Let the mud fly.
Ads for the September recall election are starting to get nasty and a bit personal in Colorado Springs.
Commercials kicked off on Thursday that highlight an ethics complaint from 2011 against Sen. John Morse, D-Colorado Springs. The old complaint alleged he accepted a per-diem payment on days he golfed, traveled and got a haircut.
But the ads fail to mention Morse was cleared of the accusations after an ethics panel investigated in 2011 and decided that simply because the senator's calendar didn't include legislative events didn't mean he wasn't working.
"That is an outright lie," said Christy Le Lait, campaign manager for A Whole Lot of People for John Morse. "She [Laura Carno] uses that story to make it look like he was charged with the ethics violation. It's just nasty."
Daniel Cole, executive director of the El Paso County Republican Party said the ads are relevant and factual.
"Morse wasn't 'cleared' of the ethics charge," Cole said in a statement. "According to the three-Democrat, two-Republian panel, Morse's case demonstrated that per-diem rules were too loose and murky and needed to change."
The ethics complaint was centered around a $99 per day stipend that was allowed to legislative leaders during the intersession.
Those who lodged the complaint scrutinized Morse's public calendar on the days he'd claimed the per-diem and lodged a complaint saying he requested the money on days he wasn't doing state business, including one where he traveled to a wedding.
Morse was targeted for recall by the group Basic Freedom Defense Fund after he supported gun legislation last session that tightened down background check requirements and banned high-capacity magazines.
Also targeted for recall by the group was Sen. Angela Giron, D-Pueblo.
Voters in both of the senators' districts will decide on Sept. 10 whether to keep the lawmakers in office.
Yet few of the media messages being sent out are dealing with the gun issue.
Bernie Herpin, the Republican candidate vying to replace Mores if he's recalled, is under attack for his pro-life stance.
Herpin told The Gazette he is pro-life, but the ads go too far.
"I've never supported any kind of legislation that would say all forms of birth control are bad, that abortions should be restricted," Herpin said, who is a former Colorado Springs City Council member and vocal opponent of gun control.
The ads claim Herpin and Republican George Rivera, who will be on the ballot as a replacement option for Giron, both support limiting birth control options and "sending police to investigate miscarriages."
One source for the advertisement is a petition circulated to candidates for Colorado Springs City Council in April by the Pikes Peak Citizens for Life group.
Herpin responded in that survey, agreeing that at the single-cell stage of development an embryo becomes a person.
He did not respond on that survey that he wanted to limit birth control or ban abortions.
Rivera said he's not ashamed to be against abortion.
"This is my first time in politics and this is actually something that doesn't surprise me," Rivera said. "Social issues are not the issue, the issue is gun control. For the Giron campaign to try to deflect from that, that's the story and I believe people are not going to be distracted from the real issue."
None of the advertisements in question is being paid for by the committees organized to support the candidates, nor by the Basic Freedom Defense Fund.
Rather third-party non-profits and political action committees have entered the fray to sway voters in Senate Districts 3 and 11.
We Can Do Better Colorado - which has three different types of committees registered with the Secretary of State's Office - is paying for the ads targeting Herpin.
All three of the committees were formed on July 31 and have yet to file a contributions and expenditures report. The next filing date for the recall election is Aug. 27.
Neither of the registered agents for the committees - Julie Wells nor Josette Jaramillo - returned phone calls Thursday seeking comment.
The advertisements going after Morse's ethics complaints were paid for by IACE Action - a new 501(c)4 non-profit -- established by Laura Carno in addition to her I Am Created Equal political committee.
"They may not like us talking about the ethics investigation, but it did happen and as a result they did change rules on per-diem which is why I said that it wasn't trivial in the first line of the ad," Carno said whose 527 committee is a top donor to the group trying to unseat Morse. "They changed some rules after that in acknowledgment that the rules didn't cover what was ethical."
Carno said unlike the advertisements going after Herpin, she can cite sources for every statement in the ad where she directly appeals to voters.
Carno joined with Jeff Crank, the conservative morning talk show host, in asking four television stations to remove the ads going after Herpin.
"It just seems like something has changed in our system and there may be a little bit more cynicism and people just expect politicians to lie," Crank said. "I just think it is so disrespectful to voters to just blatantly lie to them about things that can manipulate their emotions."
With 18 days until voters in central-Colorado Springs and Pueblo vote on removing their elected officials in office, residents may have to keep a low profile to avoid the mud.
Contact Megan Schrader