Let’s appreciate The Post’s coverage of city council races–while we can

March 28th, 2015

God love The Denver Post for actually factually covering Denver’s city council races with a little bit of breadth and a little bit of depth.

You can find a story here and there by other news entities, including the neighborhood newspapers. But to understand what’s happening  city-wide you have to turn to The Post. It’s apparently put Jon Murray, one of its top political reporters on the beat. And he, along with other reporters, are offering real coverage of the election, at the end of which we will have six of 13 new faces on the council. So it’s a big deal.

The Post is running a series spotlighting the major issues and candidates in the races, including, so far, District 1, District 2, and District 3.  The newspaper is dutifully following the money, as well as major developments.

The Post, for example, reported details this week of possible campaign-finance violations by District 10 candidate Wayne New, who admitted to omitting information from his official signs and not reporting in-kind donations .

But Wayne New denies that he is required to report the obvious advertising value of large campaign signs he’s placed in parking lots owned by Buzz Geller, a businessman who supports New.

Luis Toro, director Colorado Ethics Watch, which filed a complaint against Wayne New, says the failure to disclose the value of the use of parking lots is a “real, substantive violation” of Denver’s campaign finance laws. Toro told The Post his group’s action against New has nothing to do with the fact that New has donated to Republican candidates Mitt Romney and John McCain. [Disclosure: I support one of New’s District 10 opponents, Anna Jones, though I live outside the district.]

Anyway, wouldn’t it be great if the media were full of blow-by-blow accounts of low-level political battles like these? The best we have is The Post. And you wonder, who’s gonna do it when/if The Post is gone? It’s something that should not go unappreciated today, while we still have it.

Exit interview: Leaving local TV news for Politico, Stokols looks forward to never being told “that’s too inside baseball”

March 27th, 2015

Eli Stokols, who came to Denver as a general assignment reporter in 2005, is leaving KDVR Fox 31 Tuesday as one of the state’s top political reporters. He also became a Fox 31 anchor, launched his own public-policy TV show, and wrote nonstop on multiple platforms.

I had coffee with Stokols, and we talked about his ten-year run in Denver and his future job at Politico in Washington DC. Here’s an edited version of our conversation:

Why Politico?

Stokols: I’ve been looking for an opportunity to report on politics from a national platform. I don’t think that’s any secret. And, frankly, part of that is because in Colorado you get a taste of doing that, because every campaign here is nationalized. There is no shortage of great political stories to cover here, which helped me to broaden my work. You come to a point in your professional career when you need a different challenge. On some level, because I’d been here for so long and was considered one of the veterans, a lot of people come to you with information, and it gets easier. And you can find yourself not working as hard because stuff comes to you. Or you find yourself not as excited when the campaign cycle comes around because you’ve done a ton of them.

And what are you going to do there?

I’m going to cover 2016, mostly write about it. I imagine I’ll cover a lot of the presidential candidates early on.

On the trail?

Yeah. I’ll be traveling a lot. That’s going to be exciting. I’ve been joking with people. It’s about time someone gives up statehouse reporting and goes and covers the presidential race, because what America really needs is more reporters covering the presidential race. You understand going into it that it’s going be hard to come up with stories and angles, but it’s exciting. It’s probably a cliche, but if you’re a political reporter, and that’s what you’re interested in, the opportunity to cover a presidential race and be on the trail is a bucket list thing.

Speaking of the state legislature, will Fox 31 replace you?

The upshot is, this was never a position we had because management said we had to cover politics. I don’t know what they will do. [See CJR's Corey Hutchins' take on this here.] It’s disappointing. You get this opportunity, and then you leave. And you look at what you built. And I know [9News political reporter Adam Schrager] felt the same way when he left. You want it to continue. And so it’s bittersweet.

Here’s a sad question. You’ve established Fox 31 as a go-to source of local political news. Now you’re leaving, and you say you’d like to see things continue. But it doesn’t look like they’re going to. And there doesn’t seem to be any incentive for Fox to do it, in terms of ratings.

What I’ve done has never been about ratings. I think there needs to be more decisions made in local television that are not made based on ratings but are based on the greater good, the public good. And you get criticized for being a media elitist when you say this, but I will unabashedly say, as journalists, we have a responsibility to determine what the audience and the greater public really need to know about–and make fewer decisions in terms of what we do and don’t cover based on what we think they will like seeing on the news.

Bottom line, you don’t think that ratings will suffer with your departure?

No, I don’t.

What will happen to the station?

