Help Us Pick the Best and Worst Campaign Ads of 2014

Yesterday we discussed the first TV ad from Democrat Joe Neguse, who is running for the open Secretary of State seat. We think it may be the best TV ad of the cycle, but we can't know if we've seen every TV ad thus far.

So help us out, Polsters. Nominate your favorites for Best and Worst Campaign Ads of 2014 in the comments below. Please include links when available. We'll take your suggestions and then do our own roundup in a post next week.

(Note: Unless you have an entirely different take, one nomination per ad is sufficient. This isn't a poll.)

The Orwellian Desperation of Jefferson County Republicans

nevillemailer

7NEWS reports:

Attorneys representing Jeffco Public Schools have sent a cease and desist letter to candidates for state senate who used the district's logo in a campaign mailing.

Tim Neville, a self-described "Independent Republican," is running for office in Senate District 16. The campaign flier in question criticizes incumbent State Senator Jeanne Nicholson.

Beside the district's logo, the flyer states: "Jeffco schools are in crisis because Denver politicians like Jeanne Nicholson are keeping funding from the classroom while giving more power to corrupt union bosses."

Neville's statement of "crisis" in the district references recent widespread protesting over the conservative board majority's decisions regarding teacher compensation and a plan to review the AP US History Curriculum…

As you can see above, the mailer plainly makes use of the Jefferson County Public Schools' copyrighted logo, and that's obviously not okay. But there are other aspects to this mailer that make it vastly more deceptive. For starters, a sign held by a student in the photo has been crudely doctored to replace their protest message with the words "I want my future back." The original photo, taken by the Denver Post's Eric Gorski, clearly displays the student's original message: "my education, my voice, save AP U.S. history." We assume nobody has spoken with that student about this mailer yet, but we rather doubt she would approve of her sign being altered in this manner.

We think she'll be especially outraged to learn, as 7NEWS continues, that

Neville is the brother-in-law of Jeffco School Board Member Julie Williams. [Pols emphasis]

That's right, folks–the brother-in-law of Julie Williams, the school board member at the heart of the recent internationally-publicized controversy over "reviewing" the district's AP history curriculum, is himself altering the history of the recent protests against Williams to make it look like he sympathizes. The mailer includes a photo of Tim Neville with his wife Barb, Julie Williams' sister, who also runs Williams' political action committee (PAC). The deception here is so over the top brazen that it just leaves you shaking your head in disbelief. It's not much better for two other Jefferson County Republican Senate candidates who sent out similar mailers, Laura Waters Woods in SD-19 and Tony Sanchez in SD-22, both of whom have been supported by Williams and vice versa–but in Neville's case it's so outlandishly hypocritical and insulting to have doctored this student's protest sign that we have to think it will end in disaster.

That, or history is in greater danger than anyone ever imagined.

Gun group’s attack ad appears to violate campaign-finance rules

(Promoted by Colorado Pols)

A "Rocky Mountain Gun Owners" attack advertisement, mailed to constituents of State Sen. Andy Kerr, appears to violate a couple of campaign finance rules.

The return address on the ad reads, RMGO SuperPAC, but the disclaimer lists the sponsoring organization as "Rocky Mountain Gun Owners SuperPAC."

Neither entity has reported a campaign expenditure attacking Kerr, according to campaign finance reports, so there's almost certain violation of the 48-hour reporting rule currently in effect.

Another problem, "Rocky Mountain Gun Owners SuperPAC," does not exist on Secretary of State's website, and sponsoring organizations must file reports. Obviously, this could be a typo-like error, but it's still a likely violation.

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Bob Beauprez’s Reckless, Factless Attacks: Too Far Again

Bob Beauprez.

Bob Beauprez.

FOX 31's Eli Stokols reports:

One day after GOP gubernatorial nominee Bob Beauprez released a TV ad citing last year’s murder of former Colorado Dept. of Corrections Chief Tom Clements’ as an example of Gov. John Hickenlooper’s failure to keep the state safe, Clements’ widow, Lisa, asked Beauprez to stop.

“Mr. Beauprez, it is with great sadness and frustration that I am breaking my silence on matters involving the death of my husband,” Lisa Clements wrote to Beauprez Thursday in a letter shared with Colorado media outlets.

