The Denver Post's Lynn Bartels has an especially cogent story out today:
Tested during this summer's recall elections, the tactic involves using ethics complaints to impugn the integrity of a political candidate — even when the complaint is found to be without merit.
The move has attracted bipartisan criticism, including from the state's top Republican, Attorney General John Suthers.
Hickenlooper has been hit with two ethics complaints. The first, filed in July, was rejected by the state's Independent Ethics Commission without review as being "frivolous."
The second was filed this month by a conservative group, Compass Colorado, which trumpeted in a news release that Hickenlooper had misused state funds. The group's executive director, Kelly Maher, has since backtracked on that statement, saying it was "poorly worded."
During this summer's recall campaign against then-Senate President John Morse, GOP-leaning group Compass Colorado and other pro-recall messengers made much of ethics complaints filed against Morse over the years. In Pueblo, the local paper breathlessly reported a story about an "ethics complaint" against recall target Angela Giron that was never even successfully filed. In Morse's case, the complaints were dismissed, but none of the ads against Morse based on those complaints during the recall made any mention of that rather important detail.
The inherent dishonesty in using a dismissed complaint against someone without mentioning the dismissal is pretty hard to ignore, though it's just one of many examples of factual abridgement in politics these days. Most of them simply go unreported–a time-honored method of controlling irresponsible BS by the media, but increasingly ineffective for stopping the spread of misinformation in today's social media world. To take the additional step of repudiating this dishonest tactic of grandstanding on bogus ethics complaints is a commendable development.
Of course, no blog post about Republicans and ethics complaints would be complete without a mention of the Independent Ethics Commission's most famous successful complaint, which found that GOP Secretary of State Scott Gessler had "violated the public trust for private gain" by using discretionary funds from his office to pay for travel to partisan Republican events. It's worth remembering that the most recent (2011) ethics complaint against Morse was alleged to have been "retaliation" from Gessler, filed by a close associate. It's important, as we discuss the frivolity of the many complaints filed and counterfiled between partisan politicians, that we keep in mind how sometimes they are not frivolous at all.
And we're relieved to see that baseless, hypocritical attempts to muddy these waters have their limits.