- The Washington Times - Tuesday, September 3, 2002

DENVER Democrats are confident they have a winning campaign issue in the corporate responsibility scandals except in Colorado.
Here, Democrats fired the first shot at Republican Sen. Wayne Allard by running ads accusing him of stalling accounting reforms when he signed a letter urging Securities and Exchange Commission regulators to extend a comment period.
But the move may have backfired. A week later, Republicans counterattacked with an ad showcasing Democratic candidate Tom Strickland's ties to Global Crossing Inc., the bankrupt Bermuda-based telecommunications giant.
Mr. Strickland, who lost to Mr. Allard six years ago, represented Global Crossing as a lawyer and lobbyist in 1998 and 1999, reaping $450,000 for his firm. He also turned a one-day, $25,000 profit for himself as an inside participant in a Global Crossing stock offering.
Undeterred, the Strickland campaign has attacked Mr. Allard's support of Qwest, the troubled Denver-based telecommunications firm whose stock has tumbled in recent months and which is under federal investigation. But analysts say the best that Democrats probably can hope for is a draw.
"The interesting thing is they're beating each other with the same stick," said Robert Loevy, political science professor at Colorado College in Colorado Springs. "You have Strickland saying, 'Qwest is all Allard's fault,' and Allard saying, 'Global Crossing is all Strickland's fault.' I don't know if the issue is going to work either way; they both have connections that can be exploited."
If the Republicans sound a bit more gleeful, it's because the corporate responsibility angle plays right into their campaign strategy. Six years ago, when the candidates faced each other for the first time, Mr. Strickland had more campaign funds and an early lead in the polls.
Then Mr. Allard began running ads contrasting his own background as a rural veterinarian with his foe's high-profile career as a Denver "lawyer/lobbyist." The label stuck, and Mr. Allard won 51 percent to 46 percent.
Refusing to mess with success, Mr. Allard has trotted out the lawyer/lobbyist tag again, which he says has been made more relevant by Mr. Strickland's Global Crossing connection.
Is the label getting stale? "Nope," Mr. Allard said. "It's been six years since the last race, and we've got 600,000 new people in Colorado. They need to be educated."
The Allard campaign needs every advantage it can get. Calling the senator one of the most vulnerable in the nation, the Democrats have targeted Mr. Allard for defeat, hitting him with a barrage of negative ads starting in July.
So far, Mr. Allard holds the edge in the polls, but since February his lead has slipped to the single digits. The candidates are expected to raise a combined $12 million in what is expected to be the most expensive race in state history.
Mr. Strickland has tried to distance himself from the lawyer/lobbyist label by emphasizing his stint as U.S. attorney for Colorado during the Clinton administration. In one television spot, he talks with police officers about how prosecution numbers jumped 20 percent during his two-year tenure.
With the support of the Sierra Club and other green groups, Mr. Strickland is playing up his credentials as an environmentalist. A few weeks ago, he climbed 14,000-foot-tall Grays Peak with supporters to emphasize his love of the outdoors.
But the Allard campaign is refusing to concede the issue. When Mr. Strickland reached the top of Grays Peak, he found a contingent of Allard staffers waving signs promoting their candidate's environmental record.
But it is the candidates' ties to failing corporations that have drawn the most attention. In the anti-Allard ads, the Republican candidate is accused of accepting $108,000 in contributions from the accounting industry while trying to block tougher rules.
Mr. Allard is "trying to hide his record as a special-interest senator who blocked reform," the ad says.
Dick Wadhams, Mr. Allard's campaign manager, called the SEC letter a routine effort to extend a regulatory comment period, not sidetrack reform. He said the episode pales in comparison with Mr. Strickland's personal profiting as one of six registered lobbyists for Global Crossing and an inside trader of the company's once skyrocketing stock.
"Wayne Allard took some campaign money from accounting firms, but Tom Strickland personally profited from Global Crossing," Mr. Wadhams said. "It goes back to that inherent vulnerability that he had in 1996. As a result, the Democrats are finding themselves with probably their most vulnerable candidate."


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