EDITORIAL: SOS Griswold broke the public trust but not the law in botched TV ad opportunity

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Incumbent Democratic Colorado Secretary of State Jenna Griswold and GOP former Secretary of State Wayne Williams in a campaign TV ad to warn voters against disinformation. SENTINEL SCREEN GRAB

Colorado Secretary of State Jena Griswold made a serious mistake in creating a taxpayer-funded TV ad aiming to fight election disinformation, and she missed a better opportunity to accomplish her goal.

Republicans and some members of the media raised anywhere from eyebrows to howling alarms this week after Griswold launched a pricey TV ad campaign during Sunday’s pre-season Broncos game.

Griswold, a first-term Democrat running for re-election, appears in the ad with former Republican Colorado Secretary of State Wayne Williams to talk about how critical it is to fight election disinformation as the 2022 mid-term election gets underway in earnest over the next several weeks.

Alternating 15-second and 30-second commercials are touted as a “bi-partisan” effort to fight against dangerous election misinformation and disinformation, which is expected to soon flood social media channels and dubious propaganda organs posing as news organizations.

Boosting the message that, when it comes to trusted elections and the fight against propaganda, we’re all friends in this big Colorado political tent, is the fact that Griswold beat Williams during the last election.

The brief back-and-forth in the ad is laconic.

Griswold: I’m Democratic Secretary of State Jena Griswold.

Williams: I’m Wayne Williams, Republican, and former Secretary of State. One thing we both know is that Colorado’s elections are safe and secure. 

Griswold: That’s right, Wayne, but voters should be alert to election disinformation. 

Williams: Election disinformation is designed to look real. So always use trusted sources. 

Griswold: Together we can combat election disinformation. To get the facts about election security visit GoVoteColorado dot gov. 

The commercial tries to make a point that both parties agree that election disinformation is bad, it’s not a problem here in Colorado, and check your sources for credibility.

It’s all good advice. But the spot immediately raised cries of foul from Republicans saying it amounts to little more than a taxpayer-funded re-election campaign ad for Griswold.

The point is well taken.

Griswold is running against Republican Pam Anderson, who was Jefferson County Clerk and Recorder. Anderson won the GOP nod in June amid a nationally watched circus for the Republican nomination. Anderson won overwhelmingly in her race against disgraced Mesa County Clerk Tina Peters. Peters, a conspiracy theorist and avid Trump election denier, faces multiple charges of tampering with election equipment during the 2020 presidential election.

Anderson has repeatedly pushed back against the conspiracy theories and those who dabble or wallow in election denier banter or sermons.

Next on 9News anchor Kyle Clark reported earlier this week that the ads are funded by the federal Help America Vote Act, using tax dollars, and are expected to cost $1,099,999, according to the Griswold state office officials.

It’s hardly a million-dollar effort at shoring up elections against treacherous crazy talk from election deniers near and far.

Whether the move was intentional, Griswold sullies her own campaign with at least the appearance of impropriety for using taxpayer dollars that can generate name recognition and some sense of bi-partisan goodwill in trying to tell people, check your sources.

It’s an election year, and state voters, and all residents, can expect the holder of this office, above all others in Colorado, to be scrupulous in following and managing campaign laws and rules. The ad, intentionally or not, gives the impression that Republican Williams tacitly or outright endorses Griswold as secretary of state. Those are Griswold campaign matters that need to be handled with her campaign funds, not public tax dollars.

She missed an opportunity to truly impress Colorado voters about the safety and accuracy of our election process by making the same brief commercial with Anderson, instead of Williams.

A joint Griswold-Anderson spot would still tread dangerously into spending tax dollars for political campaign advertising, however such a spot would at least be fair, and wildly more effective.

As to allegations by Republicans that the ads are a gross violation of campaign laws, it doesn’t appear to be the case. Being an incumbent for any race, from any party, comes with legitimate, yet unfair, advantages.

Rather, it’s a case of gross misjudgment on Griswold’s part and reveals how she assesses questions of imprudence by other political candidates.

The message Griswold is trying to deliver is vital and timely. While Colorado elections are the gold standard for being easy, accurate and trusted, the Peters debacle and prominence of local unabashed election deniers, such as GOP Congressperson Lauren Boebert, present multiple dangers. The Republican candidate for lieutenant governor, Danny Moore, running mate for GOP gubernatorial candidate Heidi Ganahl, is an unrepentant election denier, removed from his leadership post on an important election redistricting commission last year.

Any elected official or candidate flirting with or outright backing election denier myths, lies and delusions needs to be clearly identified by credible media and dismissed as plausible candidate.

The anti-disinformation message behind Griswold’s TV commercial blunder is sound and badly needed, but not like this.

Griswold’s campaign should suspend the unfair ads and remake them, either with Anderson, or entirely different bi-partisan trusted sources who can build confidence instead of criticism.

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Debra MacKillop
Debra MacKillop
1 month ago

Jena Griswold is fabulous SOS, best in the US, deals with death threats from GOP every day and spending her own $ on her security for herself and her family, has to deal with crazies like Tina Peters and Boebert, is the only SOS in the US that actually studied election management and is the most qualified, hard-working, professional and dependable SOS imaginable. We should re-elect her because given the Big Lie still being pushed by GOP, people like Tina Peters insisting on recount when her loss was large and obvious, plus GOP efforts to make it harder to vote everywhere, and the GOP candidate for CO SOS wants to get rid of voting by mail entirely, the next few years will be very hard with our elections being attacked by GOP constantly even before the election happens —- we need someone of courage and competence as SOS for CO which is Jena Griswold.

