Minor Irritants

A declaration from independents.

Around the Fourth of July, Alison "Sunny" Maynard opened a letter from the Independence Institute. "Congratulations on your candidacy!" think tank president Jon Caldara told the Green Party candidate for Colorado attorney general. "To assist you in learning about the many issues facing Colorado, you are invited to a 'Candidates' Briefing' at the Independence Institute on Tuesday, July 30. This event is closed to the public and the press -- it's your chance to ask the questions. If you want to win and serve your constituents well, you need to know the issues."

There was more, of course, including the promise that "experts will be on hand to discuss the issues you will face this fall." Caldara, former RTD chairman and sometime radio talk-show host, always has plenty to say. But he has yet to reply to the fax that an unsunny Maynard fired off in response.

After thanking him for his letter, Maynard wrote: "I would like to invite you and all the fellows at the Independence Institute to come learn about the many issues facing Colorado at an 'Independence Institute Briefing' which will be held at my home on July 30. It's your chance to ask questions and learn from an expert about the many ways in which Colorado subsidizes real estate development and sprawl, both legally and illegally; about how our high public officials from both major parties are actively giving away our public lands to developers, mining companies, ski resorts and the like; and similar topics!...

Miss October displays the right to bare arms.
Miss October displays the right to bare arms.

"Please be assured that, as an experienced lawyer and Ivy League graduate, I have all the intellectual ammunition I need and am well able to articulate my policy views for myself! Indeed, if your letter hadn't been quite so imperious, I might have come for the fun of the debate! Unfortunately, I don't get the impression that a debate is what you have in mind."

She ended her missive with this zinger: "By the way, some time ago I e-mailed a question to the Independence Institute, asking who funds your operation. I have yet to get an answer!"

It's no secret who's been funding Maynard in 2002. Green Party candidates don't accept PAC contributions, and while Maynard's collected donations from individuals -- none over $500, since she and Green Party gubernatorial candidate Ron Forthofer have agreed to abide by the Common Cause ballot proposal that individual donations be capped at that level -- so far, she's financed the majority of her campaign. What she lacks in funding, though, she makes up for in fervor. (For the record, Maynard and I lived in the same freshman dorm at that Ivy League school -- and I can testify to her quixotic tenacity.)

Caldara isn't the only one in Maynard's sights. On Monday she filed a complaint with the Colorado secretary of state against incumbent Attorney General Ken Salazar, as well as the Coca-Cola Company and Multimedia Holdings Corp., the parent company of KUSA-TV.

"From approximately October through December 2001," her complaint alleges, "a series of advertisements aired on Channel 9 in Colorado, promoting the so-called 'anti-bullying initiative in the schools.' At the close of these ads...a notice was flashed on the screen, stating something to the effect of, 'Supported by Colorado Attorney General Ken Salazar.'

"These were nothing but a brazen promotion of Mr. Salazar's bid, intended to increase his name recognition with the public and 'give him an issue,'" Maynard says.

Maynard's the one looking for an issue, counters Salazar campaign spokesman Ken Lane. "Sunny Maynard is a pathetic individual," he says. "She's an embarrassment. She is no credit to the Green Party. For anyone to be attacking a program that's an effort by the attorney general to try to help troubled youth and their parents deal with the very real problem of bullying in our schools is despicable."

"These were ads, not public-service announcements," Maynard's complaint continues. "Payment for them was made by Coca-Cola to Channel 9, with a contribution towards costs made by Channel 9 itself. The 'anti-bullying initiative in the schools' was, in fact, a campaign directed at increasing name recognition of Ken Salazar among voters, and placing him in a favorable light, to promise his re-election as Attorney General in 2002."

Roger Ogden, president and general manager of KUSA-TV, begs to differ. "We're comfortable that we handled the spots properly," he says. "It's not unusual that we get involved in campaigns that involve public officials. We decided that Ken had a worthwhile project there. We agreed that we would run some spots in support of the message, and Coca-Cola decided to get involved to extend the reach."

Maynard's concerns stretch beyond Salazar's candidacy. She's worried about how minor-party candidates are treated, not just by the media (which largely ignores them), but by the secretary of state's office. Colorado's voter-registration form allows you to register as Democrat, Republican, Unaffiliated or Other, and while you can designate which "Other" party you belong to -- Green, Natural Law, Libertarian Party, Reform Party, American Constitution Party -- the procedure isn't always made clear.

Maynard would like to see the form list all qualified parties, but that "would require massive -- and expensive -- programming changes in the Department of Revenue because of Motor Voter," says Bill Compton, director of elections for the state. Even so, voters can choose a specific affiliation when they register. "The clerks all have a list of the qualified parties in the state," he adds. "We sent out an updated list last week."

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