Thursday, November 2, 2000
Steamboat Springs During an election season in which there has been a noticeable lack of negative campaign tactics, a recent barrage of advertisements attacking the record of the Republican candidate for state Senate, Jack Taylor, has shifted the tone of the race.
A Denver-based committee that put out many of the negative ads, seemingly unconnected to either of Taylor's opponents, is financed entirely by the AFL-CIO and the Workmen's Compensation Education Association.
The three candidates for state senate Taylor, Democrat Paul Ohri and Libertarian Michael Zuckerman had focused their campaigns on issues ranging from growth to education for months now but have gotten slightly sidetracked by the recent negative ads.
Those ads, many of which were paid for by a group from Denver known as the Silver State PAC, have attacked Taylor's record in the Colorado House of Representatives.
The Silver State PAC has received $25,000 contributions from both the local and national branches of the AFL-CIO and $15,000 from the Workmen's Compensation Education Association, according to the Colorado Secretary of State. Taylor said he thinks the labor groups are targeting him because of his stance on the Right to Work Law, a labor law that he said would allow for more open shops, which do not mandate that workers join unions. Workers should be allowed to not have to pay dues every month if they don't want to, he said.
The Silver State committee has been registered with the Colorado Secretary of State under three different names in its nearly two-month existence as a political action committee. That name was amended most recently on Thursday, when Denver attorney Neil O'Toole re-registered the committee under his name. Before O'Toole, another Denver resident, Jerry Garland, had taken credit for the committee. Neither of the amendments, however, was official, said a representative from the Secretary of State's office, because the applicants had not fully filled out the official forms and signed them. O'Toole and Garland could not be reached for comment at press time.
A radio advertisement playing on local stations claims that Taylor negotiated legislation loosening regulations for telecommunications giant Qwest, which has contributed money to his campaign. It insinuates, through voice-overs created to suggest a conversation Taylor supposedly had with Qwest, that Taylor accepted the company's money with the intention of helping it out in the Legislature.
In a slick flier distributed in local mailboxes, the Silver State PAC makes similar claims about Taylor's record and his connection with the telecommunications industry.
Recently, residents of Steamboat Springs have been getting telephone calls on which a recorded voice reads them the damaging information included in the fliers.
"I was just furious," said Jennifer Schubert-Akin, a Steamboat resident who received the message on Thursday afternoon. "They're saying things that are just factually wrong."
Taylor has publicly denied the allegations made in the advertisements.
"My vote is not for sale, now or at any time in the future, at any price, to anybody, period," Taylor said.
He said that his version of the Qwest legislation would have brought better telephone service to rural areas and would actually have lowered people's phone bills.
The other two candidates for the District 8 senate seat have denied any connection to the committee responsible for the ads and have condemned the ads as a negative campaign tactic.
Paul Ohri has taken out an ad in the Steamboat Today paid for out of his campaign funds to denounce the advertisement and encourage the residents of Steamboat Springs and other cities in Colorado to call the Silver State PAC and urge them to stop.
"In the world of campaigning, people do things on your behalf that they may think is supporting but sometimes it's not," Ohri said. "That's the case here. We have had absolutely nothing to do with that."
Zuckerman echoed Ohri's sentiments.
"I think it is counter-productive to point out what's bad," he said. "It has a use, but when it comes down to mud slinging it gets people to vote against the lesser of two evils."
Routt County Republican Party Chair Olive Morton has responded to the negative ads by authoring an ad attacking Ohri and "outside money and forces" and linking him with City Council members from Denver.
"Mr. Ohri has to take responsibility for the ads," Morton said. "If his campaign is out of control, he has a responsibility to get it under control."
Ohri said he has contacted Garland, a "leader" of the Silver State PAC, pleading with him to end the committee's advertising campaign, but to no avail.
Another series of negative ads condemning Taylor has been run in Steamboat, Vail and Glenwood newspapers. The ads, paid for by Erick Glanz, a neighbor of Taylor's in Strawberry Park, target Taylor's record on education and the environment.
They are also critical of Taylor for getting his property designated as agricultural rather than residential, which allows him to pay lower property taxes.
"Clearly everything we are doing is absolutely legal," Taylor responded. "When we bought this property in 1978, it was an agricultural property and we continue to run it as it was."
To reach Avi Salzman call 871-4203 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org