There used to be a great line about the sheepishness some campaign operatives feel about their chosen political profession: “Don’t tell my mother I’m in politics; she thinks I’m a piano player in a whore house in New Orleans.”
Well, Mom might be wondering what you’re up to these days now that New Orleans is closed for business. She might even suspect you’ve joined the circus or, worse yet, signed on to the campaign opposing Referendums C and D in Colorado.
The list of out-of-state luminaries who have entered the fray in Colorado as financiers or operatives is amazing. Seymour Holtzman, the jewelry magnate from Palm Beach County, Fla., and Wilkes-Barre, Pa., put $100,000 into the coffers. Former Texas Rep. Dick Armey (R) has made several trips to the state to rally opposition.
Washington superlobbyist David Carmen has been stalking from the shadows of Gucci Gulch. Virginian Dick Leggitt rolled into Colorado doing his best impression of Kid Shelleen, the dime-novel gunslinger played by Lee Marvin in the Cat Ballou farce of the mid-’60s. His former boss, one-time Virginia Gov. Jim Gilmore, steered $140,000 into the campaign against the two Colorado proposals.
Though beleaguered lately by his alleged ties to Jack Abramoff, even Grover Norquist has found time to dabble in Colorado’s affairs.
Why are all these out-of-state bigwigs, most with ties to the Republican Party, choosing to interfere in another state’s affairs? After all, isn’t respected Republican Gov. Bill Owens leading the yes campaign? Don’t almost half of the Republicans in the state Legislature back the proposals? Aren’t the measures backed by every major Chamber of Commerce? This week, didn’t the 1,000th community organization — the National Western Stock Show — make an endorsement of the two referendums? So what could Holtzman, the East Coast jeweler, and Gilmore, from the land of Robert E. Lee, know about Colorado that it’s own governor, Chambers of Commerce and stock show don’t know?
I’m going to give these misguided souls an excuse because if Referendums C and D are approved by Colorado voters Tuesday, the out-of-state crowd will be about as welcome in Colorado this upcoming ski season as Kobe Bryant.
The excuse is that they were lied to. A few Colorado-based “activists” and nutty political opportunists have lied to Colorado’s voters and to anyone else who’d listen for months. The out-of-state crowd may just have been deceived. As one local activist admitted recently, “I just make this stuff up as I go along.”
The lies began as soon as Referendums C and D were sent to voters. The special-interest groups that enrich themselves through exploitation of voters’ fears howled that the measures represent a massive tax increase. This argument is ostensibly undercut by the fact that the first words of Referendum C are “Without raising taxes” and the first words of Referendum D are “Without increasing any tax rates or imposing any new taxes.” I’ve just got to guess that Holtzman of Boca Raton, Fla., and Wilkes-Barre, Pa., was never shown this language because otherwise he probably wouldn’t have spent $100,000 propagating the lie that C and D will raise taxes.
The latest lie is that Referendums C and D have something to do with illegal aliens. Opponents of the measure urge voters to express their outrage at lax border security by rejecting the proposals. In reality, of course, there is no link between these two measures and illegal immigration. It’s just a bogus and embarrassingly desperate attempt to create an appearance of guilt by association.
I doubt that former Gov. Gilmore would have put $140,000 into a campaign that would countenance such a ridiculous ploy. Surely he knows that Colorado’s budget problems stem from rising Medicaid, education and road-building costs, not illegals. But maybe his Kid Shelleen didn’t shoot straight with him after a week or two of consorting with local liars who just make stuff up.
Hill is director of Hill Research Consultants, a Texas-based firm that has polled for GOP candidates and causes since 1988.