Archive for October, 2015

Colorado GOP loses a thorn in its ass

Tuesday, October 20th, 2015

The Colorado Republican Party is likely smiling at the news that Ken Clark, former KLZ talk-radio host and GOP thorn-in-the-ass, is leaving Colorado for a job with Citizens for Self Governance, where  he’ll be working to organize a “Convention of States” as allowed by the U.S. Constitution to, as Citizens for Self Governance puts it, “restrict the power and jurisdiction of the federal government.”

“If you believe in what you’re doing, you have to do what you need to do to reach the goal,” said Clark, who repeatedly butted heads with establishment Republicans. “That’s why I was willing to leave Colorado. This is capable of saving the Republic.”

But he  won’t be going away.

“You don’t spend the last decade-and-a-half in Colorado and just shut off the spigot,” he said. “It doesn’t work that way. I’m going to be back a lot. I’m still going to be involved in Colorado politics. This is more of a, ‘See you later,’ than a good bye.”

What’s his best memory as an activist?

“Too many to count,” he responds. “I’ll miss going down to the capitol, fighting for and against legislation, being in front taking the arrows and leaving those who are doing the real hard work to get it done.”

Asked if he likes progressives more than establishment Republicans, Clark said, “It’s hard for me to tell them apart, quite frankly.”

Clark had my kid on his radio show once, talking about arming school teachers. My kid was against; Clark for it. And they had a good conversation, at the end of which Clark offered my kid free gun classes. I was sure he’d take the offer. But I was proud and surprised when my son decided against it, because he’s scared of guns like I am.

Secrecy of Bush visit shouldn’t have negated its news value

Monday, October 19th, 2015

Visits by former presidents usually make news in Denver, if nothing else, because these people are major celebrities, known by all. So you’d think an appearance in Denver by a former president, with his brother, a current presidential candidate, plus a cousin, would be high on the news radar.

Yet, I can’t find a Colorado news outlet that covered George W. Bush’s visit on Sunday evening to Denver, where he was apparently joined by brother Jeb Bush and cousin State Treasurer Walker Stapleton.

I asked Denver Post Politics Editor Chuck Plunkett why The Post ignored the event, which was a closed-door fundraiser at the Denver Art Museum.

Plunkett: We reported in advance that Bush would be here for a conference and a fundraiser. Had his appearance at the financial conference been open to press, we would have covered it. Same with the fundraiser.

Here’s The Post’s advance piece.

As it turned out, a loud group of demonstrators were on hand for the event, as depicted by a liberal group, spotlighting the closed doors. With the concentration of Bushes (and power) in one room, it’s surprising the visit went completely unmarked by big media, not just The Post. At least a mention of the secrecy, and the possible explanations for it, would have been welcome.

It’s not an exact comparison, but recall the media conniptions when Mark Udall decided not to appear with Obama last year in Denver. That was a legitimate story, and so was this.

The secrecy (and lack of photo ops) doesn’t negate the issues at play (e.g., Jeb Bush’s fear of his father). In fact, you’d think a reporter would find the closed doors even more newsworthy.

9News shows other Denver TV stations how to air a successful political interview show

Friday, October 16th, 2015

9News, Colorado’s NBC affiliate, is showing the world (Or, let’s hope, at least other Denver TV stations) how to air a longish-form political interview show–and make it interesting and important in the new media landscape.

This week’s interview with Hillary Clinton, which will be aired Sunday on the program, called Balance of Power, shows how it’s done.

The show’s primary host, Brandon Rittiman, landed the interview, he says, in part because having a regular public affairs show “makes us a better sell to get these interviews.”

Rittiman: “They decided that they wanted to do some local affiliates after the debate, and out of the blue sky, after talking to their people back and forth for a long time, they called… We have this hole, this home, for content. It makes us a better sell to get these interviews… It takes a lot of time and effort to put together a regular show on politics and public affairs. And there stations that don’t want to make that resource commitment, because it’s difficult. But it does have its rewards. We got news content yesterday that we might not have gotten otherwise.”

