Archive for the 'Colorado State Legislature' Category

“Colorado Obamacare lie” should be expunged from the state legislature as well as the campaign trail

Monday, August 21st, 2017

In an editorial this week, The Denver Post coined the term the “Colorado Obamacare lie” to describe repeated statements by GOP gubernatorial candidates that Obamacare is gobbling up the state budget when, in fact, it has “very little impact” on the state budget.

Nicely done.

And the phenomenon goes beyond GOP gubernatorial candidates, to Republicans in the state legislature and beyond.

For example, last January, State Sen. Tim Neville (R-Littleton) told the “Americhicks,” Molly Vogt and Kim Munson, on KLZ 560-AM, that the Obamacare, also called the “Medicaid expansion,” is “eating every single dollar that we have,” that could be spent on other priorities.

Neville: I believe it’s time for the government to re-prioritize, and of course the 800-pound gorilla in the room is the Medicaid expansion, which the governor did several years ago, eating every single dollar that we have in increased expense.

Also last year, we got this Tweet from the Colorado Senate GOP (@ColoSenGOP), linking to a chart of state and federal Medicaid expenditures: “Maybe Colo could afford FullDayK if #Dems weren’t pouring every spare $ into Obamacare #choices #copolitics #coleg pic.twitter.com/zrS1L6v5KO.”

The Post’s reporting, followed up by its editorial, should put an end not only to this kind of talk on the campaign trail, but in the state legislature as well.

Seven state lawmakers sign the Fake News Pledge

Friday, July 14th, 2017

Scott Nov. 6 Wikileaks fake newsThe Fake News Pledge has now been signed by seven state lawmakers, all Democrats: State Representatives Mike Foote of Lafayette, Susan Lontine of Denver, Michael Merrifield of Colorado Springs, and Michael Weissman of Aurora as well as State Sen. Irene Aguilar of Denver, State Senate Minority Leader Lucia Guzman of Denver, and State Sen. Dominick Moreno of Commerce City.

The Pledge is a promise not to spread fake news on Facebook. It defines fake news as a story “deemed false or inaccurate by Snopes, Politifact, Factcheck.org, or by a respected news outlet.” It also must be “packaged to look somehow like news.” Everyone who supports factual discourse, Dem or Republican, should support it.

Westword’s Michael Roberts’ post on this topic today shows why the Pledge isn’t an empty gesture: Colorado state lawmakers and candidates spread obvious fake news on their Facebook pages. Look at the Westword piece, take a step back for a moment, and you realize realize how unbelievably crazy it is for elected officials and candidates to post this kind of stuff.

As far as I know, this is the only tangible step by state lawmakers nationally to fight fake news.

So the signers deserve our thanks for having the guts to try to do something.

And please note those who wouldn’t sign: Sen. Kevin Lundberg (R-Berthoud) and Sen. Tim Neville (R-Littleton). Neville told me that “each individual has to be the arbiter of fake news. Lundberg said the term fake news “smacks of a new censorship.”

Overall, I’ve found six Colorado state legislators who posted fake news on their Facebook pages (See here and here). Two removed it (State Rep. Polly Lawrence and former State Rep. Kit Roupe). Two told me they would not remove it (former State Rep. Gordon Klingenschmitt and State Sen. Tim Neville). Neville posted this: “Earth Is Nearly in Its 21st Year Without Global Warming.” And two lawmakers did not respond to my request that it be deleted (State Rep. Ray Scott, and former State Sen. Laura Woods).

After launching the Pledge, I was accused of being a “fake reporter” by former State Sen. Greg Brophy. And other conservatives attacked me, as if my being progressive somehow undermines the pledge. I am progressive, and I’m paid by progressives. I don’t hide it. But I’m committed to being factual in my writing–and we all can expect the same from our state lawmakers of any political stripe. So I’m hoping more of them sign the Pledge.

State senator alleges that local chamber “refused” to read his statement at annual breakfast

Wednesday, June 7th, 2017

scott on gj chamber

Jon Caldara’s sniffling Denver Post op-ed last month, decrying fellow Republicans who voted to save rural hospitals via a budget maneuver, prompted ColoradoPols to write a post headlined, “World’s smallest violin plays for legislative loser Jon Caldara.”