I really do think Fox 31 is moving in the right direction. The new news director, Holly Gaunt, is very smart, sees the big picture, sees things clearly within the market and within our newsroom. And [she] will continue that station’s upward trajectory. I think [Fox 31 anchor] Jeremy Hubbard is, I think, the best anchor in the market. There are a lot of talented people there. I think Fox 31 has a decision to make about what kind of footprint they make in terms of political coverage.

What’s it going to take to change viewer habits in Denver. You’ve busted your ass. Your station is very competent, but yet you’ve sat there at the bottom, or close to it. It has got to be frustrating.

I won’t say [9News] hasn’t done a lot to maintain [its top slot in the market] and earn that. Some of it is journalism. A lot of it is also branding and community involvement. They sponsor everything. They are a juggernaut, and it’s not just because of the news department. But they are less dominant than they were when I first got to the market. And there are opportunities to challenge them. At the CBA awards, it was Fox 31 and 9News that won most of the awards. They do a good job. A lot of stations do a good job, but changing viewer habits is sometimes as simple as finding that right anchor team and that chemistry. Channel 7′s morning show was killing it when they had Ana Cabrera on there. She is a special talent, and there’s a reason CNN said, “We want to take you.” And they did take her. And now their morning show is not the same. And it takes nothing away from other people who are on the morning show.

Something like that could flip it?

I think Jeremy Hubbard is that kind of talent. He’s very good. He’s only been back here in this role for a short time. There’s a real consistency with him.

There’s something really great about covering state and local politics. You get a personal interaction with people. You see them at the grocery store. You see that in DC too, but I never felt it was the same. What do you think you are going to miss about being here?

The relationships are the hardest thing to give up, because in a smaller market like this you really get a lot of access to people–except when it’s campaign season. [It is] amazing how people who are your best friends suddenly disappear during campaign season. It takes time to build something like I feel I have here in Colorado. And DC, it’s a bigger pond but there are a ton more fish in it too. There are too many journalists.

And more sharks, too.

I’m looking forward to being in a city, and writing for a publication, where there’s no question about whether people are interested in politics.

I know. I don’t blame you.

One of the most exciting things about going to Politico, and the reason I wanted to go there, is because, one, you don’t have the requirements of doing broadcast television that naturally, in some ways,degrade the depth of your journalism. They help you in some ways too.The Cory Gardner interview [during which Gardner repeatedly denied the purpose of a bill that Gardner co-sponsored] wouldn’t have been anything if it weren’t a televised interview. So it’s just different.

The big thing is, I will never be told by an editor there, “That’s too inside baseball; no one cares.” I won’t hear that. And I hear it almost every day and have for ten years. And that is one of the things that’s most exciting to me, is working for a political place like that.

And it’s true. It’s hard to get people to pay attention here. That’ll be fun.

 

Lawmaker’s view that the attack on a pregnant woman is a “curse of god upon America” should be widely reported

March 26th, 2015

You had the feeling it was just a matter of time until Rep. Gordon Klingenschmitt said something, in his position as a lawmaker, that was so grotesque that it should be widely reported and thoroughly condemned. That time has arrived.

The progressive organization Right Wing Watch reported that Klingenschmitt said, in an online video, that the horrific attack on a pregnant woman March 18 in Longmont is a “curse of God upon America for our sin of not protecting innocent children in the womb.”

Right Wing Watch reported this morning:

On his “Pray In Jesus Name” program today, Klingenschmitt discussed the story and tied it to a passage from Hosea in which God curses the people of Samaria for their rebellion by declaring that “their little ones shall be dashed in pieces, and their pregnant women ripped open.”

“I wonder if there is prophetic significance to America today in that scripture,” he said. “This is the curse of God upon America for our sin of not protecting innocent children in the womb and part of that curse for our rebellion against God as a nation is that our pregnant women are ripped open”

This is the kind scream for media attention that Klingenscmitt used to launch regularly, before he was legitimized as a state representative from Colorado Springs. He’d brag about performing an exorcism to root out the “foul spirit of lesbianism” from a woman. He’d rail against abortion and gays.

But since he joined the Colorado state legislature in January, Klingenschmitt, who goes by the name of Dr. Chaps, has been somewhat restrained. Sure, he compared Planned Parenthood to ISIS, but at least he did it in a somewhat round-about way. Perhaps that’s why it was reported by left-leaning media entities, and mostly ignored by other news media.

But how can Klingenschmitt’s latest statement possibly be ignored? It’s along the lines of Pat Robertson blaming abortion and gays for 9/11.

