Radio host fails to ask state senator if she’s concerned about a primary challenge

May 22nd, 2015

You need only to stick you toe into Colorado’s talk-radio world to know that state Sen. Laura Woods is a superstar on the Tea-Party airwaves, regularly receiving love from KLZ 560AM’s Ken Clark, KNUS 710 AM’s Peter Boyles, and others.

The last thing these guys want is to lose Woods in a primary next year, funded by deep-pocket Republicans. So you’d think they’d want to rally their listeners to stop this before hit happens. And Woods seems to be hinting that it will, judging from her continued criticism of establishment Republicans.

For example, in a May 14 interview with Clark, Woods said there’s “not a lot of difference” between mainstream Democrats and mainstream Republicans–raising the question of whether Woods thinks Colorado Republicans will field a primary candidate against her. But Clark didn’t ask the question.

Woods (at 4:15 below): “I think that for the establishment Republicans, and there is no doubt in my mind that Cory Gardner is one of them. and Democrats, there’s not a lot of difference. Where we see a difference is between conservatives and that group of people.”

Earlier in the interview, at two minutes, she referred to “squishy Republican committees,” further showing her displeasure with the GOP in Colorado.

I’m not saying this is unexpected, given Woods’ ride to power on the back of Tea-Party supporters, but I’m surprised the radio crowd doesn’t talk openly about the obvious possibility of a primary and how to prepare for it.

https://soundcloud.com/bigmedia-org/laura-woods-is-a-guest-on-freedom-560-am

https://soundcloud.com/bigmedia-org/laura-woods-is-a-guest-on-freedom-560-am

Irony watch: Stapleton calls Post article “completely misleading,” even though he refused The Post’s interview request for the article

May 21st, 2015

If you’re a journalist, this is the kind of  irony that makes you want to jump into the raging Platte River: State Treasurer Walker Stapleton is trashing a Denver Post article as “completely misleading” even though Stapleton refused an interview request from the reporter who wrote the article that Stapleton is so upset about.

Over the weekend, The Denver Post’s John Frank reported that Stapleton caved to pressure from conservatives and withdrew his support from legislation aimed at making money for PERA, the state’s public pension system.

Frank sought Stapleton’s comments for his article, but alas, as Frank reported:

John Frank: “Michael Fortney, a spokesman for Stapleton, declined to make him available for an interview and blamed the media for spreading falsehoods about the legislation.”

So John Frank dutifully did the best he could anyway to piece together Stapleton’s best response to the substantive issues at play. But this wasn’t good enough for Stapleton, who trashed Frank’s reporting on KLZ 560-AM’s nooner show yesterday:

 Stapleton (@5:40 below): “John Frank’s reporting, which was lacking to be diplomatic, was completely misleading, never once illuminated my track record of suing the pension system, lowering the [assumed] rate of return, leading the defeat of Amendment 66, the largest tax increase in Colorado history, because the money was going to back fill obligations in the pension system. I mean, the notion that somehow I’ve become sideways, because I’m in league with the pension system–the facts don’t quite bear that out.”

That’s not what the article said at all, but Stapleton went further, telling KLZ host Ken Clark that he thinks The Post has a bias against “statewide elected Republicans,” and so he’s “really isn’t surprised” that The Post’s coverage “has been not accurate.”

Stapleton (@1:30 below): “The Denver Post, their coverage of this, has been not accurate and misrepresentative of my position from the beginning, which really isn’t surprising as a statewide elected Republican.”

You can add another layer of irony to this accusation, because one of the state’s most conservative/libertarian journalists, Vincent Carroll, wrote that Stapleton “migrated into incoherence” when Stapleton previously attacked The Post’s coverage of the PERA legislation.

In his KLZ interview, Stapleton maintained that he never favored the issuance of bonds to bolster PERA, even though he did support giving himself the authority to issue the bonds. But evidence shows he was ready to issue the bonds under specific circumstances.