But, in case you missed it, Caldara took heat from fellow Republicans too, such as State Sen. Larry Crowder (R-Alamosa), who wrote a letter to The Post in response to Caldara, who heads up the conservative/libertarian Independence Institute.

Crowder pointed out that doing nothing would have resulted in “demise and closure of a vast number of these rural hospitals.”

Crowder took issue with Caldara for thanking Republicans who voted against the measure, which reclassified the “hosptital provider fee” as a business under TABOR.

Caldara: Let me thank the courageous Republican senators who stood up to leadership and the pressure cooker of the takings coalition and voted no: John Cooke, Chris Holbert, Kent Lambert, Kevin Lundberg, Vicki Marble, Beth Martinez-Humenik, Tim Neville, Ray Scott and Jim Smallwood. Heroes all.

Crowder: The lawmakers Jon Caldara thanked for voting against the bill all happen to represent metropolitan areas, where hospitals are big business. But that isn’t true for rural hospitals, many of which are just trying to stay open. Closure of these facilities would mean real hardship for rural Colorado.

But Republican state senators who voted against the reclassification of the HPF were doing more than rejecting the painful cries from rural hospitals.

They were turning their backs on pretty much the entire business community, with deep ties to Republicans, which stood together in favor of the HPF reclassification. Recall this list of biz groups that backed the HPF reclassification last year.

So, it’s no surprise that State Sen. Ray Scott (R-Grand Junction), is apparently a persona non grata at the Grand Junction Chamber of Commerce these days.

In a recent Facebook post, Scott wrote that the GJ Chamber “refused” to read his statement at their annual breakfast because, Scott wrote, he’s “chopped liver or they wanted to see how many would notice.”

Scott posted his rejected statement, which stated that “cities and counties put immense pressure on legislators to help fulfill their budget demands especially in the 44 counties that are distressed as Mesa County is. It was so hard to say no to many times but the reality is the state budget has been a runaway train for 12 years are we are tasked with holding the line.”

Scott, who was unable to attend the Grand Junction Chamber’s event, went on to blame Democrats for the budget problem, but he didn’t mention that some of his fellow Republicans, like Crowder, inched toward a solution. While Scott’s success was getting thanked by Caldara in The Denver Post.

Woods posts fake news on Facebook

Friday, May 5th, 2017

woods trey gowdy 5-17Despite the example set by Trump, it seems that public figures in Colorado are being more careful about posting fake news on their Facebook pages than they were prior to the last election.

And to their credit, some officials in Colorado are removing fake news, if they are convinced it’s inaccurate.

But former State Rep. Laura Woods (R-Westminster), who lost her state senate seat in November, apparently hasn’t gotten the memo about how fake news rots civic discourse, not to mention representative government.

She apparently posted this fake news item, provided to me by a source, last week, headlined, “Trey Gowdy Breaks Silence After 2 of His Investigators Were Found Tortured and Killed-Proud Patriots.”

Woods apparently commented, “OM gosh…The Clintons’ trail of dead bodies is unbelievable. Hopefully Attorney General Sessions will take them down.”

It appears that Woods refused to remove the fake news, even after a someone on her Facebook feed pointed out that it was debunked by Snopes.

Woods doesn’t return my calls, but I invite her to sign the Fake News Pledge for Citizens here.

But it appears she may have found her own way to deal with Fake News, with a site offering right-wing radio host Mark Levin, right-wing columnist Michelle Malkin, and others:

woods alt news site

“The Media Are The Enemy.”

Tuesday, March 28th, 2017

marble on news media 3-17Last month, Rocky Mountain Community Radio’s Bente Birkeland broke the news that Colorado Republicans are taking concrete steps, including more frequent press briefings, to improve their relations with Colorado journalists.

In response, I offered the free advice that GOP lawmakers should consider a halt to sweeping accusations of liberal media bias.

State Sen. Vicki Marble (R-Ft. Collins) didn’t take my advice–or she isn’t one of the three people who read my blog posts–because she hit reporters with the salvo in a recent Facebook post, forwarded to me by a source.

