Markey Files Criminal Complaint Against Musgrave

Because the best way to respond to a smear is loudly and through every available microphone, as the Loveland Reporter-Herald reports:

The Democratic challenger to incumbent Republican Rep. Marilyn Musgrave has accused her of breaking the law by airing television ads that are “materially false.”

In a four-page letter to 8th Judicial District Attorney Larry Abrahamson, candidate Betsy Markey accuses Musgrave of distorting the truth on an advertisement being aired this week on Denver television stations.

In the ad, Musgrave accuses Markey of using her position as the northern Colorado district director for Sen. Ken Salazar to bring no-bid contracts to the business she had left, Syscom Services Inc.

Sprinkled in the ad are visuals comparing Syscom to Halliburton Inc., a federal contractor that has come under criticism for its ties to Vice President Dick Cheney – its former chief executive officer.

At the end, the ad states, “Millionaire Markey, the ultimate Washington insider. It’s time to come clean.”

Markey’s complaint addresses each section of the commercial, from the income received by Syscom before and during her work with the senator and her ownership status.

“The ad, rather than factual, seems to be a desperate attempt by a failing campaign to salvage the election through falsehood and slander,” the complaint states.

69 Community Comments, Facebook Comments

  1. Middle of the Road says:

    Musgrave, honey. This is called karma.  

  2. Barron X says:


    The Musgrave charges are supported by the facts.

    They may not be true, but the evidence supports the charge that Markey used her public position for private gain.  

    This criminal complaint will just rub the public’s collective nose in that evidence, regardless of any underlying truth.  

    This had already blown over when she resurrected it.


    • DavidThi808 says:

      People will see this as a very strong statement that Markey is innocent and that Musgrave is throwing mud. It actually reduces the credibility of any further Musgrave attacks. I think with this Musgrave has lost.

    • Middle of the Road says:

      Musgrave is running television ads on it right now, which thousands of potential voters are seeing less than 2 weeks before mail in ballots go out.

      Markey is right to hit back hard and frankly, I do not see Musgrave’s charges being supported by facts. You said this yourself…Markey may not have turned the company over to her husband in a timely fashion–which is unethical, at the very worst but certainly not illegal. When you have as many skeletons in your closet as Musgrave, it’s probably not the smartest idea in the world to go this route. She opens herself up to every slimy thing she has ever been tied to, including being one of the 10 most corrupt in Congress, being endorsed by the KKK and now CoinGate.  

    • Go Blue says:

      That’s why there is a complaint and when “Misdemeanor Musgrave” is charged, it will be damn well deserved.  

    • bob ewegen says:

      Granted, the links are tenuous. Barron X has a moustache (arguendo)  Hitler had a moustache.   Vote against the Hitler/Barron X team, they are the ultimate Berlin insiders.  At the same time, Markey had to hit back, hard, lest silence be seen as assent. David, you’re wrong to say the race is over.  We have 41 biter, rancorous, days to go and then, probably, a long slow count.  I’ve moving this to the tossup column. Markey’s best hope is the Obma oprganizing bringing more vogters to the table.

      • twas brillig says:

        It’s a correlation-as-cause fallacy that Musgrave’s people set up in the ad. They just do it skillfully enough that the fallacy will be drawn by the viewer.

        • Middle of the Road says:

          Smart ass. 🙂

          Gee, if it weren’t for the “I’m Marilyn Musgrave and I authorize this ad,” there’d be correlation at all.  

          • Go Blue says:

            until proven innocent now? What kind of gustapo politiical machine is Musgrave running?  

            • Middle of the Road says:

              She can’t win fair and square. We both know that. I have a feeling that this time around the voters in my district might know it, too.  

              • Danny the Red (hair) says:

                when she ran that ad of Matsunaka against the Japaneese Battle flag

                the voiceover was something like

                ‘america was attacked by surprise once before’

                throw up a picture of Osama bin Laden and the twin towers

                ‘Matsunaka wants to let it happen again’


                • Middle of the Road says:

                  Yeah, that may just take the prize in the low down and dirty category.  

                • Half Glass Full says:

                  Incredible. How low can you go?

