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A child goes to school in the world of politics

Colorado girl, 10, creates own PAC

GRAND JUNCTION, Colo. -- Lily Thorpe, the newest player on Colorado's political landscape, was making a point about education when she called her mother and spit gum into her hand.

Then she finished her thought.

''The No Child Left Behind law is good, but kids are still left behind," Lily said. ''President Bush didn't put enough money in to fund the law. He said no kids should be left behind, but he didn't fund tutors or books."

Lily, wearing pink and white sneakers with smiley faces on the laces, sat on the edge of her chair. She suddenly looked bored and began walking around the room.

''Do you know I have a doll signed by Marie Osmond?" she asked.

Such is the world of Colorado's youngest politico. Lily, 10, is founder of Kids Campaign, a political action committee dedicated to raising awareness about children's issues. Since starting the PAC in February, the fifth grader has become a minor celebrity, traveling around the state collecting money, meeting politicians and giving speeches.

Colorado Secretary of State Donetta Davidson said the 3-foot-11, 52-pound Lily was the youngest leader of a PAC in the state.

''I certainly haven't heard of anyone younger," Davidson said. ''Colorado doesn't have age limits on who can run a political action committee."

Lily has advisers who make sure she's following proper election laws, but there is little doubt about who's in charge.

''I founded it, so I guess I'm the boss," she said.

Lily started the campaign after trying to research a class project and finding that the school encyclopedias were 14 years old. She then discovered her school had just one part-time tutor for 500 kids, and a fraying infrastructure.

''I realized our voices didn't really matter," she said. ''When people are voting, the kids are left out."

So she started Kids Campaign. Shortly after, Lily opened an office across the hall from her family's bail bond business in this town on Colorado's western border.

The blue-eyed activist alternates between moppet and policy wonk. One minute she's grimly discussing teen suicide, the next she's gushing about a new line of dolls. Outgoing letters are stamped with lucky shamrocks.

As head of her own political organization, Lily said, she tries to be nonpartisan.

''The Bush campaign is yada, yada, yada. Bush is great, yada, yada," she said, mocking grown-up partisan discourse. ''The Kerry campaign is yada, yada, yada. Kerry is great, yada, yada."

The group has raised $1,000, mostly from local political candidates, community organizations and businesses.

Craig Meis donated $25.

''It's pretty funny when you have all of these big politicians in a room, and she comes and steals the show," said Meis, who is running for Mesa County commissioner. ''She's probably more direct than most politicians."

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