Reporters failed to correct Coffman’s assertion that the House passed immigration bills

August 19th, 2014

CORRECTION: At least two immigration-related bills cleared the GOP-controlled U.S. House this session, so I erred below in writing that none did. One responded to the crisis created by the young migrants crossing the border. It would have boosted border security, legal processing, and support. Another would have provided more visas for immigrant students with math and science skills and reduced the number of visas for other immigrants. I discussed this bill here. Sorry for the mistake.
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It’s tough to fact-check an entire debate, if you’re an increasingly lonely reporter at a shrinking news outlet, but a journalist somewhere should have corrected Rep. Mike Coffman’s assertion, in his debate last week against Democrat Andrew Romanoff, that immigration bills cleared the Republican-controlled House of Representatives.

In explaining his opposition to a bipartisan immigration bill passed by the U.S. Senate, Coffman said (@21:45):

“I think both parties have it wrong right now. I think on the left it’s, unless we get everything, then nothing will move. And in fact, individual bills have moved over to the Senate. And Harry Reid would not take it up because it was not quote-unquote comprehensive. And then on my side of the aisle, you know, we’ve got to get moving. And I’ve worked with my folks on the Republican side to get them moving. And so I think there’s got to be a middle path. And that middle path is a step-by-step approach.” [BigMedia emphasis]

Coffman would have had a complete and total brain freeze if he’d tried to remember how he voted on these immigration “bills,” because they don’t exist.

He’d have been wrong even if he’d said a singular immigration bill cleared the U.S. House. But he said “bills” plural, multiplying his apparent mistake.

A phone call to Coffman’s spokesman, Tyler Sandberg, seeking clarification was not immediately returned.

So we’re forced to speculate that possibly Coffman was referring to a bill that would have stopped undocumented immigrants from accessing the child tax credit. But no reasonable person would call this immigration reform.

And Coffman opposed the bill that would have overturned President Obama’s order allowing young undocumented immigrants to avoid deportation. So presumably, Coffman wouldn’t want Sen. Reid to push this bill through the Senate.

Coffman himself made a big deal a year ago about supporting “comprehensive” immigration reform, but now he’s calling for a step-by-step approach. But he has yet to define, in any meaningful and specific way, the legislation or steps he supports to reform immigration.

Romanoff, who supports the Senate immigration bill, said as much during the debate, when he pointed out that Coffman’s “step-by-step” won’t work if steps aren’t taken.

The Senate took a big bi-partisan step. Coffman says the House has taken steps too. What are they? And if I’m right and they don’t exist, what should the steps be, Mike? What steps were you imagining?

Fact check: Gardner demanded defunding Obamacare to avoid government shutdown

August 18th, 2014

The Associated Press’ Nicholas Riccardi reported Aug. 15 that senatorial candidate Cory Gardner’s spokesman, Alex Siciliano, “noted that, before the shutdown, Gardner had warned against requiring Democrats to defund the Affordable Care Act as a requirement for keeping government open.”

Maybe Siciliano doesn’t listen to Gardner much on talk radio. Maybe he’s too busy talking to reporters on behalf of his boss.

But when I read Riccardi’s piece, I recalled hearing Gardner advocate for, as opposed to against, demanding Dems defund Obamacare or face a government shutdown.

On August 1, 2013, two months before the government shutdown, Gardner told KOA’s Mike Rosen:

Rosen: “Perhaps we can talk about some other items on the agenda, such as the current dispute, even with the Republican Party, about whether Republicans, who have a majority in the House, ought to take a stand now, as the continuing resolution question comes up, take a stand on Obamacare, and refuse to fund it, while at the same time, agreeing with a continuing resolution that would allow the rest of the federal government to operate. Have you got a position on that?

Gardner: I want to do anything and everything I can to stop Obamacare from destroying our health care, from driving up increases in costs. Whether that’s through the continuing resolution, I want to defund everything that we can….

Rosen: There’s a political concern that if the Republicans stand their ground on this [repealing Obamacare], they are going to be blamed for shutting down the government.

Gardner: Well, I think if the government gets shut down, it’s going to be the President’s decision to do so. I believe that we don’t need to shut down the government because we ought to just lift this health-care bill out of the way and let America work. [BigMedia emphasis]

If that’s a warning “against requiring Democrats to defund the Affordable Care Act as a requirement for keeping government open,” then mushrooms aren’t popping up in our mountains right now (and they are).

Next time Gardner’s Siciliano tells me something, if I’m a reporter, I think I go the extra mile to make sure it’s accurate.

Media omission: Holbert stands behind statement likening Hick actions to spousal abuse

August 13th, 2014

In a Facebook posting yesterday, state Republican Rep. Chris Holbert wrote that Gov. John Hickenlooper “treats us like we are his abused spouse.”