“On several occasions this year, you have attempted to use our family’s tragic loss for your personal and political gain, and we are respectfully asking you to stop.  We’re requesting you to please stop referencing our tragedy in your debate statements and in your campaign ads. Because every time you do, you re-open the wounds that our family continues to suffer from.

“We have not asked you to defend or publicize our experience, and we are not interested in accepting the support of anyone who chooses to do so with the expectation of something in return.”

Republican gubernatorial candidate Bob Beauprez has a long history in Colorado politics. Beauprez went to Congress in 2002 after winning an extremely close and bitter CD-7 race by only 121 votes–a result finalized weeks after the election. Beauprez ran for governor in 2006, and had to fight a particularly bitter primary campaign against entrepreneur Marc Holtzman: a primary that left Beauprez seriously damaged even before the race against eventual blowout winner Bill Ritter got underway.

In 2006 on the way to his historic 17-point defeat, Beauprez earned a reputation as a ruthlessly negative campaigner. Whether this is a product of Beauprez's character or the desperate battle he fought to win his seat in Congress is tough to say, but as Beauprez sagged in the polls he simultaneously threw the kitchen sink at Ritter–including highly controversial claims about illegal immigrants in Denver that resulted in a federal investigation.

We've talked a lot this year about the crazy things Beauprez has said on the record since losing the 2006 gubernatorial race. Many of the worst of Beauprez's statements date to the high tide of the Tea Party in 2009-10, when all kinds of immoderate nonsense was fashionable. Comments about President Barack Obama "pushing" the nation toward civil war, Muslim Sharia law "creeping in" to Colorado, etc. betray either pathological or deeply cynical motivations underlying Beauprez's politics.

The tragic story of the murder of Department of Corrections director Tom Clements has been crassly politicized almost from the day he was killed. Not long after Clements' death, unnamed Republican sources persuaded the Denver Post to write a front-page story essentially blaming killer Evan Ebel's release on a Democratic-sponsored 2011 law. The next day, a 9NEWS report showed that Ebel had been released years early due to an entirely unrelated judicial error, and the Post eventually admitted that the factual basis of their story was wrong.

A 9NEWS Truth Test last night explains further, referencing their earlier report:

The assassinated prison chief was a member of the governor's cabinet and a close friend of Hickenlooper's.

To portray Hickenlooper as responsible for Ebel's release from prison deliberately misleads voters.

The Beauprez camp defends this claim by pointing to a law that Hickenlooper did sign in 2011, which allows offenders like Ebel to earn time off for good behavior while in solitary confinement.

Ebel did earn time under that law.

But that wouldn't have mattered in this case. The courts made a mistake that allowed Ebel to get out four years early. [Pols emphasis]

Beauprez has repeatedly invoked Clements' death to attack Gov. John Hickenlooper on the campaign trail, blaming Hickenlooper for the legislation the Denver Post wrongly identified as the reason for Ebel's early release, as well longstanding problems with releasing inmates like Ebel directly from solitary confinement to the street. But the truth is, Clements, under Hickenlooper, was working to reform the solitary confinement system in Colorado prisons when he was killed. To mislead voters about these events to the degree that Beauprez has, for the kind of crude political scare tactics that Beauprez has employed, is objectively deplorable. It's deplorable in a way that should disgust members of both parties–anyone who considers themselves a responsible stakeholder in Colorado politics.

It is wrong, it demeans us all, and it must not be rewarded. We really don't know what else to say.

Dear Jeffco Students, Sorry if It Feels Insulting, but You’re “Pawns”

(Promoted by Colorado Pols)

After the last big meeting of the Jeffco School Board, I was driving my teenager home from school, and we heard conservative radio host Kris Cook's analysis of the meeting:

Cook: "They had students saying, 'Don't censor my history,' and taking umbrage at the fact that we, correctly, labeled them as pawns, because they have been made into pawns. I'm sorry students. I know that feels insulting. But your critical thinking skills are not where you think they are. And that is not your fault. Honestly, you've been offered a one-sided view for so long that you don't know how to assess both sides of a situation and come down on what the truth may be." [BigMedia emphasis]

I looked over at my teenager, who definitely has enough critical-thinking skills to understand a school-board proposal, and thought, why the crass condescension?

