During the weekend, I got a heads-up about a complaint against Dan Maes' campaign (to become the nominee of the GOP to run for the governorship of Colorado) as well as the campaign's response. (Click on those links to see actual documents.)
In short, someone (probably a friend of Scott McInnis, but that's not particularly relevant at this point) filed a complaint with the Colorado Secretary of State alleging several violations in the Maes campaign's financial reporting.
You can read the details of the complaint yourself, but the upshot was that Maes did not contest any aspects of the complaint and his campaign has agreed to fines totaling approximately $25,000.
To put that in perspective, that's more than the campaign's entire cash balance as of the end of May, which stood at about $21,000.
I was also sent a copy of the letter Maes sent to a senior staff member of his campaign, asking that the letter be circulated "to all County Chairs" and for "Grass roots leaders (to) please share as you see fit." I'm not going to quote the letter in its entirety here, in part because I don't now for a 100% certainty that it is real. If I learn that what I was sent is fake, I will note that here as soon as I learn it. Until then, what I have received appears real enough that I'm willing to write based on an assumption that it's genuine.
The letter from Maes is disturbing to me as someone who considers himself a strong supporter of the Tea Party movement given that Maes either is, or is at least widely perceived to be, the candidate of the Tea Party and 9/12 groups in Colorado.
Maes' letter says that the fines "amount to parking tickets in the grand scheme of things." I can't say that I've ever had a parking ticket which cost more than the balance in my business' bank account.
While I understand Maes' assertion that something "as minor as not correctly listing the occupation of a donor correctly" might seem like a small oversight, Maes misses the bigger point: he is running to be the chief executive officer of a state. How can he be expected to run Colorado if he can't even get a campaign operating within the bounds of the law -- whether or not you like the particular law?
Maes blames the complaint on deception from "within our own party". But given that Maes' campaign chose not to contest any of the complaints, it's hard to see how the fines are based on deception.
Separately, and perhaps this is something that I might notice more than others because I write so much and, while far from perfect, do take pride in my writing most of the time: Maes' note is horrendously written, with errors in grammar and spelling and with poorly worded sentences whose meaning is just barely clear. An 8th grade English student would have this paper sent back with a C-. (It wouldn't surprise me if the version that actually gets sent around has been edited by a staffer who passed high school English with at least a B and therefore is missing some of the most egregious writing errors.)
The governorship is a position which requires frequent clear explanation of decisions, rules, laws, opinions and more and I can't imagine that a guy who could write the letter that Maes wrote is likely to be a successful communicator with the people, legislators, and bureaucrats of our state.
Look, I understand that it's hard to be highly enthusiastic about Scott McInnis. He's far too much the "typical politician", even if in a fairly genuine former cop, cowboy boot western slope sort of way. But he's not an idiot and even if he's not especially politically courageous, he's also not a RINO squishy liberal.
I also understand, because I'm part of the GOP's problem, that Tea Party activists care much more about principle and good government than about the Republican Party, even if the majority of Tea Partiers are Republicans. But at some point, politics has to be about winning. I don't want the Tea Party to turn into the Libertarian Party (with apologies to my good friend David Williams). The Libertarian Party has been in the past (though I hope it's changing a bit now) a bunch of people who were so concerned about being dogmatically pure that they could never win anything outside of the occasional relatively small local election.
The Tea Party movement is massive. If it focuses its energy on supporting would-be politicians for the primary reason that they haven't held office in the past (or that they don't know John McCain) at the expense of actually thinking about who can win, who can actually deliver improved government and increased liberty and lower taxes rather than just talk about it but then lose to the Democrat, then the Tea Party movement could become worse than worthless.
It pains me to say that because I consider myself more closely affiliated with the Tea Party than any other political group or party. I fly a Gadsden Flag in my back yard. I have voted Libertarian for president in every election since 1992, and roughly split my vote between Libertarian and Republican for other offices while working hard for a few Republican candidates, particularly Bob Schaffer.
I don't want the fiery enthusiasm of the Tea Party to fizzle out, to go down in history as a movement that had oh so much potential but in the end only impacted one election cycle before people realized that they did almost as much harm as good. I don't want the Tea Party to be wasted by supporting the Dan Maeses of the world.
I'm sure Maes is a decent guy. I don't know him. And I don't love Scott McInnis. But he's good enough...and he can win this election against faux-moderate John Hickenlooper, which is something I don't believe of Maes. No, McInnis is not perfect, but he's the best we've got and we need to help him win. We cannot afford a Governor Hickenlooper and I do not believe Tea Party and 9/12 groups can honestly say that a man of so little accomplishment and so little ability with the written word, as Dan Maes is, is our best chance of beating the Progressive left in Colorado in one of the two most important races in the state in 2010.
It's time for Tea Partiers to put aside the "outsider" fetish, time to stop supporting people mostly because they haven't held major elected office before -- even though I fully understand the sentiment underlying that position. For the Tea Party to be relevant in the long run, they do have to find and support principled leaders, but they have to be people who actually get the chance to lead by winning an election. It's the difference between football players winning the Superbowl and Internet wannabes winning their little fantasy football tournament.
Dan Maes may be appealing in some way. He may have the positive attribute (but not as positive as many Tea Partiers want to believe) of being an "outsider". But this massive failure of his campaign is the last piece of proof I need that he should not, must not, be the Republican candidate for Governor of Colorado.
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