9News rushed the entire interview online, to get maximum love from the 24-hour news cycle, with Rittiman, who’s 9News’ political reporter, pushing it out on social media. And the station aired some of the Rittiman’s questions, which mostly had Colorado connections, on various newscasts. On Sunday morning, the interview will air in its regular 15-minute Balance-of-Power slot on 9News prior to “Meet the Press.”

Rittiman: If you turn on your TV to 9News and you watch a newscast, you’ll get great information, but that’s not the same as having it out in the longer form conversation. It’s not the same as giving a Colorado voice to the presidential election. The two are symbiotic. We get good content for newscasts out of Balance of Power, and Balance of Power gives people a great place to go beyond the soundbite type story.

And it’s clear that long-form TV interview shows, like Balance of Power, are more than just junk food for the political chatter class. They make a difference in the policy debate and in elections, as was demonstrated last year and continues to be evident. In the shrinking media universe, with tightly controlled campaigns, they can actually affect elections and policy.

And simply having a regular political interview show helps a TV station from forgetting about politics in the midst of exciting storms and animal sightings.

Unfortunately, Balance of Power is the only local political TV interview show that remains standing in Denver. Fox 31’s excellent “#CoPolitics at the Source” died with the departure of Eli Stokols. Aaron Harbor’s locally-themed shows usually appear only around election time. And Channel 6’s “Colorado State of Mind” most often focuses on policy not policymakers and candidates. Channel 12’s Colorado Inside Out talks about, not with, public officials and newsmakers.

Rittiman says 9News is committed to airing Balance of Power at least through next year’s election, and points to its regular Sunday time slot as proof of this. Until earlier this year, it was a here-and-there kind of feature. The show is promoted on air on 9News regularly, which is key, and it’s featured on the station’s website.

You might laugh at calling Balance of Power’s 10-15 minute interviews “long form,” but, hey, that’s what it is compared to what’s out there today. As Rittiman says, you can go “well beyond soundbites” in 15 minutes.

And, mostly, it’s hard to argue that anything longer than 15 minutes has much interest to people beyond the chatter class.

“How many people will watch a half-hour discussion about a local or state-level political issue? If people aren’t watching it, did we really help the community that much?” asks Rittiman. “Did it really help voters that much? I would argue that it doesn’t, if you’re not reaching a substantial audience.”

You can make a good case that any interview on the record is important, even with no audience, but Nielsen ratings from February, which was the last month of Stokols’ Fox 31 interview program, show Balance of Power being watched on over 4 percent of Denver TVs, which is impressive. It eclipsed Stokols’ show. Harbor’s program showed no audience at all, which makes me feel like an alien because I watched it sometimes.

“I don’t know if it’s Donald Trump. I don’t know what it is, but I’m getting the sense that politics is beginning to have a bit of a renaissance on TV,” says Rittiman. “Maybe because the presidential race is turning into a quasi-TV reality show. I don’t know.”

“If you put in the work to understand the issues, and the processes involved, and to convert it all into English that people can digest and use to grasp the arguments, you connect with people,” says Rittiman. “And we’ve proved it here at 9News. People want this stuff.

“I don’t think there’s anyone sitting at home who thinks, ‘Oh, you know, I don’t care about the way the world is run.’ As an industry, we think, ‘This is complicated. We have to hand hold people to help them understand this.’ Hand holding pays off. That’s all I would say to that. And people are grateful for it.”


Sonnenberg decides against U.S. Senate run but says two or three other candidates may jump in race

Thursday, October 15th, 2015

Colorado State Sen. Jerry Sonnenberg will not join the growing field of Republicans vying to take on Colorado Sen. Michael Bennet next year.

Sonnenberg took a serious look at the race, but determined that he needed to focus on other priorities.

“There are issues that are affecting my district that will probably need to be dealt with this next legislative session,” he told me. “And between that and my farming and ranching operation, that has to be my highest priority.”

