On the record...

The Colorado Statesman

The same day Republican gubernatorial nominee Bob Beauprez toured the Front Range with his newly minted running mate and his former primary rivals, Democrats pounced on a video that depicts the former congressman telling a room full of Rotarians “we’ve got almost half of the population perfectly happy that somebody else is paying the bill” and decrying the fact that 47 percent of Americans don’t pay federal income tax.

“I submit to you that there is a political strategy to get slightly over half, and have a permanent ruling political majority by keeping over half of the population, dependent on the largesse of government that somebody else is paying for,” Beauprez said in an address titled “Is Washington at War with Prosperity?” delivered on April 8, 2010, to the Denver Rotary Club.

Beauprez’ remarks are similar to those delivered by GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney two years ago in a surreptitiously recorded video at a fundraiser with wealthy donors in Florida. The “47 percent” comments by Romney — who endorsed Beauprez ahead of last week’s primary — stalled any post-convention bounce his campaign was enjoying and became emblematic of the portrait Democrats were painting of him as an out-of-touch plutocrat.

“It’s shocking that a candidate for Governor would basically accuse half of the population of being freeloaders,” said Colorado Democratic Party Chairman Rick Palacio. “Not only is Beauprez out of touch, but his elitist remarks show that he has no respect for Colorado’s seniors, our veterans or the hard working families that are struggling to get by.

“After Coloradans have worked together to recover from fires and floods, the last thing we need is the divisive type of rhetoric that Bob Beauprez has spent his career peddling,” Palacio continued.

The video of Beauprez’ speech to the Rotary Club — it’s been posted to YouTube since two days after it was delivered — was first reported by The Denver Post. The snippet highlighted by state Democrats appears during a litany of problems Beauprez says he encounters every morning when he reads the newspaper or goes online.

“Some of you may think I pour too much Tabasco on the meat that I’m about to serve you, and to those I’ll apologize,” Beauprez says with a smile at the start of his speech. “But I’m going to try very hard to give you the state of affairs as I see it.”

He goes on to discuss his four years in Congress and the insights he gained into how government gets in the way of hard-working Americans, similar to a theme he’s emphasized in his run against Democratic Gov. John Hickenlooper.

“I see something that, frankly, doesn’t surprise me, having been on (the House) Ways and Means (Committee),” Beauprez says in the video. “Forty-seven percent of all Americans pay no federal income tax. I’m guessing that most of you in this room are not in that 47 percent — God bless you — but what that tells me is that we’ve got almost half of the population perfectly happy that somebody else is paying the bill, and most of that half is you all,” he says, before describing what he terms the “political strategy” to fashion an electoral majority from those dependent on the government.

Just over two years after Beauprez made his remarks in Denver, Romney used the same statistic to make similar points at a closed, $50,000-a-plate fundraiser in Boca Raton, Fla., where he described the “47 percent of the people who will vote for the president no matter what.” He called those who didn’t pay federal income tax “dependent upon government, who believe that they are victims, who believe the government has a responsibility to care for them, who believe that they are entitled to health care, to food, to housing, to you-name-it.”

Romney’s secretly recorded speech continued: “My job is not to worry about those people. I’ll never convince them they should take personal responsibility and care for their lives.”

A fact check on Romney’s 47 percent remarks two years ago by the Washington Post found that many of those who don’t pay federal income tax are retired and most of the remainder pay hefty payroll taxes, on top of sales, gasoline and property taxes. The reason many with lower incomes aren’t subject to federal income tax is because of tax policies championed at one time by Republicans, including the Earned Income Tax Credit and the Bush tax cuts, fact checkers point out.

Romney later apologized for the remarks.

A spokesman for the Beauprez campaign said the candidate wasn’t disparaging those with lower incomes but instead was disappointed that the economy was in such bad shape that people weren’t earning enough to pay federal taxes.

“In full context, it’s clear he’s saying that it’s sad more people are not doing well enough to pay federal income tax,” Beauprez campaign manager Dustin Olson told The Colorado Statesman. “Bob’s focused on strengthening our economy so more people have jobs and can prosper. Like Bob has been saying, we should be focused on lifting people up and creating more opportunity.

“It’s an unfortunate fact that after years of President Obama and Gov. Hickenlooper’s failed policies, that too many hardworking Americans are not making enough money to pay taxes,” Olson said.

Democrats and liberal organizations have been hinting for months that there is a treasure trove of outlandish Beauprez positions hidden in plain sight, generated during the years since Beauprez lost the governor’s race in 2006 and departed Congress early the next year, though the conservative blog he edited, A Line of Sight, tagged “food for the conservative soul,” has been taken down from the Internet.

Ernest@coloradostatesman.com