Tea Party Pooper

Dan Baltes ends his effort to recall Clarence Dupnik after controversy erupts regarding a failed Glenn Beck tour

Austin Counts
Dan Baltes: "I withdrew from the recall because it's pointless."

The past couple of weeks have not been easy for the Utah resident who started the "Recall Dupnik" effort.

Last week, Dan Baltes decided to withdraw his petition to recall Pima County Sheriff Clarence Dupnik after his brother, Kevin Elliott, threatened legal action, claiming that Baltes falsely used his identity and forged his signature on the recall-petition paperwork.

"I withdrew from the recall because it's pointless," said Baltes. "Amid all this controversy, I'm not going to try to continue."

The controversy to which Baltes refers began brewing a couple of weeks ago when several conservative websites and Tea Party-related Facebook pages claimed Baltes sold VIP tickets—costing $350 per person—that offered a chance to meet conservative TV/radio icon Glenn Beck during a two-day tour promoted by Baltes. However, Baltes cancelled the shows—including one reportedly planned for Phoenix—and no refunds had yet been issued.

"I thought he had his shit together," said Kevin Elliott, brother of Dan Baltes. "It wasn't until the wheels fell off this whole Glenn Beck (thing) that I knew he was up to something."

Kevin Elliott, a bail bondsman in Boise, Idaho, told the Tucson Weekly that he was surprised to learn he was listed as the treasurer of the Recall Dupnik effort.

"My signature's on that piece of paper?" said Kevin Elliott. "That's all fabricated bullshit right there."

Baltes claimed his brother knew he was listed as the treasurer; he said they even joked about it.

"I have two-emails from him, asking how much was I going to pay him to be treasurer," said Baltes. He claims his brother is backing away because of the recent allegations of ticket fraud.

"I get that he doesn't want the controversy around him," said Baltes. "But all he had to do was say, 'Hey, I can't be associated with this,' and I would've handled it accordingly."

Elliott claimed the joke actually involved the amount that Baltes would pay him to provide security for Baltes' Glenn Beck events. Elliott said he notified the Pima County Attorney's Office about the alleged forged signature and will press charges once county officials decide how to proceed.

Unless you're a Tea Party member keeping up with Facebook gossip, this may be the first time you've heard about Dan Baltes since he announced his recall effort following the Jan. 8 shooting in Tucson.

As for the gossip about the aborted Glenn Beck tour, Baltes said he's never seen rumors catch fire so quickly.

"Everybody is absolutely getting their money back. I would never do such a thing," he said.

However, some conservatives and family members are reluctant to believe him.

Dan Arthur Elliott—Baltes' real name—became a paralegal while incarcerated in Idaho on charges including grand theft, forgery and check fraud during the 1980s. Once Dan Elliott was released from prison, he worked for the Denver chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union from 1992 to 1995.

"That was the politics of my misguided youth," said Baltes. "That whole redistribution of wealth is nothing but a shell game."

Dan legally changed his last name to Baltes—his wife's maiden name—and began establishing multiple 527 political groups, which are set up to support or oppose a political candidate. These groups are not required to report funding to the Federal Election Commission, and in many cases, they're tax-exempt.

Baltes uses his Americans Against Immigration Amnesty LLC (AAIA) to promote events that feature well-known conservative figures. Websites for his numerous 527 groups are used to advertise and promote these same events.

Baltes presents AAIA as both a 527 group and a limited liability corporation.

"I made it an LLC simply because my attorney told me I needed to. No other reason," said Baltes. "But we're a 527 political organization. When lawyers and accountants tell you to do stuff, you do it."

Baltes admitted he had never heard of Sheriff Clarence Dupnik before Jan 8.

"Pima County or Dupnik were never on (AAIA's) radar until he made those statements," said Baltes.

Baltes said he felt the need to do something after Dupnik's comments regarding political vitriol—and the corresponding conservative outrage. There was an "overwhelming response" from Pima County residents asking the AAIA to petition for the recall of Dupnik, according to Baltes.

After the appropriate paperwork was filed with Pima County, Baltes began contacting Tea Party groups throughout the state, looking for sponsors for the Glenn Beck events.

"I had spoken with him, and it just didn't feel right," said Trent Humphries, co-founder of the Tucson Tea Party. "I've been doing this for three years now, and you get a feeling for those who believe and those who are in it for profit."

It was Baltes' numerous 527 groups—all involving conservative issues—that raised suspicion, according to Humphries.

"Normal people don't do that," said Humphries. "They don't float around the country, hitting every little conservative hot-button issue."

However, the Greater Phoenix Tea Party Patriots welcomed Baltes—at first.

"He got in touch with us; we got in touch with him, and we just got together," said Clair Van Steenwyk, president of the Greater Phoenix Tea Party Patriots.

The Phoenix group was happy to sponsor an event featuring Glenn Beck, according to Van Steenwyk. But soon, Van Steenwyk began to see cracks in Baltes' story, he said.

"I got a hold of someone who was familiar with Glenn Beck's people, and they had no knowledge of (the event)," said Van Steenwyk. "Then we started investigating and soon found out that things weren't quite what they were cracked up to be."

Even the person who sent out AAIA promotional e-mails to Tea Party groups had her doubts.

Alexandrea Merrell, a conservative author and radio personality who worked for Baltes for a short period of time, said Baltes presented himself as the executive producer of the Glenn Beck show when they first met. Baltes then offered her a spot on the Glenn Beck tour, according to Merrell.

"I thought about: How wonderful would it be to jump up to that sort of level?" said Merrell.

After months of not hearing from Baltes, Merrell said, she sent him an e-mail and offered him her services to help get the ball rolling. Baltes immediately hired her.

"I started revamping his websites, because there were errors in spelling and other mistakes," said Merrell. "He gave me a list of what he wanted to say, and I'm an author, so I wrote his bio and all that stuff."

Merrell said she started noticing inconsistencies regarding the Glenn Beck event almost immediately.

"The next week, people from the venue started e-mailing me, asking, 'Where's the deposit for the Phoenix event?'" said Merrell. "They wanted to start selling tickets ... and I wondered how we got so far behind."

Then e-mails started coming in from people who paid for, but did not receive, tickets, according to Merrell.

"I asked (Baltes) how he could sell tickets to an event that hasn't been booked yet," said Merrell. "He claimed he had been given special permission to sell 64 VIP tickets for whatever price he wanted."

Baltes denies this conversation ever took place.

When Merrell didn't receive a paycheck the following week, she contacted Baltes. He assured her that he mailed the check while in Tucson for his "Recall Dupnik" rally.

"When the check didn't come, I finally realized it was a scam," said Merrell.

Baltes claimed that Merrell has been paid, and everything has been a misunderstanding.

"I had contracts with each one of the venues, and I had a contract with Glenn Beck," said Baltes. "I had investors lined up, but they fell through with the deposit."

In his defense, Baltes did have a contract with the Premiere Speakers Bureau, a Tennessee-based firm that represents Glenn Beck. However, Premiere Speakers cancelled the contract after Baltes didn't pay the deposit by March 16. Nevertheless, Baltes continued to sell tickets through his websites well into April.

"In no instance has anyone been scammed. The people who paid for those tickets are receiving refunds," said Baltes.

To those who purchased tickets: Start checking your mailbox, because your refund is on its way.

Dan Baltes gives you his word.

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