CO-Sen: HuffPost, “Coloradans Are Getting Mysterious Texts Bashing John Hickenlooper (D)”

From The Huffington Post:

Colorado residents have reported getting mysterious anonymous text messages bashing John Hickenlooper, the Democratic Senate candidate seeking to oust Republican Sen. Cory Gardner this November.
The texts feature a link to a 2014 clip of Hickenlooper comparing the job of a political scheduler to being on a slave ship, and a Washington Post article on a recent ethics scandal; an independent ethics panel in Colorado said Hickenlooper violated state law as governor in 2018 by accepting rides in a private jet and a Maserati limousine. The texts call Hickenlooper “out of touch” and warn he’s a risk to Democrats’ chances to flip the Senate.

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Some of the recipients tweeted that they responded to the texts inquiring about their origins but did not hear back.

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— Rick Trilsch (@ricktrilsch) June 17, 2020

Political campaigning via text is commonplace these days, as candidates and political parties use cellphone numbers to fundraise, organize and turn out more voters to the polls. But Colorado has strict disclosure laws around political messaging; political candidates, political parties and issues committees must disclose themselves either directly in the text message, or in a direct link in the primary message. Federal disclosure laws require that the business, individual or corporate entity behind a political message must be stated clearly at the beginning of that messaging, including in texts. However, some dark money groups could fall between the cracks in these disclosure laws. Super PACs are required to disclose election spending to the Federal Election Commission, while political nonprofits are not.

These texts don’t say where they’re coming from.
The text messages included shortened links — truncated URLs — that can be traced back to Tele-Town Hall LLC, a Virginia-based company that runs phone-based political communications. The Colorado Republican Party has previously used Tele-Town Hall, reporting $500 in expenditures in January, and another $8,800 last year for autodialing. It has not reported using the company in recent months. Joe Jackson, a spokesperson with the Colorado GOP, said “definitively we had nothing to do with this from the state party side,” adding that the state party has not run text campaigns about Hickenlooper in the Senate race thus far. The national Republican Party also said it didn’t know anything about the texts.

The timing of these texts couldn’t be more perfect because of a few reasons. First, there’s this one:

Former Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper (D) announced Thursday he had raised $3.7 million for his Senate campaign between April 1 and June 10.

The Hickenlooper campaign said the haul is the most raised for a Colorado Senate candidate during the pre-primary period.

“I am thankful for the support of our grassroots army during these difficult times,” Hickenlooper said in a statement.

The campaign said the average contribution during this period was $24.

“Republicans have already started spending millions of dollars to attack me in their attempt to save Senator Cory Gardner. But Mitch McConnell’s ads can’t change the facts: Senator Gardner has sided with Trump 100% of the time and failed to be the independent voice he promised Coloradans he’d be,” Hickenlooper added. “This pandemic has underscored the need for change in a broken Washington, and I aim to bring that change.”

The campaign said it will report $5.9 million cash on hand.

But then there’s this:

A little more than a week before the Democratic Senate Primary, a new poll shows former Gov. John Hickenlooper has an edge, but it has shrunk considerably. The poll was paid for by Hickenlooper’s opponent, former Speaker of the state House Andrew Romanoff.

It shows Hickenlooper with a 12-point lead over Romanoff, down from 49 points last October.

Hickenlooper has been dogged by controversies over the last few weeks and Republicans are taking advantage of the bad press. Incumbent Sen. Cory Gardner is running an ad with clips of Hickenlooper, from before he announced his candidacy, talking about how he doesn’t want to be a Senator.

“He’s now in a position where no candidate wants to be in the last two weeks of an election – on the defense,” says CBS4 Republican analyst Dick Wadhams.

Wadhams says Hickenlooper – who has more name recognition and money than Romanoff – will still likely win the primary. The ad, he says, is aimed at ensuring Hickenlooper enters the general election badly damaged. It’s one of several ads that highlight just how volatile the race has become. A Republican ad bashes Hickenlooper for ethics violations and contempt charges. An ad by Democrats defends him, calling the ethics complaint politically motivated.

There’s also this one:

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Former Colorado Speaker of the House Andrew Romanoff has turned one of Former Governor John Hickenlooper’s 2010 campaign ads against attack ads into an attack ad, and now the current governor is weighing in.

Romanoff is challenging Hickenlooper in the Colorado Senate Democratic primary. The winner will take on Republican Cory Gardner during the November general election. He is often considered one of the most vulnerable incumbents up for reelection.

Romanoff’s reedit of the ad says “you better ask yourself: why does John Hickenlooper take so many showers?”
Dirty water is seen flowing through the drain, as the voiceover says “he’ll never wash off the stain of oil and gas money. Maybe it’s the convictions for taking illegal gifts, or being held in contempt.”
The voiceover simply says “whoa” while showing a headline saying Hickenlooper apologized for comments that compared elected officials to galley slaves.
“Scrub harder Hick,” the voiceover says, adding, “we can’t take this kind of risk if we’re going to beat Cory Gardner.”

Then this happened:



Within hours of its debut Friday morning, Colorado’s most prominent Democrats had denounced the ad. They’re coming to the defense of Hickenlooper in the intra-party fight as he attempts to avoid a disastrous upset loss amid a month of ethics violations, a contempt citation and gaffes.

“I’m disappointed that Andrew Romanoff has chosen to throw mud and attack John Hickenlooper instead of focusing on his own vision and record,” said Gov. Jared Polis, who had previously vowed to remain neutral in the race, in a statement sent from Polis’ campaign. He urged Romanoff to reconsider airing the ad.