On the radio, Stapleton tried to explain his position with an analogy:

Stapleton: “The police have the authority to arrest anyone anytime, but they don’t necessarily do it. The same thing with the authority to issue these bonds.”

That’s Stapleton migrating into incoherence yet again, and you would have expected Ken Clark, an anti-PERA extremist, to call him on it.

You wouldn’t give the police authority to make arrests if people did’t break laws. Why would Stapleton, who’s specified when he’d actually issue the PERA bonds, seek authority to issue bonds if he didn’t want to issue bonds?

In the end, Stapleton seemed to slam the door on any future efforts to help PERA make money. He trashed the process and The Post.

Stapleton (Below @4:15): The mistake that I made was thinking I could go into negotiations with the pension system, even though I’d been at their throat for the last four years, and that they wouldn’t put out fictitious numbers behind my back that had nothing to do with the legislation, which caused the reporting of this to be completely misrepresented in The Denver Post.

Lesson for reporters from all this: Next time Stapleton goes into hiding and refuses to talk to The Post or some other reporter, track him down and don’t take “I’m-not-talking-to-you” as a response. And bring along a camera. Stapleton has asked for this treatment, but why not apply it to others like him, too?

https://soundcloud.com/bigmedia-org/walker-stapleton-clears-the-air-over-his-reported-support-of-pera-fix-bill

Reporters should recall another reversal by Stapleton under pressure from conservatives

May 19th, 2015

State Treasurer Walker Stapleton apparently caved to pressure from conservatives earlier this month, when he claimed not to have supported legislation that he helped draft and later promoted.

It was a weird reversal–but not the first time Stapleton has walked back a moderate position after hearing from his conservative allies.

In January, in an interview with Colorado Public Radio’s Ryan Warner, Stapleton clearly stated he was open to not returning TABOR refunds.

Asked by Warner if he would support  “something that you felt was responsible and meant the state held on to the TABOR refunds,” Stapleton answered:

Stapleton: “Absolutely. TABOR is the popular whipping post, but Gallagher and Amendment 23 have also created a Gordian Knot of automatic ratchets in the budget and we need to free ourselves of automatic ratchets and get more control over where we spend dollars and more results-oriented spending for our budget going forward in the future. But I’m not opposed reflexively to anything, other than I’m opposed to anything that doesn’t give taxpayers a voice in where their money is being spent.”

Sounds kind of reasonable, doesn’t he, like he did in supporting a common-sense bill to bolster Colorado’s public retirement system. That is until conservatives got to him.

Same thing happened to his reasonable attitude toward TABOR. It disappeared.

Shortly after I blogged that Stapleton was open to not returning TABOR refunds, Peak Politics, a right-wing blog, came out with a piece headlined, “TWISTED WORDS: Liberals Distort Treasurer’s Remarks in Service to Their Own Agenda.”

The post quoted Stapleton’s spokesman, Micheal Fortney.

Stapleton Spokesman: “Walker never said he was for tax increases or Coloradans not getting their refund, only that he was for Coloradans’ right to vote on any proposal that raised taxes. Big difference. Walker was for a full statewide hearing on Amendment 66, the largest proposed tax increase in CO history to date. And Walker weighed in when he led the fight to defeat that wasteful spending initiative. He believed the people’s voice should be heard back then and still does.”

Right, so how did I twist Stapleton’s words by writing that he “was open to not returning TABOR funds”? And why didn’t Fortney say his boss is open to backing such a tax increase?

Looks like the righties at Peak Politics somehow got Stapleton to twist what he was actually recorded as saying–just as conservatives somehow convinced him to deny supporting a bill he helped draft.

Radio interview casts more doubt on Stapleton’s explanation for supporting PERA bill

May 18th, 2015

If you’re a reporter, it’s tough to be fair when the person you’re writing about won’t talk to you, but The Denver Post’s John Frank did the best he could in an article Sunday about State Treasurer Walker Stapleton.

