Archive for June, 2008

Marvin vs. Polis

Monday, June 23rd, 2008

Jay Marvin is Denver’s only local progressive talk show host on commercial radio. You can hear him on AM 760 in the mornings. That’s the Clear Channel Station that carries some Air America programming.

The news media love it when progressives fight each other, just like they love it when conservatives fight among themselves. So when Marvin and congressional candidate Jared Polis got into an argument in mid July, it made news. The Rocky covered the spat and subsequent radio interview here and here.

I heard most of Marvin’s interview with Polis, and I liked it. Aggressive questioning makes for good entertainment, and it’s informative. It makes much better radio than an on-air love fest among progressives on AM 760.

But I had this question for Marvin, which I emailed to him last week:

I must say it was odd that you elected to be so aggressive with him, after being so gentle with the others. Do you have any thoughts on this, for possible use in my column or blog?

Here’s Marvin’s response:

“Sure I do. Things would not have gone down the way they did if he had not come on so strong with myself and my producer John Turk. We told his press people three times the time slot was after 9am. They kept badgering us to put him on earlier. We said no. Then, Polis himself shows up, uninvited, to the station and that puts us in a spot. So John goes down to talk to him, and when he tells Polis we were going to do two hours on child poverty in Colorado he reacted in a negative manner about it. Like it was more important we get him on than the subject we were going to do. So when he came on I asked him to apologize to John, and he wouldn’t. In fact he said he was glad to come on and get my show some publicity! So he wouldn’t say he was sorry he just kept going over the publicity line. When I asked him direct questions he wouldn’t answer them. Then when I hit him with the Swift Boat donor information he didn’t say it was wrong. He said he had turned those people liberal. I checked with two other people running for office, and both said they would have returned the money. In fact he tried to suggest that Udall and Pearlmutter had taken money from  people who gave to the Swift Boat campaign. That got him a blast from Congressman Peralmutter and Senator John Kerry. The easy and right thing to do would have been to say he was sorry, and to say he’d return the money given him. Then his press flack Becker tells the Daily Camera I’m in Joan’s pocket and that it’s all political. I don’t even live in that district, and I do like Joan. But I’m not sure who would be better Joan or Will. I do know this: Polis has got an attitude that just won’t quit and an ego as large as his district. I also think he is trying to buy the election. In short, Polis doesn’t care about anything but himself. Sad.
 

The Post, the facts, and Schaffer

Thursday, June 12th, 2008

For my Rocky column Sat., I asked U.S. Senate candidate Bob Schaffer’s campaign Manager, Dick Wadhams, about Schaffer’s accusation that there were factual errors in The Denver Post’s stories showing that Schaffer defended abusive immigration policies in the Marianas Islands, using tactics promoted by corrupt lobbyist Jack Abramoff.

In addition to ripping off Native Americans, Abramoff made big money defending the Marianas Islands’ exploitative immigration policies, which may even have resulted in forced abortions. Abramoff spearheaded a successful lobbying campaign to block immigration reform in the Marianas. Abramoff specifically targeted the House Resources Committee, which had jurisdiction over the U.S. Commonwealth of the Northern Marianas, and on which Schaffer was a member. Only last month, after decades of oppositin from Abramoff and Congressmen like Schaffer, did Congress finally pass immigration reform for the Marianas.

As reported in The Post, Schaffer visited Marianas, courtesy of an organization with ties to Abramoff, and defended its immigration policies in Washington DC. Overall, Schaffer’s lobbying tactics aligned with Abramoff’s.

An April 22 report by Colorado Media Matters pointed out that Schaffer, in an interview on KFKA-AM (1310), said The Post’s stories contained “egregious reporting errors” and many facts that were “untrue and complete prevarications.

Asked about these alleged errors, Wadhams couldn’t cite any facts that were wrong in The Post’s stories.

He said the stories were ”designed to give the reader the impression that Bob Schaffer was directly involved with Jack Abramoff.” This, he said was “untrue” and “false.”

I regret not giving The Post a chance in my column to respond to Wadhams’ statement. So I asked The Post’s political editor Curtis Hubbard what the purpose of the stories was.

Hubbard emailed me:

The Post’s reporting relied on documentary evidence showing clear parallels between Jack Abramoff’s lobbying efforts on behalf of the Northern Marianas Islands and its textile manufacturers and the actions of Congressman Bob Schaffer, among others.
 
The lobbying effort included arranging trips to the islands for members of Congress as a way to develop goodwill. Abramoff then pointed to those trips as the basis for being able to successfully stymie legislative attempts to reform labor practices there.
 
