By Jon Lloyd
SPECIAL TO THE COLORADO STATESMAN
At a recent candidate forum for House District 36, Democratic candidate Su Ryden assured the Aurora crowd that she’s determined to run a clean campaign.
“While voters want and need relevant comparisons of our stances on the issues and our credentials for the office, unfair or irrelevant comments about the opponent are unnecessary and unwarranted,” Ryden said.
“Voters want to know what we can and will do in the state Legislature, and if we are qualified to serve. They do not want to be bombarded by silly and meaningless comparisons or malicious attacks that do little to shed light on the true differences between us,” she added.
Ryden feels so strongly about the issue that she posted her vow on the front page of her campaign Web site.
So imagine her surprise when she learned from a Colorado Statesman reporter that a mailing attacking her Republican opponent, Kathy Green, had been sent on her behalf to district voters.
“You’re the first one to tell me,” she said. “I didn’t have anything to do with it, and I have no control over that.
“I hate to see that happen,” said Ryden, a political newbie who runs a small marketing and communications firm. “My philosophy for a clean campaign is on my Web site. This is my first time doing this. I’m not a polished politician who can control these things.”
“Kathy Green’s positions are too extreme,” the mailer screeches. It goes on to assert that Green, “Wants to cut funding from public schools and use our tax dollars to pay private school tuition for wealthy kids,” and “Wants to give $300 million a year in subsidies to Big Oil, even though the middle class needs the money more than the oil companies, who are making record profits.”
The mailing was sent by Accountability for Colorado, a 527 political organization funded almost exclusively by Democrats. Such groups, named for their Internal Revenue Service designation, are created primarily to influence the nomination, election, appointment or defeat of candidates for public office. Accountability for Colorado has sought to tilt races around the state towards Democrats, including the Western Slope race in House District 56 between Democrat Christine Scanlan and Republican Ali Hasan and the House District 30 race between Democrat Dave Rose and Republican Kevin Priola.
Candidates have no say over how 527 groups spend their money because no communication or coordination is allowed between 527s and campaigns.
Former Aurora City Councilwoman Green says the attack mailing “contains mistruths and distortions that come dangerously close to outright lies.”
She says the mailing, which cites a Rocky Mountain News questionnaire, deliberately falsifies her position on school vouchers.
“I said in the questionnaire that vouchers should go to low-income families who want and need them,” she said. “I don’t believe rich people are the only ones who deserve a choice.”
As for the claim that she would give $300 million in subsidies to oil companies, she asserts that, “no such statement exists” in either her personal pronouncements or her campaign material.
Green said 527s have created problems in the past and that residents should stand up and say “no” to the groups and their negative tactics.
“We have to get on with real issues that are important in our lives instead of lies and misrepresentation of facts which misleads voters,” she said. “People are tired of it. We’ve got to figure out a better way to do this. How do we reform it and get rid of the lies?”
Green pointed to the involvement of Accountability for Colorado in the HD 56 race in Eagle, Summit and Lake counties between Democrat Scanlan, the incumbent, and Republican challenger Hasan. Three, perhaps four, mailers have been sent out by Accountability for Colorado supporting Scanlan, according to the Vail Daily. Hasan has outspent Scanlan 19-to-1, according to state records, but he expects that when support from Accountability for Colorado is factored in, Scanlan will outspend him.
Through Oct. 22, Accountability for Colorado has accepted contributions from 339 groups and individuals, according to records at the Secretary of State’s Office. Donations include $173,500 from the Colorado Education Association; $214,272 from medical-supply-fortune heiress Pat Stryker; and $100,000 from UFCW Local 7 in Wheat Ridge.
Ironically, information on donors to 527s became more accessible to Colorado’s public because of legislation sponsored by Morgan Carroll, the Democratic legislator Ryden and Green are striving to replace.
House Bill 07 1074, also known as the Clean Campaign Act of 2007 requires 527s to disclose all contributions and spending of $20 or more for political activities in Colorado. Gov. Bill Ritter signed the bill into law in May 2007.