A Green Party candidate hoping to become Colorado's next attorney general is accusing her opponent, incumbent Attorney General Ken Salazar, of violating campaign-finance laws by helping put together advertisements against bullying in schools.
A spokesman for Salazar's campaign, meanwhile, calls the Green Party challenger, Alison Maynard, a "flake."
Maynard, a Denver lawyer who goes by the nickname "Sunny," filed a complaint against Salazar on July 14 under the state's Fair Campaign Practices Act. The complaint also names the Coca-Cola Co., of Atlanta, and Multimedia Holdings Corp., of McLean, Va. -- which owns Denver's KUSA Channel 9 television station -- as co-respondents.
The complaint centers around a 30-second television ad that ran approximately 70 times last fall on Channel 9, publicizing a statewide anti-bullying initiative led by Salazar. The advertisements were developed by a partnership involving Salazar, Coca-Cola, Channel 9, The Denver Post, the University of Colorado and the Bighorn Center for Public Policy, a Denver think tank.
Maynard claims the spots constitute campaign advertisements for Salazar, because at the end of the spots, a message flashes briefly on the screen that says, "With the support of Colorado Attorney General Ken Salazar."
The spots should be considered campaign contributions, because Coca-Cola paid for them and Channel 9 agreed to run them at a discount, Maynard maintains. But these contributions haven't been included in Salazar's campaign-finance reports, she notes.
"They're using a ruse, really, of pushing an issue that on its face looks innocuous," Maynard says of the anti-bullying project. "But what it's doing is pushing a candidate."
Ken Lane, a deputy attorney general who is on leave to run Salazar's reelection campaign, calls Maynard's allegations "bogus" and "utter bullshit."
"They're really groundless," Lane said. "This person's attacking an effort by the Attorney General to fight bullying in schools. How pathetic is that?"
Lane said Salazar came up with the anti-bullying initiative and persuaded Coca-Cola, Channel 9 and others to co-sponsor the project. Just because the spots lead to publicity for Salazar doesn't make them campaign ads, Lane says.
"She's a flake," Lane said of Maynard.
Tony Anaya, a spokesman for Coca-Cola, called Maynard's complaint "extremely unfortunate."
"We really wanted to try to make a positive difference," Anaya said of Coca-Cola's involvement in the anti-bullying campaign. "It's very unfortunate that this issue is being used this way."
Roger Ogden, president and general manager of Channel 9, says it's not uncommon for government officials to ask media outlets for help publicizing messages that are in the public interest. Moreover, the ads didn't even run during campaign season, Ogden notes.
"I'm not sure I understand the basis of the complaint," Ogden said.
Maynard, meanwhile, says she's planning to broaden her complaint to also include The Denver Post, after learning that print versions of the advertisements also ran in that newspaper.
"Maybe it looks like ... I'm trying to promote myself," Maynard said. "But on the other hand, I'm a citizen with a strong interest in seeing campaign laws being followed."
If companies are giving Salazar campaign donations without reporting them as such, "people need to know that," Maynard added.
Maynard's complaint, filed with the Colorado Secretary of State's office, will be heard by a state administrative-law judge. A hearing date will be set next week.
-- Terje Langeland