We took note back in June of a very odd decision by then-State Senate candidate Suzanne Staiert to request space for an Op-Ed to attack a reporter who wrote a story for that same publication. As we wrote at the time, it’s never a good idea to publicly attack a reporter and draw more attention to a story that you yourself cannot actually dispute.
Alas, Staiert did not learn this lesson. Today, The Colorado Sun published another opinion piece from Staiert (who now goes by the name Suzanne Taheri) in which she shakes her fist at pretty much everybody — both Democrat and Republican — while alleging that communications related to the State Senate race she just lost were all about destroying her as a person. There are numerous Colorado candidates from both political parties who faced negative advertisements in 2020; most of them know enough not to take it personally.
Staiert Taheri also insists on once again discussing the same campaign finance complaint that she screeched about in June. She doesn’t mention that she appealed that complaint and LOST, garnering a $1,000 fine and a rebuke from an Administrative Law Judge.
As we did with Staiert’s June Op-Ed, we went through her latest missive point by point. Enjoy:
After an election, most winners and losers are either celebrating or on to the next race. I was just glad it was over. I had lost in a suburban local Senate race that saw me spectacularly dragged through the mud in a one-sided negative-ad spending spree that would put Imelda Marcos to shame.
Are we talking about the same Imelda Marcos who was a big story in the 1980s? It’s possible that a reference from THIS CENTURY might have been more persuasive.
Of course, this reference is also nonsensical. Imelda is believed to have stolen a massive amount of money from her country after her husband, Ferdinand Marcos, became President of the Philippines in 1965. Staiert, er, Taheri was on the receiving end of some negative advertising because she was a candidate in one of the most competitive state senate districts in Colorado. These two things are not even remotely similar.
I didn’t commiserate with friends or even respond to most of my well-wishers afterward. Instead, I shut down my social media and set off to reclaim my maiden name, and hopefully, my identity.
Staiert Taheri actually started changing her name well before Election Day, which is kinda weird, considering that the name “Suzanne Staiert” was printed on a ballot mailed out to all local voters.
Also, if you’re trying to create a new identity with a different last name…maybe don’t write an angry Op-Ed connecting the two names. This is why people who end up in a witness protection program don’t use Facebook.
The campaign was definitely a once-in-a-lifetime experience, mostly because I would never do it again.
At least she’s not bitter.
I’ve spent most of my career in the public sector having professional and social relationships with people who would now seek to turn me into a Disney-style villain. People who told me how much they respected that I played it down the middle. People I considered my friends. I guess in retrospect those relationships were purely transactional, at least on their side.
Staiert Taheri is not THIS naïve. The whole point of a political race is that people are expected to pick a side. Was she led to believe that she was going to receive 100% support in SD-27?
They would later use their dark money to take unflattering photos of me and splash them on every television station and social media site, buying up ad space far outside my district. They topped it off with mailers arriving daily at my home addressed to my children.
Mailers are usually sent out to a broad list of likely voters. If your children are active voters registered at the same address within the same senate district, then they’re going to get mailers addressed to them. This is not AP Calculus.
Mailers also generally use pictures and footage that can be found in the public domain, which is why the mailers we’ve seen in the SD-27 race featured pictures of
Staiert Taheri FROM HER OWN CAMPAIGN WEBSITE.
At some point for them, it became less about winning and more about destroying me. As one GOP pundit put it two days after the election, the insiders on the Republican side all knew the race wasn’t winnable and “pulled up stakes” in September.
It takes a mighty large ego to argue that people were out to destroy you personally.
The “pundit” in question is Mike Coffman’s former campaign manager Tyler Sandberg. He tweeted a comment out to spin away the GOP’s falling to a 20-15 Senate minority by arguing they had successfully triaged SD-27 as a sort of pawn sacrifice. A “Fight for 15,” if you will.
Sandberg has since deleted the tweet, but nothing is ever erased from the Internet:
Even after my own party set me adrift, that wasn’t enough for the Democrats. They went on to spend $2 million to brand me as a terrible person.
There’s a bizarre theme of discourse among
Staiert Taheri and her allies that people opposing her candidacy are somehow engaging in some James Bondian supervillain plot to destroy her. It’s a strange mindset for anyone who puts their name on a ballot, especially while moonlighting as the head of a dark-money attack group, which is what Staiert Taheri did for most of 2019.
From reading everything
Staiert Taheri is writing, you’d almost get the impression that this is the first political campaign she has ever seen.
After hiring the best private investigator money can buy, they didn’t really have much, so they had to get busy making up controversy to fill up ad space.
This is silly. The “best private investigator money can buy”?
As the saying goes, “You’re not paranoid if they’re really out to get you.”
First, one of their political operatives filed a complaint about my personal financial disclosures. I was one of a few candidates who disclosed my tax returns, but they would complain this was the wrong form. And they knew their made-up newspapers and at least one reporter would play along.
It’s important to note here that
Staiert Taheri was quite literally the only candidate for state House or Senate in 2020 who filed a tax return instead of the required Personal Financial Disclosure (PFD). THE. ONLY. ONE.
And as you’ll see below, an Administrative Law Judge ruled against her and fined her $1,000 for her transgressions.
Staiert Taheri worked for 6+ years in the Colorado Secretary of State’s (SOS) office in a senior position to interpret and implement the state’s election laws. When Staiert Taheri left the SOS office in 2019, her title was Deputy Secretary of State. No other 2020 candidate in Colorado should have better understood these rules than Staiert Taheri. Staiert Taheri still doesn’t acknowledge that she spent more than a year working for a dark money group that was singularly focused on smearing former Gov. John Hickenlooper in his race for U.S. Senate.
