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Politics and Government

Democratic candidate for Colorado attorney general, Phil Weiser, talks about his tracker mea culpa

Phil Weiser: "We're building in protections so it doesn't happen again."

At far right is Phil Weiser, a Democrat running for Colorado attorney general, speaking at a candidate forum in Aurora on Sunday, Aug. 26, 2018. (Jesse Paul, The Colorado Sun)
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Phil Weiser, the Democrat running for Colorado attorney general, is apologizing for Twitter posts made by him and his campaign about a tracker hired by Republicans operatives. 

The flap began Aug. 15 when Weiser, a first-time candidate, tweeted an image of the tracker and wrote: “The Republican AG Association is desperate to find attack lines and has so much dark money, they’re paying him to tape me so they can later misrepresent my words.”

His campaign then appeared to mock the operative’s weight: “It is Pat’s right to attend Phil’s public events. We do like the idea of having a walking event to help Pat’s health,” the campaign account wrote in a now-deleted tweet.

“I’ve apologized for it,” Weiser told The Colorado Sun. “It was a mistake. I’m learning from it. And I’m also learning how hard it is to communicate to people about dark money because it is, by definition, undisclosed and hard to actually pin down.”

The tracker, whose name is Patrick Crowder, works for Colorado Rising Action, a political nonprofit that doesn’t disclose its donors, not RAGA as Weiser suggested.

The group also dispatched Crowder to follow around Gov. John Hickenlooper to public events, and like most politicians, the Democrat and his staff are just ignoring him while Crowder does his job.

Not Weiser. He’s still frustrated — and, in part, blamed Twitter’s “toxic” culture for the controversy. He said the tracker “can be intimidating and really off-putting to people” he speaks with at campaign events.

“I try to tell people, ‘This is the reality of our politics today. I want to change it,’ ” Weiser said in the interview. “I made a mistake by trying to put sunlight on this by posting a picture of the tracker. The mistake was rooted in not understanding how toxic Twitter can be. I was calling attention to dark money and how corrosive it is.”

The Weiser campaign tweet was sent by a volunteer, the candidate said. The volunteer was not fired and Weiser defended the person, whom he did not identify.

“I am shocked this person did this. It is out of character,” Weiser said. “We had given the person guidelines that, I thought, were very clear. Part of the problem with Twitter is that people, sometimes in the moment, act too quickly. That’s what I believe happened here.”

He added: “We’re building in protections so it doesn’t happen again.”

This story first ran in The Colorado Sun’s politics newsletter, The Unaffiliated. You can subscribe here: cosun.co/unaffiliated