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Colorado Commits keeping campaign plans under wraps

Leaders of the campaign to pass a $950 million education tax increase are laying plans for their campaign, but they’re being close-mouthed about what those strategies are.

With just 35 days until county clerks can start mailing ballots for the Nov. 5 election, Colorado Commits to Kids has yet to stage any public meetings or air any advertising.

On Tuesday, Colorado Commits convened representatives of groups supporting Amendment 66 for a meeting on the Auraria campus. The emailed invitation said, “We plan to update you on our success thus far, and explain our road to success in the coming months.”

Although not invited, EdNews dropped by the meeting but was asked to leave by campaign spokesman Curtis Hubbard, who works for OnSight Communications, the consulting firm that is advising the campaign.

Hubbard also declined to make campaign leaders available for an on-the-record interview after the meeting.

He explained that the campaign has no intention of being public about its plans for fear of tipping off opponents to its strategies.

People who attended the meeting said later that campaign leaders generally discussed polling, campaign strategy and get-out-the vote efforts. Participants were told that campaign literature and other materials would emphasize the phrase “Yes on Amendment 66.”

Hubbard confirmed that, saying it really wasn’t a “rebranding” of the campaign but noted, “Colorado Commits to Kids isn’t what voters will see on the ballot.”

Hubbard did say earlier the campaign is planning a couple of public events in the next several weeks and might start an advertising campaign in a few weeks. The campaign’s last public event was Aug. 15, when the campaign was formally launched (see story).

The campaign has been low profile from the start and only started circulating petitions in late June, about six weeks before they were due. The petitions for Amendment 66 were certified only last week because the Department of State had to verify all 165,710 signatures submitted, of which 89,820 were valid. State law required 86,105 valid signatures.

Campaign officials were similarly tight-lipped during the petition circulating campaign about how it was going.

While several observers have estimated that Colorado Commits will need $6 to $10 million to mount a winning campaign, the committee had raised only about $1.6 million through a Sept. 3 filing deadline.

Sources have told EdNews that the campaign intends to make significant use of social media and will have field offices staffed with paid canvassers.

The Colorado Commits website does contain a section that encourages supporters to spread information about Amendment 66 via social media.

The campaign’s “Media Action Squad” page says, “One of the easiest ways to help us put Colorado and its students on a path to a better future is by sharing information and news with your networks. We need you to join the team to post, tweet and share as much as possible about the momentum building behind our efforts to make Colorado the national model for public education reform. Each week we will be creating media to help people understand the power of education and the value of supporting this initiative. As a member of the media action squad you can contribute in a meaningful way, and all we ask is that you actively help to spread the message…you don’t even have to leave your chair!

“In the coming weeks we will send you some instructions on the best ways you can help us spread the word. Leading up to the election in November, we will send you all kinds of important messages and media that needs your supercharging to get it into the airwaves.”

Colorado Commits canvassers reportedly will asking residents to fill out cards that the campaign will mail back to them later as a reminder of their support and to votes.

While Colorado Commits is worried about tipping its hand to the opposition, that opposition so far seems pretty limited.

There are two opposition committees registered with the Department of State, Coloradans for Real Education Reform and Coloradans Against Unions Using Kids as Pawns. The former group has raised no money, and the latter has raised only $7,200, none of which has been spent.

The conservative group Compass Colorado has been issuing news releases criticizing Amendment 66. The group worked against an unsuccessful education tax increase in 2011 but isn’t required to report contributions and spending because of its particular non-profit status.

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