Young Blood

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The pledge gimmick allowed the RMPN to hint at the marital woes of one prominent Musgrave backer, Republican governor Bill Owens, in a back-door manner that might appear vulgar coming from Polis, who zealously guards his personal privacy. (Polis refuses to talk about affairs of the heart beyond declaring, "It would be difficult to incorporate a relationship into my current lifestyle.") About Owens, and the rumors swirling around him, Polis says, "There might be some socially conservative Republicans who care about that sort of thing, but I think most progressives don't care. It's none of my business, and personally, I wish him well." Since such comments would give off a hypocritical scent if Polis were perceived as being behind the RMPN; he portrays his association with the network as being almost incidental. In his words, "It's certainly a separate organization. Anybody can see that."

Not Senator John Andrews, who's still frosted about a billboard the RMPN put up near the Capitol that accused him, Governor Owens and Representative Lola Spradley of spurring Colorado's post-9/11 economic downturn. "Mike Huttner runs around doing these frat-boy pranks on Polis's nickel," Andrews proclaims.

Andrews can't say for certain, but he presumes that Polis's most elaborate scheme to date involves the formation of two political parties that apparently espouse conservative ideals: the Pro-Life Party and the Gun Owners' Rights Party.

The organizations first aroused Andrews's curiosity when he couldn't find anyone in traditional conservative circles who knew anything about them. The main contact person for the groups, lawyer John Sackett, deepened the enigma by shielding the name of the person or persons who hired him to collect signatures that led to the parties' certification by Colorado's secretary of state this past spring; Sackett claimed attorney-client privilege. These clues led Andrews to conclude that the parties had been started by liberals who hoped they might siphon off votes from Republicans in much the same way that ballots filled out for Ralph Nader in the 2000 presidential election were perceived to have come at the expense of Democratic candidate Al Gore.

Also sniffing around was Mike Rosen, KOA talk-show host and columnist for the Rocky Mountain News. Rosen heard from a man who said his son was part of the petition drive and confirmed to him that the parties were stalking horses. On top of that, Rosen wrote in a May column, he found a reference in the secretary of state's petition file to the law firm of Foster, Graham and Huttner -- yes, that Huttner. So he called Polis, who'd been a semi-frequent guest on his program and had never previously failed to reply to him, to ask if the parties were his babies.

This time, Polis didn't call back. Correspondingly, he took weeks to respond to an open letter sent to him by Andrews on the same topic -- and when he finally dialed Andrews's number, he didn't directly answer questions about the political parties. "It was clear that Jared was just being coy and enjoying this man-of-mystery-and-money role that he's carved out for himself," Andrews mutters.

Today, Polis sings much the same tune. "There's a reason I won't address the charges," Polis says. "It's the sort of thing where if you start selectively addressing certain things and saying no to certain things, then if you don't answer something, it's like you're saying yes. So I don't want to address any of that stuff. In general, I think it's an advantage politically to keep people guessing."

To Colorado Republican Party chairman Ted Halaby, who put out a press release in February accusing erstwhile senatorial candidate Rutt Bridges of being behind the parties before identifying Polis as the chief suspect, such Clintonian logic is positively appalling. "I think this was Jared's opportunity to come clean with the Colorado voters, not hide behind ambiguous statements," he affirms. "If he was behind the effort and it wasn't some subterfuge, then there's no reason for him not to be candid about it. But if he was behind the effort and he wants to hide his participation, it speaks with a loud voice about what his clear intentions were in terms of misleading and deceiving the Colorado voter."

In terms of the upcoming election, the Pro-Life Party and the Gun Owners' Rights Party won't have an impact, because neither fielded candidates. Their inactivity can be seen as further evidence of their illegitimacy, and indicates that they were dumped when the Republicans caught on.

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Michael Roberts has written for Westword since October 1990, serving stints as music editor and media columnist. He currently covers everything from breaking news and politics to sports and stories that defy categorization.
Contact: Michael Roberts