Face The Press

Were state resources used for partisan politics?

A Colorado Confidential report raised that very question yesterday, when it was revealed that ColoradoSenateNews.com, the Web site for the Senate Minority Office, had promptly severed all visible links to Republican operative Brad Jones.

This fact merited mention in Denver’s two major newspapers today, with interesting responses. Before yesterday, Jones was registered as the owner of ColoradoSenateNews, and before that, the site had included a line of text naming his company, Brad Jones LLC.

Jones is also the owner of Face The State Inc. and was responsible for releasing the incendiary e-mail which in part lead Democrat Rep. Mike Merrifield to step down from the House Education Committee.

From the Rocky Mountain News:

But ColoradoConfidential blogger Jason Bane said that the Senate Republicans appeared to be piggybacking on facethestate. com’s Merrifield expose.

He noted that a Senate Republican press aide used his state e-mail account to distribute a press release bearing the state seal titled “Incendiary e-mails backfire on charter school foes.” The Republican release linked readers to the Merrifield e-mail bearing the “Face the State” logo.

Fitz-Gerald was alarmed to hear that a state employee was using the Colorado seal while distributing a partisan attack.

“That’s really where you’re crossing the line,” she said.

Jones said he stamped the Merrifield e-mail with his logo for “free advertising.”

From the Denver Post:

Senate Minority Leader Andy McElhany, R-Colorado Springs, said there is no connection between Senate Republicans and the open-records request Jones filed to get Merrifield’s e-mail.

“Nobody in this office knew anything about it until after it happened,” he said. But, McElhany added, it wouldn’t matter if they did.

From Mike Littwin:

Suddenly, questions. Senate President Joan Fitz-Gerald was happy to ask, “Is someone using staff for partisan gain on the state dime? Is that what happened here? If it did, is that OK?”

I asked Senate Minority Leader Andy McElhany about a possible connection. He said he didn’t see one.

He said of those who obtained the Merrifield-Windels e-mails: “I think they wanted to keep us in the dark intentionally, and probably for our own good. And I’m glad they did.”

So, here’s where we stand: We had a minor scandal that could either blow up in the faces of those who exposed it – always fun – or, conversely, it won’t.

In order to answer these questions, Colorado Confidential filed an open records request with the Senate Minority Office yesterday, in an effort to determine any connections to Jones.

Erin Rosa was born in Spain and raised in Colorado Springs. She is a freelance writer currently living in Denver. Rosa's work has been featured in a variety of news outlets including the Huffington Post, Democracy Now!, and the Rocky Mountain Chronicle, an alternative-weekly in Northern Colorado where she worked as a columnist covering the state legislature. Rosa has received awards from the Society of Professional Journalists for her reporting on lobbying and woman's health issues. She was also tapped with a rare honorable mention award by the Newspaper Guild-CWA's David S. Barr Award in 2008--only the second such honor conferred in its nine-year history--for her investigative series covering the federal government's Supermax prison in the state. Rosa covers the labor community, corrections, immigration and government transparency matters. She can be reached at erosa@www.coloradoindependent.com.

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