In explaining why he’d vote for gubernatorial candidate Bob Beauprez, Holbert wrote in response to a Facebook post of one of Holbert’s Facebook friends:

Because Hickenlooper treats us like we are his abused spouse. He smiles and tells us that things will be better, signs bills into law that trample on the freedom and prosperity of the People, apologizes, becomes angry when we don’t forget, swears at us, then promises to abuse us again.

Don’t put Hickenlooper back in office for another four years. That ONE person can cancel out anything that a Republican Senate might accomplish. Don’t allow ONE Governor to cancel out 18 or more Senators who would work to repeal eight years of Democrat control.

Reached by phone this afternoon, Holbert stood behind the comments.

Asked if he thought his comparison to spousal abuse could be offensive to actual abused spouses and others concerned about domestic violence, Holbert said:

Holbert: “I think there are various kinds of abuse, and what I am pointing to is verbal. I’m not comparing it to physical abuse. People would have greater respect for the governor if he would have one story and stick to it.”

“He tells us one thing and tells his supporters another thing,” Holbert said, explaining his Facebook post further. “He suggested to the sheriffs that he didn’t talk to Bloomberg and records show he did. He apologized for signing bills that he claims he didn’t understand were so controversial. And then he talked to Eli Stokols, I believe, and says he’d sign the bills again. So which doe he mean? I feel that’s abusive to the people of Colorado who look to him for leadership.”

Media omission: Beauprez threatens to sue feds if immigration laws not enforced

August 13th, 2014

Speaking on a Denver radio show yesterday, gubernatorial candidate Bob Beauprez threatened to sue the federal government if it doesn’t enforce the nation’s immigration laws.

Asked by KNUS host Steve Kelley whether he’d “build a coalition with the Jan Brewers and the Rick Perrys” and “put this state on the line if it requires a lawsuit” to enforce immigration laws, Beauprez replied, unequivocally, “yes.”

Beauprez, who’s facing Democrat John Hickenlooper, added that he’d sue the federal government on other issues as well, such as federal lands.

Beauprez said he’d seek a “coalition” of governors to demand that the “federal government, one, enforce the laws, in this case secure the borders, modernize legal immigration so people can get an answer and so that we can enforce employment laws in Colorado and in America, and that we know who’s here, that they’re legally here and what they are doing here; that’s why you have rule of law.”

Listen to Beauprez on KNUS Kelley and Company 08-12-14

Beuprez stated last month that states should enforce federal immigration law themselves, in the absence of federal action, “as Jan Brewer tried to do in Arizona.”

He later told the Colorado Statesman that his point wasn’t “as much about Jan Brewer’s policy as much as Jan Brewer standing up for her citizens and saying if the federal government’s not going to protect them, somebody needs to.”

He did not directly denounce an Arizona law, signed by Brewer and later overturned by the U.S. Supreme Court, that allowed Arizona police to detain any person suspected of being an undocumented immigrant.

Media omission: Under Gardner’s abortion bill, doctor could have faced more jail time than rapist

August 12th, 2014

It’s been widely reported that Colorado Senate candidate Cory Gardner sponsored a bill in 2007 that would have outlawed all abortion in Colorado, including for rape and incest.

But there’s a detail about the ramifications of Gardner’s legislation that’s gone unreported, and it’s important because it illuminates, in a tangible way, just how serious his bill was about banning abortion.

Let’s say a woman was raped, became pregnant, and wanted to have an abortion.

Under the Gardner’s proposed law, a doctor who performed her abortion would face Class 3 felony charges.

If the raped woman found a doctor willing to break the law and perform an illegal abortion, and if both the rapist and the doctor got caught by police, what would have been the potential charges and punishments against the rapist and the doctor?

I put that question to Mark Silverstein, Legal Director of the ACLU of Colorado.

“A class 3 felony is punishable by 4-12 years in the penitentiary,” Silverstein told me via email. “Sexual assault is at 18-3-402 of the criminal code. It is a class 4 felony (18-3-402(2)), except when it is a class 3 felony (18-3-402(3.5)), or when it is a class 2 felony (18-3-402 (5)).

“When sexual assault is a class 4 felony, it is punishable by 2 to 6 years in the penitentiary.

“A class 2 felony is 8 – 24 years in prison. These penalties can be found at 18-1.3-401 (1)(a)(III)(V)(A).

“It looks like to get sexual assault into the class 2 category, there has to be serious bodily injury to the victim or the crime has to be carried out with use of a deadly weapon, or the assaulter made the victim believe there was a deadly weapon (even if there was not one).”

