Correcting Joe Harrington's claims about the Dan Maes non-deal

Let me begin this note by saying I am not enjoying this.  I consider Joe Harrington a friend, having known Joe for several years due to a common business interest.  We only started talking politics in a serious way in the past several months. It pains me to write this, but I feel I have no choice.

[Update: The Denver Post's Lynn Bartels has picked up my story.]

[Update 2: Colorado blogger Ben DeGrow adds to the evidence that it was the Maes camp, not Tom Tancredo, seeking a deal for Maes.]

Joe Harrington posted a note on his Facebook page (which Dan Maes parroted from his own Facebook page) in which he implies that representatives of Tom Tancredo reached out to him for his help in offering Dan Maes some sort of deal to get out of the race.

Lynn Bartels of the Denver Post picked up the story, changing Joe's description of one of the people he had spoken to from "a well-known blogger" to "a conservative blogger".

I hereby "out" myself as that blogger, something that probably doesn't surprise readers of these "inside baseball" political conversations since Joe and I have had frequent and sometimes heated online debates about the governor's race.  Also, when I essentially requested that he make a public correction to his note, Joe said "I haven't publicly named you yet.  I don't intend to but if pushed I will."  So, let's just dispense with that threat right now.  I name myself publicly.

Joe's story, however, is at best misleading and I cannot stand by -- even without being overtly named -- and let claims go unchallenged.

While the news headlines have been along the lines of "Maes declines deal", the real story is "Maes supporter tries to trap Tancredo campaign by suggesting deal."

The implication of Joe's story is that I and others contacted him trying to solicit a deal for Dan Maes.  This is turning the true story on its head...and I can and will prove it here.

Here is what actually happened:

On October 4, 2010, I sent an e-mail to Joe asking "what would have to happen for you to vote for Tancredo?"  My question was not intended as any sort of machination, but just a continuation of an ongoing discussion Joe and I have had about the merits of the candidate he's supporting versus the merits of trying to beat John Hickenlooper with the most electable conservative candidate.

Joe responded (the next morning) with a short list of things (which would never happen), such as that Tom would have to name Maes as Lt. Gov and give Maes two cabinet picks.

Later in the day, after complaining about how Tom Tancredo got into the race, Joe said "Putting Maes and two other maes appointees in a tt [Tancredo] admin is no different than other deals made in many other jurisdictions to form a government. If that is the price of control then tt should suck it up and make a deal."

He added an e-mail p.s. a few minutes later asking " do you think a deal could be made? Or are they both idealistic purists who will die on the field of battle?"

My response: "The latter... Tom is idealistic and Maes is narcissistic."

But Joe was persistent in his apparent desire to try to find a deal for Maes: "Ill bring Maes along and you bring tt along and let's try...it has to happen before ballots drop on the 12th..."

You can see the entire conversation in the e-mail chain below (or HERE) which is unedited except for removing Joe's e-mail address.

In a parallel e-mail discussion, in response to Joe's complaint about Tom Tancredo's entry into the race following his earlier decision not to get in, and Josh Penry's exit from the race, the latter two parts of which Joe called a "dirty deal", I wrote the following to Joe:

...The "deal" with McInnis was not "dirty".  It was very public and was simply about getting McInnis to agree to govern by certain conservative principles.  A "dirty" deal would have been one in which Tancredo was offered something for staying out of the race, which he wasn't.

Putting Maes into any position of responsibility to get him out of the race would indeed be a "dirty" deal.

People who stick with Maes now are either people who just vote the straight Republican ticket or who aren't paying attention or who have so much of their own egos tied up in Maes' candidacy that they'll sacrifice the state on the altar of their own stubbornness.

Joe responded:

(Sentence deleted by Ross to protect those uninvolved in this discussion.)
...It was a dirty deal. They should have let the process pick the best person not try to rig the process.

Given it was rigged... Why not try to make a deal? Ask Maes what it would take?

Ask Tancredo what he is willing to do. It doesn't have to be wrong just because it results in conservatives winning. I guarantee you that the dems make deals every time...

After this discussion, I spoke with a friend of Tom Tancredo's -- but not with Tom himself -- saying that "one of Maes' strongest supporters" wants to know if any "deal" could be made.

This person said that he was not authorized to speak for Tom but that he had heard an idea being bounced around of a non-state-funded job, sort of like a Colorado version of the Grace Commission, which could be funded by private citizens, and which could be a good fit for Maes.  This person and I asked each other if a discussion of something like this were legal, and neither of us knew the answer.

