Is Dan Maes really the candidate of the Tea Party?

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.

Amendmed Complaint against Maes for Governor campaign -

Maes campaign response to Amended Complaint

  • T.L. Davis
    Comment from: T.L. Davis
    07/06/10 @ 06:48:17 am

    In every race there is that moment when one must choose a horse and while I have long been a Maes supporter, though in my own secretive way, I have had much the same concerns as evidence continued to reveal itself that Maes is just not prepared. Maybe he didn't think he would get this far, or maybe he just didn't have what it took to start with. I don't know, but I think today is the day people need to make a definitive decision and choose McInnis. That pains me somewhat, because I had higher hopes for Maes and have some of the same fears for McInnis, though McInnis does supply a sense of having been down the road before and aware of the potholes.

  • Rob Timmons
    Comment from: Rob Timmons
    07/06/10 @ 09:18:22 am

    Ross' editorial will be seen by some as an attack on a Tea Party candidate when, in fact, it is a defense of the Tea Party, now under assault in Colorado by a faux-conservative who has cleverly co-opted Tea Party machinery to serve his own selfish ambitions.

    The irony is that Maes personifies the very kind of old, establishment, say-one-thing-and-do-another politician that we in the Tea Party had set out to defeat. In the end, by his actions, Maes is an enemy of the Tea Party, not its friend.

  • Joe Harrington
    Comment from: Joe Harrington
    07/06/10 @ 09:21:20 am

    Ross, There is significant evidence that McInnis is in a worse situation on FCPA compliance than Maes. One of the JoeGschwentner staffers admitted to me that he got all of the Assembly delegates and alternates names and phone numbers from a list compiled by the McInnis campaign. In the week leading up to GOP State Assembly, JoeG blanketed all 6,000 delegates and alternates (me included) with robocalls targeted to attack Maes for the purpose of knocking Maes below 30%. Kyle Fisk, (JoeG's communications director) stated at the time that they were acting with the sole intention of knocking Maes out, and if they couldn't succeed in that, then JoeG would drop out. Well, they didn't succeed, and JoeG dropped out. The statewide list of names and phone numbers of delegates was obtained illegally by collusion between the McInnis and Gschwentner campaigns. This is a far greater and more purposeful violation (than mileage reporting mistakes by Maes) that when discovered by Hickenlooper people will make McInnis unviable. I have spoken with James Garcia (Exec Dir) of the State GOP and he confirmed that JoeG did not and could not get the names from the GOP. The only persons that the statewide list was available to was another statewide campaign and the only statewide campaign with a motive to collude with JoeG was McInnis. Joe Harrington

  • Comment from: Rossputin
    07/06/10 @ 09:27:57 am

    Joe, That theory is not "significant evidence". If it is true, it would certainly be a problem, but I have to say I'm pretty tired of people on all sides throwing out these sorts of unsubstantiated claims and suggesting they're smoking guns. For you to simply state that something was done illegally on the basis of your theory or on the basis of rumors by people who have political motivations to make such claims is irresponsible at best. Ross

  • Joe Harrington
    Comment from: Joe Harrington
    07/06/10 @ 10:18:43 am

    What I mean by evidence is that, at the Douglas County Lincoln Day dinner, I was seated at a table with JoeG's campaign consultant and JoeG was at the next table to me. I directly asked JoeG where he got the names and numbers, and he said with a shrug of the shoulders, "I don't know, one of my guys got them for me" and pointed at the campaign consultant sitting at my table. I then asked him where he got them and he said it was a McInnis staff member. Now it is entirely possible that the JoeG staffer lied to me, and it is also entirely possible that the McInnis staffer got the names and numbers from some other source not connected to the McInnis campaign.... but the possibilities are not very large. It is far more likely that that McInnis staffer was acting in the interests of his boss, but whether Hickenlooper will be able to unearth the directive from McInnis to attempt to blow Maes out of the water with JoeG's money ... It is unlikely that hard evidence will surface (like a written letter from McInnis). More likely it will be a rumor, but it will be a rumor that rings true personally to the 6,000 + delegates who know that their info was mis-used, and those people are the motivators who transmit republican info to many more people who represent the swing between the GOP base getting out and staying at home. As I agreed with your post last week - the GOP better get our stuff together and quick, or we aren't going to have solid standard bearers in either the Gov or the Senate race, and that would be a very disheartening outcome in Colorado in November.

