Archive for March, 2012

Follow-up question remains hanging in Westword intervew with Gessler’s Office about election fraud allegations

Friday, March 9th, 2012

Westword’s Kylie Horner askedAndrew Cole, Secretary of State Scott Gessler’s Communications Advisor, about Gessler’s repeated references to unproven instances of election fraud in Colorado.

I’m sending over a big high-five to Westword for asking the question, which major media are ignoring, but Cole slipped out of it, as you see below, leaving the door open for Westword or some other enterprising media entity to follow up.  Gessler’s office won’t answer my questions on this matter.

Here’s what Cole told Westword:

“We don’t have proof of a lot of fraud,” Cole says. “Critics on the left say he’s talking about massive fraud. When we point to incidences of fraud, they say that’s too limited. He’s never talked about massive fraud; he’s only talked about instances in the fraud which we know are there.”

The Secretary of State’s office pointed to a 2010 election case in which six voters were found to have voted twice — once in Colorado and once Kansas. “We think that those sorts of instances of fraud point to vulnerabilities in the system,” Cole says.

I wish I could send you one of  Jon Stewart’s dumbfounded faces through this blog.

I mean, where’s the fraud?

The six people accused of voting twice have yet to be convicted. All we have here is possible fraud. Not actual factual fraud, yet.

Also, Gessler said on the radio Monday that “some” noncitizens voted. This of course raises the shadowy specter of Colorado elections being influenced by foreigners. Are the people who allegedly voted twice noncitizens?

So someone should ask Cole, or preferably Gessler himself, where’s the actual fraud he’s been talking about?

Before he entered office, and discovered the salary to be too low, Gessler was a high-paid lawyer who knows better than to play fast and loose with the f word.

KOA apparently won’t drop Limbaugh but states he “did the right thing” by apologizing to Fluke

Thursday, March 8th, 2012

With advertisers dropping the Rush Limbaugh and after the apparent widespread backlash against his comments, I thought I’d call KOA, the radio station that airs Rush Limbaugh in Denver, to find out if the station was considering dropping Limbaugh.

On the “contact” page, I found a statement expressing KOA’s respect for the “right of Mr. Limbaugh, as well as the rights of those who disagree with him, to express those opinions.”

In its statement, KOA said Limbaugh “did the right thing…by expressing regret for his choice of words and offering his sincere and heartfelt apology to Ms. Fluke.”

KOA’s entire statement is here:

850 KOA is committed to providing its listeners with access to a broad range of opinion and commentary without condoning or agreeing with the opinions, comments or attempts at humor expressed by on-air talent.  We respect the right of Mr. Limbaugh, as well as the rights of those who disagree with him, to express those opinions.  The contraception debate is one that sparks strong emotion and opinions on both sides of the issue.  Last week, in an attempt at absurdist humor to illustrate his political point, Mr. Limbaugh used words that unfortunately distracted from the message he was trying to convey.   We believe he did the right thing on Saturday, and again today on his radio show, by expressing regret for his choice of words and offering his sincere and heartfelt apology to Ms. Fluke.

ABC reports that at least 22 companies have pulled their ads from the show:

Geico, Netflix, Service Magic home contractor, Goodwill, Amberen menopause medication, PolyCom web conferencing, Hadeed Carpets, Accuquote Life Insurance, Vitacost vitamin supplier, Bonobos clothing company,  Sensa weight- loss program, Thompson Creek Windows, AOL, Tax Resolution Services, ProFlowers, Legal Zoom online document creator, Carbonite web security firm, Citrix software maker, Sleep Train Mattresses, Sleep Number mattresses and Quicken Loans.

I’m hoping to reach a Clear Channel spokesperson later today, and I’ll update this blog post at that time.

In smart journalistic move, the Colorado Independent tells us how and why it seeks information from Gessler

Thursday, March 8th, 2012

It’s great to see the Colorado Independent staying on the story of Scott Gessler’s hollow numbers and unsupported allegations of election fraud.

Today, after Gessler’s assertion Monday that “some” noncitizens voted in Colorado, the Independent’s John Tomasic asked country clerks if they knew of any noncitizens on their voting rolls.

County clerks and staff contacted by the Independent so far in some of the state’s most populous counties, including Adams, Boulder, Denver and Pueblo, have said that they, like Reiner in Mesa County, have no knowledge of any non-citizens ever being registered to vote nor have they knowingly received any requests to be removed from the voter rolls from non-citizen residents of the state.