Marble apparently “liked” a meme that read:

THE MEDIA ARE THE ENEMY. FIGHT THEM, OR LOSE AMERICA.–Ben Shapiro.”

“Do you believe the lies of the liberal media? LIKE if you agree we need to fight back,” reads the comment atop the meme, sponsored by the Daily Wire, founded by Shapiro, who’s a former Breitbart editor.

Marble, the state Senate majority caucus leader, isn’t alone, as 1.5 million others also liked the meme, according to the ad, if you can believe that. You’d be excused doubting it, given that a Daily Wire headline last week read, “Trump Is 100% Vindicated On Wiretapping, and 7 Other Things You Should Know.”

It’s one thing to “fight back” with reporters over facts; it’s another to suggest that they are the enemy.

In any case, I can understand if you’re wondering why I’d bother writing this post about a small deep-swimming fish like Marble, when we have Trump regularly calling professional journalism fake news.

But that’s why I’m writing about Marble. Marble is the fish in our tank, and her colleagues, who seem to want to respect journalism more, should talk to her about whether suggesting the media are the enemy helps their cause or anyone’s. She didn’t return an email from me.

“This isn’t fake!” writes lawmaker about an article from a newspaper he once called “fake news”

Monday, March 13th, 2017

Ray Scott cites sentinel non fake news 3-17

State Sen. Ray Scott (R-Grand Junction) calls the Grand Junction Sentinel “fake news“–until he finds a Sentinel story he likes. Then the fakeness is conveniently forgotten.

“Denver water attorneys against farmers,” wrote Scott on Facebook last week, referring to a Sentinel article by Charles Ashby about a bill stalled in the state legislature.

“This isn’t fake!” wrote Scott on Facebook.

Scott’s hypocrisy is so brazen yoScott Nov. 6 Wikileaks fake newsu honestly wonder how he could possibly justify trotting it out on Facebook.

But there Scott is, like Trump, undermining journalism by making sweeping and unsubstantiated accusations about the Sentinel one week. and then he’s using a Sentinel article he likes to promote himself and his agenda the next week. (The publisher of the Sentinel may sue Scott for damages.)

So crazy.

But as I’ve noted before, prior to his fake-news outburst last month about the Sentinel, Scott regularly posted Sentinel articles on Facebook–when he agreed with the reporting or found it useful.

And the truly sad part of all this: Scott still has actual fake news posted on his Facebook page! I doubt you’re surprised, but still. He’s not responded to numerous emails and phone calls from me asking that he remove it, like other lawmakers have.

Maybe Scott thinks his fake news, which informs us that “Hillary sold weapons to ISIS,” is real? I don’t think he even believes it, to be honest. But you’d think he’d remove it from Facebook, just to take the spotlight off his own ridiculous double standard.

First Amendment attorney says Sentinel could have a viable case against State Senator over “fake news” accusation

Wednesday, February 15th, 2017

The publisher of the Grand Junction Sentinel is serious about suing State Sen. Ray Scott over his public claim that the Grand Junction Sentinel is “fake news.”

But, he told Denver writer Corey Hutchins, “we’re going to have some cooling-off period before I file anything.”

Hutchins, writing for the Columbia Journalism Review’s United States Project: This particular publisher, it should be noted, is no stranger to a courtroom. Before taking the helm of the Sentinel in 2009, Seaton was a commercial litigator. “This is what I used to do,” he told me. “I practiced law in Kansas City for 13 years, so I’m accustomed to resolving business damage in the judicial system. So I don’t view this really as any different.”

The publisher says he has already seen people on Facebook pledge to cancel newspaper subscriptions after the lawmaker’s comments.

“What I consider actionable is the attack on the Sentinel as fake news,” Seaton says. “I can take the criticism that we’re too far right, or we’re too far left, or our reporter was sloppy, or our editorial misunderstands the issue, that I can handle. What I can’t abide is an attack on the essence of what we do.”

