Sep 30, 2008

DENVER (AP) ― Gov. Bill Ritter announced his opposition Monday to a ballot measure that would ban affirmative action in the awarding of state contracts, employment and admission to Colorado universities, calling it a California import that doesn’t fit Colorado.

Ritter said Amendment 46 would destroy years of progress in education, health care and work force development. Supporters say affirmative action based on race and gender is no longer needed.

Amendment 46 is similar to initiatives bankrolled by former University of California regent Ward Connerly and approved by voters in California, Washington and Michigan. A similar measure is on Nebraska’s ballot.

Ritter said that women earn $3 an hour less than men for equal work. African Americans earn 25 percent less than Caucasians, he said.

“In Colorado, African Americans, Latinos and American Indians make up 22 percent of all high school graduates but only 9 percent of freshmen at the University of Colorado-Boulder,” he said.

“Amendment 46 undercuts Colorado and destroys years of progress in education, in health care, in work force development, all efforts that are important to Colorado’s hard working families and family owned business,” Ritter said.

Amendment backers cried foul when Don Elliman, director of the governor’s Office of Economic Development and International Trade, acknowledged that state time was used to organize an event featuring a researcher who studied the negative effects of California’s Proposition 209, which ended race and gender affirmative action in that state.

Elliman estimated that three to four hours of state time was spent on e-mails and RSVPs for the Sept. 22 event.

“It was an error both in substance and in style,” Elliman said. “I wish we hadn’t done it and now we have to figure out what to do to make it right.”

Ritter didn’t know about the development office’s work, Elliman said.

Elliman said his staff told those attending the event that the state did not endorse the views of Michael Sumner, a researcher at the University of California at Berkeley who examined the negative effects of Proposition 209.

Elliman said his staff believed that disclaimer met the legal requirement against using state money to campaign for or against a ballot measure.

Colorado Civil Rights Initiative Executive Director Jessica Peck Corry, whose group supports Amendment 46, said it will pursue legal action.

“This isn’t just a benign educational effort. This is a scare tactic to mislead people into believing certain consequences will happen if our initiative passes,” said Corry.

State law requires all sides of an issue be presented whenever public money is used to discuss a ballot initiative.

Elliman said he would follow the advice of legal counsel on what to do next and that he wasn’t considering discipline for anybody on his staff.

“If anybody is saying discipline, I hope they start with me,” he said. “It’s my department.”

(© 2008 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.)


The following article originally appeared on THE DAILY VOICE on Sept. 25, 2008.

Staff Reporter

A hard-hitting new TV ad campaign in Colorado and Nebraska accuses anti affirmative action crusader Ward Connerly of profiteering and hypocrisy. The ad says Connerly, who led the successful effort against race-conscious policies in California, received more than $7 million for his opposition to affirmative action and received a $1 million race-based contract much like the ones he said he opposes.

The ad was put out by the Ballot Initiative Strategy Center, which is fighting efforts in several states that are seeking to ban affirmative action.

“Think your family wins when we outlaw equal opportunity?” the announcer asks at the beginning of the ad. “Scratch the surface and you might think differently.” The ad shows a scratch-off lottery game, in which the images underneath the scratch-off sections is a portrait of Connerly.

The ad describes Connerly, who is African American, as a “California political operative” and a “fraud” who used “nonprofit slush funds” to pay himself $7 million. The group also alleges that Connerly used his race to land no-bid contracts worth over million dollars from race-based government programs he says he opposes.”

As the final section is scratched off the card, we see a third image of Connerly, normally an indication of a jackpot. But the announcer intones: “With his plans to outlaw equal opportunity, Connerly wins. We lose.”

Ballot initiatives were proposed in Arizona, Colorado, Missouri, Nebraska and Oklahoma that would give voters the chance to decide whether to eliminate affirmative action in government-funded programs and public schools.

Connerly. who heads the American Civil Rights Institute, has said the 37-word initiative would read: “The state shall not discriminate against or grant preferential treatment to any individual or group on the basis of race, sex, color, ethnicity or national origin in the operation of public employment, public education or public contracting.”

Supporters of affirmative action argue that the language is deceptively simple and the proposal would actually allow hurt women and people of color who were supposed to be helped by civil rights laws.

As a member of the University of California Board of Regents, Connerly led an effort in 1995 to convince a majority of the Regents to end the use of race as a means for admissions. He led the effort to pass Proposition 209 in California, which passed in 1996 and later led efforts to pass similar bans in Michigan and Washington.