By Ben DeGrow | Special to Colorado Watchdog
For some, this week’s election aftermath hasn’t been pretty, yet the content of the campaigns offered enough to disgust and deceive.
Denver Post blogger Lynn Bartels reposted the tale of Republican state Rep. Ken Summers, who attributed his loss in an open Senate seat contest to a barrage of “nasty mailers” from outside groups.
The pro-Democratic political operation that funded the ads, according to Colorado Media Trackers, is known as the Coalition for Colorado’s Future. CCF and its stepsister the Colorado Accountable Government Alliance led the charge of false, malicious attacks against Republican and independent candidates.
One false CAGA attack claiming nonpartisan state house candidate Kathleen Curry, the daughter of a breast cancer survivor, opposed insurance coverage for mammograms prompted local officials to open an ethics violation investigation. Regardless, the damage has been done. Like Summers, Curry also lost.
Campaign hit pieces, which sadly often bend and shade the truth, are part of the robust give and take of politics and a consequence of our cherished right of free speech.
But exactly how free is the speech when one of the major donors to CCF and CAGA is bankrolled by automatic, involuntary contributions? The Colorado Education Association, the state’s largest teachers union, this year poured in more than $250,000 to the two groups combined. Virtually all of the money came through CEA’s small donor Public Education Committee.
Full-time teachers’ union members have $39 automatically deducted each year from their paycheck, along with dues, to finance political action through the Every Member Option. Part-time teachers and other education employees who belong to CEA surrender a smaller amount. Members who belong to many of CEA’s local affiliates also have a second EMO worth up to $24.
The only “option” is that you can get the money back. Full EMO refunds are available to members, if they know about it and request it in a timely manner. The deadline for CEA and most of the local unions is Dec. 15. But how many teachers realize some of their income underwrites “those mean political ads” that make the stomach turn?
Most Colorado teachers wouldn’t tolerate vile, slanderous personal attacks in their classrooms, but many unknowingly support them in the political arena.
Most teachers also expect their students to ask first before taking an item from someone else’s desk. But union leaders afford themselves just such a privilege year after year. It can hardly be called free speech.
Changing the approach and asking first wouldn’t necessarily stop the nasty attacks. Rich sugar daddies like Tim Gill might still support them. But at least all teachers would have the choice to keep their hands clean.