The Party Line

When Romer accepted the DNC position, he vowed, "You're still going to have more than a full-time governor in Colorado. This is my primary job."

But with Colorado boasting a million bucks in surplus for every day Romer has spent out of state this year, maybe he should stay away more often.

For all Romer's efforts, the Democrats are more in debt than when he took the DNC job, adding more than $11 million in legal and copying bills and losing $3 million in tainted donations that were returned to sender.

Meanwhile, Nicholson keeps whittling down the Republican's $10 million debt and taking bites out of Romer's hide. "There have been very, very serious campaign scandals," he told the Denver luncheon. "The Democrats have sullied many traditions and national treasures."

But if the campaign-finance system is "broken," as Romer says, the two party chairs don't have to look far to find the cause. It was another Colorado campaign--this one back in 1986, the year Romer first ran for governor--that busted things wide open. The Colorado Republicans spent $15,000 on radio ads attacking Tim Wirth, an act that the U. S. Supreme Court determined ten years later was an "independent" expenditure protected by the right to free speech. That decision gave the Clinton campaign the means of funneling soft money--lots of soft money--to state parties in 1996, legally avoiding voluntary spending limits.

Romer ended his Denver speech by challenging Nicholson to shake his hand right there and to agree to quit accepting soft money. Nicholson refused--as Romer knew he would.

And in 1998, both parties still have their hands out.

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