And Republican gubernatorial candidate Bob Beauprez has said essentially the same thing, that teachers are manipulating the Jeffco students.

My kid doesn't go to the Jeffco schools, but if you've ever spent time with teenagers from Denver, Jeffco, or anywhere, or if you've ever been a teenager yourself, you know that when they decide to focus on something other than Facebook or Snap Chat, they're amazing.

So I emailed Cook, who hosts KLZ's Grassroots Radio Colorado, and I asked why she had such a low view of the intellect of Jeffco teens.

Cook wrote that "no censorship had been proposed by Julie Williams or anyone else on the school board," and, yet, the "students, by their own admission, were protesting censorship of the AP US History curriculum."

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Friday Open Thread

"There is more stupidity than hydrogen in the universe, and it has a longer shelf life."

–Frank Zappa

Seriously, Walker, You Should Probably Stop Doing That

Republican Walker Stapleton

This email sent out by Stapleton’s campaign on Thursday wants to make sure you know that he is being accused of not showing up to work.

Republican State Treasurer Walker Stapleton is clearly worried about recent polling results showing that he is perilously close to losing his re-election bid to Democrat Betsy Markey. Questions about Stapleton's apparent disinterest in actually showing up to his office seem to have hit a sweet spot with voters, and Markey wasted little time getting right to the heart of the issue in her first TV ad:

At best…it’s inexcusable. At worst…it’s a scandal.

State Treasurer Walker Stapleton. Official key-card records from his Denver office confirm… Stapleton only bothers showing up at his office around ten days a month.

Often, skipping the office for weeks at a time. Or only showing up after three P.M.

For those who have yet to see the ad, worry not. For some completely inexplicable reason, Stapleton and his Republican pals are doing everything they can to make sure you are aware of the accusations against him. On Thursday, Stapleton's campaign sent out an email linking to a 9News "Truth Test" about Markey's ad; while 9News says there is "no proof" to the claims made in the ad, the "Truth Test" doesn't exactly set Stapleton free:

It's important to note that we can't prove the Markey campaign's claim wrong, either.

We asked Stapleton to respond and he called the attacks "total B.S." in a phone interview with 9NEWS.

"I don't bring my key card into work every day," said Stapleton. "And when I don't, the public entrance is closer to my car than the other entrances and sometimes people open the doors for me. The main point is every single day that I'm in Denver on my schedule I'm in the office. [Pols emhpasis]. And to suggest otherwise is a complete bold-faced lie."

The campaign for Democratic challenger Betsy Markey sent us plenty of other items to back up their theme, including a scheduling calendar and attendance records at board meetings.

None of these items prove the claims in their ad.

Likewise, Stapleton's campaign couldn't provide records to disprove them either. [Pols emphasis]

Come again? "The main point is every single day that I'm in Denver on my schedule I'm in the office." What the hell does that mean? He's always in his office, if he's in Denver…and if it's on his schedule? WTF?

Look, we get that Stapleton believes his campaign is in trouble, in large part because of Markey's ad, and that he wants to do whatever he can to dispute the allegations. However, if Stapleton can't prove them wrong, he should probably shut up about this. Markey doesn't have millions of dollars to saturate the air waves in a down ballot race like State Treasurer, so it seems pretty obvious that the best course of action is to just ride this out while coming up with your own separate messaging.

Stapleton has long been mentioned as a potential Republican candidate for Governor in 2018, so perhaps he's trying to diminish this attack for reasons beyond 2014 (although, at this point, we'd wager that Stapleton has pretty well disqualified himself as a serious challenger for Governor anyway). Whatever the reasoning, the logic is flawed; the best way to deal with damning allegations is usually not to keep bringing them up on your own.

Have you ever known someone who gets a bad haircut and is so worried about appearances that they can't stop talking about it? That's pretty much Walker Stapleton in a nutshell.

What Cory Gardner and Manti Te’o Have In Common

catfish2

mantigardner

The Denver Post's Lynn Bartels reports with the San Diego Chargers playing tonight at Mile High Stadium–ouch!

