Swing State Confidential: Colorado


Denver, Colorado–Ah, life in a swing state. With several important races in play, we Coloradans are getting blasted with a barrage of political advertisements. Indeed, the Colorado Senate race currently leads the nation in attracting spending by outside groups, according to our Follow the Unlimited Money tracker.

Today I started an experiment: every morning, I will watch a half hour of network or cable news, and  report on all the ads that I see, as best I can identifying who is paying for them. And I’ll enter the information in our  Sunlight CAM, our crowdsourcing site for people to track political ad spending. My aim won’t be to fact check the ads, but rather to see where the money is flowing.

8:30 a.m.: I tune into CBS, on channel 4.

8:48 a.m.: Commercial break. After an ad for Oprah and the local news, Democratic Rep. John Salazar appears on the screen, riding a horse. “I’m John Salazar, and I approve this message,” he says. Soon the narrator starts attacking his opponent, Scott Tipton, claiming that he “would cut Social Security and Medicare in half.” The Salazar campaign paid for the ad. (Sunlight CAM link here.)

Next up is Democrat Rep. Betsy Markey, who is defending her seat against a challenge by Republican Cory Gardner. Markey looks into the camera, telling me not to believe the attack ads that I have seen. She says she has “zero tolerance” for Wall Street bailouts and says she stopped congressional pay raises. Her campaign  paid for the ad.

Bang. Now the National Republican Campaign Committee (NRCC) follows with an ad blasting Markey. The scene is a dark highway, from the driver’s point of view. The narrator says that in Washington, “one party has absolute power,” and that spending is “out of control,” that there’s been a government take over of health care, and that Markey “voted for it all,” “Markey votes the Pelosi party line.” She’s gone “too far, too fast.” The NRCC has reported spending $433,000 opposing Markey. (Sunlight CAM links to Markey ads here.)

8:51 a.m. Back to the news.

8:53 a.m. Ken Buck.  He was investigated for ethics, he let a gun dealer off the hook. Then the gun dealer contributed to his campaign. He’s just plain wrong for Colorado. “Public Campaign Action Fund’s Campaign Money Watch is responsible for the content of this advertising.” This is an issue ad run by a group advocating for public financing of elections; it has reported spending $730,000 on the race. The ad stops just short of saying that the voter should vote against Buck, but the message is obvious. (Disclosure: I used to work for Public Campaign.) Sunlight CAM link here.

Now in the crosshairs: Sen. Michael Bennet. The National Republican Senatorial Committee (NRSC) wants me to know that “one vote makes a difference,” and that Michael Bennet has cast several “deciding” ones: in favor of the stimulus, which wasted “billions,” in favor of health care, which slashed Medicare, and that he raised taxes. The ad ends by connecting a photo of Bennet to one of President Barack Obama and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi. So far, the NRSC has reported spending $1.6 million against Bennet. Bennet ads on Sunlight CAM here.

8:54 After a few non-political commercials, it’s back to the news.

8:56 A clip of Democrat  incumbent Ed Perlmutter appears on the screen, saying he wants to create jobs in Colorado. Then a narrator breaks in: “That’s not what you’re record is.” The narrator says Perlmutter has sent jobs overseas, an energy tax, that he increased the debt, and that now he’s “worried about his job.” Then a clip of his challenger, GOP candidate Ryan Frazier appears in a clip, as the narrator says he supports tax relief to create new jobs and that he has “new ideas.” Switch to Frazier looking at the camera, saying, “I’m Ryan Frazier and I approve this message.” Frazier ads on Sunlight CAM are here.

8:57 An ad for a local production of the musical “Mama Mia,” and then some station promotion.

8:58 An ad telling voters to oppose three ballot measures, “the ugly 3,” that would that would create a new recession, a “voter approved recession,” paid for by Coloradans for Responsible Reform.

And the final entry for my half hour of viewing, an ad bought by the Michael Bennet campaign. This one features an ob/gyn, Dr. Eliza Buyers, who says she’s very “disturbed” about Ken Buck, claiming he wants to ban common birth control measures and opposes abortion including in cases of rape and “Ken Buck is too extreme for Colorado.”

The tally: seven ads concerning federal races in 30 minutes; four paid for by the candidates’ campaigns themselves; two paid for by Republican party committees; and one “issue ad” bought by a group supporting campaign finance reform. Stay tuned for what tomorrow morning brings.