The Colorado Independent today submitted another open records request asking for any related “work product” created or commissioned by the secretary’s office, including any database searches seeking information concerning non-citizens being registered to vote in Colorado.

You have to assume media outlets all over town are also filing open records requests with Gessler’s office, right?

But we don’t know, because they don’t tell us, like Tomasic did.

I’d like to see reporters from Denver Post and other major media outlets start telling readers on a regular basis when they file CORA requests. Or at least more often. Not after the fact.

This would make us proud of our big daily newspaper and legacy media, like we are of the Independent when it informs us of the actions it takes in the public interest.

Maybe The Post doesn’t make a huge deal of its CORAs all the time, though it might sometimes, because, hey, it adds some drama to a story, no? But it could at least mention more CORA requests in the Spot blog or within articles.

Not telling us about CORAs is old-school journalism, worrying about a scoop or thinking that how journalists do their jobs is not interesting to readers. That’s not true. Quite the opposite.

Should we ignore the crazy talk-radio hosts in our back yard?

Thursday, March 8th, 2012

The media frenzy around Rush Limbaugh’s “slut” comment last week, referring to a woman who believes birth control should be offered as part of her health insurance plan, makes you wonder whether progressives should ignore right-wing whackadoos on the radio.

Obviously, insults run deep on the conservative airwaves. Limbaugh hit a nerve last week, but Rush-like comments aren’t uncommon from radio hosts in Colorado.

Should the major media, or the minor progressive media critic like me, ignore them, given the tiny audiences (mostly) that listen to them.

The Denver Post’s Joanne Ostrow wrote a good piece a couple weeks ago laying out different explanations for why conservatives dominate on talk radio and TV.

But she didn’t address the question of whether they deserve the attention of reporters, like her or me.

Should progressive journalists listen to their shows, shine the sun of the blogoshphere on what they’re saying, and hope the attention stops their insensitivity/hate/insults from infecting others and spreading underground? The assumption here is that educating the wider public about his stuff is a good thing.

Or does the light of day simply allow the worst of conservative talk to gain strength? The assumption here is that publicity help these jokers get more people to listen to them.

But before we get to those questions, here are possible explanations, offered by Ostrow for why talk  radio and TV is dominated by conservatives: 1) the right is more hate-filled, and the angrier the rhetoric, the more people gravitate to it in the talk format, and 2) conservatives own more radio conglomerates, which provide the infrastructure that the left lacks.

I’m not sure what the reason is, but I tend to agree with Michael Harrison, publisher of Talkers Magazine, whom Ostrow quoted her article:

Harrison of Talkers magazine believes conservatives dominate, “because the conservative audience is easier to target than the liberal audience.”

Listeners of a conservative bent, who feel alienated and disenfranchised by big media, Hollywood and academia, represent “a perfect mind-set for radio, a niche medium, to target an audience that will be loyal,” Harrison says. “They’re seeking validation.”

Harrison, who avers he is apolitical and speaks only as a broadcast expert, says, “the conservative audience mind-set is much more cohesive and uniform, whereas “liberal” is a broader term that takes in many different political philosophies, ethnicities, voting habits, socio-economic classes. It’s not as cohesive a unit.”

Ostrow reports that even though most of the radio airwaves are filled with righties (“Conservative talk radio rules 90 percent of the political airwaves today.”), Denver’s David Sirota pulls a cumulative weekly audience of 115,000 on AM760, beating KHOW’s Peter Boyles by 2,000 listeners. But Sirota trails KOA’s Mike Rosen by 30,000 listeners.

At the end of her piece, Ostrow writes that the “titans of talk actually draw tiny niche audiences.”

That would include Rush Limbaugh. In other words, their voices are loud and shrill, but few real people are listening.

Unless, of course, a righty talker like Limbaugh ignites a media frenzy like he did last week. Then his audience is massive.

So this leads back to the question, should we ignore our local Colorado yappers when they get ugly (e.g., Democrat Donna Brazile as “ignorant slut,” and Michele Obama as “Chewbacca,” kill all Iranians, Katrina victims who didn’t leave deserved their fate, etc. )

Or is the silent treatment the best way to fight back?

If you follow my blog, you know I’m on the side of listening and exposing them. That’s why I follow these talk shows and write about the misinformation, omissions, and rudeness you find there (not all the time, for sure, but too often).

I like to think that pulicizing the latest talk-radio outrage, and possibly educating some people about it, undermines the audience for it in the long run, though maybe a few more people are drawn to it in the short term.

Limbaugh’s idiocy last week proved my point. Now more people will quietly dismiss the Limbaughs of the world when they say insulting or outrageous things about women who expect birth control to be covered by their health insurance.

