updated 7/15/2004 5:06:28 PM ET 2004-07-15T21:06:28

Television ads aired this week claim Republican Senate candidate Peter Coors is promoting homosexual causes, escalating the increasingly bitter primary battle between him and former Rep. Bob Schaffer.

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The Coors campaign said the commercials amount to an illegal “soft money” contribution because the group sponsoring the ads has ties to the Schaffer campaign. Schaffer’s campaign denied the charge, saying any formal links were broken last month.

Gay marriage and same-sex partner benefits have become an issue in the primary campaign as Coors and Schaffer battle for support from the GOP’s conservative core.

As an executive of his family’s brewing company, Coors backed benefits for gay workers and promoted beer in gay bars, while as a candidate he endorsed a constitutional ban on gay marriages.

Schaffer also supported the constitutional amendment.

The ads, which ran in Colorado Springs and Grand Junction, were paid for by the group Colorado Conservative Voters, whose president, former Sen. Bill Armstrong, has endorsed Schaffer.

A complaint to the FEC
The Coors campaign filed a complaint with the Federal Election Commission and asked Comcast Cable to stop running the ads. Coors campaign officials said Armstrong is a member of Schaffer’s campaign, which would make the ads an illegal campaign contribution.

“It is unfortunate that Bob can’t raise his money legally and has to resort to these types of tactics,” Coors campaign spokeswoman Cinamon Watson.

Schaffer campaign manager Pat Fiske said Armstrong formally broke off any connection with the campaign in early June. He called the Coors campaign’s claims “an attack by a desperate campaign that has spent millions and can’t get into second gear.”

Armstrong said the ads were legal and fair. “We have been very careful to scrupulously abide by all the rules,” he said.

Comcast spokeswoman Cindy Parson said the company is reviewing the Coors campaign request and hasn’t decided how to respond.

It could take up to 28 days for the election commission to rule on the complaint, meaning the dispute may not be resolved before the Aug. 10 primary.

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