The apparently damaging attacks on Republican guv candidate Dan Maes just keep coming. Hot on the heels of a front-page Denver Post story about allegedly catastrophic fundraising difficulties, which prompted Colorado GOP boss Dick Wadhams to call Maes opponent John Hickenlooper the luckiest guy in the world comes a Post report suggesting that Maes either embroidered or made up a story about his past as a Kansas police officer. Spokesman Nate Strauch energetically disagrees.
"It's absolutely being overblown," Strauch says about the Post story, which says Maes has backed off claims that he did undercover work for the Kansas Bureau of Investigation while a police officer in Liberal, Kansas -- a job from which he was fired after two years or so.
"It seems to be a question of what is the definition of 'undercover,'" he continues. "Apparently the Post doesn't think providing secure information to authorities is undercover, but I think most people would probably disagree."
Does Strauch think the Post is accusing his guy of either exaggerating the episode or inventing it?
"That's the only conclusion you can come to from the narrative they lay out, and that's absolutely not the case," he says. "The document they pulled off the website is nothing more than Dan laying out defenses to several different lines of attack the Tancredo folks have made. But they make it seem like this is some padded résumé where he's claiming to be Jason Bourne."
In truth, Strauch goes on, "he was just an everyday police officer -- and he's always said he was just an everyday police officer," albeit one who "met with the Kansas Bureau of Investigation several times. But he never claimed he was a master spy, and that's certainly what they make it sound like."
Be that as it may, the Post story includes an interview with Bob Blecha, the KBI's director, who says he has no records of Maes working with the agency, plus comments from the Liberal, Kansas police chief and city manager from Maes's era offering no support for the candidate's assertions.
To that, Strauch says, "A couple of things are in play here. I have no idea, nor does Dan, how the Kansas Bureau of Investigation keeps records, or what they keep records of. I wouldn't want to impugn the integrity of the director of the Kansas Bureau of Investigation, but that isn't to say it didn't happen. This isn't something he's fabricated. Dan has a very clear recollection about this. He remembers the number of the hotel room where he met the officers. He even remembers some of their names."
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Why not provide those names to the Post? "Dan's said he won't discuss the case or give out the names, because he doesn't think it's fair to the individuals," Strauch allows. "That's been his stance since the beginning. In fact, it's printed in the document in question. And he's not going to change that stance no matter what the Post might desire."
Strauch also disputes the impression that the document in question was written for his campaign website.
"This wasn't a statement posted on the website," he stresses. "Their characterization makes it seem that the statement was posted somewhere, as if he was crowing about some achievement. But it was really a pdf document provided to his supporters to refute the lines of attack from the Tancredo camp."
The Post uses the letters "sic" to point out numerous errors in spelling in the document; for instance, ex-ICE agent Cory Voorhis's name appears as "Cory Voorheez." Are these notations an attempt to ridicule Maes's campaign as unprofessional -- a contention that reinforces the impression that he's not ready for prime time? "You can draw your own conclusions," Strauch says.
Given his police past, former cop Maes would seem to have a natural rationale for attacking Hickenlooper for alleged brutality on his watch, including the video-captured beating of Michael DeHerrera. Has he avoided doing so because of skeletons in the closet where he keeps his police record?
"Not at all," Strauch responds. "Dan hasn't made an issue out of this because he's insistent on running a clean campaign. He doesn't see the need to take potshots at other candidates, unlike Tom Tancredo, who does that at the drop of a hat."
Fine -- but how bad is the fundraising situation? Are bean counters in Maes's corner clammy with fear that he'll be broke any day?
"Just the opposite," Strauch insists. "I don't know if these two things have anything to do with each other, but right as that story came out about all the troubles with fundraising, we saw a huge uptick in the amount of money being raised. The pace had been similar to prior to the primary election. But then, all of a sudden, it was double or triple that over the past week, week and a half. And things have been going gangbusters since the piece came out."
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Not that Maes is in any danger of surpassing Hickenlooper, whose campaign is cash-rich. Indeed, there are no immediate plans to broadcast pro-Maes commercials, although Strauch believes they'll be able to get spots on the air at some point if donations continue to flow at their present rate.
Until then, Maes will stick to the one-on-one campaigning that's worked for him thus far.
"Dan's strategy has been a grassroots approach to attend every event he possibly can get to -- and maybe it'll be the new model for candidates who maybe don't have a lot of political experience," he says. "Hopefully, it speaks to the fact that, no matter how much those in the media might seek to discredit him, meeting Dan Maes and hearing what he has to say for yourself remains the most valuable way to win votes and know he's the right man for the job."
But not for Jason Bourne's job. That one's already taken, thank you.