Hutchins quotes Denver First Amendment attorney Steve Zansberg, as saying that “Scott could be liable under libel law if he made statements that are provably false and made “with the requisite knowledge of their falsity or reckless disregard for the truth.”

Does this mean Donald Trump is in line to be sued by CNN and others, which the President has attacked as fake news outlets? I hope so.

 

State lawmaker deletes fake news from her Facebook page

Friday, January 27th, 2017

lawrence-on-hillary-trashing-byonce-with-racial-surs-lastlineofdefense-orgColorado State Rep. Polly Lawrence (R-Roxborough Park) has set an example for lawmakers everywhere, from Trump on down, by removing a fake-news item from her Facebook page.

On Wednesday, I left a phone message for Lawrence, alerting her that back in Nov. she’d posted fake news with the headline, “WHOA! Hillary Caught On Hot Mic Trashing Beyonce’ with RACIAL SLURS! Looks like Hillary may have just lost one of her biggest endorsements.”

The day after I called her, Lawrence removed the fake news.

The fakeness of the Lawrence’s post was never in doubt from the moment she posted it.

The website called “The Resistance: The Last Line Of Defense,” which published the Beyonce’ fake news, has a disclaimer, which reads:

DISCLAIMER: The Resistance may include information from sources that may or may not be reliable and facts that don’t necessarily exist. All articles should be considered satirical and any and all quotes attributed to actual people complete and total baloney.

What’s more, Snopes determined on Nov. 5, the day before Lawrence posted the item, that the Beyonce’ item was false.

Still, Lawrence posted the fake news with the comment, “If this is true, it fits in with the accusation that the Democrats only work with the African-American community when they need votes.”

But you know what’s great? Lawrence accepted criticism and removed the fake news.

Why? Because fake news causes cancer in civic discourse. That was diagnosed and then proven in the last election.

At least I think that’s why Lawrence removed it. She didn’t return my call, which is too bad because I would have heaped even more praise on her.

In my phone message, in which I thanked Lawrence for removing the fake news, I asked her if she’d sign the Fake News Pledge, which is a promise 1) not to post fake news, defined as false information “packaged to look like news,” and 2) to post a correction and explanation on Facebook if fake news is accidentally posted. The Pledge’s arbiters of fake news are Snopes, Politifact, Factcheck.org, or a respected news outlet. If Pledge signers disagree with the specified arbiters, they do not have to remove anything from Facebook. But they are obliged to explain why they disagree with the fact checkers.

Lawrence did not respond to my request that she sign the Fake News Pledge, and she still has at least one fake-news meme on her site, with a misquote of Obama, which I’ll ask her about later.

Lawrence is the second Colorado state lawmaker to remove fake news from their Facebook pages, since last year when I posted an investigation showing that five legislators had spread a total of eight fake news items on Facebook.

After she became aware of her fake news post, then State Rep. Kit Roupe (R-Colorado Springs), removed it, telling me, “If it was false, and it came to my attention that it was false, then of course I would [remove it].” (Roupe also didn’t respond to my request to sign the Fake News Pledge, and she has since left office.)

The three other lawmakers cited in the BigMedia.org investigation have refused to delete fake news. Rep. Gordon Klingenschmitt (R-Colorado Springs) refused to believe that Scalia was not, without a doubt, assassinated by the Clintons. And State Sen. Tim Neville (R-Littleton) refused to remove two items deemed false by fact checkers from his Facebook page. State Sen. Laura Woods (R-Arvada), who’s left office as well, did not respond to my requests that she remove fake news from her Facebook page.

U.S. Rep. Jared Polis, a Democrat representing the Boulder area, also acted honorably this month by deleting a fake-news tweet, in the wake of a Twitter discussion referencing the Fake News Pledge.

Post opinion column should inspire more aggressive reporting on Medicaid

Wednesday, January 25th, 2017

Reporters covering the Medicaid debate at the Capitol should read Denver Post opinion writer Megan Schrader’s column today and act on it.

Schrader: “It’s simply disingenuous to imply that there are easy cuts to be made in the Medicaid portion of the budget, or to blame the state budget’s woes on the expansion pushed by Obama and adopted by Gov. John Hickenlooper.”