  • T.L. Davis
    Comment from: T.L. Davis
    07/06/10 @ 10:25:16 am

    This, by the way, is the exact sort of cannibalism that could spell defeat. My concerns about Maes came primarily from his propensity for the flip-flop, not the campaign finance issue, which I thought, in isolation, might be well enough explained and dealt with it was the straw, rather than the bundle for me.

  • Himtnwmn
    Comment from: Himtnwmn
    07/06/10 @ 10:50:28 am

    I'm beginning to believe that the tea party establishment needs to really vet and investigate those candidates they wish to endorse. While the tea party concept is good, some of their endorsements are not helping their organizations. Dan Maes' conduct is troubling. Those who are attached to him better think twice about their endorsements. Thanks for the heads up with this article; it's obvious this man could not govern a state if he cannot run a campaign that is financially responsible.

  • L.B.
    Comment from: L.B.
    07/06/10 @ 06:50:16 pm

    Hopefully, Mr. Maes will withdraw and do what is right for the people of this state. Sometimes, people bite off more than they can chew. Campaign finance mistakes because of ignorance doesn't give anyone slack. What would he do if governor? We just can't risk this. I supported him but will vote for McGinnis. Just hope McGinnis supports RMGO's and is against illegal alien amnesty.

  • Jimi
    Comment from: Jimi
    07/07/10 @ 10:56:59 am

    I will not support ANY candidate that does not believe in full enforcement of ALL immigration laws. I favor mass deportation, the only way to solve that problem. I like Ike Eisenhower, the last President to enforce immigration laws. I've grown weary of weak kneed pols and PC cowards. Time is running out, by 2050 the US will be transformed into a poor meso american 3rd world country, just like those places they left. Just look at the census data. We have amnesty now, on the installment plan. There is no greater threat to the nation or it's people. At least you can tell your kids stories about "the good old days", in spanish.

  • levotb
    Comment from: levotb
    07/07/10 @ 04:20:57 pm

    McInnis is, from what I've seen, an Open Borders RINO. How could voting for him help in stemming the tide of the Invasion from Mexico? Colorado has a terrible problem with illegal aliens. Will McInnis toe the GOP line and preach "Border security FIRST" like McCain? I am not, however, saying conservatives should vote for Maes. I looked into his campaign and received a reply from him about his position on illegal immigration. I was not impressed. All boilerplate. Of course, this was last year, long before 1070 became law in AZ. If there aren't any true conservatives running for Governor, I would suggest not voting. McInnis would probably be another Haley Barbour--RINO all the way.

  • Airbus
    Comment from: Airbus
    07/07/10 @ 09:32:40 pm

    Ross, Looking at Maes' resume and listening to the Caplis and Silverman interview, it becomes clear that there is a lack of depth of expression, experience and now quite frankly, truth! Since graduation records are public record, maybe someone could call and verify his college graduation. Anyway, this reimbursement matter and unwillingness to reveal his financial records is a big stop sign and we must move on and support McGinnis.

  • J J
    Comment from: J J
    07/07/10 @ 09:57:07 pm

    I'm a Tea Party board member in Grand Junction. We decided to stick with our pick of Dan Maes for governor. The alternative of Scott McInnis is totally unpalatable. His acceptance of a $300,000.00 payola from the Hasan Corp. for writing fairy tales about water, is just too much to stomach, compared to Maes' relatively amateurish bungling of technical campaign finance rules, involving a couple of thousand dollars at most. Amateurs make more mistakes than old slick weasels do, and all of the Tea Party candidates are new, fresh, green, and yes, prone to make foolish mistakes. Our Tea Party group will stick with Dan Maes, thank you. Scott McInnis, go to hell!

  • Comment from: Rossputin
    07/08/10 @ 06:58:46 am

    Airbus: I agree JJ: I suppose it says a lot (and none of it good) about Scott McInnis that a candidate as clearly unqualified as Dan Maes could remain the better choice in the minds of a group of politically active citizens. My one problem with your statement is that Maes' actions make it appear as if what he did was more than a "foolish mistake". In any case, I hope we beat Hickenlooper.

