Wow, you think? As the Grand Junction Sentinel reports:
A Front Range political watchdog group says it will investigate a phone message left by former Republican Congressman Scott McInnis with a supporter.
McInnis’ message suggests he’s working with a 527, the term borrowed from the IRS code for an independent political organization…
McInnis mentioned no organization by name in the phone message and told The Daily Sentinel that he knew of no such organizations operating in connection with the 2010 election in which Gov. Bill Ritter, a Democrat, is up for election.
The CompleteColorado.com transcription begins with, “Wanna visit with you on this two-thousand-and-ten governor’s race.” The transcription later purports that McInnis is talking about an organizational team and that “Sean Tonner” is “doin’ our 5-uh … (cough) … or a 527. …”
He said he did nothing wrong because he’s not officially a candidate, although he has made no secret of his ambitions.
He said he is collecting no contributions and making his efforts “on my own dime.”
Of his use of the term “527,” he said, “I should probably retract that.”
He meant to refer generally to campaign organizations, he said…
Another longtime associate, state Sen. Josh Penry of Grand Junction, has emerged as McInnis’ likely opponent in a primary contest.
One day after the “leaking” of presumed gubernatorial candidate Scott McInnis’ phone message to an as-yet unknown Republican who, we should all be able to agree by this point, does not support McInnis, let’s summarize where we are with this little scandal:
First of all, this will probably do far more damage in terms of general impressions about McInnis’ ability to successfully run a statewide race than it will in actual legal terms. Although the message is pretty bald-facedly damning to even casual readers who understand the spirit of campaign finance law, there is enough wiggle room, particularly for someone who hasn’t formally filed as a candidate, to leave the question of actionable violations of the law kind of murky–note even the Ethics Watch lawyers are somewhat equivocal about this. If it was an open-and-shut matter you can be assured they wouldn’t be. And there is still the matter of how far this investigation goes, and whether McInnis’ mentioning of a 527 committee will lead to more records being sought (not just by Ethics Watch, but by Republican opponents).
But above all, the problem here is that what McInnis says makes him sound like an idiot who doesn’t know the elementary CYA rules of modern political campaigns. And the idea that he would make such a cardinal error on a recorded message, to somebody he clearly should not have counted upon to, you know, keep it off the internet…
We’re also amazed that McInnis thinks “I’m not yet a candidate” is some sort of defense. You can’t run around raising money and soliciting support for a specific office without filing paperwork to run – that’s sort of the reason we have campaign finance laws.
It’s pretty clear that the “leak” of this recorded message was the work of supporters of McInnis’ upcoming primary opponent Josh Penry, based on this private message intended for an influential Republican instead broadcast on a right-wing blog–obviously, McInnis knows who he left it for. That fact alone should settle any remaining questions about a friendly resolution to their emerging rivalry–it’s, as they say, on now. Or McInnis is toast, punked once again, the next few days of fallout and damage control (we see nothing to suggest this story is going away) will tell.