The strategy also called for discrediting Interior Department advocates for labor and immigration reform on the islands by Republicans on the House Resources Committee. Documents show numerous meetings between Abramoff (and his staff) and Resource Committee staffers prior to two key hearings – hearings in which Bob Schaffer played a major role and in which he largely worked to discredit the witnesses.
 
Schaffer has said he had no direct contact with Abramoff. If his campaign is claiming he unwittingly implemented Abramoff’s strategy (perhaps at the behest of Resource Committee staffers, the committee’s chairman, or other Republicans), he should make that clear.

If the campaign is claiming that the close similarity between Schaffer’s actions and Abramoff’s plan is pure coincidence, they are free to do so. But it is our responsibility to report those congruencies and let the readers decide.

So The Post’s stories simply stated the facts, and left the reader to decide what to make of it all.When I told Wadhams, who has my respect for talking to me about this, that The Post’s stories didn’t state that there was a direct connection between Schaffer and Abramoff, Wadhams said:

 

Oh spare me. Jason, Jason. Don’t give me that. The intent of the stories was to try to give the reader the impression there was a direct connection. They were written that way. The editors wanted them written that way. They directed they were written that way. Give me a break. What are you talking about?

 

I told Wadhams that Schaffer had taken a more extreme position in his radio interview. Schaffer didn’t talk about the impression the stories created but about facts in the stories. Here’s our exchange on this:

 

Jason: [Schaffer] said there were many facts, actually, not just one, that were wrong, that are just untrue. These stories actually asked the question. They never said that there was a direct connection [between Schaffer and Abramoff].

Wadhams: Oh bullshit. Read the stories, Jason.
 
Jason: I’ll read those stories.
 

Wadhams: I’m sure you have and I’m sure you took great glee in those stories, because they did your bidding for you because you are against Schaffer and for Udall. But what’s your point now.
 

Jason: My point is, I don’t think the stories lied.
 

Wadhams: Don’t wrap yourself in objectivity here.
 

In my interview, for a brief moment, Wadhams sort of acknowledged that the stories did not contain factual errors. But he didn’t say that Schaffer misspoke or that Schaffer should clarify his position.  Here’s our exchange:

Jason: Well, there are these facts that you say that The Post got wrong?

Wadhams: No, I said that the stories were designed to give the reader the impression that Bob Schaffer was directly involved with Jack Abramoff. That’s patently untrue and false. That’s what I said. And that is absolutely what we said from the beginning. And we haven’t changed our reaction to those stories.

That’s not what Schaffer said in his radio interview. If I were in Wadhams’ shoes, I’d just admit that Schaffer got it wrong and that The Post’s facts were indeed correct. I’d ask Schaffer himself to explain what he really meant when he said The Post’s facts were wrong.

And I’d tell Schaffer to apologize publicly to The Post.

 

 

 

 

  

   

 

Clarification

Monday, June 9th, 2008

In my last post, I provided Rocky Mountain News reporter Lynn Bartels explanation of why she deleted “Boulder liberal” from a quotation from Dick Wadhams, spokesman for Republican Senate candidate Bob Schaffer.

I should have made it clear that Bartels will not routinely delete “Boulder liberal” from Wadhams’ quotations in which he refers to Democratic Senate candidate Mark Udall of Eldorado Springs as “Boulder liberal Mark Udall.”

She will evaluate Wadhams quotes on a case-by-case basis.

 

What Boulder liberal?

Monday, June 2nd, 2008

If you’ve been following Colorado’s U.S. Senate race, you know that Colorado Republican Chair Dick Wadhams has trained himself to refer to Rep. Mark Udall as “Boulder liberal Mark Udall.”

 

Whenever Wadhams is quoted, which is quite often because Schaffer apparently doesn’t like to talk to reporters, Wadhams spreads his name-calling propaganda.

 

It’s Wadhams’ PR at its slimiest, and it’s the kind of thing we pay reporters and editors keep in check, for reasons explained here.

 

So it was a relief to see “Boulder liberal” apparently removed from a Wadhams quote in this morning’s Rocky.

Here’s the key passage:

Two days after winning his party’s nomination, U.S. Senate candidate Bob Schaffer went back to a necessary chore in politics: raising money.

 

“A lot of it is one on one,” said Schaffer’s campaign manager, Dick Wadhams. “We’re not going to raise more money than (Democratic congressman) Mark Udall, but we are going to raise what we need to win this race.”

I asked Rocky reporter Lynn Bartels, who wrote the piece, whether she responsibly removed “Boulder liberal” and replaced it with “Democratic congressman). She emailed me:

 

Wadhams said “Boulder liberal Mark Udall” and I only had 10 inches so I didn’t have the space to explain to readers that Udall is not from Boulder and has never lived in the city of Boulder so I used parens.