Hickenlooper, the darling of the Democratic establishment in both Colorado and Washington D.C., was defended Friday by not only Polis and Attorney General Phil Weiser but also a slew of current and former state politicians who took to Twitter.

Only one of the denunciations alleged anything in the ad is inaccurate: a lengthy statement from U.S. Sen. Michael Bennet, a Denver Democrat and former Hickenlooper staffer who defeated Romanoff during a bitter contest in 2010.

Bennet claimed several times in his statement that the Romanoff ad is “false.” A spokesperson for the senator says he was referring to the ad’s mention of Hickenlooper’s “convictions” for violating ethics laws. Bennet believes the term “convictions” should only be applied to criminal cases, not ethics law violations.

Followed by this:

“I have worked with both Andrew and John, and consider them both friends,” Arapahoe County Commissioner Bill Holen told Colorado Politics. “However, this is not what we do as Democrats. We need to focus on winning back the Senate. Andrew should take this ad down and focus on the issues.”

A spokeswoman for the Romanoff campaign didn't respond to a request for comment.

Holen was joined by former state Rep. Sue Schafer, Breckenridge Town Councilman Jeff Bergeron, Dacono City Councilor Danny Long and former Mayor Pro Tem of Montrose Carol McDermott jumping to the Hickenlooper side from the Romanoff camp.

“Without the bold leadership and advocacy by Governor Hickenlooper, the Colorado Senate and House would not have been able to pass the 2013 Colorado Civil Union law,” said Schafer in a statement. “This law was an instrumental step toward the U.S. Supreme Court passing the gay marriage law in 2015.”

Earlier this week, former U.S. Rep. John Salazar changed his endorsement from Romanoff to Hickenlooper. On Friday he also blasted the new Romanoff ad, saying he's supporting Hickenlooper because he “doesn’t do negative campaigning against his friends.”

Romanoff still counts hundreds of current and former officials among his supporters, including some Republicans.

“Since John and I first met when he was mayor of Denver, I have only known him to be a thoughtful and effective leader, full of integrity,” said Noel Ginsburg, a freshly minted Hickenlooper endorser, founder of the CareerWise apprenticeship program and a former candidate for governor.

“He has brought real opportunity to our state with new job creation, climate initiatives, and many other strategies that have made Colorado a better place to raise a child and build a career. John's leadership as Governor also brought innovation in education and workforce through his support of Careerwise Colorado, which has grown over time into a national initiative.”

The others who joined Team Hickenlooper on Friday are: CU Regent Jack Kroll; Gunnison County Commissioners Jonathan Houck and John Messner; La Plata County Commissioner Clyde Church; Westminster City Councilor Jon Voelz; Northglenn City Councilor Becky Brown; Thornton City Councilor Jacque Phillips; Steamboat Springs City Councilors Lisel Petis and Sonja Maceys; Breckenridge Town Councilor Dick Carleton; Cherry Hills City Councilors Afshin Safavi and Al Blum; Pueblo District 60 School Board Member Dennis Maes; Durango School Board Member Mick Souder; Aspen School Board Member Susan Marolt; Highlands Ranch Metro District Board Member Allen Dreher; and former Arapahoe County Commissioner John Brackney.

And this:

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Allies of an under-pressure John Hickenlooper are rushing to the former governor’s aid in Colorado’s Democratic primary for U.S. Senate, launching a major television ad buy that includes a spot slamming Andrew Romanoff’s immigration record.

Let’s Turn Colorado Blue, a mysterious federal political action committee formed this week, has reserved about $750,000 in air time in the Denver and Colorado Springs TV markets through Election Day on June 30, according to Federal Communications Commission records analyzed by The Colorado Sun.

A blistering ad run by the group starting Friday night attacks Romanoff, the former Colorado House speaker, for passing bills in the state legislature in 2006 regarded as being anti-immigrant. “Latino leaders said if it’s expedient for him, he’s willing to sacrifice the most vulnerable,” the narrator says. “Andrew Romanoff: Wrong then and wrong for us now.”

Romanoff has apologized for the measures and written at-length about the policy.

It’s unclear who is behind Let’s Turn Colorado Blue, though the group is registered to a Denverite named Mannie Rodriguez and separately lists its address as a house in Lafayette.

Rodriguez did not return calls seeking comment. The Colorado Sun on Friday evening visited the Lafayette home, which had yard signs for Democratic U.S. Rep. Joe Neguse piled on the porch, but no one answered.

“We could not sit idly by as Andrew Romanoff continued to attack John Hickenlooper and Cory Gardner and national Republican groups jumped into the middle of this primary — running millions of dollars in negative ads aimed at taking down John Hickenlooper and boosting his opponent.” Rodriguez said in a written statement. “Let’s Turn Colorado Blue is made up of people who know that our best shot at defeating Cory Gardner is with former Governor John Hickenlooper, a proven and effective leader who will look out for all of us.”

Personally, I think the GOP is trying to do some divide and conquer shit in our primary because Gardner is one of the most vulnerable GOPers this election cycle. I also think that Hickenlooper is going to win the June 30th primary. Either way, we have to be ready to fight back against this type of bull shit and take away Moscow Mitch’s majority. Click below to donate and get involved with the Colorado Democrat’s choices:

John Hickenlooper

Andrew Romanoff