In what could be good news for at least one of the candidates in Colorado’s 4th Congressional District, the results of dueling lawsuits filed by both campaigns against the other for lying in their TV spots will not come out until after Nov. 4, according to a story in Wednesday’s Loveland Reporter-Herald. “I’ve tried to not let the election date be a determining factor,” 8th Judicial District Attorney Larry Abrahamson said of the timing.
The delay of this decision until after the election could work out especially well for Congresswoman Marilyn Musgrave. Musgrave’s opponent, Betsy Markey, filed suit on a claim made in the majority of Musgrave’s TV spots — that Markey abused her position with Sen. Ken Salazar to get plush government contracts for her business. Salazar has said of these ads, “It makes me want to throw up.”
Musgrave’s latest spot, showing an actress that looks remarkably similar to Markey hooked up to a lie detector, was eviscerated by the 9News Truth Test: “TRUTH: This is false… TRUTH: This is false… TRUTH: This is false as well… TRUTH: There’s no evidence indicating Markey intentionally ‘falsified’ information to gain government contracts… TRUTH: This is an opinion.”
Musgrave filed suit against Markey for calling her a liar and for a line in one of Markey’s spots: “[Musgrave voted] to let lobbyists wine and dine her.” Unlike Musgrave, Markey only used this attack in one ad and has not centered her entire narrative about Musgrave around this point.
Both suits rely on a Colorado statute, not federal law, that makes it a class 2 misdemeanor to “recklessly make … any false statement designed to affect the vote on any issue,” according to the Reporter-Herald. Under federal law candidates, unlike interest groups or 527s, have a First Amendment right to say whatever they want to in campaign ads. Should Abrahamson decide that one of the parties in the 4th CD did in fact violate Colorado’s law, we could see it tested in the U.S. Supreme Court.
Colorado Independent’s blogumnist (blogger-columnist) Jeff Bridges has worked in Democratic politics for the last 10 years, serving as communications director for two congressional races in Colorado and two governors races in the Deep South. Bridges also worked as a legislative assistant in Washington, D.C., with a focus on military and small-business issues.