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Biased ad slurs Dennis (527 groups attack ruling against union dues going to political campaigns)
Rocky Mountain News weekly column ^ | Friday September 1st, 2006 | Mike Rosen

Posted on 09/01/2006 1:39:46 AM PDT by ajolympian2004

Perhaps you've heard those mean-spirited, hyper attack ads on Denver radio slandering Colorado Secretary of State Gigi Dennis. They're sponsored by Clear Peak Colorado, one of those free-wheeling 527 groups that sprang up to get around campaign finance reform laws like McCain- Feingold. This one is bankrolled by Pat Stryker and Tim Gill, a pair of liberal Democrat fat cats who lavishly support a cornucopia of partisan and left-wing causes. According to Clear Peak's most recent IRS filing, through June of this year Stryker and Gill have poured in just under $180,000 to the cause. Former Colorado Democratic Party Chairman Tim Knaus is listed as president and director of Clear Peak. That's so you understand the pedigree of this outfit.

Now, let's get to the substance - or lack thereof - of their attack on Dennis. By way of special effects, we're treated to the "sound of party bosses ordering Dennis around." Actually, it's just the silly mumbling of some "extras" in a recording studio where the ad was produced. The ad claims that the secretary of state "is trying to muffle thousands of Coloradans: teachers, nurses, firefighters, workers of all kinds," and charges Dennis with "snuff(ing) out the right to political speech and public action for people just like you." Dennis is branded as "arrogant, arbitrary and arrogant." Nonsense.

What these teachers, nurses and firefighters have in common is that they're all union members. And labor union bosses don't like Dennis' rule that protects union members from having any portion of their dues diverted to political campaigns without their permission. This is consistent, nationally, with a 1988 landmark U.S. Supreme Court decision, Beck v. Communication Workers of America, and, locally, with Amendment 27, a campaign finance reform measure approved by Colorado voters in 2002.

There's nothing in Dennis' ruling that remotely "muffles" Coloradans or "snuffs out" their political speech or public action. It would only require that membership organizations that use the dues of members to make contributions to candidates or political committees, first obtain the written permission of individual dues-paying members. Currently, members are automatically assessed unless they formally express their desire to opt out, which can be a difficult and intimidating process. Dennis' ruling shifts the default in favor of members. This would apply not only to labor unions but to commercial trade associations, professional groups or even political think tanks like the conservative Independence Institute.

As private citizens - or as willing union members - teachers, nurses, firefighters or anyone else can continue to be as politically active and outspoken as they like. Dennis' ruling does nothing to silence or constrain them. It just makes it tougher to hijack their hard-earned pay without their consent.

Consistent with Amendment 27, Dennis also seeks to ensure that candidates and political committees are not illegally funded by non-U.S. citizens, foreign governments or corporations.

In that regard, Rob Fairbank, a former Colorado state legislator, has filed a complaint with Dennis' office against the Mountain West Regional Carpenters' Union, charging their small donor committee with accepting illegal contributions from non-U.S. citizens. Fairbank cites public statements from construction and service employee union leaders acknowledging that many of their dues-paying members are noncitizens. Spending any portion of these dues on political campaigns is explicitly illegal in Colorado.

I'll concede that while I like Dennis' new rules, they're controversial. Some have argued that she's overreached, encroaching on legislative prerogatives. After all, Democrats in the state legislature previously killed a Republican "Paycheck Protection" bill to do some of what Dennis has decreed. Dennis counters that Amendment 27 empowers the secretary of state to: "Promulgate such rules . . . as may be necessary to administer and enforce any provision of this Article."

Predictably, Democrats and labor unions have filed suit and are taking this dispute to court, where the secretary of state may be overruled - especially if it comes before the liberal judges who dominate the state Supreme Court. A reasonable case can be made on both sides.

And that would have been an arguably legitimate challenge to Dennis' new rules in a civil, rational radio ad. But 30- and 60-second political ads - on all sides - tend to prefer simplistic, misleading invective to reasoned arguments. The sleazy Clear Peak Colorado ad attacking Dennis is no exception.

I don't have a public policy remedy for this. It's a consequence of free speech in a free society. My best advice to intelligent voters would be to follow issues and candidates firsthand and take all lowbrow political ads like this with a mountain of salt.

Mike Rosen's radio show airs daily from 9 a.m. to noon on 850 KOA. He can be reached by e-mail at


Rosen Replay 8/23/06 10-11AM Mike deconstructs a Clear Peak Colorado political ad attacking Colorado Secretary of State Gigi Dennis. Tim Knaus and Pat Stryker fund Clear Peak Colorado. Listen to Mike by clicking here, mp3, about 45 minutes running time


TOPICS: Editorial; Government; News/Current Events; Politics/Elections; US: Colorado
KEYWORDS: 527; 527groups; 850am; amendment27; clearpeak; clearpeakcolorado; colorado; democrats; elections; feingold; gigidennis; koa; laborunions; liberals; mccain; mccainfeingold; mikerosen; patstryker; robfairbank; rockymountainnews; rosen; secretaryofstate; talkradio; timgill; timknaus; uniondues; unions

About Mike Rosen Mike Rosen hosts Denver's most popular local radio talk show on 850 KOA. He holds an MBA degree from the University of Denver, was a corporate finance executive at Samsonite and Beatrice Foods, served as Special Assistant for Financial Management to the Assistant Secretary of the Navy at the Pentagon and is a veteran of the U.S. Army. He's traveled extensively in Europe, the Far East, Latin America, southern Africa and the former Soviet Union. Mike grew up in New York and has lived in Colorado for over 30 years.

Mike Rosen's webpage at 850am KOA -

1 posted on 09/01/2006 1:39:48 AM PDT by ajolympian2004
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To: ajolympian2004
My best advice to intelligent voters would be to follow issues and candidates firsthand and take all lowbrow political ads like this with a mountain of salt.

Good advice...but sad that someone would have to say such a common sense thing.
2 posted on 09/01/2006 6:17:53 AM PDT by P-40 (Al Qaeda was working in Iraq. They were just undocumented.)
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