Catfishing is phenomenon of a person pretending to be someone they are not by fabricating an identity to lure someone into a relationship. One of the San Diego Chargers is Manti Te’o, the Notre Dame linebacker duped into an engagement with a woman who never existed and who reportedly died during the season.

Amy Runyon-Harms, executive director of ProgressNow Colorado, said Gardner is catfishing Colorado in his attempt to unseat Democratic Sen. Mark Udall. The group posted the web site CoryGardnerIsCatfishingColorado.com, which includes a fake profile of Gardner. Among the things he couldn’t live without: Crest White Strips, the Koch brothers, his signed copy of “Atlas Shrugged” and Obamacare. Snap!

From ProgressNow Colorado's press release:

"Colorado currently has our own catfishing scandal. US Senate candidate Cory Gardner has created a fake persona of his own with the goal of duping Colorado voters into a romance at the ballot box. His cons include supporting a federal Personhood bill that he claims doesn't exist, false claims that over-the-counter birth control would save women money, lies about his role in last year's government shutdown and his giant fib about supporting Colorado's green-energy economy that turned out to be completely false," said Amy Runyon-Harms, executive director of ProgressNow Colorado.

It's a story that still hasn't been fully explained: did Manti Te'o believe the fake dying Facebook girlfriend was real? Was it all a sympathy ploy to win the Heisman Trophy? The world has its suspicions, but Te'o will most likely take the truth to his grave–after a successful NFL career.

Cory Gardner may not be so lucky with his federal Personhood bill.

Quinnipiac: Hickenlooper Closes Ten-Point Gap

Gov. John Hickenlooper.

Gov. John Hickenlooper.

The last couple of polls from Quinnipiac University of Colorado races have pegged both the U.S. Senate race and the Colorado gubernatorial race with Republican leads considerably in excess of most other polling. In polling speak, Quinnipiac's numbers this year are what you'd call an "outlier"–a poll skewed well away from the results of other contemporary polling.

There are signs today that this is changing, at least in the gubernatorial race. Five weeks ago, Quinnipiac released a poll showing Republican Bob Beauprez leading Gov. John Hickenlooper by ten points, numbers that not even partisan Republicans could feel confident about. A week ago, Quinnipiac had Beauprez up by four points. Today, Q-pac's press release announces a that Hickenlooper has fully closed the gap:

Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper, behind 50 – 40 percent September 17, now has 45 percent to former U. S. Rep. Bob Beauprez' 44 percent among likely voters, leaving the governor’s race too close to call, according to a Quinnipiac University Poll released today. Libertarian candidate Matthew Hess has 1 percent, with 2 percent for Green Party candidate Harry Hempy. Another 7 percent are undecided.

Women are the key to Hickenlooper’s strength, backing the incumbent 49 – 39 percent. Men back Beauprez 49 – 41 percent. Hickenlooper gets 45 percent of independent voters to Beauprez’ 40 percent. Democrats today go to the governor 94 – 4 percent, while Republicans back their challenger 86 – 6 percent.

“Off the mat and clearly building momentum, Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper fights off a ten count and enters the final round of the gubernatorial slugfest looking stronger by the day,” said Tim Malloy, assistant director of the Quinnipiac University Poll.

Any way you look at this poll it's good news for Hickenlooper. That said, we're still not really convinced at this point that Quinnipiac is polling accurately, and wonder if this sudden shift to Hickenlooper is more "CYA" on the part of Quinnipiac. Quinnipiac's results have been outlier on the other side of this race, too: back in April they had Hickenlooper leading by 9 points, the last such numbers he has seen. Without impugning their metholodology from the peanut gallery, we will say that it's very common for polls to get closer as the election approaches–and sometimes, that happens as much to protect the pollster's reputation as it represents legitimate science. Back in their more partisan days, Rasmussen was infamous–or at least perceived to be–for polling that was heavily GOP biased right up until the last few weeks before election.

Is Quinnipiac really seeing these wild swings, or has the gubernatorial race been close–but still favoring Hickenlooper–since at least early September as almost all other polling has shown? Team Hickenlooper is fine either way, but our gut says the latter.

Is this the Best TV Ad in Colorado in 2014?