“It’s always tough to try to figure out how you can be that spokesperson for rural Colorado, and quite frankly, all of Colorado and a national level, and still maintain your real job,” he said when I asked him if he had a hard time making a decision on the run.

Sonnenberg declined to say whom he’d back in the Republican primary, explaining, “I anticipate there may be a couple three more actually get into the race. So it’s hard to say yet.”

Asked if he’d consider state-wide office in the future, Sonnenberg said, “I think that door is always open, depending on how the dominoes fall. If the opportunity arises, and I’m the right person, if that’s the way things fit, yeah, I would again look at a race down the road.”

With Sonnenberg out, two Republicans are left who’ve announced that they are considering the race. Talk-radio host Dan Caplis is “very serious” about a run. And Larimer County Sheriff Justin Smith is thinking about entering the race.

Already in are state Sen. Tim Neville, businessman Robert Blaha, El Paso County Commissioner Darryl Glenn, former Parker mayor Greg Lopez, and El Paso County conservative Charles Ehler.

State Sen. Ray Scott is rumored to be a likely candidate. Sonnenberg declined to name the two or three other candidates he cited who are considering the race.

Colorado Peak Politics first reported Sonnenberg’s decision not to run.

Media omission: Tancredo doesn’t think establishment Republicans will torpedo Neville like they did him

Wednesday, October 14th, 2015

As State Sen. Tim Neville of Littleton starts to make his case for taking on Democrat Michael Bennet, he’s embracing his conservative background, not trying to modify or conceal it, like Sen. Cory Gardner did, framing himself as the kind of no-compromise conservative who will shut down the government, if necessary, to get the job done.

By conservative, for Neville, I mean across-the-board from guns (opposing permits to carry concealed guns) and vaccinations (supporting parents who reject them) to immigration (against in-state tuition for undocumented students) and choice issues, which I addressed in a RH Reality Check post Monday.

“We’re not going to shy away from issues, whether it be issues we brought up last year in the Parent’s Bill of Rights [or] issues that are important to life,” Neville told Rocky Mountain Community Radio’s Bente Birkeland last week.

Neither is Neville shy about using the budget process to shut down the federal government. Asked for his view of  the “no-government-shutdownmantra” on KNUS 710-AM Oct. 4, Neville said it’s a “false premise. When has the government ever shut down?” He said he’s the kind of conservative leader who draws other lawmakers to him, rather than the kind who compromises. Listen to Neville on KNUS here.

So, the big money question is, will the country-club Republicans respond to Neville, like they did to former Rep. Tom Tancredo.  When Tanc was poised to win the GOP gubernatorial primary last year against Bob Beuaprez, the national Republicans knocked him out by funding an ad campaign directed at Republican primary voters. It worked. Down went Tancredo. Up went Beauprez. And down went Beuprez later.

You might think history is about to repeat itself soon, with moneyed Republicans thinking that Neville would, Tancredo-like, sully the GOP brand in Colorado and, even more importantly in our swing state, undermine the efforts of the Republican presidential candidate.

I asked Tancredo if he thought the establishment Republicans would try to bring down Neville.

Tancredo called it an “interesting question,” saying, “I happen to like Tim Neville. I think he’s a great guy, and he could win the primary.”

“Will they do to him what they did to me?” Tancredo said. “I don’t think so, because I don’t think they have an alternative whom they think can win.”

“In my case, they knocked me out because they thought they could perhaps win with Bob. But I don’t think there is a sense that they could win this race with anybody presently on the scene. So they don’t give a rat’s ass. And they’re not going to spend any money necessarily attacking Neville, because they don’t think he’ll win but they don’t think anybody they’ve got will win.”

“It’s got to the right circumstance for the [establishment Republicans] to do it. After all they couldn’t stop Dan Maes. And if you can’t stop Dan Maes, baby, I don’t know what kind of shot you think you have.”

But, I asked Tancredo, what if Republicans bring in a self-funding placeholder?

