Senate candidates decry negative ads | AspenTimes.com

Senate candidates decry negative ads

John Colson

The use of negative attack ads has come up in the race for Aspen’s seat in the state Senate, and both candidates have disavowed any involvement with the ads.And, both have said they oppose negative campaigning.Ads paid for by what are known as 527 groups have targeted the campaigns of both candidates – challenger Gail Schwartz, a Democrat from Snowmass Village, and incumbent Lewis Entz, a Republican from Hooper.The name comes from the federal tax code that enables the groups to raise unlimited amounts of money to influence political campaigns, but the code also prohibits candidates from having contact with the groups.On the Republican side is the Trailhead Group, reportedly backed by Gov. Bill Owens, beer magnate Pete Coors and oil-man Bruce Benson. The Trailhead Group aired ads criticizing Schwartz in her role as a regent for the University of Colorado. The ads tagged her as a “limousine liberal,” and slammed her for staying at the high-priced Hotel Teatro in Denver when she goes to the Front Range for regents meetings or other CU business.The ads have prompted angry denials from Schwartz, who has maintained that CU receives a big discount from the Teatro, and that all the regents stay there, including the Republicans, who hold a majority on the board. Patricia Hayes, the Republican chairwoman of the Board of Regents, backed her claims in a letter dated Sept. 6.Entz said he had nothing to do with the campaign, noting, “You’ve got to stay an arm’s length away. I don’t know what they’re doing, and I don’t ever want to know what they’re doing. I dislike negative advertising, always have, never done any of it in my life.”My biggest concern is it’s one of the worst things that ever happened to campaign finance reform,” he said of the 527-group phenomenon.On the Democrats’ side is the 527 named Moving Colorado Forward, which has paid for mailers questioning public expenditures to send Entz to such places as Honolulu, Hawaii; Lake Louise, Alberta; Belize and New York City. Another mailer depicts Entz in his chair at the Legislature, apparently asleep.Entz also denied the 527 ads’ allegations. He said he paid for most of his own expenses on each of those trips.The Honolulu trip, he said, was a fact-finding mission for the agriculture committee, and while the state paid his $475 registration fee, he paid his air and motel expenses. The trip to Belize was to check out a National Guard exercise there, he said, explaining he flew in an Air Guard plane and paid his hotel and food expenses. And, the trip to Lake Louise was because of his role as chairman of the Legislature’s Energy Council.”I paid for 100 percent of that trip,” he said.As for the photo of him appearing to be asleep, which ran in the Denver Post in May 2005, he said, “I wasn’t asleep. I never slept in my chair. I never did take a nap during session.”He admitted that, during an illness, he occasionally would take refuge in a committee room for “a quick nap,” but nothing else.Schwartz said that she, like Entz, deplores negative political ads.”I have run a totally positive campaign,” she said. “I have a policy that I don’t even talk about my opponent, except to talk about his voting record. It’s not about Lew Entz, it’s about what I can bring to the office.”Regarding the work of the 527, she said with some heat, “I don’t have any control over my side’s 527.” As for the photos of Entz seemingly asleep, she said, “It’s not my piece … that was a picture that appeared in the Denver Post.”She did, however, note that Entz himself has admitted he was “not paying attention” during a water quality debate on the floor of the senate earlier this year, and that he “voted wrong” by casting a “no” vote on a bill he later supported.”That was such a critical vote,” Schwartz said, “and those were his words.”John Colson’s e-mail address is jcolson@aspentimes.com