Stapleton, who declined to be interviewed for Frank’s story, is clearly on record supporting legislation this session allowing him to issue bonds to make money for the state’s public retirement system. But speaking on conservative talk radio after the bill died, Stapleton denied ever supporting the legislation. The question is, why?

Frank points out that one reason for Stapleton’s about-face is pressure from conservatives who are wary of debt. That’s charitable to Stapleton. Actually, Stapleton admitted on the radio that he was under pressure from conservatives who want only to reduce expenses of retirement programs (higher age of retirement or contribution, lower pay outs). Stapleton’s bill intended to increase PERA’s revenue, so that the retirement system would be stronger and have a better chance at functioning as promised. This pissed off the conservatives, whose apparent underlying goal is to weaken or kill public pension programs.

Stapleton’s own explanation for his apparent hypocrisy is, as Frank reported, that he “supported the bill to give him the authority to issue bonds but not the issuance of bonds.”

This didn’t impress The Post’s Vincent Carroll, who wrote last week:

Actually, the legislation had everything to do with issuing bonds. You don’t give the state authority to do something unless you anticipate that it will exercise that power at some point and are comfortable with that possibility. And this bill wasn’t a permanent authority. It expired on Dec. 31, 2018, roughly when Stapleton will leave office. Obviously the bill contemplated Stapleton himself signing off on bonds at some point.

Frank produced evidence showing that Stapleton thought actually issuing the bonds was a good idea if “done in a prudent and conservative manner.”

On KLZ 560-AM’s nooner show, hosted by Ken Clark, Stapleton got even more specific, identifying a financial window during which he was prepared to issue the bonds.

“We had a provision that we would not even consider issuing the bonds if the arbitrage wasn’t at least a two-point spread.” (Listen to the KLZ interview at 4:25 below.)

You don’t need to know what an arbitrage is to see that Stapleton was happy and ready to consider issuing the bonds under very specific circumstances–if the arbitrage was at least a two-point spread. Case closed.

It makes sense that Stapleton would have specific circumstances in mind because Stapleton’s office helped draft the bill, and on the radio, he bragged about the bill requirements he insisted on. He wanted and got veto power on whether to issue bonds at all and how many. (Listen to the KLZ interview below beginning 40 seconds into it.)

Toward the end of his KLZ interview, Stapleton was more direct in explaining the conservative arguments that apparently won him over between the time that he favored issuing bonds and then denied favoring issuing them.

Stapleton (@7 minutes below): I’ve talked to a lot of people about this issue since it began, and someone made a very good point to me. And that was, and I think this is an interesting point now that this has died, if we really want to address lasting pension reform, we have to deal with the expense of the system that’s been created. We have to deal with it on the expense side and not the revenue side. And this bill attempted to flood PERA with revenues to make up for the shortfall, but it didn’t bring any structural reforms on the expense side.”

So he’s saying that he’s now not interested in intelligent fiscal management of the state pension system–only in taking away benefits. But it looks like Stapleton didn’t want to talk to The Post’s Frank about this or anything else.

Walker Stapleton on KLZ 560-AM’s Freedom 560, May 5, 2014.

https://soundcloud.com/bigmedia-org/walker-stapleton-discusses-his-role-in-bringing-hb15-1388-to-co-state-legislature

Walker Stapleton on KOA’s Mike Rosen Show May 5, 2015

https://soundcloud.com/bigmedia-org/co-state-treasurer-walker-stapleton-discusses-hb1388-on-mike-rosen-may-5-2015

Coffman should be asked about exceptions in 20-week-abortion ban

May 13th, 2015

THURSDAY UPDATE: Coffman voted for the 20-week abortion ban yesterday. Under the bill’s exceptions, a raped woman can have an abortion only “if the rape has been reported at any time prior to the abortion to an appropriate law enforcement agency.” And a child who’s a victim of incest can obtain an abortion if the “incest against a minor has been reported at any time prior to the abortion to an appropriate law enforcement agency or to a government agency legally authorized to act on reports of child abuse or neglect.” There is no exception for adult incest victims.