“Let’s see what would they look for?” asked Tancredo. “Oh, I know! A really rich old white guy? I bet that’s who they’d try to find to run. [Laughs.] Sure. There’s the key. That’s the ticket. Rich old white guys have so much appeal in Colorado.”

We laugh together at this, and the interview ended.


Media omission: “Be careful what you wish for,” Buck chides fellow House conservatives

Monday, October 12th, 2015

Colorado Rep. Ken Buck snapped at his fellow House conservatives, telling a Denver radio host Oct. 9 that any new Republican House speaker is “immediately going to be cast as someone who is compromising.”

On the radio, Buck likes to present himself as a hard-core Tea Partier, all about principles all the time, but in reality, Buck likes to have it both ways.

Buck previously voted for House Speaker John Boehner, who resigned under pressure by uncompromising Republican warriors. And Buck was set to vote for Rep. Kevin McCarthy, who was under pressure by the same uncompromising Republican warriors when he withdrew from the race to replace Boehner as House speaker.

Buck told KHOW 710-AM’s Mandy Connell that the current situation is so difficult with Boehner and McCarthy out that some House Republicans are considering “forming a coalition government” that would keep conservatives “out of the mix in terms of choosing a speaker.”

“Be careful what you wish for,” Buck condescendingly told Tea Party Republicans who might have been listening:

Buck: “I have to tell you though, be careful what you wish for, because we’ve gotten rid of John Boehner, and Kevin McCarthy has decided not to do it. There are Republicans now, because they are so frustrated with conservatives holding this up, talking about forming a coalition government, talking about working with Democrats to create a majority and keep the conservatives out of the mix in terms of choosing a speaker… It would be horrible. It may very well form a 3rd party. And I strongly believe, if you split the Republican Party into two parties, and the Democrats win for the next  [inaudible] years. Listen to Buck on KHOW 10.9.15.

Interestingly, Buck apparently doesn’t consider conservatives like himself among those who’d be iced out, since he voted for Boehner. Neither did Buck say on air how many Republicans were considering a move against the uncompromisers.

But he indavertantly made the case for such a move, which he said he was against, when he told Connell how difficult the coming weeks will be for the next Republican speaker, if he or she is elected by the Republican caucus.

Buck (@11:25) : “The next month or month and a half will be a very difficult time for whoever is in that position. I say that because we’ve got a debt-ceiling vote that President Obama has moved up specifically because, not because we are running out of money, but specifically because John Boenher has stepped down. And he knows that the Republican House is in dissaray at this point and he wants to take advantage of that. And we have other votes. We have an omnibus vote on Appropriations that’s coming up. So we’ve got some very difficult decisions to make, and whoever steps into this is immediately going to be cast as someone who is compromising and it’s going to be tough.” Listen to Buck on KHOW 10.9.15.


Why is CNBC covering for the Republican National Committee?

Thursday, October 8th, 2015

The Colorado Republican Party is blaming CNBC for severely limiting the number of seats available at its Oct. 28 presidential debate at the University of Colorado at Boulder.

But CNBC, which you’d think would advocate for maximum transparency and public access, hasn’t accepted the blame. Instead, strangely, it’s not commenting. What gives?

“We don’t actually know how many seats there are going to be yet,” said Colorado GOP Chair Steve House, discussing the upcoming presidential debate on KFKA’s Stacy Petty show Sept. 23.“The Coors Events Center holds 11,000, but networks are going to narrow that down to a very small number because, for some reason, they think that people might act out, right?”

CU is also blaming CNBC, sort of. In a statement about the limited seating, CU Chancellor Phillip P. DiStefano said: “The debate is being produced and led by CNBC. They determine the audience size, debate format and other aspects of the event. The Republican National Committee is in charge of ticket distribution.”

DiStefano said CNBC determines the audience size, but he was mum about the actual factual audience size set by CNBC for the event. It could have 1,000. It could have been 10,000. What was the number that the RNC was working with?

