You don't need to listen to Congress's only veterinarian to realize that all of the muck being thrown around in Colorado's race for the U.S. Senate is nothing but manure.
According to pollster Floyd Ciruli, voters are so turned off by the mud being flung in the multimillion-dollar media campaigns of Republican incumbent Wayne Allard and Democrat challenger (for the second time) Tom Strickland that the two are currently stuck in the polls, mired in their own rhetoric. "It's complete gridlock," Ciruli says. "Nothing is moving."
And how to get the Senate race moving again? That's easy: Arm a third Senate candidate, Libertarian Rick Stanley, with just a little of that filthy lucre and let fly. If Stanley doesn't hit one of the other candidates off center, he's bound to alienate a supporter or two -- he got 2 percent of the vote in Ciruli's most recent poll -- of his own.
Just like he did last week. Again.
On Friday, Stanley and Doug "Dayhorse" Campbell, the American Constitution Party's Senate candidate, filed suit in U.S. District Court in Denver against most of the major media outlets in the state -- and the individuals who run them, including Gregory Moore, editor of the Denver Post; John Temple, editor of the Rocky Mountain News; James Morgese, president of KRMA-TV; Roger Ogden, president of KUSA-TV; Walt Dehaven, general manager of KCNC-TV; and assorted executives at newspapers and TV stations in Colorado Springs and Pueblo -- for failing to involve the two in their Senate debates.
In support of their case, Stanley and Campbell attached numerous exhibits, letters from media executives straining to be polite as they declined Stanley's offer to participate in Senate candidate debates.
Initially, Stanley and company asked for a temporary restraining order against future debates -- including one scheduled that very evening -- that did not involve them. "We were asking to be included in the debates, or to stop the debate," says Stanley.
U.S. District Court Judge Lewis Babcock threw the case out on a technicality.
So on Tuesday, Stanley and Campbell filed an amended complaint in the same court. This time the defendants get twenty days to respond -- which brings us right up to election day, November 5.
That's why, in his request for relief, Stanley "prays for equal time so that the plaintiff may have equal opportunity to present his viewpoints because of being denied participation in all scheduled debates." He also "prays for damages in the amount of $10,000,000 for the willful and wanton denial of my right to freedom of speech and freedom of assembly to participate in all scheduled debates." Campbell asks for the same.
"Since we can't get a temporary restraining order," Stanley explains, "we would like equal time."
He's not the only one who has fond thoughts of restraining orders. But others would like to see them applied to Stanley.
When he hears Stanley's name, Mike Seebeck, public-information director for the Colorado Libertarian Party, lets out an audible sigh. Again.
"The thing with Rick, he thinks any press is good press," Seebeck says. "And he's brought us press, but not the best press in a lot of cases."
Or back in August, when Stanley forwarded a racist joke to a massive e-mail list that rivals that of Denver mayoral spokesman Andrew Hudson. A racist joke deemed so tasteless that when Bob Adams, then treasurer of Bill Owens's re-election campaign, sent the same missive to a few friends from his own private e-mail, he quickly resigned rather than cause any harm to his candidate.
Stanley weathered criticism by his own campaign volunteers and an official censure by his party -- and survived to stay on the ballot.
"Stanley does not speak for the party," says Seebeck. Again. "He's been censured for doing unacceptable stuff in the past, and here he is doing it again. But there's not much more we can do than say, 'Hey, he doesn't speak for us.'
"Those of us in the party feel that he's damaging the party by doing a lot of things that aren't thought out on the front end," Seebeck adds. And he's not even talking about Stanley's gun-related arrest, and trial, and conviction in Denver, or a more recent gun arrest in Thornton.
The national Libertarian Party was born in Colorado just over thirty years ago. But Seebeck doesn't have much time to talk about noble traditions. He's too busy these days "trying to mend a lot of fences," particularly with those major media outlets that will be covering the campaigns for another three weeks. And even if they're not giving the Libertarian Party equal time, they're giving it some time. (But then, the media can afford to be generous: Newspapers and TV are making big bucks off political ad buys. "This is democracy working very well," says Ciruli.)
And there are other Libertarian candidates worthy of attention, such as Biff Baker, running for the U.S. House of Representatives in the 5th District, who was booted by the Army after 22 years of service when he revealed allegedly fraudulent contracts totaling in the hundreds of millions. Or gubernatorial candidate Ralph Shnelvar, who survived that embarrassing little PR stunt with Koleen Brooks. Or dozens of other third-party candidates who can state their case without flinging mud -- or shooting themselves in the foot.
"The party doesn't want to have a countersuit against the party," Seebeck points out. "We don't want to have the impression that we're sanctioning this lawsuit, because we aren't.
"We'd like to be in the debates, but this isn't the way to do it."
No matter how much some politicians would like to stick it to the media.
Governor Bill Owens is waiting until later this year -- say, until after that pesky election in November -- to reveal what further cuts he's contemplating for the state budget.
State employees aren't nearly as hesitant to share their own opinions, however. This week, the Colorado Federation of Public Employees released another round of budgeting suggestions left on the union's new Government Waste Hotline, in an attempt to "encourage the governor and the state personnel director to provide leadership and some guidance for state agencies," says CFPE president Jo Romero.
Guidance such as this: Colorado Department of Transportation employees "carry radios and don't need cell phones, too," one employee offered. "There are too many cell phones. Look into the cell-phone contracts." Asked another: "CDOT just purchased five four-wheelers at a cost of $6,000 each for landscapers. What do they need with motorcycles?"
The Department of Public Health and Environment apparently wastes an unhealthy amount of paper. "Eliminate the use of the new leave slips that require three pieces of paper for every leave event to be recorded," advised an employee. "A flyer advertising the union's 'Government Waste Hotline' was removed from the bulletin board by the locker rooms," warned another.
Over at the Department of Labor and Employment, "memberships and subscriptions should be in the name of the agency rather than individuals," a staffer noted. "Department should stop shuffling non-productive employees around; managers need backbones," said another.
At the Department of Corrections, "monetary clothing allowance should be reserved only for uniformed staff, not civilian staff," finked one worker. "Someone needs to look at wardens and their discretionary funds," ratted another. "Reduce/eliminate other inmate programs such as barbeques and karaoke," snitched a third.
And so it goes, from the ridiculous -- too many managers and administrators attending conventions, too many managers and administrators traveling around the state, too many managers and administrators getting raises, too many managers and administrators altogether -- to the sublime: "Caller wouldn't mind taking a 5-10 percent cut in pay to help the state if it would ensure that somebody would keep their job."
Denver, whose revenue projections were as overly optimistic as the state's, has spent weeks trimming first the fat and now the lean, taking suggestions from any workers willing to make them. "They're all really constructive and pretty supportive," says Andrew Wallach, the mayor's director of policy and implementation. "Some of them are worth pursuing. City employees don't seem to share the indignation of the state."
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Where, at this grim point, almost any idea is worthy of study. Owens's line-item veto last spring whacked over $200 million from the state's almost $13.8 billion budget, in the process eliminating many benefits for children and juveniles -- including the diversion program that Owens's sixteen-year-old son, who's now facing vandalism charges, might have been assigned to by the Denver District Attorney's Office.
But with revenues falling, more cuts are coming -- almost $400 million of them, although where they'll be coming from is anybody's guess.
Which inspired one last idea: "The Governor and his cabinet should take the first furlough if it is decided that furloughs will be needed."