                  • bob ewegen says:

                    it was a very low blow. Stan’s dad, Harry Matsunaka, was a veteran of the famous 442 regiment that, among other things, fought its way through enemy lines in Italy at appalling cost to rescue a “lost battalion” of the Texas National Guard. A finer group of patriots never served this country.

                    • Middle of the Road says:

                      Don’t you remember the campaign flier she also sent out with Matsunaka on the front, looking much more “foreign” with a little help from photoshop?

                    • bob ewegen says:

                      with him against the strange moving red background but can’t recall seeing a japanese flag.  That was also the year the left was going with its timeless theme: “Marilyn has a fat butt.”

                      Not the year for philosopher kings, that’s for sure.  

                    • Middle of the Road says:

                      I remember seeing her at a debate in Windsor and was struck by how almost fragile she looked. Not sure how she earned a “fat butt” title but it’s undeserved, for a variety of reasons.  

                    • bob ewegen says:

                      Remember the actress in the pink dress who paraded the fat butt pretending to be marilyn in those Stryker/Polis/Gill/Bridges ads?  Marilyn is a lot slimmer than her, but no waif.  OF course, since I’m 6-3, I find it hard to judge women’s sizes since I look down at almost all of them in the literal, though I hope not in the metaphorical, sense.

                    • Middle of the Road says:

                      Yikes. I’m 5″5. You really would be looking down on me, literally, of course.

                      I wouldn’t call Marilyn fragile, normally, but at the debate that night she looked really worn out, tired and kind of frail. I can’t think of another word to describe it. I remember hearing somebody (one of her supporters by the look of the buttons and t-shirts she was sporting) saying that she thought the campaign with Angie had taken a toll on her and that night, I had to agree.  

                    • shrubsrock says:

                      You don’t even really do a good job looking DOWN on women in real life.  I’ve met you in passing once or twice and you didn’t seem to be looking down my shirt.  I hardly ever wear an appropriate shirt because I’m too tall for most to see down, so I notice when tall guys… notice.

                    • bob ewegen says:

                      when a man stops doing that, it’s time to call the coroner. I was probably in my own little world trying to parry Doug Bruce’s latest attempt to destroy Western Civilization.

                    • parsingreality says:

                      That testosterone does a number on us, that’s for sure.  

        • Jeff Bridges says:

          “Records prove Markey violated ethics rules.”

          Not true, in fact the ethics committee cleared her of any wrongdoing.  So much for clever wording.

      • rennes says:

        From the Coloradoan’s Bob Moore, a reporter who has actually done his homework:

        “Musgrave’s new ad said, ‘According to the Senate Ethics Committee, Markey’s company could not accept government contracts while she worked for the Senate.’ However, there is nothing in the letter from the Ethics Committee that said Syscom couldn’t get government contract work if Markey remained both a co-owner of the company and a Senate staffer…”The Musgrave campaign does not have a copy of the letter.”


      • Barron X says:


        This just sped up the decision.


        • bob ewegen says:

          Now I have to use the false analogy

          Barron X has a sense of humor.

          David Thielen has a sense of humor.

           Therefore Barron X’s mother is a liberal Republican state legislator in Hawaii.

          Ok, ok, it needs some work 😉

      • Republican 36 says:

        If voter registration means anything, Musgrave is loosing ground. In Larimer County the Republican Party held a 23,157 registration margin over the Democrats on election day in 2006.  As of the end of August that margin has declined by 25% to 17,317.  Musgrave isn’t going to carry Larimer anyway but Markey’s victory there will be by the largest margin ever against Musgrave.  I haven’t tracked down the registration numbers for Boulder County but I believe the same thing is happening there.

        The real battleground in the 4th CD is Weld County.  If Weld County cracks, Musgrave cannot win because that county has given her the margins she needed to win even while her winning percentage declined from 57% the first time, to 51% the second time, to 45% two years ago.

        The cracks seem to be appearing in Weld.  Two years ago the Republicans held a registration edge of 20,757 but that has declined by 8.9% to 18,593 as of the end of August 2008.