Dr. Chaps isn’t another right-wing nut on YouTube. He’s an elected official making laws under the gold dome in Denver. Where’s the outrage by reporters and other watchdogs?

And what about his fellow Republicans? His statement has the effect of casting all Republicans–not just Klingenschmitt–as being completely out of touch and cold-hearted mean–unless they thoroughly denounce it. But will they?

If Klingenschmitt is going to politicize a horrific tragedy in the name of his anti-choice agenda, he should be called out by reporters and denounced by anyone with a brain. Ignoring him is the wrong way to go.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KyOLyis2JYw

Reporters should hold Gardner to his promise to have Obamacare replacement “ready to go”

March 25th, 2015

The Hill’s Sarah Ferris reported today that Obama is mocking Republicans for claiming to have an alternative to Obamacare, when they obviously don’t.

Five years after the passage of his signature healthcare law, President Obama took a jab at the Republican Party for still lacking its own plan to replace it.

“We have been promised a lot of things these past five years that didn’t turn out to be the case,” Obama said at a White House event marking the healthcare law’s progress. “Death panels. Doom. A serious alternative from Republicans in Congress.”

Colorado’s Sen. Cory Gardner is one of the Republicans whom Obama is mocking. Asked if Republicans would have a plan ready if the Supreme Court rules against the health care law in King v. Burwell, Gaardner said on Fox News Wednesday (at 2:30):

“I think the Republicans not only will have a plan but something the President will accept, because it’s something we have to do,”  said Gardner, citing the efforts of GOP Senators John Barrasso of Wyoming, Louisiana’s Bill Cassidy, and Nebraska’s Benjamin Sass.

“Republican’s will have a plan in place if the ruling is for the plaintiffs. Our plan will be ready to go,” Gardner said.

https://youtu.be/2TcXWgX2z10

The replacement will be ready to go? If that’s true, why has it taken so long? And why wait for the Supreme Court’s decision? Gardner has been voting for the repeal Obamacare for years.

He even advocated for the government shutdown, in an effort to defund the health care program.

So Reporters should hold Gardner to latest Obamacare-replacement promise, even if the justices uphold the health-care law. It will be ready do go, Gardner promised, so I’d think reporters would be looking forward to seeing it, one way or the other.

 

 

Liberal Guest Messes with Reverberations in Conservative Echo Chamber

March 24th, 2015

KLZ’s 560-AM’s morning show’s Randy Corporon gets a BigMedia gold nugget for having a liberal guest on the show regularly, messing with the familiar reverberations in conservative echo chamber of talk radio.

On Thursday the liberal, Dane Torbenson, told “righty” host Corporon that institutional racism is still a problem in America. The echo chamber quivered with rarely heard sound waves, stimulating Adams County Republican Chair, Anil Mathai to phone in and say elite whites are using African-Americans as pawns in a war against whites.

“This is a reverse racial discussion being driven by elite whites, especially by those who have never lived in the city, those who have no clue about what black people have to go through,” Mathai told KLZ Wake Up Show listeners. “And the black people [are] also being tricked into this racial discussion, because bitterness is a destructive thing. It’s a good thing to have this discussion, but the reality is, this is racially motivated from the reverse side.”

Who are the whites that are tricking “the black people?” The whites in the Ferguson police department? Which is rotten with systemic racism, according to federal investigators? I’d like to see a list of whites who are tricking “the black people” into thinking there’s racism out there. Will I be on the list for linking to a federal-government report documenting racism?

If blacks were allowed on the list of people tricking the black people, it looks like President Obama would be on it, if you listen to Mathai.

The Adams County Republican leader said we have “a black president and a black attorney general and such, and we’re more diversified than ever before in American history, who’s pushing a racial agenda, a reverse racial agenda.”

“That’s not being discussed,” he said.

If he doesn’t think that’s being discussed, then he needs to listen to more talk radio, which is full of it. It’s the other side, the fact-based side that’s usually missing from talk-radio land. And for its being there for a change, we have Corporon and his liberal guest Torbenson to thank.

https://soundcloud.com/bigmedia-org/adams-gop-chair-says-whites-tricking-the-black-people

State Rep. wants Gardner to appear on radio show where tea-party host won’t “let him slide” or “use message points”

March 23rd, 2015

Jefferson County Republican State Rep. Justin Everett wants Sen. Cory Gardner to appear on a tea-party radio show that Gardner has been dodging.

KLZ 560-AM’s Randy Corporon has been airing his displeasure with Gardner for rejecting his pleas to appear on his “Wake Up with Randy Corporon” morning show.

