A smear war waging between independent political groups has moved south from House District 50, which includes Greeley on the northern Front Range, to House District 34, just north of Denver. The similarly named groups, Accountability for Colorado on the left and Colorado Citizens for Accountable Government on the right, have sent out ugly mailers the last few weeks stretching the truth to the breaking point.
This week, mailers brought out by Colorado Citizens for Accountable Government attacking Democratic House Rep. John Soper accuse him of wanting to release sex offenders from prison and imply that Soper would turn them loose in the district’s school yards.
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In conversation with the Colorado Independent, Soper was clearly shaken by the mailer. He defended himself against the smear and guessed at the origin of the attack.
“I’ve sponsored youth groups for 40 years. This is not my reputation. People who know me, know better than to believe this. I have a long record of voting for tough sentences and monitoring of these kind of criminals.
“I think this mailer is about an amendment that was attached to a 2007 senate bill, SB 114 (pdf). This was a bill about the criminal code. I voted for that bill. But there was an amendment attached by [GOP House Rep.] Frank McNulty meant to kill that bill. I voted against that amendment. Now it looks to me like that was a gotcha amendment where now they could say I was against being tough on sex offenders.”
Soper provided a list of seven bills he voted for in the last four years that stiffen sentencing and monitoring of sex offenders. SB 114 mentioned above, for example, fights internet predators; 2006’s HB 1090, spawned by cases involving molestation by priests, eliminated the statute of limitations for certain sex crimes; 2008’s 1178, he said, targeted pornographers.
Colorado Citizens for Accountable Government is a Denver-based so-called 527 group run by Andrew Nickel. The group will likely have spent hundreds of thousands of dollars targeting candidates by Election Day in November.
Earlier this month, Soper’s Republican opponent, Brian Vande Krol, was hit by the lefty 527 Accountability for Colorado, which sent out a mailer reportedly saying Vande Krol believed sick children should be denied health care because he opposed federal health care reform legislation.
Accountability for Colorado was also behind an ad in District 50 targeting Republican Bob Boswell. The flier it sent around in Greeley pictured a nuclear mushroom cloud and said Boswell would risk nuking northern Colorado because he was in favor of bringing “all of America’s nuclear waste to Colorado.”
Soper and Vande Krol lamented the ugly turn in the race brought by the outside groups.
“I committed to my opponent early in this race to not attack like this. I said that the first time I met him,” Soper said. “I try to be a gentleman and statesman. That’s what I try to be. My opponent wouldn’t stoop to this. I knew it was an outside group when I saw it,” he said of the sexual offenders mailer.
“I’ve seen the attack mailer on my opponent and I don’t like it,” Vande Krol wrote to the Colorado Independent in an email. “I don’t know if there is any more truth in this attack piece than in the attack pieces about me. I can’t control the 527s, and I think it’s sad that both attackers talk about accountability, when neither is accountable to the voters to present accurate information. I trust that voters will pay attention to the substantive issues…”