        And even on the East Plains, a Republican stronghold since as long as anyone can remember, there has been significant decline in several counties, counties which can only be considered Musgrave’s home ground.  In Logan County over the past two years the Republican registration edge over Democrats has declined by 7% from 3339 to 3115. In Morgan County (Musgrave’s home), the Republican registration lead has declined 7% over the past two years from 3109 to 2876.  The same is true in Sedgewick County where the Republican registration edge has declined by 5% from 688 to 652 during the same period. Bill Ritter carried Sedgewick County and almost carried Logan County two years ago.  And finally, Yuma County one of the bedrock Republican counties on the East Plains has watched as the Republican registration edge has declined 3% from 1815 to 1773.

        In other words, even in the most Republican parts of the 4th CD, the Republican Party is in decline.  This is not good for Musgrave.  I believe Markey will be going to Washington.

  3. davebarnes says:

    Even the WSJ has noticed this race. See

    FORT LUPTON, Colo. — Betting on voter outrage over the Wall Street rescue bill before Congress, a three-term Republican congresswoman struggling for re-election has come out strongly against the bailout even before the final package is hammered out.

    The rural Colorado district has long been solidly Republican. But three-term incumbent Marilyn Musgrave, an icon among social conservatives, has watched her margin of victory shrink with every election. Last time around, in a three-way race, she won with just 46% of the vote.

    Betsy Markey image

    Now, Rep. Musgrave is trailing by as many as nine points in some polls to Democratic opponent Betsy Markey, a former Senate aide and small-business owner. The bailout debate has given the Republican the chance to try to change the dynamic of her race with a forceful populist appeal.

    “For years, Americans on Main Street have heard about the lavish excesses of Wall Street. We heard about their mansions, exotic cars and, above all, record profits,” Rep. Musgrave said Monday. “Now, the party is over, and the same bankers are asking working families across the country to bear the consequences of their excess and greed. I refuse to burden families already struggling with soaring energy and food prices with bailing out investment banks that made bad decisions.”

    Ms. Markey called her opponent’s statement a “hasty move” that demonstrated her inability to cooperate on important issues in Washington. “A lot of experts are still looking at options, and my opponent has already made up her mind,” she said in an interview Tuesday. Ms. Markey added that, like many in Congress, she wanted changes to the original Treasury Department proposal, such as requiring any rescue bill to include greater market regulation and to protect taxpayer money.

    The Colorado race is one of about two dozen across the nation ranked as “tossups” by the nonpartisan Cook Political Report. Both parties are watching it closely, not only because they want the seat, but because of what the race augurs for the presidential campaign.

    Colorado’s 4th Congressional District covers a pivotal stretch of up-for-grabs territory along Interstate 25 north of Denver. Both presidential candidates are scrapping for every vote in that corridor, which includes a cattle slaughterhouse, two college campuses, cul-de-sac suburbs, blue-collar towns and small, artsy communities.

    Republicans have about a 13-point advantage in voter registration across the district, but nearly 30% of voters are unaffiliated. Those independents have begun to trend Democratic in Colorado. Six years ago, the state’s U.S. House delegation was weighted 5-2 in favor of the GOP. If Ms. Markey wins in the 4th District, that ratio probably would be reversed.

    The key for both candidates — and for the presidential campaigns as well — will be independent white voters, especially women. To appeal to them, Rep. Musgrave touts her bipartisan work with Colorado Democrats on issues such as securing a wilderness designation in Rocky Mountain National Park. For her part, Ms. Markey avoids mentioning her party affiliation. On the campaign trail recently, a voter had to ask her point-blank after searching in vain for clues on Ms. Markey’s generic-sounding campaign flier.

    That same evening, while canvassing this modest town, Ms. Markey approached voters almost shyly, with a pitch that echoed the mantra of Sen. Barack Obama, the Democratic presidential nominee. “It’s about time we had a little change in Washington,” she told Joe Wilk, 58 years old, who greeted her at his front door with complaints about plunging home values and rising gasoline prices. “It’s about time we had a big change,” Mr. Wilk interrupted. He pledged his support.

