- The Washington Times - Thursday, August 27, 2009

DENVER | A suspect in a case of vandalism at the Colorado Democratic headquarters was once a paid campaign worker for a Democratic candidate for the legislature, despite the state party chief having blamed hate-fomented opposition to Democratic health care plans.

Maurice Schwenkler, 24, was arrested in Denver on Tuesday on a charge of criminal mischief after windows were smashed at the Democratic offices. Many of the windows displayed posters supporting health care reform.

“We ought to be having a serious, conscientious debate about what’s best for the country,” state Democratic Party Chairwoman Pat Waak said Tuesday. “Clearly, there’s been an effort on the other side to stir up hate. I think this is the consequence of it.”

But the Denver Post reported Wednesday that public records show that Mr. Schwenkler was paid $500 in November to walk door-to-door in support of Democrat Mollie Cullom, a candidate for the state House from Centennial.

Campaign records show that Mr. Schwenkler was among dozens of canvassers paid by a left-leaning political committee called the Colorado Citizens’ Coalition.

Republican David Balmer, who beat Ms. Cullom, said he suspects the vandalism might have been intended to make the Republican Party look bad.

“This sounds like the type of Democratic tactic from the left fringe, trying to make Republicans look mean-spirited,” Mr. Balmer said. “In this case, it blew up in their face.”

The Democratic Party estimates the damage at $10,000. A second suspect was still at large.

At a court hearing Wednesday, Mr. Schwenkler’s bail was set at $5,000.

There are other indications that Mr. Schwenkler was not a conservative who might be expected to dislike posters of President Obama or Democratic health care proposals, as was quickly assumed about the vandals.

The Post reported that a “Maurice Schwenkler” signed an online 2005 petition to free antiwar protesters who were captured in Iraq.

The Denver Daily News also reported that he had a liberal background. Sarah Bardwell, an antiwar organizer listed as a resident of Mr. Schwenkler’s home, was questioned in August 2004 by investigators over plans to disrupt that year’s political conventions.

Mr. Schwenkler was also arrested in St. Paul, Minn., on the last day of the 2008 Republican convention on a charge of unlawful assembly. A St. Paul Police Department spokesman told the Post that he was part of a large group arrested after refusing to disperse on a city bridge. The case was dismissed.

There was no phone number listed for Mr. Schwenkler, and it wasn’t immediately clear whether he had an attorney.

Denver police said they don’t know what motivated the suspects. The headquarters was unoccupied at the time, and no injuries were reported.

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