Minor Threat

Libertarian candidates would rather not use stunts to get media attention -- but they will if they have to.

On August 8, news organizations in Denver received a fax topped with a grabby logo reading "Koleen Brooks: Defender of all that is right...and having fun doing it!" Following this pronouncement was a description of Playboy pinup Brooks ("the internationally famous single mother and controversial former mayor of Georgetown, Colorado; a topless dancer; seen on air with Greta Van Susteren; as shown on Inside Edition; interviewed by Dick Clark") and word of a press conference the following day at which she would make "a major political announcement."

From the beginning, it was clear to most observers that such an event would be ridiculous. In previewing the appearance the next morning, Channel 9 personalities Gary Shapiro and Drew Soicher guffawed as they speculated that Brooks, who's scheduled to go on trial in November for faking an attack on herself, had her eyes on the governor's mansion.

By coincidence, Shapiro and Soicher were on the right track, since Brooks was supposed to divulge that she'd been named spokeswoman for Libertarian gubernatorial hopeful Ralph Shnelvar. Instead, she told the assembled press corps -- consisting of "four television cameras, four newspaper reporters, a radio station [and] a couple of photographers," according to an amusing article by Rocky Mountain News scribe John Sanko -- that she wanted nothing to do with the job. Furthermore, she accused Shnelvar of asking that she display breasts partially covered with photos of Governor Bill Owens and Democratic challenger Rollie Heath by way of exposing "a tremendous pair of boobs."

Mark Poutenis

In a photo gallery viewable at her Web address, www.koleenbrooks.com, Brooks mainly conceals these accessories, but she shows off plenty of other assets. Elsewhere on the site, under the banner "What is going on with the Libertarians?" she provides a heartfelt, if grammatically suspect, account of the press-conference fiasco, pinning the blame for it squarely on "Ralph Scnelvar [sic]." As she puts it, "The morning of the press release we were receiving returned e-mail from address's that were unknown to me, I suddenly realized that Ralph had sent out the press release as if it was from me!!! When I confronted him he called it a spoof. I was furious!... He also wanted me to lie to the press and tell them that the reason I was his spokesperson was because he had nude photos of me!! The list just goes on.

"I did not want to go," her narrative continues. "But because the media believed the press release was from me I had to. So I went and declined his offer in public, explained why and went and had a cocktail and watched myself on the news."

Her timing was apparently good. Channel 9 news director Patti Dennis says a brief report about the press conference aired during a noon broadcast but never again because "it wasn't really newsworthy," and most other broadcast outlets took a similarly low-key tack. The same can be said for the Denver Post; its coverage consisted of a colorless blurb under the ultra-bland headline "Ex-Georgetown Mayor Back in News." Presumably, this wasn't intended to point readers to the Rocky's funnier depiction of the incident, but who can be certain?

Nonetheless, Shnelvar isn't complaining all that much about how his scheme went awry. He's disappointed by the actions of Brooks, whose version of events he contradicts on virtually every point. For instance, he says her "tremendous boobs" were to have been shrouded in "an opaque T-shirt -- and she approved everything else we did. Either she misunderstood or she had a last-minute change of heart." But even though things didn't go as hoped, he still derived some benefits.

"I've been trying to get on a variety of talk-radio shows for months, with no luck," Shnelvar says. "Then this thing broke, and I am now guaranteed slots on those shows. So I'm thrilled at how it turned out."

Maybe he should be. But representatives of other minor parties, as they're officially defined by Colorado's secretary of state, view such success stories with trepidation. Folks like Bruce Meyer, the co-chair of the Green Party in Denver and Colorado as a whole, feel that the mainstream media regularly, and perhaps systematically, excludes minor parties from coverage routinely given to individuals affiliated as Republicans or Democrats.

"Now that the primary elections are over, I hope there'll be a change, and whenever major candidates are covered, we'll get mentioned and get a fair shake," Meyer says. "But before the primaries, that wasn't the case."

Adds Victor Good, a Reform Party candidate for the 7th Congressional District, "The media's opinion seems to be, 'If it's the outrageous and the bizarre, we'll report on the minor parties; if it's productive debate, then we don't have any room for it,'" Good says. "That seems to be the prevailing view."

As evidence, Good and Meyer point to an August 2 Denver Post editorial dubbed "Let the Flowers Bloom." The unsigned offering features generalized praise for alternative parties ("...minor parties can make a major difference in the American political system"), as well as specific accolades for the Colorado Coalition of Independent Political Parties. A joint effort of the state's five most prominent minor parties (Libertarian, Green and Reform, plus the American Constitution and Natural Law factions), CCIPP gives Web surfers a single address -- www.coloradovoices.org -- where they can learn more about each organization. "The Post is delighted to see CCIP's [sic] formation," the anonymous author declares.

Next Page »
My Voice Nation Help