The Romanoff campaign launched a new controversial TV ad Tuesday taking a hard swing at Democratic primary opponent Sen. Michael Bennet, accusing him of representing the interests of his finance and energy industry donors. The ad marks the latest salvo in a contest that is becoming hotter by the day and turning ugly just as mail-in primary ballots are reaching voters around the state. Although Romanoff defended the ad as focused on policy, Democratic political consultant Mike Stratton joined with the Bennet camp in lamenting it as attack politics. He said the ad traded on distortions and represented a “scorched earth” strategy that would hurt Democrats in the end.
“Any votes on any bill can be construed or misconstrued. That is one of the real tragedies in American politics today, that ad makers and propagandists can twist anything into a pretzel. I would suggest that this ad is of that ilk,” Stratton said. “My concern with the primary is that in this atmosphere, I don’t think we should be doing the work of the Republicans for them… It is the Democric [citizens] in Colorado who have to live with scorched earth.”
Stratton speculated that consultants outside the state may be telling Romanoff to run a negative campaign.
Bennet campaign spokesman Trevor Kincaid told the Colorado Independent that the ad is more evidence of the negative campaigning Romanoff had vowed to avoid.
The ad focuses in particular on two votes cast by Bennet and Romanoff told the Colorado Independent that for that reason the ad was not a personal attack, that it aired legitimate points for political debate.
“How you vote, how your campaign gets funded, this is a matter of public record and it is information people have asked for,” Romanoff said.
He added, however, that the Bennet campaign has been sending out emails that attempted to assassinate his character. Bennet’s campaign did not want to comment to on those allegations.
The advertisement, which is also posted on the Romanoff campaign website and youtube channel, criticizes Bennet for taking campaign contributions from the banking and oil industry while voting against bills that would have negatively affected those industries’ profit margins.
“This negative ad is chuck full of distortions and spin, which is exactly the kind of politics we see coming out of Washington and happening in the Republican primary,” said Kincaid. “We had hoped for better from Andrew, but even the Denver Post has reported that he’s ratcheting up his negative attacks in advance of the primary. Coloradans see through these political distortions and are looking for leaders with solutions to move our country forward.”
The ad alludes to a vote Bennet cast against a bill sponsored by Senator Bernie Sanders that would have closed $35 billion in oil and gas industry tax loopholes and exemptions. The bill would have seen that money diverted to develop new energy technology and help pay down the deficit.
Bennet has said that the bill was a good idea but poorly written and that it would have hurt small Colorado oil and gas companies. Sen. Mark Udall also voted against the Sanders amendment, which ultimately failed.
“As a supporter of Colorado’s natural gas industry, which is primarily made up of small, independent companies, Michael could not support a measure that would have needlessly burned the industry and potentially cost Colorado good-paying jobs,” a Bennet spokesperson told the Colorado Independent
According to opensecrets.com Bennet has received $71,130 from individuals and political action committees associated with the oil and gas industry.
The ad also calls Bennet out for seeking to protect banks from regulation while receiving campaign cash from major financial industry players. Bennet backed the Wall Street reform bill and reportedly looked to keep derivative regulations from being watered down.
OpenSecrets found Bennet received $63,950 in campaign contributions from PACs and individuals associated with the banking industry.
Romanoff said his add refers to an amendment sponsored by Sen. Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio, and Sen. Ted Kaufman, D-Del., that would have broken up the 12 largest banks in the country into entities that could no longer be “too big to fail” recipients of bailouts, institutions it has been proven will take enormous risks to win profits secure in the knowledge tax payers will pay in the event of failure. The bill would have capped insured deposits banks could carry at 10 percent and capped bank liabilities at 2 percent of GDP.
Obama administration economists have opposed the idea as did Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner. The amendment failed 61 votes to 33 votes.
Romanoff said the ad highlighted policy differences.
Stratton, said he characterized the advertisement as one designed to mortally would an opponent, and one that could only hurt the Democratic Party in the long run.
Edit Note: Mike Stratton, the Democratic Party consultant quoted for this story, has donated $2000 to the Bennet campaign. He did so, however, in two $1000 installments paid February and August of 2009, seven months before Romanoff announced he would challenge Bennet for the Senate seat. Stratton has given no donations to either candidate in the race since that time.”