Trying to find news about the Colorado Secretary of State race has been harder than trying to locate State Treasurer Walker Stapleton. Even though the SOS race is one of the few open-seat battles in Colorado, it hasn't garnered much attention with the gajillions of dollars being spent on races for U.S. Senate, Governor, and in CO-6.

Democrat Joe Neguse has run a record-setting campaign for SOS against the barely-awake Republican Wayne Williams. But like so many downballot races in the past, it's difficult to control your own destiny when voters are blasted with ads from top-ticket candidates.

Win or lose, however, Neguse may very well be responsible for the single most compelling TV ad in the 2014 cycle. If you haven't seen it, here it is below.

If you can think of a better Colorado ad that you've seen, let us know in the comments section.

Anybody Seen Doug Lamborn?

Doug Lamborn in hiding

Hey, is Doug Lamborn back there?

Megan Schrader of the Colorado Springs Gazette takes an interesting look at the (non) strategy of Republican Congressman Doug Lamborn:

Voters in the El Paso County-centered 5th Congressional District likely won't see a slew of yard signs for U.S. Rep. Doug Lamborn.

He hasn't purchased TV ad time leading up to Election Day on Nov. 4.

And he's refused to debate Democratic challenger Irv Halter.

In fact, Lamborn has been conspicuously absent this election season despite the robust campaign Halter, a retired Air Force general, has launched against the eight-year incumbent.

But staying on the sidelines might be the best possible strategy for Lamborn.

As irritating as it may seem to voters and others who are just sick of Rep. Lamborn's dumbassery — and really, let's not pretend that the man isn't a complete embarrassment — from a strategic standpoint it's hard to disagree with this approach to re-election. Nobody is harmed more by a Lamborn interview than Lamborn himself. After all, the last time we heard from him, Lamborn was suggesting that military leaders resign as a show of disappointment with President Obama's foreign policy; even fellow Republicans such as Rep. Mike Coffman and Rep. Cory Gardner couldn't disagree fast enough.

Nevertheless, it's a damn shame that we have a Congressman in Colorado who is so bad that his re-election chances actually decline when he speaks about, well, anything. There's still an outside chance that Democrat Irv Halter can pull the upset in November, but even if he doesn't, it sounds like Lamborn is still walking around with a big target on his back (if you see him, that is). Here's Republican Rep. Mark Waller, who ran briefly for the GOP nomination for Attorney General this year, sounding very much like someone who is licking his chops for June 2016:

"Based on things I've heard in the community, it would not surprise me if Congressman Lamborn received another challenge from another Republican in two years," Waller said.

Hell, we'd be surprised if Lamborn ever makes it through an election cycle without a serious challenger. Lamborn is in Congress today because of 16,000 or so people who helped him win a Republican Primary in 2006, and only inertia has allowed him to remain in office thus far.

Even More Right Wing Ballot BS Debunked By 9NEWS

Kudos again to 9NEWS' excellent reporting in the last 24 hours, discrediting a flurry of alarmist nonsense from conservatives about Colorado's mail ballot system. Last night, reporter Brandon Rittiman debunked another truly bizarre lie about Colorado elections, broadcast to millions of FOX News viewers across America yesterday by lead anchor Megyn Kelly:

Tuesday's episode of a Fox News host Megyn Kelly's program incorrectly told viewers that Colorado voters are now able to print ballots using their home computers and vote by turning them in…

The host described it as a "first of its kind election law: a set of rules that literally allows residents to print ballots from their home computers, then encourages them to turn ballots over to 'collectors' in what appears to be an effort to do away with traditional polling places."

While traditional polling places are a thing of the past because of the law, the claim that it allows for home-printed ballots is simply false…

Once again, none other than Republican Secretary of State Scott Gessler is obliged to confirm the news that any voter conversant with the process already knows: this is completely bogus. Other than overseas deployed members of the military, who had the option of being emailed a ballot before last year's election modernization bill, nobody can "print a ballot from their home computer."