Limbaugh and his anti-woman cause lost ground last week–and advertisers.

And eventually Limbaugh and his allies in Colorado will lose their audience and their jobs, as they become more and more irrelevant, right? Or is that wishful thinking?

With the major media yawning, Gessler again alleges outright election fraud in Colorado, saying “some” noncitizens voted

Wednesday, March 7th, 2012

Every time Secretary of State Scott Gessler alleges outright voter fraud in Colorado, I think to myself, this has to be the last time he says this, unless he produces evidence to back it up.

And then he says it again, like he did on KLZ’s Grassroots Radio Colorado Monday:

We’re continuing to do the analysis on the issue of noncitizens not voting here, or I’m sorry, noncitizens being on the voting rolls here in Colorado, and some of them voting. We did a study last year, and we’re going to do some more analysis and come up with more evidence to show people that there, in fact, are problems here in Colorado with that and, again, hopefully we can get folks, particularly Senate Democrats… [BigMedia emphasis]

Just because Gessler has alleged actual, real, not-theoretical, election fraud before, without showing proof of it, doesn’t mean it’s any less serious an accusation when he says it again.

Sorry to repeat the obvious, but this is from the mouth of Colorado’s Secretary of State!! And sorry to use two exclamation marks.

It’s our voting system, and he’s in charge of it. And we like to think of ourselves as tough when it comes to corruption, especially in the all-American area of voting.

Yet Gessler’s repeated accusations of election fraud (I now count three times he’s said it) have flown largely under the major media’s radar, not mentioned once, for example, in The Denver Post news pages, though columnist Fred Brown brought up the topic.

Again, I’m not talking about Gessler’s many warnings and innuendos about fraud. I’m talking actual fraud here.

If journalists won’t publicly hold Gessler accountable for his comments on this topic, which is so central to why journalism is supposed to exist then, I’m sorry, they should find new jobs.

I’m not saying reporters have given Gessler a free pass. They haven’t, and he doesn’t think so either. On the radio Monday, Gessler said:

The mainstream media beats me up all the time. They don’t like what I’m doing.

I don’t see reporters not liking Gessler as such. They’re mostly just reporting what he’s doing, but on the fraud issue, the election-fraud-is-happening-now-in-Colorado-now angle to this story, there’s been too much silence, except from Gessler.


Major Denver media ignoring important candidate in CO Congressional race

Tuesday, March 6th, 2012

Just after Tisha Casida announced her candidacy last year to represent Colorado’s 3rd congressional district (the race featuring Republican incumbent Scott Tipton and Democrat Sal Pace) she got a call from Ryan Call, the Chair of Colorado’s Republican Party.

Call asked Casida not to run for Congress because it could hurt the Republican Party’s chances, according to a report in the Colorado Statesman .

“He was very polite,” Casida told me yesterday. “After I made it clear that I was going to run for Congress, he tried to get me to run in a different district.”

She immediately rejected Call’s suggestion, she told me, because it would be “carpet-bagging.”

“I’ve lived here my whole life,” she said. “This is the part of the state that I love and want to represent.”

It’s no surprise that Call would try to talk Casida out of running. Apparently, Call’s assumption is that, as an unaffiliated candidate with ties to Tea Party folks disillusioned with the GOP, Casida could siphon off voters who might otherwise back the Republican. For example, Casida has the support of Bob McConnell, who ran for the 3rd congressional seat in the GOP primary in 2010. You never know whom third-party voters will go for, so Casida could pick up Dems too, but if you look at Casida’s positions, you think Tea Party.

And everyone knows that, at least for now, the race for Colorado’s 3rd Congressional seat is expected to be among the closest in the nation.

Casida was on the syndicated Cari and Rob Show Thursday, where host Rob Douglas called her a “serious candidate,” and some journalists in the district are treating her like one. She’s gotten good coverage in, among other outlets, the Grand Junction Sentinel, Craig Daily Press, on Grand Junction’s NBC affiliate, Channel 11, and others.

But despite the stakes and the intereting political undercurrents, no major Denver media have reported on Casida’s shoestring campaign. Not the Denver Post. Not any local TV station.

On the radio Thursday, Casida, a Colorado native who’s run a small marketing business for the past six years, explained why she wants to be in Congress:

“What really started  to make me more interested in politics is a lot of the federal rules and regulations that are coming down the pike that are having negative repercussions on small businesses, which are the backbone or our economy, and in my opinion something we really have to allow to flourish to get out of the economic turmoil that we’re in.”

