YESTERYEAR: Reagan, Bush visit Denver for separate speeches at conventions

Ronald Reagan at national NAACP convention in Denver in 1981.

Forty Years Ago This Week: Colorado lawmakers joined over 200 state legislators at the White House for meetings with President Ronald Reagan, Vice President George Bush and counsel to the president Edwin Meese III, about proposed federal budget cuts.

House Minority Leader Federico Peña, D-Denver, was joined by Senate Majority Leader Ralph Cole, R-Littleton, Speaker of the House Carl Bledsoe, R-Hugo, House Majority Leader Ron Strahle, R-Fort Collins, Senate President Fred Anderson, R-Norwood, and Senate Minority Leader Regis Groff, D-Denver.

Upon returning, Peña told reporters that while the trip was enlightening it was also terribly disappointing.

“Although Reagan is keen on bolstering the economy, he doesn’t understand the specifics of the proposals,” Peña said. “He allowed David Stockman [Director of the Office of Management and Budget] and the Vice President to make the decisions.”

While Peña told The Colorado Statesman that Reagan had refused to give specifics on a wide range of issues like allowing states authority to raise the national 55-mile-per-hour speed limit that had been imposed as part of the 1974 Emergency Highway Energy Conservation Act and the status of a Carter era grain embargo on the Soviet Union, Senate Majority Leader Ralph Cole said that the president was “excellent.”

“The whole group of them know what they were doing,” Cole said. “Reagan is apparently acting on the tax cuts and his wish to eliminate rules and regulations.”

Fifteen Years Ago: The Mesa County Republican Party found itself playing damage control after letters were sent to 160 party members, days before the precinct caucuses began, that pointedly called several Grand Junction Republicans “turncoats and traitors.”

“The danger,” according to Mesa County Chair Lois Lashbrook-Dunn-Susuras, “was that the letters were mailed by a group calling itself the Colorado Republican Caucus. Due to the official sounding name of the unregistered activist group, many people thought it was from the party,” she worriedly told reporters.

The letter was directed at Republicans whose names had appeared in a “Republicans for Buescher” ad two years prior in 2004. Rep. Bernie Buescher, D-Grand Junction, had defeated Republican Shari Bjorkland in that year’s general election with the support of moderate Republicans who had said they did not appreciate Bjorkland’s campaign decisions and “extremist platform.”

“There was a lot of discussion, at the precinct caucuses, about the letter, and in general everyone was in support of the people who were named,” said Dunn. “There was so much support, in fact, that anyone who had been named in the letter was automatically made a delegate.”

Dunn said that it was unclear as to whether the letter was even legal and turned it over to District Attorney Pete Hautzinger for review.

“A new criminal statute, passed in 2005, makes it a misdemeanor to make and publish false statements intended to affect an election, so, if demonstrably and provably false statements were made, we might possibly have a case,” Hautzinger said.

The letter solicited donations in the name of a man named Dan Green. Hautzinger said he was trying to ascertain Green’s identity since no one in Mesa County seemed to know him.

Buescher said on his blog that the Colorado Republican Caucus, “is registered through a subsidiary of a company in Karlsruhe, Germany, that, for a fee, masks the true identity of real domain owners.”

Dana Williams, spokeswoman for the Colorado Secretary of State, said such a group “attempted to register on March 15 but was rejected because it failed to list its specific purpose. The caucus listed as its purpose “issues related to party,” but state law required groups to list specific candidates they support or oppose.

Buescher’s only Republican challenger in the 2006 election, Bob Caskey, said the caucus letter wasn’t intended to get Republicans elected.

“Good Republicans are being attacked, so the only agenda is to destroy the Republican Party,” Caskey said. “This letter is appalling. This is out of the Clinton playbook.”

Shari Bjorkland told The Colorado Statesman said she had no part in the caucus letter, but did intend to send money to the group and agreed that Republicans who supported Democrats shouldn’t be in party leadership roles.

Rachael Wright is the author of the Captain Savva Mystery series, with degrees in Political Science and History from Colorado Mesa University, and is a contributing writer to Colorado Politics and The Gazette.

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