———

Abortion continues to be a major focus of House Republicans, as they prepare to vote today on the latest version of their 20-week abortion ban.

The bill mandates exceptions for rape and incest victims, but to be allowed to have an abortion, a raped woman has to seek counseling or medical help within 48 hours of the procedure.

Coffman’s vote on the bill should be of interest to reporters. For most of his political career, Coffman took a hard-line position against any rape-or-incest exception to his anti-abortion stance. But facing a tough re-election fight, he announced his support for abortion for rape and incest.

In his vote on a similar measure in 2013, Coffman favored exceptions for rape and incest but he also voted for the requirement that rape victims report the crime to police, in order to be allowed to have an abortion. Will the requirement for counseling or medical help be enough for him?

If no, why? If so, what’s the explanation for his change of heart on this issue? Why does he no longer support police reporting?  Why the evolution from someone who was fiercely opposed to abortion, even for rape and incest, to someone who favors exceptions? The makeup of his new district? A personal story?

Just as House Republicans in Washington are again fighting over which exceptions should be included  in their 20-week abortion ban, the left-leaning People for the American Way has released a new report, “The Personhood Movement: Where It Comes From and What it Means for the Future of Choice,” which explains the strategic thinking of the different factions of the anti-choice movement.

The report offers a broad overview of the politics and policy of personhood, focusing on the current disputes among personhood leaders over where to take the movement going forward. And it explains why some anti-choice leaders oppose state personhood amendments, even though they share the common goal of outlawing abortion.

The report points out that personhood leaders denounce anti-choice allies, like Coffman, when they support exceptions for rape and incest, even when done in an obvious effort to make themselves or their anti-abortion legislation more palatable to the public. The report states:

“But the greatest betrayal in the eyes of these personhood advocates is the willingness of major anti-choice groups to endorse legislation that includes exceptions for pregnancies resulting from rape and incest. The personhood movement’s leaders contend that these political concessions are not only immoral and intellectually inconsistent, but also threaten to undermine the movement’s goals in the long term.”

We’ve seen this play out in Colorado, as personhood leaders have turned against Republicans like Coffman.

In any case, Colorado continues to be ground zero for the personhood movement, and the PFAW report helps put what we see in front of us in a national context.

 

Post covered wrong court decision last week

May 12th, 2015

I’m late getting to this, but The Denver Post made the wrong decision Thursday in covering a Court of Appeals decision in favor of conservatives on the Douglas County School Board–while ignoring a Court of Appeals decision against former GOP Secretary of State Scott Gessler on the same day.

The Gessler decision, which was unanimous, affirmed that one of the state’s highest elected officials used his position (and our money) for personal and political gain. That’s about as serious a ruling as you get in our representative government.

In a split decision with a stinging dissent, the Court of Appeals also ruled that the Douglas Country School Board did not violate Colorado election law by emailing a report, favoring conservative education policies, to 85,000 subscribers prior to the November election.

I don’t see The Post’s logic in prioritizing a not-guilty verdict in a school board matter over a serious decision against Colorado’s Secretary of State. You can argue that both deserved coverage, but if you pick one, Gessler wins (for once).

Luckily, the Colorado Independent, a progressive news outlet, covered the Gessler decision here, linking to the entertaining text of the ruling here.

Businessman promoting “White Appreciation Day” now says he’s leaving Republican Party.

May 12th, 2015

Edgar Antillon, who’s twice run for the Colorado State House and is promoting a “White Appreciation Day” at his rural Colorado BBQ joint, says he’s leaving the Republican Party.

Antillon lost his latest bid for the Colorado legislature just last year, and he’s still listed as an “active” Republican candidate on Colorado Secretary of State’s website.

But Antillon said in a Twitter exchange yesterday that he plans to close his campaign accounts as soon as possible, and he doesn’t consider himself a candidate currently.