She wants to be a “good statesman, not a politician” in the mold of Ron Paul, who’s “advocating for use of the Constitution at the federal level of government.”

She also likes Justin Amosh, who’s “doing something great for the youth movement and the liberty movement.” Host Cari Hermacinski pointed out that Casida is a young woman “frankly a face that the conservative movement needs more of.”

Asked by host Hermacinski if she gave some thought to running on the Republican ticket, Casida said:

“Absolutely. I did for a brief period of time. I did follow what happened in 2010 with the McConnell campaign fairly closely. I feel like a lot of the Republican Party has become fairly corrupt in saying that they stand for small government, saying they stand for the Constitution, Republican values, so they profess. But I don’t believe they are actually standing for that. And I think the race with McConnell was one that people might recognize. The Republican Party, at least in Colorado’s 3rd Congressional District is not ever going to allow a candidate like myself to run on the Republican ticket.

We have to get back to what our founding fathers had intended. Our founding fathers warned us against political parties, and the reason is, political parties are a collective, which is collective rights, which is the antithesis of individual rights, which is what the Constitution protects.”

Casida believes she needs to raise $250,000 to “compete effectively” in the race.

“In July/August we’ll have a good idea on how effective we can be,” she told me. “It’s not only financial support but also grassroots support. The ballot access is fairly easy. I need 800 signatures, and we have a window of time to capture them in.”

“I feel that there’s a group of people whose voice isn’t being heard by the two party system,” she said.

Media omission: Larimer County Republicans have no plans to disinvite Friess to fundraiser

Monday, March 5th, 2012

If you were in charge of a big political fundraiser in Colorado, where women voters are obviously a key voting bloc, and your keynote speaker was recently embroiled in a national controversy for his joke that contraception need not be so expensive because, back in the old days, “The gals put [Bayer Aspirin] between their knees, and it wasn’t that costly,” would you disinvite the guy and find another keynoter?

It’s a legitimate question.

Yet, as far as I know, no reporter has posed it to Larimer County GOP officials who’ve got Foster Friess listed as the keynote speaker for their April 6 Lincoln Day Dinner.

Friess, a wealthy Republican donor and backer of Rick Santorum, made the comments back in February to MSNBC’s Andrea Mitchell, who said his response took her breath away. Mitchell had asked Friess to comment on Rick Santorum’s statements about contraception, which include his opposition to some forms of it.

Friess later apologized, writing on his website that he was kidding, and his joke “bombed.”

“To all those who took my joke as modern day approach I deeply apologize and seek your forgiveness,” Friess wrote. “My wife constantly tells me I need new material—she understood the joke but didn’t like it anyway—so I will keep that old one in the past where it belongs.”

Still, the joke generated controversy, particularly on talk shows around the country.

Asked if the flap around Friess had given him second thoughts about inviting Friess to their fundraiser, Larimer County GOP  Chair Michael Fassi said,  “We’re going to move ahead with Foster Friess.”

Former CU Regent Tom Lucero, who’s the master of ceremonies for the event, told me that Friess’s joke didn’t give him second thoughts about his own involvement in the dinner.

“I think that Foster handled it appropriately,” said Lucero, who’s served as Chair of the Larimer County GOP. “He was  trying for a joke, and it fell flat. It wasn’t the appropriate forum for that particular joke, and we moved on.”

Asked if he’d disinvite a speaker who made a controversial comment that women could reduce the cost of birth control by placing pills between their legs, Colorado Democratic Chair Rick Palacio said, “In a word, yes.”

Friess has said he plans to back key Senate candidates across the country during the next election cycle, and his appearance in Colorado may signal a broader interest in getting involved in Presidential swing state or in backing social conservatives like Santorum (e.g., Mike Coffman, Joe Coors, Cory Gardner) running here in Colorado.

When Gessler hits the road, reporters should cast off their fear of numbers

Friday, March 2nd, 2012

Since day one in office, Gessler has had a number of problems as well a problem with numbers, as in figures.

First, you recall, it was his salary figure. Too low.

Then he said there was the “pretty high incidence” of fraud (implying a BIG number) in Denver’s 2009 elections, based on the fact that 200 inactive-voter ballots were returned. The real number was zero. No cases of fraud were found.

Later, he told the Pueblo Chieftain, regarding returned election ballots, that “some are fraud.” This sounded like a MID-SIZED number, but “some” turned out to be none, based on any real-life evidence released to date. Ditto for evidence of Gessler’s assertion that “instances” of voter fraud in Colorado could have been prevented by requiring voters to present identification.

