Election 2018EnvironmentNews

Conservation group launches six-figure ad campaign targeting Coffman

Author: Ernest Luning - September 5, 2018 - Updated: September 5, 2018

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A ad targeting U.S. Rep. Mike Coffman, an Aurora Republican, was released Sept. 4, 2018, from LCV Victory Fund, the political arm of the League of Conservation Voters. (via YouTube)

A leading liberal environmental group is urging voters to “take the cough out of Congress” in a TV ad campaign launched Tuesday aimed at unseating U.S. Rep. Mike Coffman, the Aurora Republican seeking reelection in the swing 6th Congressional District.

LCV Victory Fund, the political arm of the League of Conservation Voters, plans to spend $663,000 on the 30-second ad, which all but accuses Coffman of causing “cancer, asthma, and heart and lung disease” by voting to let donors “spew dangerous toxins” into the air and water. As ominous music plays over grainy images of belching smokestacks, the ad also ties Coffman to President Donald Trump, dubbed “the worst polluter of all.”

The ad — LCV’s first in a House race this cycle — is slated to run for two weeks on broadcast and cable channels, the group said.

A Coffman campaign spokesman rejected the ad’s allegations as “fiction” and charged the “hippies” and “environmental radicals” at LCV with pursing a partisan agenda at the expense of its purported environmental mission.

“Five-term congressman Mike Coffman has been in Congress so long that voters probably think they know him — but corporate polluters know him a lot better,” said LCV Victory Fund official Pete Maysmith, until recently the longtime head of Conservation Colorado. “Coffman has continually voted for more pollution, risking kids and seniors’ health as polluters profit.”

As evidence for the group’s claims, LCV points to more than $800,000 in contributions Coffman has received over his congressional career from fossil fuel interests and his 5 percent lifetime score on the group’s environmental scorecard.

LCV has had Coffman in its cross-hairs for years, calling the Republican an “anti-science extremist” as part of a 2014 ad campaign and naming him to its “Dirty Dozen” list of targeted politicians. LCV endorsed Cofffman’s Democratic challenger, attorney Jason Crow, earlier this summer.

Last month, CNN reported Coffman had landed on its initial list of competitive House districts LCV plans to barrage with $15 million in campaign spending to help Democrats take the majority in the chamber with environment messages aimed at suburban residents, women who vote Republican and older Latinos — all in abundance in the 6th District.

“This is both — the most anti-environmental President in history; it is also the most anti-environmental Congress in history,” LCV president Gene Karpinski told CNN, blasting the GOP for threatening public lands while easing regulations on energy and pollution.

Not so fast, Coffman campaign manager, Tyler Sandberg, told Colorado Politics, noting that Coffman belongs to the bipartisan House Climate Solutions Caucus and has recently been lauded by a trade association for his work promoting wind energy and by state wildlife groups for co-sponsoring a bill to re-authorize the Land and Water Conservation Fund.

“Mike Coffman is for an all-of-the-above energy strategy – more solar, more wind, more oil and natural gas produced right here in America,” Sandberg said. “Just last week he received national recognition for his fight to bring more wind energy onto the grid. But that’s not enough for environmental radicals, who want to ban oil and gas development. If the hippies at LCV had to send their sons and daughters to the Middle East, they’d be less eager to shut down American energy production. This ‘Trump equals Coffman’ fiction is as outlandish and totally not believable, as is the claim that Mike Coffman causes cancer.”

Sandberg also mocked the ad’s groan-worthy pun based on his boss’s name.

“Take the ‘cough’ out of Congress” may go down as the single dumbest line of any #COpolitics ad in 2018,” Sandberg tweeted.

An LCV spokeswoman didn’t defend the play on words, but she told Colorado Politics the group wasn’t impressed with Coffman’s occasional walk on the green side.

“One photo op won’t erase a decade of Coffman’s votes for more pollution, against clean energy, and to dismantle protections for our public lands,” Alyssa Roberts said. “Coloradans deserve a congressman who will vote pro-environment 100 percent of the time. Coffman’s record? A pitiful 5 percent.”

While Sandberg listed Coffman’s vote last month against a Republican-sponsored amendment to gut the EPA’s rules on methane emissions as an example of bucking his party to side with the environment, Roberts dismissed the argument, pointing to a Coffman vote in favor of the same amendment a year ago.

“Appears Coffman only cares about clean air when campaign season is heating up,” she said. (Both times, the amendment passed the House but languished in the Senate.)

The ad is only the latest in what could turn into an avalanche in the district, one of 25 nationwide held by Republicans but won by Democrat Hillary Clinton in the last election — one more seat than Democrats need to win control of the House. The Cook Political Report lists the race as a toss-up, and Coffman this summer landed on Roll Call’s list of the 10 most vulnerable incumbent House members.

Ernest Luning

Ernest Luning

Ernest Luning is a political correspondent for Colorado Politics. He has covered politics and government for newspapers and online news sites in Colorado for more than 25 years, including at the Highlands Ranch Herald, the Jefferson Sentinels chain of community newspapers and the Aurora Sentinel, where he was the city hall and cops reporter. After editing the Aurora Daily Sun, he was a political reporter and blogger for The Colorado Independent site. For nearly a decade, he was a senior political reporter and occasional editor at The Colorado Statesman before the 119-year-old publication merged with Colorado Politics in 2017.