It's important to remember that this was not intended to cause controversy locally, since locals know that you can't print a ballot from your computer. The purpose of this very deliberate lie from FOX News is to generate even more vote fraud mythology to reinforce the beliefs of a segment of the electorate who already believes it's happening. Just like James O'Keefe's baiting low-level campaign workers to recite an unworkable fraud proposal, the facts simply do not support the hysteria. Because we think FOX News either knows or should know such elementary facts about Colorado voting law before broadcasting them, the only reasonable conclusion is that the hysteria is an end unto itself.

Watch the video above and tell us we're wrong.

James O’Keefe Helps Debunk Mail Ballot Fraud Myths

James OKeefe, wearing a Mark Udall sticker.

James OKeefe, wearing a Mark Udall sticker.

Conservative media lit up yesterday after conservative provocateur James O'Keefe released a video from his recent "vote fraud" sting attempts in Colorado. Last weekend, we got reports that O'Keefe was in the state attempting to bait Democratic field campaign workers into endorsing fraudulent acts involving mail ballots. Word spread fast from there, but evidently O'Keefe had been on the ground for some time before his presence was publicized.

In the end, it does appear that O'Keefe got what he wanted: out of presumably dozens of attempts where he was informed that his proposal would be felony vote fraud, it looks like he found two people willing to follow his bait into a very, very bad idea: collecting unused mail ballots from students who have moved or transferred, completing them, and turning them in.

Before we go any further, everyone does realize that is a serious crime, right? Good. Let's be very clear about what happened here: O'Keefe was able to lead a couple of low-level table staffers into saying some eye-poppingly stupid things. One agreed with him that turning in other people's ballots would be morally okay, the other actually volunteered "ghetto Aurora" as a good place to collect unused ballots. In both cases, what these staffers for nonprofits Work for Progress and Greenpeace respectively said was absolutely termination-offense unacceptable. We'll go a step further and say the one who got all racial about helping out O'Keefe with his fraud designs must, for the common good, never work in politics again. But in neither case is there any suggestion that these staff would have come up with the idea to do this were it not for O'Keefe's prompting. There's no actual plan by anyone to do what he suggests.

And there's a good reason for that: as our local media has done a good job explaining since O'Keefe's video broke yesterday, the ballot fraud O'Keefe is proposing simply would not work. 9NEWS reports that even GOP Secretary of State Scott Gessler can't defend O'Keefe's allegations:

"I can't promise people that it will happen," Sec. of State Scott Gessler said. "I can't promise people that it can't happen. But what I can say is we've got a pretty good system and we're always trying to make it better." [Pols emphasis]

County clerks are required by law to verify signatures on ballots. Gessler says there is a loophole in that law allowing signatures to go unverified if a witness signs the ballot.

But clerks contend witness signatures are rare, and they still have the power to scrutinize those ballots if they seem suspicious.

Witness-signed ballots are indeed rare–and as the Denver clerk's office explains, you can't just fish a ballot out of somebody else's mailbox and send it in. It will be caught:

"That check of signature verification is really the stopgap to prevent ballots that are being filled out by people who are not the voter," said Amber McReynolds, the director of Denver's elections division.

About 1.5% of the ballots turned into the Denver clerk's office so far have been flagged for signature verification according to this story. That doesn't mean they're fraudulent, of course, it just means that the signature on file with the Denver clerk didn't match the signature on the ballot envelope closely enough to mass automatic muster–or weren't signed at all. Affected voters are notified and given the opportunity to "cure" their ballot by verifying their signature. That's how the system has always worked for absentee and mail-in ballots, and it actually works well. Without anything to go on, what's a fraudster supposed to do to fake someone's signature?

Yes, there's probably some elaborate scheme that could be concocted to obtain examples of signatures of voters to believably forge on mail ballots. If we were to think about all the ways we could violate, you know, just about any law, there are elaborate Rube Goldberg machine ideas we could come up with to pull it off.

But nobody's doing these crazy things to commit vote fraud. It's much cheaper to get out the vote in legal ways.

In a sense, it's good that O'Keefe gave our county clerks a chance to explain how voting by mail actually works in Colorado. It won't mean much to the right wing media breathlessly reporting on O'Keefe's "proven vote fraud" video, or the consumers of said media who aren't really interested in facts that might render them less agitated. But the people who matter–Colorado voters–can be assured that our system does work.

When even Scott Gessler grudgingly admits it, you can feel pretty confident.

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