So, as I read Silverstein’s answer, it looked to me like a doctor who performed an abortion on a raped woman could actually have gotten in more serious legal trouble than a rapist.

To make sure I had this right, I asked Silverstein if he agreed with me that under Gardner’s bill, the doctor could have faced a more serious charge than the rapist, though this would not always be the case.

“Yes,” replied Silverstein, “the least aggravated category of sexual assault is a lesser category of felony.”

(An early version of this story stated that the hypothetical rape was also incest.)

Media omission: Gardner says “legal ambiguities” motivated immigration vote

August 11th, 2014

In what appears to be senatorial candidate Cory Gardner’s first direct comment on his vote against ending an Obama policy of allowing young undocumented immigrants to avoid deportation for at least two years, Gardner emphasized the legal “ambiguities” in ending Obama’s initiative, called Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA).

Gardner said on KNUS radio Sept 4 that the bill overturning DACA “had some serious legal ambiguities to it…you create a significant legal ambiguity problem that’s going to lead to children having the rug pulled out from underneath them, winding us in court, and creating a judicial ambiguity that is unacceptable in this country.”

Listen to Cory Gardner talk about his DACA vote on KNUS Sengenberger 8.2.14

It makes sense that in his conversation with KNUS radio host Jimmy Sengenberger Sept. 2, Gardner de-emphasized the human costs of deporting the young immigrants, called dreamers, who were brought here as children and know only the United States as their home. It was mostly legal ambiguities that apparently troubled him.

This is consistent with Gardner’s longstanding view that border security issues need to be solved to his unspecified satisfaction before consideration is given to the dreamers.

And that’s still Gardner’s position, as reported by The Denver Post’s Mark Matthews over the weekend:

There’s a story that Rep. Cory Gardner likes to tell when he’s asked about his position on illegal immigration. Although the details sometimes vary, it always involves a high school student from rural Colorado whom he met several years ago. When they meet for the first time, the young woman — whom Gardner doesn’t mention by name — is on pace to become valedictorian. But because she was brought into the U.S. illegally as a baby, she’s unable to attend college in Colorado at in-state rates. So she asks Gardner whether he supports changing the rules right away so she can afford a higher education. His response then — as it is now — is no. “Allowing passage of such a policy was avoiding the real problem,” Gardner recounted in testimony to Congress last year. “We can’t start with in-state tuition because we have to pursue meaningful immigration reform first.”

Fast-forward a few years. Gardner meets the young woman again — this time working at a restaurant in that same rural town. “The valedictorian of her high school, waiting tables,” he said with a downward glance.

The lesson, according to Gardner, is that Congress needs to get serious about passing immigration reform. But in such a way that it addresses security first — before tackling the needs of students such as that valedictorian-turned-waitress.

In light of this, what doesn’t make sense is another Gardner quote in the same Denver Post article, in which Gardner explains his June 6, 2013, vote to end DACA, subjecting the dreamers to deportation.

Gardner told The Post in a statement, “The immigration debate is in a different place than it was.”

Then why does Gardner still stand opposed, as Matthews put it, to “tackling the needs of students such as that valedictorian-turned-waitress?”

Why is Gardner still talking about “legal ambiguities” rather than the dreamers’ humanitarian plight, if, indeed, immigration reform is in a different place than it was?

What different place is it in now, versus last June? What gives?

Reporter’s work absent from Denver Post due to end of grant

August 10th, 2014

A Kaiser-Family-Foundation grant to The Denver Post has ended, explaining the recent disappearance of Denver Post articles by freelance reporter Art Kane, whose work at The Post was funded by the Kaiser grant.

“The grant has ended, and that’s why we haven’t run any stories by him in awhile,” said Greg Griffin, an editor at The Post, when asked about the disappearance of Kane’s work.

Back in March, Post Editor Greg Moore told me the Kaiser Family Foundation provided The Post with an undisclosed amount of grant money to supplement the newspaper’s coverage of health care, specifically of issues related to universal health coverage.

The Post described this project as a “partnership with Kaiser Health News, an editorially independent program of the Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation.”

Under the terms of the Kaiser grant, The Post retained full editorial control of its health-care coverage, but content produced with Kaiser support had to be posted on the Kaiser Health News website, according to Moore.

Kane, a well-known Denver journalist, was hired on a contract to write health-related stories during the grant period.

Kane did not return a call seeking comment.

Politico is latest media outlet to let Gardner slide on personhood inconsistency

August 9th, 2014

The latest reporter to ask senatorial candidate Cory Gardner about why he’s un-endorsed the state personhood amendments but has yet to un-cosponsor a proposed federal personhood law is Politico’s Paige Winfield Cunningham, who reported Wednesday:

Gardner now says he was wrong to back personhood because it could ban some forms of contraception. He’s even urging the Food and Drug Administration to make birth control pills available without prescription. But he is still listed as a sponsor of a federal personhood bill. His campaign didn’t respond to questions about the discrepancy.

