Mixed Minds on “Marilyn’s Muffs”

A secretive new 527 organization is running radio and blog ads criticizing U.S. Rep. Marilyn Musgrave’s record as a lament from long-suffering advertising copywriters.

However, the group behind the ads and listener contest, Coloradans for Life, wasn’t quite so verbose about their own origins nor donors when they launched the campaign in late July.

Ellen Dumm, president, secretary, treasurer, and director of Coloradans for Life, was less than forthcoming about the origins of the group and its goals when interviewed in a series of emails after she refused to meet with Colorado Confidential last month shortly after the first ads were aired.

According to Dumm:

In a nutshell, we’re just a group of folks who think that Colorado can do much better than Marilyn and that she is not a true conservative nor is she representing her district well. And we know there are plenty of people who would like to express their frustration with MM, so it was a good opportunity!

However, the group’s August report filed at the target IRS political organization disclosure database sheds some light. That “group of folks” looks awfully small and familiar to Fourth District voters:


This isn’t the first foray into anti-Musgrave political advertising for Pat Stryker. In 2004, she and fellow philanthropists, Tim Gill and Jared Polis, funded a series of highly controversial television advertisements depicting a large blond actress in a pink suit as a characteur of arch-conservative Marilyn Musgrave. The ads featured picking the pocket of a wounded soldier, stealing a watch from a corpse, and dipping a family in a vat of toxic waste to criticize Musgrave’s votes.

While certainly memorable the ads proved to be ineffective in defeating Rep. Musgrave as she was re-elected by a 6-point margin.

“There’s no doubt you get blamed for it,” said former state senate president Stan Matsunak and two-time opponent of Marilyn Musgrave for U.S. House. When I went walking, I lost that vote at the door because of the 527 ads, Matsunaka claimed. “The DCCC and NRCC [each political party’s congressional election committees] do the same darn thing to drive down your numbers,” he said. Matsunaka concluded that the $2-3 million ad campaigns are not conducted to help the party’s candidate but to drive down the opponent’s voter turnout. “Whether it’s a 527 or the national parties, they aren’t advocating for their own candidates.”

Political strategists consider Larimer County crucial to the Democrats chances to win the seat in 2006 which has been held by a Republican since 1972. John Jones, chairman of the Larimer County Democratic Party, agreed that well-done commercials can help Get Out the Vote (GOTV) efforts as an important motivator for voters to get to the polls. While Jones was not familiar with the Coloradans for Life ads, he expressed concern that “527s don’t answer to the people so they can go overboard sometimes. The vast majority of people thought [the pink suit ads] were truthful but they went to too far in the tacky category.”

Political bloggers at Square State also had mixed reviews on the Coloradans for Life ads:

Do you feel the blog ad itself is an effective outreach tool?
Marshall Collins: Sort of, no one that is moderate is going to click on the ad because it so obviously a group that is out to get Musgrave on what seems like could be anything.
Zenhound: Blogs in general, maybe.  This blog (coloradansforlife.org), no.  I don’t understand the Marilyn’s Muffs thing.  Honestly, the first time I saw the ad on Trolls my jaw dropped and I thought it was going to be something about vaginas and Marilyn Musgrave.  I’m confused about the name of the group (see below) and why the site is called Marilyn Muffs.  Is it supposed to be muffins…?  Really, I don’t get it.
Luis: Blogs yes, this particular blog, no. Coloradans for Life? I don’t even get what that’s supposed to mean other than maybe someone is proud of her/himself for snapping up that domain name.

Eric Sondermann, of Sondermann/E-Squared Partners, a public persuasion and media relations firm based in Denver, had a different view. “[They are] really refreshing creativity when so many political ads sounds boring, predictable, and monochromatic,” he remarked. “I thought the call for subsmission for the ad contest was a very clever technique.”

Sondermann also contrasted the effectiveness of the current anti-Musgrave ads with those that ran in 2004. “I think these are everything those were not. They were heavy-handed, and controversial in and of themselves. Some people said they were over the top and not credible. The pink suits ads from two years ago struggled with that. These don’t,” he said.

As was true during the 2004 election cycle, Rep. Musgrave’s campaign has attempted to link her Democratic opponent Angie Paccione to another series of “pink suit” ads recently produced and broadcast by the media activist group ProgressNow Action:

Thus far, the Musgrave camp has made no public statement on the Coloradans for Life ad campaign and contest.

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Wendy Norris

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