We know the CU’s Coors Events Center holds 11,000 people. The RNC is reportedly distributing just 1,000 tickets, with 100 going to CU students. So did CNBC determine the 1,000 number?

A CNBC spokesman declined to comment to me this morning, as it’s done before about this matter, making CNBC look like it’s covering for the RNC. That’s not an appealing role for a journalistic entity.

CNBC’s silence allows the RNC to get away with not taking responsibility for the limited seating, especially because House, the local Republican leader, is flat-out blaming CNBC.

Here’s an example of what the RNC is saying:

“These debates are designed for a television audience and the millions of people who will tune in,” said Fred Brown, an RNC spokesman, according to the Durango Herald. “We look forward to the attention an event of this scale will bring the university.”

Any CNBC reporter, or any self-respecting journalist for that matter, would find that spin revolting. But normally, a journalist couldn’t do much about it. In this case, however, the information to expose the spin resides within the journalistic outfit itself. That would be CNBC.

I’m hoping CNBC will do journalism a favor and start explaining what’s going on here.


Media omission: Sonnenberg will decide “by the first of next week” on a U.S. Senate run

Thursday, October 8th, 2015

State Sen. Jerry Sonnenberg will decide “by the first of next week,” whether he’ll join the Republicans seeking the party’s nomination to take on Colorado Sen. Michael Bennet next year.

In an interview yesterday, Sonnenberg said he’s been “looking at” running for “several months” but was waiting on “George Brauchler’s decision” before deciding whether to enter the race himself.

“I’ve spent the past week meeting with a number of people in Denver,” he said, adding that he anticipates “having a decision by the first of next week.”

“Michael Bennet’s numbers look worse than Mark Udall’s did a year out,” he said. “I see that as an opportunity to have two Republican senators from Colorado.”

In addition to Sonnenberg, talk-radio host Dan Caplis is “very serious” about a run. And Larimer County Sheriff Justin Smith is thinking about entering the race. Already in are state Sen. Tim Neville, businessman Robert Blaha, El Paso County Commissioner Darryl Glenn and former Parker mayor Greg Lopez. Staten Sen. Ray Scott is rumored to be a likely candidate.

Media omission: GOP Senate primary heats up on Facebook

Wednesday, October 7th, 2015

After State Sen. Ray Scott’s name was floated on Facebook as a possible candidate to take on Sen. Michael Bennet, Rep. Justin Everett of Littleton stood up for his guy, Sen. Tim Neville.

“I don’t see anyone beating Tim in the primary, and I don’t see Ray as a threat,” wrote Everett. “Especially because Sonnenberg will probably get in as well, and they’d probably be competing with each other for the rural vote.”

To which, Ray Scott replied, “Tunnel vision only applies when you’re in a tunnel.”

Everett then wrote: “Reality based on 20 years political experience from being paid staff on state-wide campaigns, tight with consultant class, to doing high dollar fundraising for the RNC [Republican National Committee]. I got creds.”

“I’m friends with Ray and Jerry, but the fact is, this is a battle. If you are going to take on Michael Bennet, you have to have a proven candidate,” Everett told me when asked about the Facebook post.

But how does he know Sonnenberg is even likely to run?

“I call it the rule of three. I’ve heard from three people  that Jerry flat-out said he would run,” said Everett, adding that the three people are from different groups.

In a telephone interview, Sonnenberg told me that, in fact, he had not yet decided to enter the Senate race.

He confirmed that he’s been “looking at” running for “several months” but was waiting on “George Brauchler’s decision” before deciding whether to enter the race himself.

“I’ve spent the past week meeting with a number of people in Denver,” he said, adding that he anticipates “having a decision by the first of next week.”

“Michael Bennet’s numbers look worse than Mark Udall’s did a year out,” he said. “I see that as an opportunity to have two Republican Senators from Colorado.”

As for Scott, Everett says he’s heard from other sources that Scott is serious about the race, and Everett points to the fact that Scott himself “chimed in” during the Facebook exchange as further confirmation of this.

