Lynn Bartels
The Denver Post
March 20, 2013

Republicans had a field day today with news that U.S. Sen. Mark Udall’s campaign was hit with a tax lien for failing to pay unemployment insurance to the state of Colorado.

The Denver Business Journal reported that Mark Udall for Colorado Inc. owed $458. The lien was filed on Feb. 4, recorded on Feb. 10 and lifted on Valentine’s Day, according to the campaign.

“Due to a miscommunication, we mistakenly paid the state less than was owed,” campaign spokesman Chris Harris said. “Once we were made aware of the error, we immediately ensured it was rectified.”

“We?” No doubt, the campaign farms out its payroll activity to a private firm but is taking a bullet on this one. And shots were fired instantly by a variety of conservative groups both local and national.

Udall campaign makes history with this emoji.

Meanwhile, The Daily Beast called Thursday a “watershed day for political technology” because Udall’s campaign used an “emoji,’ a pink heart, in a press release, considered a first in Senate history. The emoji involved Gardner’s endorsement of Weld County District AttorneyKen Buck for Gardner’s seat in Congress. (More on that later.)

Conservatives both locally and nationally went after Udall on the lien issue.

“Instead of pressuring the Colorado Department of Insurance to fudge the number of ObamaCare insurance cancellations, Sen. Udall should have been pressuring his campaign to pay its taxes,” said Michael Short, spokesman for the Republican National Committee.

“Every day small business owners struggle with onerous red tape and complicated government regulatory schemes,” said Kelly Maher, executive director Compass Colorado. “It is ironic that a major proponent of taxes and regulation cannot himself jump through the many varying hoops created by government.”

From the blog Colorado Peak Politics:

“You’d think a campaign as well funded as liberal U.S. Senator Mark Udall’s could afford a compliance guy. We understand that it’s hard to keep all these rules straight — that’s why we think there should be fewer government rules and regulations. But, really, we can’t help but giggle when Lefties get caught up in the rules and regulations for which they advocate.

And the National Republican Senatorial Committee was only too happy to point out that Udall in January told the Denver Post his No. 1 priority was “pursuing policies that create jobs and keep our economic recovery on track.” He and Colorado’s other senator, Democrat Mark Udall, backed a three-month extension of unemployment benefits.”

“Today’s bipartisan vote reflects a broad understanding that an unemployment benefits extension is important because it keeps families and children out of poverty while supporting job creation and growing Colorado’s economy,” Udall said.

Udall’s re-election bid, once deemed a sure thing, has gotten a lot trickier with Congressman Cory Gardner’s entry into the Senate race. Gardner, a Yuma Republican, is expected to win the GOP primary on June 24 after the three leading Republicans exited: Ken Buck, state Rep. Amy Stephens of Monument and state Sen. Owen Hill of Colorado Springs.

That’s where the emoji comes in. Emojis, first used in Japan, include smiley faces, flowers and ballons used in electronic messages.

Buck is now running for Gardner’s seat in the 4th Congressional District, as are two other Republicans from Weld County, Commissioner Barbara Kirkmeyer and Sen. Scott Renfroe, and Steve Laffey of Fort Collins. Buck today received Gardner’s endorsement.

Udall’s campaign spokesman copied the endorsement and sent it to his press list with the subject line: Cory Gardner (heart) Ken Buck.

“Hi folks,” it began. “It’s no surprise that Congressman Cory Gardner would choose fellow Tea Party radical Ken Buck to carry on his agenda in the House. Both want to outlaw abortion and common forms of birth control, protect tax breaks for corporations that ship American jobs overseas, and end Medicare as we know it.

“No matter how closely you look or how hard you squint, there’s no distinguishing Ken Buck’s ideas from Cory Gardner’s record. If Ken Buck believes it, the odds are that Cory Gardner has voted for it.”

This is a theme Coloradans can expect to see over the next eight months. Buck was the party’s 2010 nominee for the U.S. Senate but lost a race he was expected to win.