    Other voters said they preferred the Republican incumbent because of her conservative values. “Can I count on your support?” Ms. Markey asked Damaris Guerra, 28. “Not if you’re pro-choice,” Ms. Guerra responded.

    Rep. Musgrave is perhaps best known nationally for pushing a constitutional amendment to ban same-sex marriage. Her vocal stance against what she has called the “radical homosexual” agenda has made her a prime target for liberal groups. In 2004 and 2006, left-wing activists pumped millions into biting TV ads in an unsuccessful effort to oust her. This time around, she has been hit with more sharply negative ads, paid for by two groups independent of the Markey campaign.

    In response, Rep. Musgrave has sought to reshape her image with a television spot about her hard-luck childhood. Gauzy images show her working at a soup kitchen and comforting the poor. Her party is helping as well: Vice President Dick Cheney came out for a fund-raiser, and the National Republican Congressional Committee helped back a TV ad.

    “This certainly is a tough race for me,” Rep. Musgrave said. “It’s high stakes in Colorado.”

    -Brad Haynes contributed to this article.

    Write to Stephanie Simon at

    • Half Glass Full says:

      To condemn this plan before you’ve even seen it doesn’t seem to me to be responsible, mature leadership. She’s gambling our economy, jobs and yes lives for her own political career.

  4. sxp151 says:

    is that you often have only a few very bad options:

    1) don’t respond, which makes you look weak–if you won’t fight for yourself, who will you fight for (Josh Marshall’s “bitch-slap theory”)

    2) respond by complaining about the lies to a higher authority, which makes you look like a whiner and also kind of weak. This is what Markey is trying.

    3) respond with equally negative attacks of your own, then watch your opponent decry your lack of civility, or watch the public conclude that “they’re all just as bad.”

    The main problem, of course, is that lying about your opponent is not actually illegal under any federal law. In fact, a television station CANNOT refuse to air a political candidate’s ad, even if it’s full of lies. Some states have such laws, but it’s impossible to enforce. See FactCheck for a thorough article about this.

    • redstateblues says:

      Absolutely has to end this practice. Is it even possible to do that? I seriously think that if candidates/interested parties could no longer lie in political ads, this country would become 1 million times better.

      I don’t know the constitutional implications, but if a newspaper can’t lie, and a TV station can’t lie, why should pols be allowed to lie constantly?

      • colorado76 says:

        which may sound Clintonian, but lawyers in many fields are already experts in obfuscating restrictions on lying, and no matter how you try to draw the line, if they want to, they’ll find a way to blur it.

        • sxp151 says:

          Advertisers do get sued by the government for lying in commercials for products. The standard for candidates is just completely different.

          If McCain ran an ad claiming that Obama was a member of a white supremacist organization, with a Photoshopped image of him in full Nazi uniform, no national TV network could refuse to run it.

          If Freedom’s Watch ran the same ad, the networks could refuse it.

          The standard is insane, but it’s perfectly clear and has been litigated several times.

      • sxp151 says:

        Because what’s the penalty? Unless the penalty for lying in your campaign ad is getting kicked out of office, there’s no real disincentive.

        It generally takes a few months if not years to prosecute campaign wrongdoing (remember the New Hampshire phone-jamming scandal?), by which time the election is over.

        Imagine if the penalty for robbing a bank were a $5,000 fine, but you didn’t actually have to give back the money you stole.

    • Danny the Red (hair) says:

      run an ad using outside groups (fact check etc.) to diminish attack.

      “Not only are the attacks false, they’re childish”

      Then counter with “let’s get off the playground and back to the issues, candidate x’s attack won’t (keep you safe, pay your mortgage, provide energy, etc.)”

      Music imagry change

      “candidate Y plan to help you (give you, protect you etc.) with a ______.

      • redstateblues says:

        “let’s get off the playground and back to the issues”

        Didn’t work for Will Shafroth. But maybe it was because he wasn’t the one being attacked.

      • sxp151 says:

        if you’re already ahead. Then you can look like you’re above it all.

        When you’re behind in the polls, you have to fight back harder.