“Never will I run as a Republican again,” tweeted Antillon, who led Mitt Romney’s Hispanic outreach effort in Adams County, Colorado. Antillon’s pro-gun activism has supported state GOP legislative efforts.

Antillon explained his position in a subsequent email.

Antillon: “I support gay marriage. Support a Ronald Reagan style amnesty. Support legalizing marijuana.

I once thought I was a Republican. I now know I’m not. Republicans claim to be the party of freedom…they are not.

I’m not a Democrat either though.”

Antillon is still promising to give white people a 10 percent discount on June 11 at his Rubbin’ Buttz BBQ in Milliken.

But in a development first reported by Denver’s NBC affiliate Sunday,  Antillon is now saying he’ll give everyone, regardless of race, a discount on his restaurant’s “White Appreciation Day,” which has gained national media attention.

He insists that it was never his intention to exclude non-white races from the discount, despite telling 9News’ on tape that Hispanics like himself would not get the discount. He reiterated to 9News that the point of White Appreciation Day was to bring Americans together.

“We’re not backtracking,” he told 9News. “We’re not clarifying anything. This was the intention from the beginning.”

He’s also said he received a bomb threat at his restaurant Friday.

 

9News omits fact that organizer of “White Appreciation Day” appears to be a well-known conservative activist

May 9th, 2015

MONDAY UPDATE: Using info from a ColoradoPols commenter, I’ve confirmed that the co-owner of a BBQ joint that will give “white Americans” a discount is an active Republican candidate for the Colorado State House.

Edgar Antillon, who’s promoting his restaurant’s “White Appreciation Day,” ran as Republican for House District 32 (Commerce City) last year–and for House District 35 (Westminster) in 2010. He lost both times. His House Distric 32 campaign is active, according to state records.

The story about the discount for white people, originally aired by Denver’s NBC affiliate, has gone viral nationally. But news outlets,  including an AP story today, haven’t reported Antillon’s connection to the Republican Party.

Calls to Antillon’s restaurant, Rubbin Buttz, to find out if his “White Appreciation Day” has the backing of any of Antillon’s Republican colleagues were not returned. Neither did Antillon respond to an email seeking comment.

——-

Denver’s NBC affiliate, 9News, aired a story Thursday about a BBQ joint in Milliken, Colorado, that’s planning to give “white Americans” a discount later this month. From there, the story has gone viral nationally.

But news outlets failed to report that the co-owner of the restaurant, Edgar Antillon, who’s promoting his restaurant’s “White Appreciation Day,” appears to be the same conservative activist who ran as a Republican for the state legislature (District 35) in 2010, served as the Adams County chair of Mitt Romney’s Hispanic outreach effort, called “Juntos con Romney,” and organized extremist pro-gun events.

Calls to Atillon’s restaurant, Rubbin Buttz, to confirm Antillon’s background were not returned, but photos, as well as a Washington Times piece referencing his gun background, make me think it’s the same guy.

When Antillon made his legislative run in 2010, the progressive blog ColoradoPols drew on reporting from The Denver Post and provided some background on the Republican candidate,:

Antillon pled guilty to perjury after being arrested on two counts of felony impersonation in 2004. Antillon’s record includes fully 18 failure-to-appear counts on numerous mostly minor charges. Antillon told Bartels that family troubles as a youth made it difficult to appear in court, but he apparently has time to maintain a Youtube pseudonymous identity as “Juan a Be the Luchador” where he frequently poses with assault weapons (above). Antillon was personally introduced at the GOP state assembly by Frank McNulty, highlighting Antillon’s race as one they can, uh, win… “

In 2013, Antillon appeared again to organize a “Guns for Everyone” rally at the state Capitol. He and others vowed to pack concealed heat at the event, which turned out to be a bust but managed to capture the media spotlight anyway. Last year, he grabbed attention by advocating that legal marijuana users get gun permits. 

