The notoriously über-conservative Colorado congresswoman
lost her Nov. 2008 reelection bid after years of running relentlessly negative
campaigns focused on banning abortion, sex education and gay marriage.
After dropping out of sight for several months — and oddly
refusing to thank her own campaign volunteers or concede to Democratic opponent Betsy Markey — Musgrave
resurfaced in March with a plum job at the national antiabortion political
advocacy group, the Susan B. Anthony List, to run opposition campaigns against
Just six months into the "Votes Have Consequences"
project, Musgrave has issued her first call-to-arms for the group’s most
fervent anti-choice supporters with an electoral hit list of 12 congressional
The lawmakers on Musgrave’s 2010 hot seat: Sens. Michael
Bennett (CO), Blanche Lincoln (AR), Harry Reid (NV), and Reps. Alan Grayson (FL-08), Debbie Halvorson (IL-11), Frank Kratovil (MD-01), Suzanne Kosmas( FL-24),
Walt Minnick (ID-01), Glenn Nye (VA-02), Tom Perriello (VA-05), Carol Shea-Porter
(NH-01), and Harry Teague (NM-02).
Curiously, several of lawmakers on the list, like Reid,
Lincoln and Minnick, are hardly reliable champions of protecting comprehensive
reproductive health care with voting records scoring at or well below 50
percent on choice issues. All the representatives, with the exception of
Shea-Porter, are freshman legislators in districts formerly held by
Republicans. So Musgrave isn’t exactly going out on a limb.
While the VHC campaign is reportedly flush with a $2 million
budget to run in-district skirmishes, place automated phone calls, hold rallies and
unleash an onslaught of press releases to local media, it’s Musgrave’s own
patented brand of scorched Earth campaign tactics that demands real attention.
For the uninitiated, Musgrave, a three-term congresswoman
from eastern Colorado, has been criticized for "childish, petulant and mean-spirited campaigning" and
engaging in "a series of smear tactics and mud-slinging" by outraged
members of her own party.
She’s also been called the Sarah Palin of the Plains. And
remains a close friend of her ideological twin in the House, Minn. Rep. Michele
So what do those on the VHC list have to look forward to in
the coming election season?
For one, a women unafraid of controversy. As Matt Taibbi
notes in a Rolling Stone story on the
Musgrave-Markey match up last year, "[Musgrave's] first
political gig was on the school board in Fort Morgan, where she devoted her
energies to blacking out — literally blacking out — passages in sex-education
election to Congress in 2002, following a tumultuous career in the Colorado
statehouse, she introduced the federal Defense of Marriage Act to ban same sex
unions and declared at the 2006 Values Voters Summit that preventing gay marriage was "the most important issue we face
Musgrave also won’t hesitate to throw a political punch and
no blow appears to be low enough. In 2004, a campaign
flyer digitally modified the eyes of her democratic opponent —
Japanese-American state Senate President Stan Matsunaka — to appear narrower
and more slanted in a ham-handed attempt to make him appear sneaky.
Another series of flyers, dubbed by local political watchers as "the
Elephant Man," so distorted Matsunaka’s face that he appeared to be
Again locked in a tight race, her campaign supporters were
believed to be behind a 2006 push poll scheme that told Latinos they were
prohibited from voting and would be arrested for immigration violations.
Unsigned letters to registered voters with Hispanic surnames also circulated in
her district advising people to show up at the polls the day after the
In her last go-around, Musgrave
falsely insinuated in a television ad that her democratic opponent
Markey could face five years in prison for steering no-bid government contracts
to her family business while working as a staffer for Sen. Ken Salazar. The
Markey campaign filed a complaint against Musgrave for deceptive advertising
but it was rebuffed by the local fair election commission, as was Musgrave’s
counter complaint against a Markey-aired ad.
Colorado voters finally drew the line and rejected
Musgrave’s politics of personal destruction. Markey defeated her resoundingly
in a district that hasn’t elected a democrat since the early 1970s.
Though that lesson appears to have been short lived for the
Pentacostal mother of four.
In a May 2009 VHC fundraising
letter, Musgrave employs the most vicious dog-whistle political
tactics, a strategy of using coded language that reveals a very specific
subtext of meaning to certain audiences. A frequently used dog-whistle in the
abortion debate is the landmark Dred Scott decision to equate Roe v. Wade with racism and slaves’ lack
In the letter that she breezily closes with "I will
never forget your friendship — not ever," Musgrave blames "the radical homosexual lobby,
abortionists, gun-grabbers and all the rest of the extremists" for her
electoral defeat and promises to expose "liberal politicians who talk like
conservatives at home and vote like Barney Frank." Musgrave promises to
"confront the Left directly and continue to stand strong to protect our
families, our values and our country" now that she’s thrown off the
shackles of Washington politics and the Republican party.
VHC launched its first attack during the two-week
congressional summer recess with a television ad criticizing Senate President
Reid over long-discredited claims that the health care reform bills will repeal
the onerous Hyde Amendment that prohibits federal funds from covering abortion
None of the VHC-targeted lawmakers contacted for this story
returned requests for comment.