DICK MOORE
1 month ago

Having a bit of more free time available, Debra. Use your free time a bit better and you would realize that Jena Griswold is terrible at her job and is only using it to advance herself politically. Jena for State Dogcatcher.

Debra MacKillop
Debra MacKillop
1 month ago
Reply to  DICK MOORE

no facts, as usual, drop the sarcasm, doesn’t help you

John
1 month ago

She is out for herself…not US…ladder climber of the worst variety

Debra MacKillop
Debra MacKillop
1 month ago
Reply to  John

complete lie with no facts. She studied election management in college and now does election management – the job she is trained and qualified to do, and does if superbly. She has never expressed interest in anything but that, is highly qualified as my FACTS demonstrate, is actually using her own money for security because of death threats from GOP violent insurrectionists, and bravely continues on with her job. This ad is simple, bipartisan, straightforward, respectful, truthful without attacking (like GOP does). She certainly could have attacked the GOP on spreading disinformation if she wanted. stop trolling.

Last edited 1 month ago by Debra MacKillop
Davie Mo
Davie Mo
1 month ago

Bottom line is using taxpayer money to bombard the public with name recognition. Shameful.

Joe Felice
Joe Felice
1 month ago

I fail to see anything in this innocuous bipartisan ad that even hints of a campaign ad, other than the appearance of the Secretary. Wayne has moved on. Why can’t others?

john in denver
john in denver
1 month ago

Isn’t this the same ad that was used prior to the primary?

I’m not certain that the ad’s message is the best use of $1 million to fight disinformation — but I don’t see it as a Williams “endorsement” or a political ad for Griswold, either. And if the ad should include Pam Anderson … shouldn’t it include candidates from all the other parties, too?

Walter James Bennett Rutledge
Reply to  john in denver

Thank you for the Introduction, John. My position is:

Yes, The election run in Colorado in 2020 raised questions, but if you want provably rigged “elections”, look at the ones lately in Colorado.

In 2021, my ballot had two “races.” Each offered the voter the choice of voting for the anointed “candidate” or having no say whatever in that “race.” No blank, text box, or other way to cast a write-in vote was provided. Any mark or other attempt to express a different choice would disqualify the vote. The “election” was 100% foreordained before the first ballot got into the hands of a single voter. You can not rig an “election” more thoroughly!

And it was not a fluke. You need only remember the Primaries in June, where there were candidates who skated in exactly the same way! On one side, the Primary was run by Democrats, on the other side, Republicans…NO DIFFERENCE!

Such “elections” make a cruel joke of government by consent of the governed.

To count them, county-by-county, for yourself, go to:
https://www.sos.state.co.us/pubs/elections/main.html and click on
2022 Primary Election: See the results
then check out “races” where a single candidate gets in with 100% of the votes!

Vote Libertarian in 2022: Bennett Rutledge for Secretary of State
My name is Walter James Bennett Rutledge and I wrote this message.

Dennis Duffy
Dennis Duffy
1 month ago

You go guy

Jeff Ryan
Jeff Ryan
1 month ago

Bully for you.

Don
Don
1 month ago

An article beginning with a promising attempt at unbiased reporting unfortunately turned in the typical slanted drivel that dominates this site. As they continue to fail financially, the Sentinel just can’t help themselves.

Melissa
Melissa
1 month ago
Reply to  Don

It’s an editorial!!!!

Jeff Ryan
Jeff Ryan
1 month ago

I see no reason to condemn a bipartisan ad, and every reason to encourage them.

Really, how is this a problem? Answer: It isn’t.

Debra MacKillop
Debra MacKillop
1 month ago

simple, factually supported, bipartisan ad – CO has secure elections and help stop the rampant spread of disinformation (they didn’t even point out that is mainly done by GOP but kept it totally bipartisan). RIDICULOUS OPINION PIECE that is clearly partisan and unsubstantiated.

Dennis Duffy
Dennis Duffy
1 month ago

Who cares,,, a pair of talking buffoons hoping for a political paycheck. Telling us it’s okay,don’t worry,we know what we are doing, go back to sleep.trust us, trust us.

John
1 month ago
Reply to  Dennis Duffy

It’s NOT ok…they spent OUR money for this garbage…

Dcduffy@gmail.com
1 month ago
Reply to  John

Yawn, wake me up when the Broncos are playing. Ha ha ha, I hate political hacks and their condescending attitude towards those they supposedly represent. No it is not okay…..

Debra MacKillop
Debra MacKillop
1 month ago
Reply to  Dennis Duffy

none of that is stated in that ad, stop trolling

Jeff Ryan
Jeff Ryan
1 month ago
Reply to  Dennis Duffy

Absolutely. After all, all the recounts and canvasses of the rigged 2020 election proved…nothing.

Paul
1 month ago

The ad on “appears improper” to repugs – you know, the ones who can’t play fair and direct hate towards anything not GOP/Trump through-and-through.