  • J
    Comment from: J
    07/08/10 @ 11:42:17 am

    McInnis and the left are high dollar campaigns which rely on many staffers to dot the i's and cross the t's. Can Maes really be blamed for being a little sloppy? Where in the Bill of Rights does it stipulate that one must describe and communicate every detail of their political activity in order to exercise First Amendment Rights? Colorado campaign finance laws are numerous and onerous. They are pushing out the small guy and promoting the high dollar guys. Do these laws actually bring transparency? A.A.R.P. is listed as a substantial donor in a campaign I am very familiar with. A.A.R.P. is located in Washington D.C. Do we know who in Colorado donated major sums of money to A.A.R.P, no! Campaign finance laws make money laundering legal. Don’t even get me started on 503C and other non-profits in which campaign finance laws are not applicable. Maybe The Great Ross Putting is barking up the wrong tree?

  • Comment from: Rossputin
    07/08/10 @ 11:51:08 am

    J, I agree with your dislike of most campaign finance laws. I believe donations should be unfettered but almost instantly transparent, i.e. listed on the Internet. I don't like AARP at all. (For the record, for those who are piling on this news that Jane Norton briefly worked for them, it was not just before Obamacare, it was before Hillarycare. They were not quite the same evil organization they have become.) The problem with Maes is not "sloppiness" and this isn't about whether we like the campaign finance law requirements. It's that he's running to be a CEO of a state. It's critically important that he makes sure that the large and small things get done right. Within a campaign, the finance reporting is a fairly large thing...much larger than it should be, but that's not something we can fix right now. The fact that it was done so badly doesn't say good things about Maes. Beyond that, as I've said before, Maes' caving in on all the fines raises as many questions as it answers, particularly since the cave-in happened hours after he became aware that he was to be served with a subpoena in the next day or two. It really looks like he's trying to hide something. I don't say this as some sort of pro-McInnis partisan. I think McInnis is basically OK, but no better than that, and I hated to take the Penry for Governor sticker off my car. I would also reemphasize the point that unless Maes has a very good answer for all this, and soon, it would be used against him to great effect by Hickenlooper in a general election. I think this news is fatal for Maes' campaign. I don't say that with a sense of happiness, though I never thought Maes was the real deal.

  • J
    Comment from: J
    07/08/10 @ 12:15:33 pm

    Whether you like A.A.R.P. is irrelevant. The point was that it is still very easy to hide money. A resident of Colorado could easily give A.A.R.P. 100k and request 75K of it be given to a local campaign. So here you are nailing Maes for bogus laws. If your major requirement for elected officials is spelling and grammar, then you should promote English majors and every other pedant you can find. Maybe you should have run? Cave to the State? The State has an uncanny ability to place enormous pressure on an individual. Unless you can afford a high dollar lawyer or have unlimited time to represent Pro se, you would also cave. The State is huge and overbearing. Until you have literally faced the state, you have no idea what I speak of. Neither Maes nor McInnis is my ideal candidate however I have chosen Maes and will stick with him. It is much better to promote Maes and avoid tearing down McInnis just in case I lose and McInnis is what I get. Maybe you should try the same? BTW, where were you during the caucuses? Maybe it would have been better to locate the ideal tea party representative then and not now? Last time I checked you were not a tea party kind of guy but more of an authoritarian similar to Mike Rosen? What do you guys care anyways.

  • Comment from: Rossputin
    07/08/10 @ 12:31:37 pm

    J, I've been to both of the Denver Tax Day Tea Parties, I work to promote Tea Party activities and organizations, I touted the value and importance of Tea Parties as a participant on a Denver PBS TV show on the topic. For what it's worth, I fly a Gadsden Flag at my house and Mike Rosen thinks I'm somewhat too libertarian. I attended my local caucus -- the ONLY Republican in my precinct to do so. If you read my writing, you'd be hard-pressed to say I'm "authoritarian", esp. given my positions on "social issues". I'm for liberty, period. I agree with you on pressure that the State can bring and I'm no fan of government generally and repressive government specifically. Indeed "repressive government" may be redundant. Anyway, thanks for the conversation even if you misrepresent my views.