        And of course, it relies on outside groups, who may not step up. Frequently the media desperately seeks a false equivalency, so you have one candidate outright lying and another accurately condensing a complicated argument, and they conclude “both sides are stretching the truth.”

        For example, what outside group is even paying attention to the Markey-Musgrave race?  

        • Danny the Red (hair) says:

          Use outside groups to justify calling them a liar.

          But riposte and get back to your closer.  Your issue that seals the deal.  

          In the language of business you have to drive your “unique value proposition” not just say the other guy sucks.

    • Jeff Bridges says:

      Not federal law.  From the Colorado Independent:

      According to State law, C.R.S. 1-13-109(2)(a) it is a class 2 misdemeanor for any person to “…recklessly make, publish, broadcast, or circulate or cause to be made, published, broadcasted or circulated in any letter, circular, advertisement, or poster or 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.” Recklessly is defined as acting “…in conscious disregard of the truth or falsity of the statement made, published, broadcasted, or circulated.”

      • One Queer Dude says:

        …this statute is never going to survive constitutional challenge even if someone tried to prosecute a political candidate under it.

          I’m reminded of Bismarck’s famous quip, “The biggest lies are told just before the wedding, immediately after the hunt, and in the middle of the political campaign.”

          It does, however, give Betsy a platform from which to yell, “Liar, liar,” at Musty for a couple of news cycles.  And that’s a good thing.

        • Jeff Bridges says:

          And how long do you think it would take for that constitutional challenge to go through? More importantly, after a bipartisan panel calls you a liar appealing the ruling on grounds that the law itself is unconstitutional doesn’t get you very far.

  5. Hugh Jorgen 2008 says:

    If you sue for libel they are liable to prove it.

    This is a counter productive and childish move by Markey.  Let’s see Musgrave said Markey owned the company when it is actually 100% owned by her husband. OK.  Add to that the fact that under penalty of perjury they said the company was majority owned by a woman. So who is telling the truth.

    This is not a road that Markey wants to go down.  

    I love the idea of Marilyn Musgrave in handcuffs and chains as much as any Pols blogger.  Yet, this was a crazy complaint for Markey to file.  

    • Jeff Bridges says:

      Just posted this above, but clearly it needs more eyeballs.

      From the Colorado Independent:

      According to State law, C.R.S. 1-13-109(2)(a) it is a class 2 misdemeanor for any person to “…recklessly make, publish, broadcast, or circulate or cause to be made, published, broadcasted or circulated in any letter, circular, advertisement, or poster or 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.” Recklessly is defined as acting “…in conscious disregard of the truth or falsity of the statement made, published, broadcasted, or circulated.”

      This was a brilliant move by Markey. It seriously undercuts Musgrave’s message. The only way it bites back is if within the next five weeks the legal system decides that Musgrave was telling the truth. I don’t think things move that quickly nor do I think that’s the verdict they’d reach.

      • Hugh Jorgen 2008 says:

        What happens when the DA issues a written statement calling the ad accurate? Which it is by the way. Yes District Attorneys move that quickly particularly when someone is cynically trying to manipulate the system and waste taxpayer time and money as Markey is doing.

        I know there is all this sophistry.  Oh she had sold the company. To whom? Her husband. We just forgot to tell the Federal Government about this sale in forms signed under penalty of perjury. Oh,, we were eligible for preferential treatment but never received it so are false statements are OK.

        This issue is not a good one for Markey.  By keeping it in the news she is making a huge mistake.  I hope Kenny Salazar is keeping her job open.  

        Two different papers have had headlines calling Markey’s version of events misleading.

        • DavidThi808 says:

          You are right that if the DA says it is without merit that will hurt Betsy (some). But of the DA does not find it without merit, then it damages Marilyn a lot.

          There’s a lot of power in saying MM’s attack is so inaccurate, there’s a criminal investigation of her statements.

        • Jeff Bridges says:

          Before you decide it’s a bad call, I recommend you take some time to learn about how the law works from here.

          As far as I understand it, the complaint now goes to a bipartisan committee established by the Colorado District Attorneys’ Council. That committee then reviews the allegations and advises the Larimer DA accordingly.

