Westside politickin': Merrifield honoria face scrutiny

       District 18 State Rep. Michael Merrifield calls it the “politics of personal destruction.” Colorado Republican Party spokesman Bill Ray says Merrifield “needs to follow the laws that govern campaigns in Colorado.”
       El Paso County District Attorney Jeanne Smith is investigating a charge by the Republicans that the Democrat representative - whose district includes the Westside - incorrectly reported campaign finance records by failing to report donated office space as honoraria.
       At a press conference Sept. 24, Merrifield admitted to using the space - a rented house at 1024 ½ W. Colorado Ave. that he calls a “field office” for community outreach - for campaigning at times, but only for a total rent value of $140. He said he had not known he had to report this use; he described himself as “unwittingly mistaken.” Furthermore, he said the Republicans would not have even known about the error if he had not admitted to it.
       In July, the Republican Party had filed election-law complaints against Merrifield with the Colorado Secretary of State - two of them related to field offices and one to alleged late reporting. The Republicans have since dropped these complaints, although Ray said it's only because they prefer to pursue the honoraria issue as a potential misdemeanor criminal violation in El Paso County.
       He said Merrifield “has an established track record” of election-law violations (for late filings), leading to fines from the state on three occasions.
       Merrifield did not dispute this information, but noted “over 100 legislators” have also been cited for late filings.
       In a prepared statement, he said Republicans should be “responding to the needs of their constituents” instead of “trying to smear my good reputation.”
       Implicating Republican District 21 Rep. Keith King in the accusations, he accused him of being a “bully” that he (Merrifield) “won't back down from.”
       Contacted about the references to himself, King responded that he personally was not involved in the Merrifield-honoraria re- search, but that it is commonplace at the Statehouse for party members on both sides of the aisle to routinely verify elected officials' compliance with laws and, in general, to “find issues people are vulnerable on.”
       King's district swings around north, west and south of Merrifield's Westside/downtown/ Manitou district, and includes the northern part of the Westside.
       “He seems to have a true victim's mentality,” King said of Merrifield. “He likes to think we focus on him a lot, but when he gets his hand caught in the cookie jar, he wants to call us names.”
      
       Statehouse District 18 candidate Kent Lambert met with families at Bancroft Park in Old Colorado City from Sunday afternoon, Sept. 26 over cookies and punch.
       Lambert recently retired from the United States Air Force where he served as a pilot, diplomat and a budget and systems analyst.
      
       Merrifield and several other Democratic state representatives plan to stand in front of grocery stores in their respective districts Oct. 1 or 2 to ask for food donations for Colorado welfare families who may have been adversely impacted by recent computer glitches.
       The problems have been identified in the Colorado Benefits Management System (CBMS), a new statewide computer system that controls food stamps, Medicaid payments, Temporary Assistance to Needy Families, and all other county benefits applications.
       “This is the time for everyone to come together in our state and bring food to those who need it the most,” Merrifield said.

Attention, Westside candidates! Are you making any campaign appearances, walking districts, kissing babies? Please let us know at 471-6776 or editor@westsidepioneer.com