Crying foul over false content, the John Morse for Senate campaign is demanding that Trailhead Group-sponsored radio spots attacking him as “incompetent” be pulled off the air.
The ads, are clearly designed to benefit Republican incumbent Ed Jones in one of the top targeted races in the Colorado legislature. As reported on Aug. 30 by Colorado Confidential, the ad attacks Morse’s record when he was the police chief of Fountain, south of Colorado Springs.
Though it is illegal to broadcast false information designed to affect the outcome of an election, the general managers at the two radio stations involved say they don’t plan to yank the ads — unless lawyers or the district attorney intervene.
The ads, which have been appearing on KVOR, an AM talk radio station, and The Eagle, an FM station, makes the following claim: “While Morse was Police Chief his department handled a case of man charged with attempted murder, shooting at police and more than a dozen other felonies. The suspect received a plea bargain for one misdemeanor. All 15 felony charges were dismissed because of mishandled police reports.”
The ads were paid for by the Denver-based Trailhead Group, a 527 organization that was founded by Colorado Gov. Bill Owens, oil magnate Bruce Benson and beer baron Pete Coors.
Morse says in the case that Trailhead refers to, the man was convicted of felony menacing and was sentenced to three years in prison.
Kevin Godwin, the station manager for KVOR, says that if an ad is not factual, he would require a letter from an attorney disputing the information. In this case, Trailhead would have 24 hours to prove the infomation is correct, ot the ad will be pulled from the air. So far, Godwin says, he has not received any such letter disputing the ad attacking Morse.
During the hotly contested 5th Congressional District primary election, KVOR yanked two ads from the air — involving Republicans Jeff Crank and Doug Lamborn — for containing false information.
Lou Mellini, general manager of The Eagle, says his station has no authority to pull the ad off the air. “If it’s false or misleading then the candidate should have the authorities, in this case the district attorney, issue a stop and desist,” Mellini says. “It’s not our responsibility — we can’t do the content, we’re not legal people, we’re just the outlet that is broadcasting it.”
Morse could not be immediately reached to clarify whether his campaign plans to hire an attorney over the matter.
In a statement released this morning, Morse indicated that, “I didn’t expect Ed Jones and the Trailhead Group to tell people I was an Eagle Scout, but I guess if you can’t find anything- you just make it up. Unfortunately in this case, they have violated the law.”
According to State law, C.R.S. 1-13-109(2)(a) it is a class 2 misdemeanor for any person to “…recklessly make, publish, broadcast, or circulate or cause to be made, published, broadcasted or circulated in any letter, circular, advertisement, or poster or any other communication any false statement designed to affect the vote on any issue submitted to the electors at any election or relating to any candidate for election to public office.” Recklessly is defined as acting “…in conscious disregard of the truth or falsity of the statement made, published, broadcasted, or circulated.”