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  1. #1
    Join Date
    Jun 2012
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    Default Coffman campaign threatens TV stations over ad

    From 9News:

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    The campaign for Rep. Mike Coffman (R-Colorado) sent cease and desist lettersto TV stations in Colorado Monday, threatening legal action over a third-party group's ad attacking the incumbent candidate over the issue of undisclosed political spending.

    The ad in questioncomes from a group called CounterPAC, which has asked Coffman and his Democratic challenger Andrew Romanoff to sign a pledge to denounce outside dark money in the race.

    The pledge is modeled after an agreementin the 2012 Massachusetts senate race between Scott Brown and Elizabeth Warren.

    Romanoff told CounterPAC he would sign the pledge, which allows the group to referee political spending by anonymous donors.

    The group says Coffman "brushed it off" when asked to sign the pledge.

    The CounterPAC TV ad claims Coffman "is enjoying the support of six-figure campaign ads funded by secret donors" and goes on to openly speculate about who those donors could be, "big tobacco? Russian oil billionaires? Too-big-to-jail Wall Street bankers? The owner of China's largest casino? We don't know – and that's just how Mike Coffman wants it."

    It's the open speculation of supporters that draws much of the Coffman campaign's ire.

    "The CounterPAC advertisement includes patently false statements about illegal foreign national participation in a political campaign," reads the Coffman campaign's letter. "This would be the equivalent of a campaign commercial suggesting that one of Nancy Pelosi's many commercials supporting Andrew Romanoff through the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee were funded by Vladimir Putin and Nathan Dunlap. Of course, Mike Coffman would never lower himself to the level of Counter PAC's unethical campaign practices on behalf of Andrew Romanoff."

    The Coffman campaign's attorneys argue that the ad violates a portion of state election laws barring false statements:

    No person shall knowingly make, publish, broadcast, or circulate or cause to be made, published, broadcasted, or circulated in any letter, circular, advertisement, or poster or in any other communication any false statement designed to affect the vote on any issue submitted to the electors at any election or relating to any candidate for election to public office. -CRS 1-13-109
    The Coffman campaign acknowledges that the speculative examples of funding sources were couched with question marks, but considers them false claims of fact all the same.

    "If this advertisement is allowed to air, then it would be like the TV stations telling other candidates and Super PACs that they could just lie about their opponent," Coffman campaign spokesperson Tyler Sandberg told 9NEWS. "So long as the lie was accompanied by a rhetorical question mark."

    "We have a state law that makes CounterPAC's despicable conduct a criminal violation," Sandberg told 9NEWS. "We plan on pursuing this to the end."

    "The only spurious claim here is the Coffman campaign's accusation that we've committed a criminal act by telling the truth to voters," said Jim Greer at CounterPAC.

    Cease and desist letters are not uncommon in the realm of political advertising, though they are less frequently made public.

    TV stations often respond by forwarding the letter to the maker of the ad in question.

    In this case, CounterPAC has already filed a legal response, writing, "unfortunately for Mr. Coffman, CounterPAC's attempt to inform the public is entirely accurate."

    The response letter points to six-figure ad buys from the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, which does not disclose its donors.

    "CounterPAC does not claim to know exactly who is funding these types of undisclosed communications," the response letter continues, outlining plausible connections between the examples in the ad and the Chamber. "Coffman might not like to admit it, but by tolerating secret money in his congressional campaign, he is allowing for the possibility that groups like these will influence the election."

    It's unclear whether the ad will stop running on any Colorado TV stations.

    As the management of 9NEWS has explained before, "ads are seldom pulled because the primary responsibility for the accuracy of claims in any advertisement lies with the advertiser."

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