I called Joe the next morning and told him of my conversation with that person, adding specifically that I am not an expert on election law and would have no part of anything illegal.  I told Joe that if any conversation of this type were to go any further than being purely hypothetical, I would consult with an election law attorney before taking part in any more conversations.  I told Joe that I was not negotiating on behalf of anyone and that Tom Tancredo had no part of, influence over, or, as far as I knew, knowledge of what I was saying to Joe.  And I told Joe again that I was not offering and could not offer anything, but that this commission idea was simply something I heard from a guy who had heard others talk about the idea. I never heard the word "foundation" or "501(c)4" or any of the other details which Joe describes hearing from others, nor did I ever hear a name of a potential funder or funders for this commission.

It was all, I thought, little more than a flight of fancy to see if there were some way that conservatives could win the governor's race rather than having the vote split and handing the race to Hickenlooper.  I made clear from the beginning that (1) I thought no deal would be possible, and (2) I would not have any part of anything illegal.

But I must re-emphasize the key part of all of this:  The talk of a "deal" was instigated and aggressively pushed by Joe Harrington, not by me.  I asked Joe about whether he might vote for Tancredo and he responded with the suggestion of a deal and multiple rationalizations for trying to get one done.

As it happens, there was no further conversation because, as Dan Maes told the press and unbeknown to me, Tancredo and Maes were meeting that very morning (at what Tom expected would be a private meeting but Maes decided to make it public).  Each asked the other to drop out.  Each said no.  And that was the end of it.

I never had another conversation with Joe or anyone else about the idea of a "commission" or anything else that Dan Maes might do after he loses this election.

I have no idea whether Joe ever spoke with Dan Maes about his conversations and I have no idea, if he did speak with Maes, whether Joe characterized the conversations as a move by Tancredo to try to offer Dan a deal.  But Tancredo has always said he'd never be involved in a deal and I told Joe at the beginning of our e-mail conversation (as you can see above) that I thought neither man would make a deal (though for very different reasons.)

I doubt that Dan Maes actually put Joe up to this attempt at entrapment.  My guess is that it was just another scheme hatched by Joe, like his ill-fated lawsuit challenging Tancredo's candidacy, in his desperation to salvage the candidacy of the man whom Joe has put so much of his own political capital (and some financial capital) into supporting.  In other words, I don't think this was a Maes-Harrington conspiracy, though I do think that once Maes heard about it he liked the idea of trying to use the Joe's scheme to make Tancredo look bad.

While Joe's Facebook post (and thus the Denver Post story) imply that Joe was proactively contacted by me or "metro-Denver area GOP county chairs", the truth seems to be that Joe was the one making all the moves.

Indeed, in a very short interview on Tuesday's Peter Boyles radio show, Joe made a remark that would probably go unnoticed by most but which is critical.  He said "I reached out to several people and said 'Is there a way to merge the campaigns somehow?'..." (listen at 34:30 of THIS podcast)  In other words, when Joe says in his Facebook note that he had "approached or been approached by many people regarding making a deal with the Tancredo campaign", the statement is only true in the sense that he approached many people.  Saying "approached or approached by" is technically true even though it appears the number of people he was approached by was zero based on his own words.

It's like saying "I always drive a car or bike to work."  Technically true since I always drive my car to work and never ride a bike , but wildly and intentionally misleading to have an "or" choice, the actual quantity of which is zero.

Furthermore, Joe admitted on the air to recording a conversation with a GOP Party official without that person's knowledge (which is legal in Colorado.)  One can only wonder if Joe's inspiration for this whole scheme was the news -- which came out just one day before my first e-mail to Joe -- regarding Nevada Senate candidate Sharron Angle being caught on tape trashing the GOP establishment.  Some were thinking that the tape might hurt Angle.  Maybe Joe thought "hey, that might work against Tancredo." Though the timing of Joe's recording is remarkably coincidental, this is pure speculation on my part and I have not asked Joe what motivated him to behave that way at that particular time.

I also believe Joe is using clever wording to make a near-libelous accusation against Tom Tancredo himself.  In particular, Joe said "I spoke to a well-known blogger, two Metro-Denver area GOP county chairs, two senior operatives for Tom Tancredo, a former senior officer of the state GOP, and directly with Tom Tancredo. In three of the discussion threads, deals were offered that were at their core illegal..."  In other words, Joe implies that he talked to Tom Tancredo about a deal and leaves open the possibility that Tancredo made an illegal offer.  It was not until he was asked by the Denver Post's Lynn Bartels that Harrington made clear that Tancredo made no such offer.  Indeed, I'm told that Harrington's conversation with Tancredo was about an entirely different topic.

Joe Harrington is turning from a too-clever-by-half twister of words into a would-be destroyer of reputations.  I cannot and will not let his schemes and smears go unchallenged.

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