McInnis defends call about political plans after group’s assertion

A Front Range political watchdog group says it will investigate a phone message left by former Republican Congressman Scott McInnis with a supporter.

McInnis’ message suggests he’s working with a 527, the term borrowed from the IRS code for an independent political organization.

Colorado Ethics Watch said it would mean that McInnis was illegally coordinating his gubernatorial campaign with a 527.

McInnis mentioned no organization by name in the phone message and told The Daily Sentinel that he knew of no such organizations operating in connection with the 2010 election in which Gov. Bill Ritter, a Democrat, is up for election.

The tape of the message was posted on Complete Colorado.com. The Web site did not indicate how it obtained the phone message. The Web site provides an “estimated transcription” because of the audio quality of the message.

The CompleteColorado.com transcription begins with, “Wanna visit with you on this two-thousand-and-ten governor’s race.” The transcription later purports that McInnis is talking about an organizational team and that “Sean Tonner” is “doin’ our 5-uh ... (cough) ... or a 527. ...”

McInnis did not say whom he was trying to call.

He said he did nothing wrong because he’s not officially a candidate, although he has made no secret of his ambitions.

He said he is collecting no contributions and making his efforts “on my own dime.”

Of his use of the term “527,” he said, “I should probably retract that.”

He meant to refer generally to campaign organizations, he said.

He listed several longtime associates as being involved in his bid for the governorship.

Another longtime associate, state Sen. Josh Penry of Grand Junction, has emerged as McInnis’ likely opponent in a primary contest.

McInnis’ message “raises serious legal questions that must be promptly and thoroughly investigated,” said Ethics Watch Director Chantell Taylor.

It’s possible he already should have registered a campaign committee, Taylor said.

A recent poll showed McInnis with more support than Ritter and the same poll suggested a narrow race between Ritter and Penry.

“When you comet that strong in a poll, you have to expect in the next few weeks to see a lot of effort to take you down,” McInnis said.


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