          As for headlines, how’s this one from the Coloradoan – “Federal agency: No proof Markey used position to secure contracts”

  6. shrubsrock says:

    someone that supports Bush so much would be shocked that anybody connected with the DoD would make more after a war breaks out?  I need lots more information to know if anything is dirty here, but just that idea confuses me.  My contracts with the DoD quadrupled.

  7. Jambalaya says:

    …to describe someone who simply wrote a letter to the DA.

  8. ohwilleke says:

    deceptive political ads, and I can’t think of a single criminal liable case that has resulted in a conviction sustained on appeal in Colorado in the last half century, at least.  I would be very surprised if the DA took on the case.

    Criminalizing politics is not the solution to deceptive political advertising, and the law that authorizes these prosecutions really ought to be stripped from the statute books, because it encourages destructive political grandstanding.

    • Jeff Bridges says:

      Do you just not read the other comments before you post?  IT’S NOT LIBEL!! Colorado has a law against lying in political advertising, and the DA doesn’t decide the case, a bipartisan panel appointed by the AG does.

      For the third time, from the Colorado Independent:

      According to State law, C.R.S. 1-13-109(2)(a) it is a class 2 misdemeanor for any person to “…recklessly make, publish, broadcast, or circulate or cause to be made, published, broadcasted or circulated in any letter, circular, advertisement, or poster or 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.” Recklessly is defined as acting “…in conscious disregard of the truth or falsity of the statement made, published, broadcasted, or circulated.”

      Sorry to blow up at you – I’m sure it was just an honest mistake. It’s just the third time I’ve had to post the law so I’m a little perturbed.  🙂 Smiles and much love!

  9. Hugh Jorgen 2008 says:

    The statute quoted at length and correctly by Jeff Bridges is a criminal libel statute. It imposes criminal penalties for knowingly making a false statement.

    Many states used to have such statutes. Few states now have such laws and even fewer ever enforce them. I know of no case ever actuallyprosecuted in Colorado.

    If Marilyn Musgrave is able to convince the District Attorney that her statement was true it will damage Markey.  It seems at best that Markey is skating on thin ice with her claim of divestiture.

    If you claim someone libeled you they are liable to prove it.

    Markey’s new ad attacking Musgrave is well done.

    • It’s not exactly a libel statute, but is rather a campaign disinformation statute.  It is not limited to libel; it covers any kind of disinformation designed to affect the vote on either a candidate or issue.  And it applies a different standard than the regular libel of a public figure standard.

      As far as I know, it is a relatively unique statute.

      • Hugh Jorgen 2008 says:

        Yes it involves slander as well as libel but it is in the same form as the old common law criminal libel statutes.  It is unique in that most states had enough common sense not to pass an unenforceable law.

        The District Attorney may well ask for her version of events. Truth is a defense.  

        Ms. Markey may get a favorable story out of this.  Than again she may get a formal letter from the DA saying the facts are essentially true and no crime was committed.  

        I have read everything everyone has put out on this. It seems the violation of the law claimed by Markey  is that she claims to have sold her business when in fact all she did was sign it over to her husband.  At the same time her husband under penalty of perjury said the business was owned 51% by a woman. Am I missing something?

        I would love to see Marilyn Musgrave go down to defeat and to jail as well. This tactic by Markey is not going to help and may blow up or in the word of the day crater.

        • It goes way beyond libel/slander.  It covers “deception” in all forms.  If you say “Saddam Hussein gave al Qaeda hundreds of millions of dollars – we needed to go to Iraq and my opponent opposed that war”, then after someone rebuts your claim you’d better have a darned good reason to continue airing it.  The statement is neither libel nor slander, but it could materially affect the outcome of the race and it is easily proven to be false and willfully stated.

          Closer to libel, saying “Markey’s firm benefited from her position on Sen. Salazar’s staff” and continuing to say so after a Senate Ethics Committee says it isn’t so falls under the statute.

          The burden of proof under the CO statute in question is much lower than that for libel of a public figure.

          BTW, for anyone still watching this thread – has any complaint under this statute ever gone through, either successfully or not?  How many complaints have there been?

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