“He and I have always gotten along well, had good conversations in the past,” Corporon told his listeners Wednesday, explaining that he’d personally asked Gardner to come on his show. “And I said, ‘Are you going to come on and explain some of the decisions that have been made.’ And [Gardner] started to talk like he would, and then he said, ‘You know what, you guys beat the crap out of me all the time.’”

“I think it would be excellent for both of you to be on the air and hash some things out,” Everett told KLZ’s Corporon Wednesday. “I think it would be very good for your listeners and the state of Colorado. So people can actually hear Cory on the radio talking to someone who’s not going to let him slide or use message points or whatever. And actually get to the meat of the matter and find out what’s going on, because I know there is a lot of definite grassroots activists on our side who aren’t too happy with Cory. You know, on Saturday [during the Republican State convention], I thought he got a pretty tepid response when he spoke.”

Corporon responded: “Well I wasn’t there Friday night, but I’m told at the big celebratory dinner before the election that he got a similarly tepid response… In fact, I think the sound defeat of Ryan Call by Steve House was a repudiation of Cory Gardner as well because Cory expended a lot of resources trying to get Ryan Call re-elected.

Corporon asked Everett if he’s been invited on liberal talk-radio shows, and “if you got invited would you take the challenge?”

Everett replied that he hadn’t been invited but, “Of course I’d take the challenge.”

“If you believe in how you voted, and you went through an adequate thought process, and you feel comfortable with how you’re voting and what you’re doing, then you should be able to defend it,” Everett told Corporon. “Cory is a really smart guy. I’ve known Cory for a number of years. It’s a little surprising that he wouldn’t come on. Randy, we talk all the time. You’re reasonable. You’re also an attorney, and you can ask a lot of good rhetorical and leading questions. But so is Cory.”

Listen to State Rep. Justin Everett on KLZ’s 560-AM Wednesday, March 17, starting at on hour thirty-four minutes and forty seconds (@ 1:34:40)

https://soundcloud.com/randycorporon/ep-308

How in the world will new GOP state chair set priorities?

March 19th, 2015

On Saturday, Steve House was awarded the honor to lead Colorado’s Republican Party. Now what?  How will he prioritize, and how will he deal with the fires and ashes surrounding him as I type? That’s the story flowing from House’s not-so-surprising victory over incumbent chair Ryan Call, and there’s lots of material to work with.

The first fire: The developing campaign to recall of Rep. Dan Thurlow. Will Steve House support a Republican-recalling-a-Republican? Will the new chair get out in front of this one and say, that’s not how we treat our own?

That fire will be burning for a while, you get the feeling, and it may be fueled by anger over how House sets his priorities as chair. He rose to power with promises to turn the state-party county entities into “franchises,” empowered to raise money and innovate.

But which counties will get the dough? There’s House’s friend, Pueblo GOP Chair Becky Mizel and others like her, who have virtually no hope of electing Republicans. Does she get an equal slice of the Republican empowerment pie? Does she get any pie, given other needs?

And there’s next year’s election. Do you throw more money at Tony Sanchez or Susan Kochevar, if they run again in 2016, as House’s own supporters would likely want? Dive deep into the Jeffco or Adams School Board races?

The Tea Party hates the thought, but should Steve House consider the Colorado state house be a lost cause at least until after 2020, especially with state Sen. Laura Woods, who won by a few hundred votes in a GOP wave year, teetering out there with a new voting record on her back and the GOP senate majority arguably resting in her hands? And in a presidential cycle, Michael Bennet looks tough to beat, analysts say.

In addition to making decisions about all of this, Steve House needs to wade though whether to ax/destroy/dismember the state Republican Party’s Independent Expenditure Committee, which was so maligned by the forces that elected House. Will he kill it?

Will Steve House throw money behind Matt Arnold’s efforts?  Marilyn Marks? Or other Tea-Party led crusades?

Plus House has to decide about his executive director. What’s really going on with Ted Harvey?

Oh, and there’s the GOP ground game that needs money–perhaps more now than before Saturday’s election, because centrist precinct captains and others may be fleeing the party, sources tell me.

In any case, if this sounds like insider baseball, it is. And for Steve House, the game is on.

 

GOP State Senator’s “like” of Facebook page doesn’t signify an endorsement

March 18th, 2015

A Facebook page has emerged calling for the recall of Rep. Dan Thurlow, who’s voted against his caucus numerous times during the current legislative session, angering talk-radio hosts and their allies.

Among the 111 people who’ve liked the “Recall Dan Thurlow” page Colorado State Sen. Owen Hill. Thurlow and Hill are both Republicans.

