Lindstrom, Lemon decry attack ads
SUMMIT COUNTY – Ads on local radio stations might have voters believe that state Representative Gary Lindstrom is a radical environmentalist. But they’d be hard-pressed to find him out spiking trees or staging sit-ins.A flurry of political flyers and postcards in local mailboxes accuses Lindstrom’s challenger for the District 56 seat in the state House of Representatives, Heather Lemon, of wanting to cut millions of dollars from public schools. But she has children sitting in public classrooms.”If you have a child in public schools, why would you want to do such a thing?” Lemon asked.Both Lindstrom and Lemon have been on the receiving end of political attack ads funded by outside advocacy groups known as “527” organizations, named for the section of the tax code that covers them. Neither candidate asked for the groups’ support, and neither appreciates the negativity the ads have injected into an otherwise cordial race for the state house.At the federal level, 527 groups like Swift Vets and POWs for Truth and MoveOn PAC have spent millions in an attempt to sway voters in the presidential race. In Summit and Eagle counties, Alliance for Colorado Families is blasting Lemon, and a group called All Children Matter is bashing Lindstrom.A direct mail piece from All Children Matter asserts, “Wildfires cost us millions of dollars and put lives at risk. But when people from both parties got together to do something about it, Gary Lindstrom stood with radical environmental groups and opposed a bill to protect our mountain communities.” Similar ads have played on local radio stations.The bill to which the ad refers is the Healthy Forests Act, federal legislation that Lindstrom never even had the opportunity to vote on as a state representative.”I think the Healthy Forests Act has some good things in it, but it was an unfunded mandate,” Lindstrom said. “I’m an environmentalist. These people attacking me are advancing my positions on the environment. People call and say, ‘Gary, I didn’t know if I was going to vote for you or not, but once I heard that, I decided to vote for you.'”I have no idea who they are,” Lindstrom said. “I think it’s really unfortunate. I would hope civilization has gone beyond that, but every four years it hasn’t,” Lindstrom added.An attack ad against Lemon claims she wants to reduce funding for public education in Colorado: “You know what that means: Either we force our students into crowded classrooms or we get hit with a huge property tax hike,” read one mailer, paid for by Alliance for Colorado Families. Lemon said the ad bases its claim on a questionnaire she filled out in 2002, asking whether across-the-board cuts to the entire state budget would be necessary in the face of declining revenues.”They take it so out of context, and we’re all so misquoted,” Lemon lamented. “I hope voters are intelligent enough not to believe all the negative messages they’re hearing.”But many voters don’t distinguish between the candidates’ ads and the 527 groups’ ads.”I don’t know what good (the attack ads) do, because all you hear is bad,” said Summit County resident Dessa Gearing. “It makes me not want to vote for either of them.”But Gearing said she tries to tune out the ads and get her information on the candidates from elsewhere.”I looked into them on my own, rather than listening to the ads, which is what people should do anyway,” Gearing added.In some media, the 527s are spending more than the candidates themselves on advertising. Lemon has purchased $4,818 in radio advertising from Krystal 93. Lindstrom has run $4,169-worth on the same station.In contrast, All Children Matter has been blitzing the airwaves with $7,736 in anti-Lindstrom attack ads on Krystal. Alliance for Colorado Families spent $1,357.”If there’s a way we could limit outside money in state races, I’d like to see if we can do it,” Lemon said.Lindstrom agreed, but felt that action would most likely need to happen at the federal level.”My personal feeling is that the federal government will probably create legislation after these elections. Some people use these groups to funnel millions of dollars into ads. It’s a huge loophole you can drive a truck through,” Lindstrom said.Julie Sutor can be reached at (970) 668-3998, ext. 203, or at email@example.com.
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