Larry Liston woke up on Monday, Sept. 20 and got really, really mad. At 8 a.m. the Colorado Springs financial planner and Republican candidate running for the House of Representatives scribbled off a note on his "Committee to Elect Larry Liston" letterhead:
"I have awoken [sic] to find out that malcontents, low lifes and thugs from the Democratic Party have taken ALL of our signs down for President Bush and Pete Coors on our ENTIRE street. They conveniently have left up the democrat signs. This action is highly repugnant and very offensive.
"While people from [the Democratic] party fight to trample the rights of Ralph Nader, they are not content; so they steal Republican signs from everyone who simply express [sic] a little freedom of speech. [The Democratic] party should be ashamed!"
Perhaps Mr. Liston doth protest just a little too much. Let us now turn your attention to the series of photos, at right, taken of Mr. Liston onstage at a GOP fundraiser at the Colorado Springs Country Club on Saturday, March 3, 2001. At the time, Liston was the vice chairman of the statewide Republican Party.
The first shot shows Liston displaying a very effective technique designed to rip out opponents' political yard signs using a long stick with a hook on the end. The handy device proves quite efficient during "midnight commando raids" in which one self-styled soldier drives slowly down a street while a passenger hooks up yard signs along the way.
The second photograph shows Liston holding up a "G.I. Joe commando doll," which that night was presented to the Republican activist who had ripped out the most yard signs during the political campaign cycle.
The third shot is of Liston, further addressing the crowd. He received hearty applause, according to Bill Jambura, an eyewitness to the performance.
"Those of us who know Mr. Liston best were not surprised that he was low enough to do such a thing, but that he was dumb enough to brag about it in front of approximately 150 prominent Republicans," said Jambura, a longtime nemesis of Liston. Two years ago Jambura ran against then-incumbent state Rep. Bill Sinclair, whom Liston had supported in the heavily-Republican House District 16. Throughout his unsuccessful campaign, Jambura complained of dirty tricks, including that his yard signs were repeatedly stolen and vandalized (see photo #4). Ultimately Jambura lost the race.
This week, Liston insisted that his display of yard sign ripping prowess was actually meant as a "spoof" during the fundraiser and said the demonstration occurred during a roast for Chuck Broerman, the former chairman of the local Republican Party (who now holds Liston's past role as state GOP vice chairman).
Further, Liston maintained the event was designed merely to "poke fun." He denied knowing where the hooked stick or the "G.I. Joe commando doll" had come from. He insisted that he has never actually ripped out anyone's yard signs, has never attended any "midnight commando raids," does not condone the practice and finds such activities "very distasteful" no matter what political party they are affiliated with.
In fact, stealing or vandalizing yard signs is a misdemeanor, with penalties ranging from fines to jail time. So why, then, was Liston willing to reduce such a serious and grave matter to a joke?
"That was a roast," he repeated. "All kinds of things are said and done at a roast; it's all done in good humor."
Here's betting that, once he's sworn into office, Liston will have much fun up in Denver, writing and passing important laws that affect all of us in Colorado.