Then there was the 11,805 people who, Gessler said, were not citizens when they registered to vote.

Of these people, Gessler said he has a  list of 4,947 actual voters who could have voted illegally in Colorado.  But Gessler refused to give this list to The Denver Post or anyone else. Most recently, last weekend, he said there are “a lot” of noncitizens on the voting rolls.

So what’s the accurate number of noncitizens on the Colorado voting rolls? Until proof shows otherwise, you have to assume the number is zero.

Also stuck in make-believe land are the 106 people, of the 4,947 figure above, Gessler said were likely to actually have voted illegally. The correct number, as far as anyone can tell, is zero, unless someone is hiding evidence. Which is unlikely because Gessler himself has access to databases he needs to verify this figure.

Journalists should be able to relate to Gessler insofar as reporters are known to have trouble with numbers, too. But unlike Gessler, journalists self-identify as innumerate and double- and triple-check their numbers before putting them out there.

This doesn’t stop journalists from making numerical mistakes, but they usually try to set the record straight.

But Gessler plows ahead, as if his wrong or ostensibly fictional numbers are meaningful.

And he seems to drop his numbers in media venues where reporters might not know the history that I’ve outlined above, like the Sterling Journal-Advocate, which recently reported:

[Gessler’s] office is also working on making sure only eligible people are voting.

“One of the areas that we’ve got a real hole in, in Colorado, is the issue with respect to non-citizens voting,” Gessler said.

When his office compared the driver’s license data base against the voter registration data base last year, they found thousands of people who are here legally, who proved they were non-citizens, had a green card or student visa and got a driver’s license with that and registered to vote. [Big Media emphasis]

This figure of “thousands” of potentially illegal voters, like most of Gessler’s numbers, has nothing supporting it. It’s never been verified or substantiated at all.

At this point, after living through Gessler’s parade of numbers, you wouldn’t think reporters who’ve been following our Secretary of State would regurgitate any number from him without letting thier audience know if it’s wrong, unverified, or, we can only hope, accurate.

But reporters at small-town newspapers should be on their guard. Please, if Gessler passes through town, in the interest of maintaining basic faith in our voting system, check his numbers.

Post Editorial Page Editor promises “Battleground” panels will be fair in the end

Thursday, March 1st, 2012

The Denver Post’s  latest “Battleground Colorado” panel is stacked against Democrats, but Post Editorial Page Editor Curtis Hubbard tells me that things will be fair in the end, as Dems will outnumber Republicans on a future panel.

The Post’s “Super Tuesday” panel, the second in election-season series that promises to be interesting, in part because of the different levels of interaction with the community, features the following folks, according to The Post:

Former state chair Dick Wadhams, Jessica Peck of Henley Public Affairs and Arapahoe County Commissioner Susan Beckman for Republicans; Former House Speaker Terrance Carroll and political strategist Leticia Martinez of Project New West for Democrats; analyst Eric Sondermann of SE2 communications; and special guests former GOP congressman Tom Tancredo and Colorado College professor Tom Cronin.

Sometimes it takes me days of bean counting to show unfairness. But here, The Post does the counting for me. Two for the Dems. Three for the GOP. That’s a stacked deck!

My progressive friends will hate me for it, but I’ll accept Sondermann as a centrist here, as The Post defined him in its first panel Feb. 10. Cronin looks to be left-leaning. And Tancredo is way right, but overall a partisan Republican.

So what gives? Why create a panel with a 4-1-3 split in favor of the conservative agenda?

In response to that question, Post Editorial Page Editor Curtis Hubbard emailed me:

The makeup for the first panel was 2-2 between Ds and Rs, with me and Sondermann serving as referees.

Given the attention that’s being paid to women’s issues, I wanted to add voices of suburban women for our second panel on March 7. But I don’t want the panel to get too unwieldy. So, for next Wednesday’s discussion, where much of the focus will be on the Republican primary and the conversation largely focused on Romney vs. Santorum, I opted to bring in an additional Republican woman for broader context of what’s happening and how her friends and neighbors see it shaping up.

As we move closer to November, you can look for some panels to tilt toward Ds, more participation from unaffiliated voters, and additional guests who bring experience that is under- or unrepresented on the panel (young voters, rural voters, retirees).

I’m also eager to hear from readers in hopes of providing information that they’re interested in for future panels.

Hubbard also informed me that Beckman will be part of the panel going forward, and one more Democrat and independent will be added “hopefully by April or May.”