In Colorado, big coffers mean slew of negative ads

Washington Post Staff Writer
Monday, October 18, 2010; 8:39 PM

FORT COLLINS, COLO. - Sen. Michael Bennet (D) likes to tell voters how he agreed to get his three daughters a dog after the election. The girls talk about it so much that, in frustration, he recently asked his 11-year-old, Caroline, "What if I never got you a dog?"

She didn't skip a beat. "I would run an attack ad against you and tell everyone about the promises you don't keep," she said in Bennet's telling.

She must have seen a few such ads. Interest groups and the two political parties have spent more than $17.5 million on the Senate race here since the primary, far more than any other race in the country. Most of those millions have gone toward negative TV ads.

The two Senate races with the next highest spending, Pennsylvania and Missouri, are far behind with about $11 million and $9.8 million respectively.

Spending by interest groups has risen dramatically this year, buoyed by a string of Supreme Court decisions and rich donors' frustration with Democratic policies. Interest groups and political parties have reported more than $250 million in spending so far this election cycle in House and Senate races, according to an analysis of disclosures filed with the Federal Election Commission.

About $750,000 of that is spent every day in Colorado, where a tight race in a newly important swing state has drawn considerable interest. No matter their allegiances, voters here appear to have had enough.

"It's making me crazy," said Nancy Buchanan, 53, a Democrat and Bennet supporter from Parker, a suburb south of Denver. "I'm sick of it. It's hateful politics."

Others say they have seen so many ads that they don't even listen anymore. "When they come on, I usually just flip," said Barbara Piper, 68, a real estate agent from Lone Tree, another Denver suburb, who supports Bennet's Republican opponent, Ken Buck.

Nevertheless, the message seems to be getting through. Bennet's campaign has portrayed Buck as a flip-flopper with a draconian view of reproductive rights who is "too extreme for Colorado."

Asked about Buck, Buchanan echoed that message. "He's taking us back 100 years," she said.

Buck and his conservative allies have portrayed Bennet as a rubber stamp for President Obama who has let spending get out of control, a view shared by Piper.

"I think he just voted along the lines he needed to be in good graces with people in D.C. and Obama," she said.

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