So, I filled out the new form where they would finally get to see — gasp — my children’s minimum-wage jobs and student-loan interest rates. Hardly Mar-a-Lago, but you wouldn’t know if from the ads.
Again, these disclosures were not necessary and completely unrelated to the campaign finance complaint against her. This is sort of like getting pulled over in a traffic stop and producing a King Soopers card instead of a driver’s license, then acting surprised that the police officer won’t accept your identification offer.
Nobody needed or wanted to know about her children’s “minimum-wage jobs.”
Staiert Taheri knows this. The spirit of the personal financial disclosure rules is to help Coloradans determine if the people vying to represent them might have conflicts of interest that could impact their judgment or voting behavior.
Like, say, working for a political group that doesn’t disclose its donors that was set up just to attack a U.S. Senate candidate so that the process could be exploited for millions of dollars worth of — GASP! — negative advertising.
The whole exercise proved useful for them. Our hyper-partisan secretary of state would play along and take time from a busy schedule of promoting herself on TV to have her political appointee deny her own staff’s attempt to dismiss the complaint. After all, it takes a village, and this would keep the complaint alive, which could keep the ads alive.
We’ve already noted that
Staiert Taheri should have understood the rules she was violating, but don’t take our word for it. An actual judge ruled that Staiert Taheri had broken the law.
On October 12, 2020, Administrative Law Judge (“ALJ”) Matthew E. Norwood ruled against Staiert and ordered her to pay a $1,000 fine. Wrote the court:
The Respondent has expressed no acknowledgment of her error or any contrition. Her response is only that the complaint is untimely. As a former Deputy Secretary of State, she is sophisticated in Colorado campaign law. She should be expected, more than most, to comply with it. [Pols emphasis] She has made no assertion that she incorrectly understood that submission of a tax return was sufficient. When given the opportunity to do so by the Division, she did not exercise her opportunity to cure the violations per the procedure at Section 1-45-111.7(4). The Respondent was notified of the complaint on May 7, 2020. She did not submit her PFD until May 24, 2020, 17 days later.
As a bonus, Democrats now knew where my children worked so they could send someone to confront my teenage daughter about her awful mother.
What? “Democrats” dispatched someone to her daughter’s workplace to talk about her “awful mother”? Why?
This seems unlikely. If
Staiert Taheri can prove this allegation, then she absolutely should.
Next, they would put up a particularly distasteful commercial about how I opposed background checks on guns, declaring that my position would no doubt result in lost lives.
The problem (for me, not them) was that I never said I opposed background checks. In fact, I said the opposite.
No, sorry. The problem here is that
Staiert Taheri sought and accepted the endorsement of the National Rifle Association (NRA), which puts her squarely on record on gun rights/safety issues. The NRA helpfully lays out on their Political Victory Fund website that the candidates whom they have endorsed agree with all of the positions on their questionnaire. You know, like opposing background checks.
This sort of fight on the issues is a standard facet of any election, which
Staiert Taheri (of all people) should understand unless any opposition to her candidacy is automatically and inaccurately interpreted as a personal attack. Staiert Taheri could have attempted what other candidates have done when they’ve found themselves on the wrong side of an issue: Blame an intern or a “rogue staffer” for filling out a questionnaire.
But it didn’t matter because they knew I had been launched into open water by my own party and there was no way I could defend myself. All I could do was go door-to-door and I would run out of time before I could reach enough voters to combat their money.
Staiert Taheri was not exactly without resources. Her campaign raised more than $85,000 and Republicans spent at least $255,000 on her behalf. Staiert Taheri was certainly outspent in 2020, but it’s not like she was going door-to-door with handmade fliers.
It’s equally interesting that
Staiert Taheri goes bipartisan in the airing of her grievances, blaming Republicans for hanging her out to dry (which they did).
We’re almost done…
Meanwhile, nobody knew anything about my opponent. He was as one reporter described it, “an afterthought” in the whole charade. There wasn’t much spent to promote his motto to “be kind and help others.” Maybe that was just too much hypocrisy, even for the Democrats.
Staiert Taheri is complaining that Democrats didn’t spend more money to help her opponent. She also doesn’t seem to have a clear grasp on the meaning of the word “hypocrisy.”
From this point forward, every time the Democrats complain about the lack of resources for essential services, I’ll be thinking about that $2 million.
Staiert Taheri actually been elected to the Senate, she might have been shocked to learn how much goes into the state budget. Regardless, she surely understands that the money spent on political campaigns and the money spent by the state government DOES NOT COME FROM THE SAME PLACE. If this really is confusing to Staiert Taheri, then it’s a good thing she didn’t win (and a relief that she no longer works for the SOS).
Again, it’s important to remember that one of
Staiert Taheri’s legal clients spent millions of dollars on TV ads in the U.S. Senate race that were based entirely on her own attempted prosecution of ethics violations related to Gov. Hickenlooper. She really can’t pretend not to understand how any of this works.
Suzanne Taheri is an attorney and a former candidate for Senate District 27 in Centennial (running as Suzanne Staiert).
Staiert Taheri was defeated by Democrat Chris Kolker in SD-27 by a 55-44 margin. She was also the attorney for the group advocating for Proposition 115, the abortion restriction measure that was resoundingly defeated by Colorado voters.