Romanoff eschews PAC money, explains surprising low-key campaign

DENVER– Democratic U.S. Senate candidate and former Colorado Speaker of the House Andrew Romanoff told a crowd of about 30 students closely gathered in the Senate Room at the Auraria Higher Education Campus Wednesday that he was trying to lead by example with his so-far low-key campaign. Earlier in the day his staff announced Romanoff would not be taking Political Action Committee contributions.

Andrew Romanoff (Joe Boven; TCI)

Andrew Romanoff (Joe Boven; TCI)

“I plan on leading by example,” he said, adding that the need to raise vast sums of campaign money leads politicians away from their constituents and into the hands of a “rogues gallery” of corporate representatives. “The way I’m going to get elected to the U.S. Senate, I hope, is by talking to my constituents in Colorado. That doesn’t happen very often anymore,” he said.

Romanoff said that Colorado politicians are being led by advisers to increasingly seek contributions from people and groups across the country, on the East Coast and West Coast. He said campaign advertising time should be limited and given for free to dilute the power of special interests.

“Somebody said that the Senate is the place that good ideas go to die. There is a reason for that and in part it’s because a lot of the wealthiest interest groups, which stand to lose the most from the proposals we need [to pass], are subsidizing decisions.”

Look at the lists of contributors to campaigns in the Senate race, he said, and you’ll find a “rogues gallery of villains in some of these reforms.”

“One of the reasons we do not have single-payer [health care] plan on the table is because it doesn’t serve the needs of the health insurance companies who are subsidizing the health care committees in Congress that making the rules.”

Romanoff acknowledged that the rules of the game won’t be easy to change but, if nothing else, he is trying to be an exception to the rules to demonstrate that they can be changed.

In conversation with the Colorado independent, however, Romanoff acknowledged, it hasn’t been and it won’t be easy. He said he has been able to win significant donations from individual donors but that he is running against the state and national Democratic Party.

Between July and September, Romanoff’s campaign raised $293,000. Republican challenger Jane Norton, who has deep ties to corporate lobbyists, raised $510,000. Incumbant Democratic Sen. Michael Bennet, who has the backing of the Party, raked in $1 million.

The event did offere a stark contrast to recent large and often flashy candidate town halls conducted in the state. Romanoff was unassuming and spoke at length off the cuff. Topics ranged widely, from the conflict in Darfur to carbon credit taxes.

Romanoff told the group that the movement for gay rights was this generation’s fight for civil rights. He said the health reform legislation Stupak amendment that would limit access to abortion pushed back women’s rights.

He said he “mostly supported” the President’s planned surge of troops in Afghanistan and the new timetable for withdrawal. He questioned the wisdom of handing power to the Kharzi government, which has failed time and time again to gain the trust of Afghans, he said. The counter insurgency strategy would fail if that trust was not established and that failure would see the U.S. engaged in an ongoing anti-terrorism campaign in the region, “putting out fires” for years to come. “There need to be real standards of accountability, bench marks,” he said.

He also said we should be seeking to hold war criminals accountable, including American war criminals. He said it has been his personal experience that we have no authority with countries like China, in asking them to stop supplying weapons to criminal forces such as those in Darfur, for example, because they simply point to the fact that the U.S supplies weapons to the world.

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Joseph Boven

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