Digging Deeper and Deeper

Ever since Colorado Confidential first revealed dubious ties between the state employee-operated ColoradoSenateNews.com and the partisan politics of operative Brad Jones, the Senate Minority Office has been scrambling to try to fix the apparent conflicts of interest.

But the more Senate Minority Leader Andy McElhany digs, the deeper he falls into his own hole.Yesterday the Rocky Mountain News reported that McElhany had the state seal pulled from the Colorado Senate News Web site because improper use of the seal is a felony.

Today the Rocky reports that ColoradoSenateNews.com may have gone too far in its exuberance to be more than just the press operation of the Senate Republicans:

A critic of the Senate Republican Web site is asking whether a state employee broke any rules by calling on state time Wednesday to grill the critic about her political bias.

“What’s alarming to me is clearly, he is in his official state role making partisan inquiries,” said Chantell Taylor, head of the watchdog group Colorado Citizens for Ethics in Government. “That is not what state resources are supposed to be used for. This is not advancing the public interest.”

But Republicans fired back that they were just defending themselves against unfair attacks from Taylor’s liberal group masquerading as a government watchdog.

“I think we have a right to talk to people who attack us publicly,” said Senate Minority Leader McElhany, R-Colorado Springs. “Especially when they’re portrayed as some government watchdog group, when in reality, they’re a left-leaning hit organization.”

But the GOP counterattack kept alive debate over the official Senate Republican Web site – ColoradoSenateNews.com.

Republicans have been taking heat for two weeks after using campaign funds to hire a political operative to build the site. They later pulled Brad Jones’ name as “Host” of their site after he made headlines by exposing a powerful House Democrat’s inflammatory e-mail on Jones’ personal blog…

…Soon, she got a call from Dan Njegomir, the state-paid Senate Republican director for legislative initiatives.

He asked Taylor if she had worked for organized labor, was a licensed Colorado attorney or if CCEG was funded by multimillionaires Tim Gill, George Soros or Jared Polis – all well-known for backing liberal and Democratic causes. Then he posted a story titled “Left-leaning ethics ‘watchdog’ refuses to reveal funding sources” on ColoradoSenate News.com…

…Njegomir said his interview with Taylor in no way violated a Capitol ban on using legislative resources, including equipment, supplies and staff, “for political or campaign purposes.” He said the ban is against electioneering or lobbying on state time.

Here’s the part that’s worth repeating: ColoradoSenateNews.com serves as the ONLY source of press communications for the Senate Minority Office. The communications staff of the Senate Minority Office is made up of state employees.

It’s one thing for Taylor to go after other politicians, because CCEG is privately funded. But should taxpayers really be paying for political attacks?

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Jason Bane

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