Rocky Mountain High

Posted March 5, 2003 at 6:17pm

Some political insiders were chuckling over an item in The Denver Post last weekend that said advisers to Colorado Gov. Bill Owens (R) copied his successful get-out-the-vote operation last fall from none other than … Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-N.Y.)!

“It’s pretty funny,” admitted Sean Tonner, the GOP consultant who was quoted in the Post story.

But there’s nothing funny about it to Democrats, who saw their traditional GOTV advantage evaporate on Election Day 2002. Republicans were up front about wanting to compete with Democrats on the voter turnout front. But only Tonner credits a particular campaign as a

model — and a Republican mortal enemy’s at that.

Tonner, who was Owens’ campaign manager, told Roll Call that he was impressed with the way the Clinton campaign planned from Election Day and worked backwards.

“We looked for the best plan — and obviously it was going to be a Democrat campaign,” he said.

And now, just as national Democrats are vowing to win the GOTV wars again in 2004, “the Democrats in Colorado are trying to replicate what we did,” Tonner said.

Even if national or state Republicans feel queasy about Tonner’s admission, it shouldn’t hurt his business. With another Owens campaign veteran, Cinamon Watson, he has opened up Colorado’s first full-time Republican consulting shop, Phase Line Strategies. Already Sen. Ben Nighthorse Campbell (R-Colo.) is using Phase Line to raise money for his 2004 re-election bid. And the firm has just landed a consulting contract with the Republican Governors Association — which Owens happens to head.

Tonner believes his company will prove to be attractive to clients because it isn’t in Washington, D.C. “I think it gives us a fresh perspective,” he said.

Usually the Cuts Trickle Down From Washington. Speaking of governors, Oregon’s Ted Kulongoski (D) became the latest chief executive to shutter his Washington lobbying office to save money. Kulongoski announced last week that Rich Bechtel, the state’s director of federal affairs, will leave his post at the end of June, saving Oregon about $150,000 annually.

Kulongoski will use his top two aides, Peter Bragdon and Steve Schneider, as his liaisons to the Hill.

According to The Associated Press, Washington state closed its lobbying shop last year, and Missouri and Kansas are discussing the possibility of maintaining a joint lobbying office in Washington.

Meanwhile, new Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich (D), a former House Member, announced last month that he would cancel several of the state’s contracts with private D.C. lobbyists to save $1 million. Among those firms losing the Land of Lincoln’s business: Patton Boggs and a powerful Chicago law firm, Mayer Brown & Platt. Blagojevich also urged the Illinois Board of Education to terminate a lobbying contract with Barbour, Griffith & Rogers Inc.

In a related development, David Stricklin, the interim director of Illinois’ Washington office — and Blagojevich’s chief of staff when he was in the House — has resigned to become director of governmental affairs for the Chicago law firm Gardner Carton & Douglas.

Blagojevich has also tapped a former aide to Sen. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.), Bradley Tusk, to be deputy governor. He replaces Doug Scofield, a former chief of staff to Rep. Luis Gutierrez (D-Ill.).