain Taxi (records from the Colorado Secretary of State’s Office show he sold the business in 2019). The company would have been threatened by an agreement under consideration by the Aspen City Council – of which Frisch was a member at the time – to allow the ride-sharing company Lyft to offer its services as part of a three-month experiment.

Gardner said he captured video of Frisch on his way to an extramarital affair and used that video to turn the councilman’s support against the project. Gardner added that while he doesn’t like Boebert he does want to protect her seat in Congress.

While emails and a short video provided to The Denver Post by Gardner appear to only offer circumstantial evidence, right-wing media immediately seized on the story. So, too, did Boebert, who was also busy this week pushing back against a different set of allegations leveled against her.

“The story is a lie, pure and simple,” Frisch said in a statement. “This did not occur. And Lauren Boebert knows it. How dare she lie and use this DC-style smear tactic to hurt my family and me.”

To be more specific, Frisch’s spokeswoman Madeleine Schmidt reiterated: “There was no affair and no blackmail.”

Gardner previously told Breitbart News that “it was absolutely blackmail.” He later told The Denver Post that he was comfortable admitting to blackmail because he believed the statute of limitations had passed and he could no longer be charged with a crime.

At the heart of the issue was the three-month Lyft test run under consideration by the Aspen City Council. Frisch supported the move during council conversations in 2017 but ultimately he and the majority of council members soured on the deal.

Gardner and Frisch emailed each other frequently throughout 2018, discussing the project and often their shared concerns. Often, the two discussed how city officials hadn’t adequately asked local business owners how the deal might affect their work.

On April 10, Gardner emailed Frisch about a recent council meeting, ending his message with “And I’ve attached a short video clip from our security system you might be interested in.”

The video in question is a 25-second clip that shows a man riding a bicycle to what Gardner said is his storage facility and his taxi business. There, Gardner said Frisch was meeting a woman with whom he was having an affair.

Frisch’s spokeswoman, Schmidt, would not say whether the man in the video was indeed Frisch.

The only other person visible in the video is Gardner himself and the clip ends as the man appears to walk toward the storage facility, though there is no indication anyone else was there. Gardner said the general manager of the storage facility later walked in on Frisch and a woman having sex in a storage locker.

The Aspen City Council did not vote to halt the Lyft deal until December, about eight months after Gardner sent the email referencing the security footage. Frisch did ultimately change his position on the matter. He explained his change of mind in the meeting.

“The process has been troublesome to me to say the least,” Frisch said during the December 10, 2018 meeting, city council minute records show.

“What I heard tonight is the majority of the pushback is on the shared rides,” he later added.

Frisch was not the swing vote on the issue and the Aspen Daily News reported then that the council heard more than two hours of public comment on the topic and all but three people “called for the council to, at least, slow down before adopting the agreement.”

About the vote, Frisch told the Post that he voted in line with his personal beliefs “joining a majority of my colleagues on city council and in alignment with public comment.”

Aspen Police Sgt. Mike Tracey said law enforcement had not been made aware of the blackmail allegations, nor were they investigating.

Denise White, spokeswoman for the city, offered a brief statement on the issue:

“Community members, staff and elected officials are expected to participate in government proceedings in a community-minded and transparent fashion. We recognize that this is crucial for our community’s ability to trust in the integrity of policy-making decisions,” White said. “Any admission or report of blackmail involving a public official is a concern to the City of Aspen and will be examined.”

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