I called Hill to find out if his “like” of the page meant he endorsed a recall of Thurlow, and he told me it doesn’t signify an endorsement of the effort.

“I like a lot of pages on Facebook to hear what’s going on,” Hill told me. “Facebook is a phenomenal way to keep track of information.”

“I’m concerned personally about many of his votes,” Hill added.

Radio host leaves clues for identity of writer of anonymously-authored document

March 13th, 2015

On his Facebook page yesterday, KLZ AM-560 radio host Ken Clark posted a document and posed the question, “This is Dan Thurlow’s voting record so far, what do you think?”

Clark freely acknowledged that he didn’t write the piece, which criticizes Thurlow, a Republican who’s been voting against his caucus, for nine votes opposing right-wing legislation. For example, Thurlow’s vote against a ban on “conversion therapy” is noted in the document with the comment: “Thurlow thinks that is a great idea and was the only R in the entire house to vote for it.”

The document states that Thurlow is an “idiot” for voting against a bill that would have allowed the Colorado Bureau of Investigation to allow “transfers of machine guns, destructive devices, and certain types of firearms” if the transferee met certain conditions, loosening the current regulator regime.

In describing Thurlow’s vote against the machine-gun-transfer bill, HB 1086, Clark’s secret-source states: “This was my bill, it would have mandated CBI sign off on form 4s for NFA license packets if the person passes a background check.”

So judging from this “my bill” line in the document posted, and other comments about email, Clark’s source appears to be a legislator who sponsored HB 1086.

And Clark acknowledges in the comment section that Clark deleted a reference in the anonymously-authored document to HB 1171 as  “my freedom of conscience protection bill.”

The sponsors of both those bills are Rep. Patrick and Sen. Tim Neville. (See HB 1171 here and HB 1086 here.)

So, while we can’t be sure, it looks like Clark’s source is either Rep. Patrick Neville or Sen. Tim Neville.

Asked about the situation, Clark said it was “an editing error on my part.”

In any case, it’s a lesson for all of us who receive leaked or anonymously-authored documents. Read them carefully before posting them to avoid disclosing your sources or giving hidden clues to bored bloggers who love to expose anonymous sources.

 

GOP State Chair race could have used a few more Ernest Lunings

March 13th, 2015

UPDATE: Fox 31 Denver’s Eli Stokols offers an excellent closing analysis of the race here: “GOP Chairman Ryan Call facing revolt led by AG Cynthia Coffman.”

——

One thing is clear in the home stretch of the battle between Ryan Call and Steve House to be the next leader of Colorado’s Republican Party.

The race could have used a few more reporters like the Colorado Statesman‘s Ernest Luning covering it. As it is, “coverage” of the race has mostly been left to a bizarre and sometimes toxic shooting gallery of talk radio, Facebook, more Facebook, progressive bloggers (including outcasts like me), and whisperers and more whisperers. Honestly, this situation, set against a backdrop of intense GOP anger and madness, doesn’t serve Republicans or the rest of us.

The candidates have spoken directly to lots of the Republican activists who will be voting Saturday, which is good, but the race for Republican chair is an excellent example of what won’t be covered at all by real journalists as the profession fades. And we all lose from that.

Luning has provided the most even-handed and in-depth coverage of the Republican leadership race, and he’s out with a new story yesterday that included new allegations against Steve House, who’s challenging Ryan Call. Luning reports:

A group of former Adams County Republican officers circulated a letter on Wednesday slamming House for his tenure leading the county party and calling his character into question.

The letter, signed by former county chairs Patty McCoy and Clark Bolser, former vice chair Patty Sue Femrite and county finance chair Maria del Carman Guzman-Weese, alleged that House quit the post half way through his term in order to run for governor after promising he wouldn’t do just that. What’s more, the Adams County group charged, he left the county GOP in a shambles and it was Call who came to the rescue to rebuild it.

“Steve definitely has charisma and personal ambition, and he certainly knows how to give a good speech,” the group wrote. “He’s personally likeable. But his record of unfulfilled commitments, multiple broken promises, and overall poor performance as County Chairman left many of us in Adams County disappointed, extremely frustrated, and with unwelcome extra work during a critical time.”

Steve House spokesman Mike McAlpine denied the accusation, telling Luning it was dirty politics and, in fact, Adams County Republicans actually helped flip the Colorado Senate in 2014.

In any case, in addition to his reporting this flap, Luning nicely summarizes the House-Call contest as we head into Saturday morning, when the final vote will occur at Douglas County High School in Castle Rock.