9News reported Antillon’s thoughts on his “White Appreciation Day:”

“We have a whole month for Black History Month,” Antillon said. “We have a whole month for Hispanic Heritage Month, so we thought the least we could do was offer one day to appreciate white Americans.”…

Antillon says the discount isn’t meant to discriminate, but instead bring people together. He added that he has been the target of racism in the past. He hopes opening up the discussion will prompt others to think differently about race.

“We’re all American, whether you came from a different country, or you were born here,” Antillon said. “We’re all American.”

“White Appreciation Day” is meant to bring people together? Looks more like a media stunt from a guy using his conservative-activist background to draw attention to his business. That should have been part of the news stories.

Eight great stories on the Colorado legislative session

May 8th, 2015

Below I’ve listed some of my favorite reporting about Colorado’s legislative session that ended Wednesday.

My favorite: The Denver Post’s John Frank wrote an accessible yet detail-rich article on the failed effort to secure funding for a wildly successful teen-pregnancy-prevention program. Read it here: IUD Jewelry Emerges at Colorado Capitol to Demystify and Educate on Birth Control

The Post’s Joey Bunch and John Frank teamed up to show how middle class reality connects to the legislature. Read it here: Fear and Worry in Colorado’s Middle Class Lures Politicos.

The Grand Junction Sentinel’s Charles Ashby provided a cool look at the flaming arrows launched at Republican Rep. Dan Thurlow. Read it here: Thurlow Defends Record

Colorado Public Radio reporter Megan Verlee’ provides an outside-the-Capitol perspective on the teen-pregnancy issue. Listen here: For Colorado Teen Moms, There’s Help but Daunting Statistic

Colorado Public Radio’s Verlee demystified the complicated debate about the Earned Income Tax Credit. Listen here: 5 Things to Know about the Earned Income Tax Credit, a Proven Poverty Reliever.

Denver Post reporter Lynn Bartels explained how a bill offering help for the middle class was killed over one lawmaker’s concern that his rich constituents wouldn’t like it. Read it here: Upper Class Protected During Debate about Saving for College. 

Great in-depth reporting by the National Journal’s Nora Kaplan-Bricker about Colorado’s latest birth-control battle and teen pregnancy program. Read it here: The Big Battle Over a Little Device.

And finally, I can’t resist adding the Aurora Sentinel’s outstanding editorial on the failed teen-pregnancy prevention measure. (Sorry for the repeated citations of coverage of this legislation, but it generated the most inspired reporting.) Read it here: The birth of ignorance; get science right before voting on teen pregnancy bill.

Reporter uses measured language to spotlight repeated GOP infighting during legislative session

May 8th, 2015

Hey, the three of you out there who were following the state legislature. How many of you thought state senate President Bill Cadman was going to be able to control his own caucus this session? Seeing no hands, I’ll say none of you.

Still, if you’re a reporter, you can’t just say, “No one in their right mind thought Republicans would get along with each other and compromise with their leader. Are you kidding me? The party is ripped apart by wild ideologues who would rather see Cadman go down in flames than face the wrath of tea-party talk-radio hosts Ken Clark, Randy Corporon, and Kris Cook.”

If you’re a reporter, you don’t say it that way. But you can say that GOP infighting was surprising. That’s what Denver Post reporter John Frank said on The Denver Post’s TV video program, DPTV: On the Spot.

Denver Post Politics Editor Chuck Plankett: John, what were some of the biggest surprises you saw this session?

Denver Post reporter John Frank: At the start of the session, all eyes were on the senate Republicans. They had just taken power for the first time in 10 years in the senate, and President Bill Cadman was in the spotlight, trying to lead a caucus that had numerous divisions. So one of the surprises that I saw throughout the session was how many times his caucus split on major bills. It actually took President Cadman and the GOP leadership [help from] the Democrats to pass a number of these measures, whether it was major efforts on red lights or major fiscal bills. And how many times that caucus fractured was something we didn’t quite expect going in but there certainly wasn’t a lot of caucus discipline.”