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Dem head cries TrailHead foul 

The leader of the state Democratic Party is accusing Attorney General John Suthers of putting his Republican Party interests ahead of his duty to enforce a new law designed to eliminate character assassination in politics.

The accusation emerged late last week as Suthers announced he would not pursue prosecution against a group responsible for a recent series of attack telephone calls. The calls allege several Democrats including Rep. Michael Merrifield of Manitou Springs collaborated with a secretive group that touted Democratic leadership in mailings.

The calls emanated from the TrailHead Group, a political nonprofit founded by several prominent Republicans, including Gov. Bill Owens, who appointed Suthers, the former U.S. attorney for Colorado and a former 5th judicial district attorney, in 2005.

"If you are appointed by the guy who helped start the organization, maybe you should step back and let someone independent investigate," says Colorado Democratic Party Chairwoman Pat Waak, who had urged Suthers to enforce a new truth-in-politics law that was spawned by Merrifield in the wake of vicious attacks by his opponents in past election campaigns.

Kristen Hubbell, a spokeswoman for Suthers, shrugged off the complaint: "It had nothing to do with politics."

She says Suthers sought advice over whether to prosecute from other district attorneys including two Democrats but found no wrongdoing.

Using automatic phone calls, TrailHead contacted people in as many as 10 Democratic-held legislative districts in Colorado to accuse Democrats of working to keep the backer or backers of the group that spent more than $83,000 on the mailings called "Research and Democracy" secret.

Merrifield has told the Independent he neither solicited the mailing nor saw it beforehand, but reported it after receiving an unsigned letter notifying him a mailing worth $11,161 was sent on his behalf.

No Republicans have announced their intent to oppose Merrifield in this November's election.

deyoanna@csindy.com

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