GOP guv group labels reports it’s leaving Colorado ‘fiction’

By Ernest Luning

A spokesman for the national Republican Governors Association on Thursday blasted news reports the organization has decided to exit Colorado’s gubernatorial contest in response to speculation former Rep. Scott McInnis might drop out of the race in the wake of a plagiarism scandal.

“All of this is just false on its face,” said Tim Murtaugh, director of political communications for the Washington, D.C.-based campaign committee, in an interview with The Colorado Statesman. “Nothing has changed.”

Murtaugh was responding to reports posted by the political Web site Colorado Pols and KDVR-TV reporter Eli Stokels, who posted stories Thursday morning that the RGA had cancelled fundraising events in the state and determined the Colorado race “is essentially a lost cause.” Colorado Pols and Stokels cited anonymous sources for their reports.

“All these things being reported by various news outlets are all completely false,” Murtaugh said. “Every event scheduled in Colorado is an RGA fundraising event” — and not associated with a particular gubernatorial campaign — “and every event has occurred as scheduled. RGA events are going on as scheduled and we’re doing just fine.”

RGA Chairman Haley Barbour has been in the state this week at the Aspen Institute and will be attending a scheduled fundraiser in the mountain town. RGA vice chairman, Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty, a potential 2012 presidential candidate, is also in Aspen on Thursday and is scheduled to make a stop in Denver for a county Republican Party fundraising dinner on Friday.

Murtaugh also disputed reports the RGA is “pulling its money” from the state or from McInnis, saying the stories display a flawed understanding of how the RGA operates.

“Every penny we have spent in Colorado has been spent on our independent expenditures,” he said, listing television and radio advertising and Web sites that have so far been devoted to attacking Denver Mayor John Hickenlooper, who is running unopposed for the Democratic nomination for governor.

This spring, the RGA spent more than $500,000 running “No Jobs John” ads attempting to link Hickenlooper to job losses in Denver in recent years. Earlier, the group flooded the state with an aggressive campaign tying Hickenlooper to outgoing Democratic Gov. Bill Ritter, who announced in January he wouldn’t seek a second term.

The RGA is reporting nearly $19 million raised in the second quarter, according to Politico, bringing its total this year to $28 million raised to help elect Republican governors in the fall.

“We remain in the same stance we were in yesterday, last week, a month or two months ago,” Murtaugh said, “and that’s that we’re committed to beating John Hickenlooper.”

A spokeswoman for Dan Maes, the other Republican on the August primary ballot, said the organization has not contacted the candidate this week.