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Issue One, a bipartisan group that works to lessen political polarization and limit the influence of big money over politics, issued a letter Monday with 35 prominent former Democratic elected officials, including a half dozen from Colorado, who criticized recent efforts by Democratic groups to intervene in Republican primaries.

Signatories to the letter include former Gov. Roy Romer, former U.S. Sens. Gary Hart, Tim Wirth and Mark Udall, as well as former U.S. Reps. Pat Schroeder and David Skaggs.

"As former members of Congress and the cabinet, we oppose any practice that intentionally elevates election deniers," the letter said. "And as members of the Democratic Party, we are dismayed by the recent practice of Democratic organizations intervening in Republican primaries to promote candidates who deny the outcome of the last presidential election. Examples include Democratic investments to weaken truth-telling Republican candidates in Michigan, Colorado, California, Pennsylvania, Illinois, and Maryland."

The nearly three-dozen Democrats called the tactics aimed at boosting Republican candidates who Democrats hope they can more easily beat in "destructive." 

"It is risky and unethical to promote any candidate whose campaign is based on eroding trust in our elections," they said. "We must stop this practice, and stop today. Our democracy is fragile, therefore we cannot tolerate political parties attempting to prop up candidates whose message is to erode our dedication to fair elections."

Two committees spent more than $5.5 million in Colorado prior to the June 28 primary to sway GOP voters into voting for more conservative candidates, hoping they would be less electable in the November general election. 

A political action committee affiliated with Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer financed a $4 million ad campaign designed to boost state Rep. Ron Hanks in the Republican primary for Colorado's U.S. Senate seat, campaign finance records show. 

Democratic Colorado, the entity formed in early June that flooded Colorado's airwaves with TV ads calling Hanks "too conservative" for the state, revealed in a Federal Election Commission report that Senate Majority PAC, its sole donor, contributed $4,073,074 in 10 transactions in June. 

The effort failed to help Hanks, who lost to Joe O'Dea by almost 9 percentage points. Similar efforts were launched by the Democratic Governors Association in an effort to bolster GOP gubernatorial candidate Greg Lopez against Heidi Ganahl, who won the race by more than 7 percentage points.

The DGA gave $1.5 million to Strong Colorado for All, which funneled the money to an independent expenditure committee, the Colorado Information Network, which, in turn, bought the advertising that said Lopez was "too conservative" for Colorado.

Joe Jackson, executive director of the Colorado GOP, said in a statement Monday that "it is a sad day for the Democrat Party when the only Democrats showing leadership are ones who served in the 1980s."

Jackson added: "Michael Bennet and Jared Polis have both shamefully been silent on this election interference aimed at helping them. I appreciate both Governor Romer and Senator Hart doing the right thing and showing leadership, I just wish Bennet and Polis would follow their lead."

Issue One includes among its staffers former Denver Elections chief Amber McReynolds, who serves as a senior political strategist.

Former Colorado Gov. Bill Owens had denounced the expensive ad campaigns as a "disingenuous" attempt to influence the state's Republican primaries for governor and U.S. Senate by encouraging GOP voters to nominate candidates he describes as "second tier."

"The Democrats are focusing on the Republican primaries because their only way to win is to nominate weak candidates in my party," said Owens, who served two terms as governor from 1999 to 2007. "And that's why I'm speaking out on this."

"This is wrong in a democracy," Owens said. "This is putting your thumb on the scales just because they have big money and no record to run on. All they have is money."

A spokeswoman for the group running the ad about Hanks denied the Democrats are meddling in the GOP primary.

“We are an organization committed to ensuring that Colorado does not elect a Republican to the U.S. Senate and giving voters the facts about who’s running to represent them," veteran Democratic consultant Alvina Vasquez said in an email. "Ron Hanks is simply too conservative for Colorado and voters deserve to know the truth about him."

JB Poersch, president of Senate Majority PAC, added that "we saw two deeply flawed candidates running against each other so we worked to weaken both their campaigns. Our efforts forced O’Dea to burn through cash, embrace Trump, and show his true colors as a rubber stamp for Mitch McConnell and a dangerous MAGA agenda that is totally out of step with the voters who will decide the general election in Colorado. National Republicans are now saddled with propping up a not ready for prime-time candidate in Joe O’Dea, who has less money in the bank today than he did at the beginning of the year.”

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