In the absence of a response by Gardner, or his spokespeople, Cunningham should have cited the Gardner campaign’s previous erroneous statement that the federal personhood bill, called the Life at Conception Act, is simply a declaration that life begins at conception, and it would not ban abortion, even for rape and incest, like Colorado’s personhood amendments aimed to do.

Here’s what Gardner spokesman Alex Siciliano told The Denver Post’s Mark Matthews July 15.

“The federal proposal in question simply states that life begins at conception, as most pro-life Americans believe, with no change to contraception laws as Senator Udall falsely alleges.”

And here’s what Gardner himself told untold numbers of TV viewers in an advertisement last month, ostensibly stating that he’s against all personhood legislation, state and federal:

Gardner: “They’re attacking me for changing my mind about personhood, after I learned more and listened to more of you.”

But did he change his mind on personhood? Before he made the ad, Gardner was careful to say he opposed personhood in Colorado, leaving open the possibility that he supports it at the federal level. He told CBS4′s Shaun Boyd:

Gardner: “In the state of Colorado, the personhood initiative I do not support.”

But prior to this, on KNUS radio April 22, shortly after he backed off Colorado personhood amendments, Gardner said he stood behind his anti-abortion record in Congress, which includes his co-sponsorship of the federal personhood bill.

Gardner: “I remain a pro-life legislator who believes that my record actually speaks for itself while I’ve been in Congress.”

I like to fill in media gaps, left open by reporters, but Gardner’s office doesn’t return my calls, and so all I can do is look at these inconsistencies and speculate about what’s going on in Gardner’s mind.

A reporter who happens to be speaking with Gardner should straighten things out.

Fact checking the fact-checkers: “Mostly true” not “mostly false” that Gardner blocked immigration reform

August 7th, 2014

In a fact-check last week, Politifact concluded that it was “mostly false” for SEIU to assert, in a radio ad, that senatorial candidate Cory Gardner “blocked immigration reform.” A fairer conclusion would have been, “mostly true.”

Politifact’s logic:

So far the House has not acted [on immigration-reform legislation], and prospects are dim for action before the fall elections. That means Gardner hasn’t had the opportunity to actually vote on legislation, making it hard to attribute any blame to him. It’s not as though he holds any leadership positions where he could have advanced legislation or held up the process.

Hard to attribute “any blame” to Gardner? Please.

Gardner went from publicly backing comprehensive immigration reform to publicly opposing it. It’s safe to say that he was making the same arguments against comprehensive reform to fellow House Republicans, including Eric Cantor, who was a close Gardner ally, having taken a personal interest in Gardner during his first term in office. Gardner was on everyone’s list for House leadership, and he was already a Vice Chair of the National Republican Campaign Committee.

But regardless of what he said to House leaders, Gardner never produced a specific immigration reform plan of his own, relying instead on his platitudinous lines about the need for more border security.

If you attack a plan that’s on the table, and you have no specific plan of your own, that’s blocking, maybe not total blockage, but blocking nonetheless.

So, while it would be false to say Gardner blocked immigration reform all by himself, it’s at least “mostly true” to assert the he blocked it nonetheless.

Coffman’s fact-free attack on a judge deserves media scrutiny

August 6th, 2014

In a blog post about a week ago, I gave conservative talk-radio host Hugh Hewitt some unsolicited information on why Rep. Mike Coffman is still so upset at losing his conservative district and now being a square peg in the round hole of Aurora.

Coffman told Hewitt that Democrats had “targeted my seat in the redistricting process.”

“A Democratic judge – you know, certainly his affiliation, I’m sure, — in Denver signed off on their map, without any amendments, and it certainly is what they call a ‘D+1’ [‘D’ plus one] district.”

An astute reader informed me that, in fact, judge Robert S. Hyatt is an unaffiliated voter, and likely has been since 1979, according to public records.

I checked this out myself, and confirmed it, with a high degree but not complete certainty, as I was unable to reach the retired judge himself–and he likely wouldn’t have divulged this information anyway.

As my correspondent pointed out, Coffman’s reckless — and fact-less — attack on the independence of the judiciary deserves scrutiny by reporters, particularly in light of Coffman’s oath to defend the U.S. Constitution.

As a progressive, I can tell you that Hyatt is no friend of progressive causes over conservative ones, as a brief examination of Hyatt’s decisions makes obvious. Remember, he ruled in favor of conservatives just last year in a case clearing the way for the recall of two Democratic state senators.