"This election, I promise you, establishment Republicans will be digging up any dirt on Tom," said KNUS radio host Chuck Bonniwell during a show last month, referring to Republican gubernatorial candidate Tom Tancredo.
"Not even digging it up. Just making it up!" added co-host Julie Hayden, a former Fox 31 Denver reporter.
"Yeah, making it up," said Bonniwell.
Making stuff up? Would establishment Republicans go that far to stop Tanc?
If you take a look back at the various attacks on Tancredo in 2014, you'll find that most of them were not made up completely.
But one notorious ad was pretty much a fabrication. It was a radio attack spot, leveled by Make Colorado Great Again (MCGA), a group backed by former Colorado Christian University President Bill Armstrong. MCGA was supporting one of Tancredo's primary opponents, Republican Mike Kopp. The radio ad stated:
Anti-Tancredo ad: "Tom Tancredo supports legal marijuana. But Tancredo goes even further. Tancredo says we should consider legalizing all drugs. Yes, drugs like heroin, PCP and cocaine."
Tancredo said at the time that the pot ad, written with the help of former Colorado Republican Chair Dick Wadhams, wasn't true.
The former Congressman had discussed legalization of other drugs previously, but Tancredo never mentioned those drugs specifically and, in any case, never advocated "legalizing all drugs” be considered.
Tancredo portrayed as flipflopper, big spender
In various ads, Tancredo is portrayed as a flipflopper and a big spender, someone who went to Congress as a gun-rights advocate and a fiscal hawk but then voted for tougher gun laws and a bank bailout... “I wouldn’t be surprised if someone chimes in with an ad that says I’m for open borders and trying to move people into the country,” Tancredo said Thursday, charging that most attacks are grossly distorting his record. “The friendly fire is getting a lot unfriendlier...."
One key set of ads, launched during the final days of the 2014 GOP primary election by a Colorado group called Republicans Who Want to Win (RWWW), portrayed Tancredo as the candidate favored by Democrats and it offered Beauprez as the guy Dems most feared. RWWW based the accusation on a mailer that backhandedly supported the former Congressman.
Republicans Who Want to Win was funded by a national group whose largest donor was the Republican Governors Association, which was led at the time by Chris Christie and funneled the money for the anti-Tancredo campaign through the Republican Attorneys General Association.
RWWW paid $75,000 to En Pointe Strategies, which is owned by conservative activist Kelly Maher, to produce and buy ads attacking Tancredo and backing his GOP primary opponent Bob Beauprez, according to campaign finance records.
Mark Burris, a GOP operative and spokesman for RWWW, said at the time, “Beauprez is the only candidate who can run a competitive race against the big money special interests from the left who are supporting Hickenlooper.”
On the night that primary election results were announced, RWWW's Burris took credit for helping to bring down Tancredo, while Republican operative Josh Penry agreed, adding that Tancredo might still have won but "he just didn't work hard."
Burris: “We are pleased that we were able to assist [in Tancredo's defeat] through dynamic outreach and a strategic media plan. This is just the beginning.”
Erik Groves, who was the registered agent for RWWW, did not return a call seeking to know if his group would be going after Tancredo again this year.
"Be prepared for more smears"
On conservative talk radio these days, the 2014 attacks on Tancredo come up a lot.
Tanc and his backers cite the GOP attack ads as costing Republicans the governor's seat in 2014 and handing it to Democrat John Hickenlooper.
"The polls had [Tancredo] not only winning the primary, but beating Hickenlooper," said George Athanasopoulos, who was defeated by U.S. Rep. Ed Perlmutter in 2016, on the radio. "So, the fact of the matter is, based on the data we have, we would have a Republican governor, today. It would be Tom Tancredo, not John Hickenlooper, Today. Right now." "If it wasn't not for the establishment Republicans," said KNUS radio host Bonniwell. "Yes, but it was the smear," said Athanasopoulos. "Right. So be prepared for the smear," said co-host Julie Hayden. "Be prepared for more smears," responded Athanasopoulos.