O’Dea campaign files complaint against shadowy mailers that falsely say Republican Party endorsed his rival

Hart Van Denburg/CPR News
Republican U.S. Senate candidate Joe O’Dea speaks at a Western Conservative Summit forum on Friday, June 3, 2022.

The campaign for GOP Senate candidate Joe O’Dea has filed a federal election complaint and is asking the United States District Court in Colorado to block the distribution of attack ad mailers being sent to GOP primary voters ahead of the June 28 primary. 

The mailers do not disclose who paid for them, which is required under federal election laws. 

The campaign is asking the court for a preliminary injunction to stop Christian Printing, a commercial printing company based in Iowa, from distributing them. The campaign said it still does not know what entity paid for the ads and is responsible for the content. 

O’Dea’s campaign provided a list from the USPS business gateway of some of the printing company’s clients, which include the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, and the Democratic parties in Iowa, Virginia, Wisconsin, and Nevada, along with several other Democratic candidates.  

In the FEC complaint, O’Dea’s campaign said the flyers, some of which falsely claim that his opponent State Rep. Ron Hanks was endorsed by the Colorado Republican party, are “part of a coordinated effort to use false electioneering communications to discredit Joe O’Dea, and potentially other Republican primary candidates, to ensure that a less electable Republican is nominated for the General Election.”

The Colorado Republican Party does not endorse candidates in primary races and is considering separate legal action.

The mailers also blast O’Dea for supporting President Biden’s infrastructure bill and for previously donating to Democratic politicians who want “to take away your gun rights,” including Bennet and “gun control advocate” John Hickenlooper.

O’Dea, a contractor, has previously made contributions to Hickenlooper and Bennet, and he publicly supported the federal infrastructure bill. O’Dea’s campaign disputes the ad’s implication that he supports gun control, and notes that he’s been endorsed by the Colorado State Shooting Association, the official state chapter of the National Rifle Association. 

“By hiding the source of the message, these groups are able to advertise to voters who might otherwise severely discount or ignore their message, and mislead voters as the Primary Elections approach,” states the civil lawsuit filed against Christian Printers and Jon Doe Organization. 

O’Dea’s campaign estimated more than 400,000 Republican primary voters have already received one or more of the mailers, which would put the cost of the effort around $1 million. 

The CPR News voter guide to Colorado’s 2022 primary elections: How to vote, who’s running and more to know

“The harm to O’Dea is such that it will be extremely difficult to restore, particularly considering that many voters have, and will continue, to fill out their mail ballots while being misinformed by these false statements,” states the lawsuit.

The owner of the printing company did not immediately return a request for comment about the lawsuit.

A different group, Democratic Colorado has purchased statewide television ads showcasing Hanks' conservative record. 

Hanks and O’Dea are vying to challenge Democratic Sen. Michael Bennet this fall. The ads and Democratic spending are delivering a much needed influx of money and publicity for Hanks, who is the financial underdog in the race.  

According to most FEC filings, Hanks has $20,470 to spend, while O’Dea has about $1 million cash on hand. Financial disclosures show tha O’Dea has already spent about $640,000 of his own money on the race.

Editor's note: This story has been updated with the most recent campaign finance numbers.