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Polis, Kennedy complain to Colorado Democratic Party about dirty campaigning

June 7, 2018 Updated: June 8, 2018 at 4:09 pm
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The gubernatorial campaigns of Cary Kennedy and Jared Polis have filed complaints with the state Democratic Party, each alleging the other violated the Clean Campaign Promise signed by all four party candidates.

Polis' complaint came Wednesday evening after Kennedy filed one that morning - and just a few hours after Kennedy's camp sent an email trying to raise money off of a Polis ad attacking Kennedy.

"It's a shame that Jared would take the campaign in this direction, instead of focusing on the issues that matter to Colorado families," Kennedy's campaign said in the email.

"Cary said she would run a clean campaign," says an unidentified Polis supporter in a TV ad that began airing Wednesday. "But she broke her word," added another.

The Kennedy campaign pointed to the Polis ad in its formal complaint to the party, which encouraged candidates to sign a pledge swearing off negative campaigning against fellow Democrats.

"This is a personal attack and is full of false statements," wrote Serena Woods, Kennedy's deputy campaign manager. "We expect the party to take action."

Polis' camp said the ad was only pushing back on attacks first aired last week in a TV ad put out - with a $1.4 million media buy - by the super PAC called Teachers for Kennedy. That ad questioned the devotion of Polis and fellow Democratic candidate Mike Johnston to "progressive values" in public education policy.

Kennedy has distanced herself from the ad but refused to ask its sponsors to take it down, saying she can't legally coordinate with the independent expenditure committee that produced it.

A 9News story found Kennedy would be free to criticize the ad or ask the PAC to pull it from the airwaves.

Polis campaign Chairwoman Lisa Kaufmann addressed an official complaint to state party Chairman Morgan Carroll.

"Cary Kennedy has repeatedly stated she had nothing to do with the false, negative attack against Jared created by her PAC," the letter states. Kaufmann calls Kennedy's claim "at best, deceptive," and points to a link labeled "Media Resources" on Kennedy's campaign site.

That link takes viewers to a page of "B-roll" footage - "background" video used in news and promotions - as well as still photos and talking points for Kennedy's supporters to use. The independent expenditure committee supporting Kennedy has incorporated much of the material in its ads.

"These materials are commonly referred to as a 'Redbox' and are used as a legally permissible way for campaigns to signal to outside groups what messaging to use," Kaufmann's letter says. "Currently, this page includes a section entitled 'Cary's Message,' which features more false attacks against Jared's consistent record of supporting public education."

The pledge calls on campaigns to encourage supporters not to go negative.

"Instead, Kennedy defended the ad in two separate candidate debates, and in fact encouraged the spread of false, negative attacks against Jared Polis through the 'Redbox' on her website," Kaufmann says. "She also tried to claim that campaign finance laws prohibited her from denouncing the ad - a patently false claim, as demonstrated by 9News' extensive analysis of it this evening.

"Now that Cary Kennedy has chosen to take the race in a negative direction, we have no choice but to defend Jared Polis' strong, progressive record."

Party spokesman Eric Walker said, "We will thoroughly review all complaints and evidence submitted before making a statement."

Johnston's campaign has urged Kennedy to live by the clean campaign pledge but hasn't filed any complaint, a spokesman said.

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