Markey files complaint with district attorney against Musgrave

Democrat Sen. Ken Salazar listens to his former staffer and now 4th Congressional District candidate Betsy Markey during a joint town hall forum. (Photo/Jason Kosena)
Democrat Sen. Ken Salazar listens to his former staffer and now 4th Congressional District candidate Betsy Markey during a joint town hall forum. (Photo/Jason Kosena)

The mud just keeps getting thicker in Colorado’s 4th Congressional District.

The campaign of Democrat Betsy Markey filed a complaint with the Larimer County District Attorney’s office on Sept. 17 over what Markey claims are knowingly false television advertisements aired by her political opponent Republican Rep. Marilyn Musgrave. Under Colorado law, it is illegal to knowingly make false statements about an opponent in a political campaign.

If the Larimer County District Attorney Larry Abrahamson accepts the complaint, it will be forwarded to a six-member, bipartisan commission established by the Colorado District Attorney who will investigate what wrongdoing, if any, occurred.

Calls to the Larimer County DA’s office by The Colorado Independent Tuesday afternoon were not immediately returned.

“Marilyn Musgrave has been caught in a lie, and she knows it, and she still has yet to produce a shred of evidence to back up her accusations,” said Ben Marter, a spokesman for the Markey campaign. “She needs to apologize to the voters of the 4th Congressional District for lying to them instead of representing them.”

A request for comment to Musgrave’s campaign manager Jason Thielman on Tuesday afternoon by The Colorado Independent was not immediately returned, but Thielman was quoted by the as saying in an e-mail, “Betsy Markey has defied Senate ethics and government regulations, (and) deceived the press and the public. If she want to file a complaint than (sic) she needs to file it against herself.”

The clash began last week after Musgrave aired a television ad accusing Markey of steering government contracts to a family business while working as a field director for Sen. Ken Salazar. The Musgrave campaign has provided no proof of the allegation and instead has said it’s Markey’s job to clear her name of any wrongdoing.

As noted in an online article in The Fort Collins Coloradoan published Tuesday afternoon, the Government Services Agency said it did not find any wrongdoing on Markey’s behalf in the awarding of government contracts to her family-owned business Syscom Systems.

Markey has denied that she was ever even in a position to steer public contracts to Syscom Systems, a company she once owned with her husband Jim Kelley, but from which she divested ownership in 2006. Kelley is still the primary owner of the company.

Markey did, however, stumble last week when she tried to explain why Syscom Systems was still classified as a woman-owned business as recently as this year, an inconsistency Musgrave hammers home in her new ad.

Colorado law prohibits false statements in print or broadcast political communications:

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.”

Filing a complaint with the District Attorney is just one option that political campaigns have when they suspect that they have been falsely maligned. They can also complain to the Federal Communications Commission or appeal directly to the stations to remove misleading ads.

A Class 2 misdemeanor carries penalties of up to a year in jail and $1,000 in fines.

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