We haven’t even made it through the first week of October, and voters are already being overwhelmed with campaign advertisements based on complete fabrications. You can read more here (and here, and here – and that’s just today), or check out this story from the Colorado Independent about walk pieces appearing in targeted districts with literally no information about where they come from or who paid for the materials.
There is a law on the books in Colorado that prohibits anyone from making “knowingly false” statements about a candidate or issue in an attempt to influence the outcome in an election (no, really – it’s true!). The law is actually fairly unambiguous on this subject – see Colorado Revised Statutes 1-13-109 – but because it is virtually never enforced, the language might as well be written in crayon on a bathroom wall in the State Capitol building.
We can’t recall a recent election in which someone didn’t complain about a violation of the “knowingly false” law; some of these allegations can be a little silly, while others seem to perfectly fit the definition of the law. But we have never seen a more willful violation of knowingly false political advertising than what is currently taking place in Senate District 19 (Arvada/Westminster). As you are probably aware, SD-19 is the single most hotly-contested legislative race in Colorado in 2016, with Democrat Rachel Zenzinger challenging state Sen. Laura Waters Woods in a rematch of 2014 that may well decide which political party controls the state senate in January.
In their urgency to protect Sen. Woods and maintain their one-seat majority in the Senate, Republicans continue to attack Zenzinger with paid media advertisements alleging that the former Arvada City Council member once voted to use taxpayer funds to take a “sister cities” trip to China. This allegation has been repeatedly proven to be false – both in 2014 and most recently by Politifact in July – and is such a ridiculous lie that it’s difficult to understand how anyone dreamed it up in the first place. Here are the facts:
- Zenzinger has never been to China, for any reason. At all.
- Zenzinger actually presented a motion while on the Arvada City Council to specifically prohibit taxpayer money being used for “sister cities” trips.
None of this is new (mis)information. In fact, take a look at what we wrote in this space back on Oct. 10, 2014:
In short, now-Sen. Zenzinger did the exact opposite of what this ad suggests. Not only did she insist that taxpayer funds not be used on the trip, she didn’t even go. It’s frequently alleged/presumed in these situations that “both sides do it,” but this ad goes beyond just about anything we’ve seen this year in terms of making stuff up…
We could have just copy-and-pasted that same story from two years ago. How is this still happening?
There is no possible scenario in which a political group could argue that they didn’t know that these “China Girl” allegations are complete malarkey, which is about as blatant a case of “knowingly false” as you will ever encounter. The fact that there is ZERO supporting evidence to back up this claim is damning enough; over the course of the last two years, multiple media outlets have also reported that these claims are 100% without merit. Yet here we are with another mail piece pushing the same false tale. Ironically, the mail piece in question comes from the Republican-affiliated organization “Colorado Citizens for Accountable Government” (click here for a PDF image).
Zenzinger told the Colorado Independent that one of her first priorities – if elected – will be to “expand disclosure requirements and shore up loopholes.” This needs to happen whether or not Zenzinger is elected next month. This can’t be allowed to continue.