Scott did not return a call for comment. I’ll update this blog post if he does.

In response to a commenter who called Ray a “good candidate,” Everett wrote on Facebook: “Performance matters. Ray hasn’t raised money from anyone or PACS. Tim has… My horse [Neville] knows how to win a race and is battle tested. Ray has never had a competitive race. Tim Neville, no better horse out there.”

Everett told me Neville can win based on the “Ken Buck Model of 2010 when he beat Jane Norton.” Buck went on to nearly defeat Bennet in the general, despite mistakes by national Republicans, he told me.

“There’s a path for victory for Tim, not only in the primary, but in the general,” said Everett, adding that Buck was way outspent by Norton and still won.

“Tim is smart enough to get good people behind him and raise money,” continued Everett. “He knows how to do direct mail, micro-targeting, voter ID. They know how to run campaigns, and they’ve been successful in primaries. He’ll work his butt off. He’s authentic. He’s in an excellent position to win the primary. Is this a battle Republicans want to fight? Or should they coalesce around Tim?”

In addition to Neville, businessman Robert Blaha, El Paso County Commissioner Darryl Glenn and former Parker mayor Greg Lopez have already announced their intention to seek the GOP spot against Bennet. Attorney Dan Caplis is “very serious” about a run, and Larimer County Sheriff Justin Smith is thinking about entering the race.

 UPDATE: The first version of this blog did not include a response from Sonnenberg. It is now included.

KNUS talk-radio host Dan Caplis “very serious” about U.S. Senate run

Monday, October 5th, 2015

On Channel 12’s “Colorado Inside Out” Friday, Westword Editor Patty Calhoun seemed to surprise moderator Dominic Dezzutti when she said Denver radio host Dan Caplis is considering a U.S. Senate run against Democrat Michael Bennet.

“Tim Neville, who announced [his U.S. Senate candidacy] yesterday, a conservative, leaves a lot of room for someone else to jump in,” said Calhoun in response to Dezzutti’s question about the Colorado Senate race. “The most interesting one I’ve heard lately is, Dan Caplis is looking again at a race.”

“I appreciate Patty saying that because it’s true,” Caplis told me this afternoon when I called to confirm. “I absolutely have a serious interest.”

Caplis, a Denver attorney and longtime radio personality, told me he was fully behind the potential candidacy of George Brauchler, and thinks Brauchler would make a great senator. But when Brauchler decided against running last week, Caplis decided to consider entering the race himself, he said.

“I just need to make sure it’s the right thing for our family first,” said Caplis, whose talk show airs on KNUS 710-AM. “And then, beyond that, I’ll just take a good hard look at whether this is the way to make the best contribution that I can. I mean, that’s what most people try to do. That’s what I’m trying to do. Is this the best way to do that?”

Caplis will announce his decision in six to eight weeks after meetings and further thought, he said, promising not to “drag out” the decision.

Caplis’ name was floated in 2009 as a possible opponent for Sen. Michael Bennet. And back in 2007, Caplis spent a couple months traveling the state and talking with folks about whether to run against Democratic Sen. Ken Salazar.

“It would hard to be a lot more serious than we were about it before,” said Caplis when asked if he was more serious this time around. “Honestly, we were very close to getting in before. It’s pretty much the same this time. I’m very serious about it, but I have to make sure, first and foremost, that it’s right for the family.”

“Beyond that, I think it’s pretty clear that a person can make a pretty big contribution as a U.S. Senator, if they are willing to do what it takes to make that contribution. And I think there’s a lot at stake in this election.”

Asked if he’s more like Ken Buck or Cory Gardner, Caplis said, “Don’t box me in. Don’t put any labels on me. That’s one of the reasons I’d love to run this race, is to do it the right way. Stand up and tell people what you really believe and what you are really going to do and not get boxed in by labels or any of that. And if people want me, they want me. And if they don’t, they don’t. But if I run this race, it’s going to be a race unlike people have seen before.”