Translation for reporters: When Republican leaders blame Medicaid for state budget woes, reporters should ask them how they want to cut the state-federal program, which offers healthcare for children, elderly, the disabled, and other poor people.

Last year, Republicans, led by then State Senator Bill Cadman repeatedly claimed Medicaid was siphoning money from “every other program” in the state budget, including roads and schools.

Cadman told 9News: “[Democrats] have ignored the needs and demands of about five million people to specifically support one program, and it cannibalizes every other program. They’ve ignored the Constitution and put K-12 money into this program. I mean, they’ve ignored the roads, and put money into this program.

But in an epic fail, journalists never reported how Cadman or other Republicans proposed cutting Medicaid or saving money on the program through higher fees or the like. They reported the attack on the program but let the details slide by.

In her column, Schrader encourages Democrats and Republicans to try to find savings, and she acknowledges the difficulty in talking about them–which is precisely why reporters should be asking for specifics, especially from Republicans, who, unlike Democrats, are arguing that Medicaid cuts are a major part of the path out of Colorado’s budget woes.

Another take-away for reporters from Schrader’s piece is to challenge Republicans when they blame Colorado’s budget problems on the expansion of Medicaid under Obamacare.

Schrader wrote, “President Barack Obama’s proposed expansion has been funded entirely by federal dollars until this fiscal year, when the draw-down began and states started to pay a portion. In 2017-18, Colorado’s share, around 10 percent, will be funded by a small portion of a hospital user fee…. But that expansion is not hurting our general fund budget or causing the current fiscal crisis.

Last year, when Republicans blamed Obamacare for budget problems in Colorado, reporters did not explain often enough that this assertion is mostly, if not completely, false.

Overall, I’m hoping Schrader’s Post piece inspires more aggressive reporting on Medicaid, with reporters no longer tolerating muckety-muck Republicans blaming poor, sick, and disabled people for Colorado’s potholes–unless they explain, specifically, how they want to take tax money from the poor people and spend it on the potholes.

Journalism is about giving a voice to people who don’t have one. When bogus, talking-point-style attacks are launched at Medicaid, reporters should pretend they’re asking question for all those low-income people who aren’t in the room. I know that’s sort of pedantic and trite, but that’s what it’s about.

State senator says “each individual has to be the arbiter” of fake news

Monday, January 16th, 2017

neville-post-saying-ca-dems-legalize-child-porn-12-30-16If the left and right are ever going to agree on ground rules for stopping the spread of fake news, both sides will have to wear gloves and nose clips to endure the rot and stench of some awful Facebook “news”–while we focus on eliminating the worst falsehoods and fabrications.

That’s what I was thinking after my phone conversation Friday with State Sen. Tim Neville (R-Littleton).

I thought it was obvious Neville had spread fake news by posting an article on Facebook with the headline, “California Democrats Legalize Child Prostitution.”

But after talking to Neville about it, he convinced me that the prostitution post wasn’t fake news, from his ultra-conservative perspective, (even though it was fake news from where I sit), and I was wrong for thinking he would see it otherwise.

“I get what you’re saying,” Neville told me. “And I know the title of the story might have been sensationalist. However, what they did with the law creates an opportunity for child prostitution without any kind of [criminal] enforcement. So, I’m comfortable leaving it up. And if you feel it might have been a little bit sensationalist as far as the headline, I mean, Jason, I like your writing, and I read it, but sensationalism is part of your game…

I looked again at Snopes, which I’d relied on as my fact checker, and realized that it had rated the California-prostitution item as “mostly false,” not “false,” for exactly the reason Neville cited.

Snopes concluded:

WHAT’S TRUE: A California law passed in 2016 provides that minors involved in prostitution be treated as victims rather than criminals.

WHAT’S FALSE: It is still illegal for Californians to hire prostitutes (child or otherwise), and sex traffickers will still face consequences if they are caught prostituting children.

“If children are engaging in prostitution, they can’t even be prosecuted as juveniles,” said Neville. “If I post the article, I expect people to read the article, make their own decisions, and go from there. I just think it’s a bad policy.”

If Neville had signed the Fake News Pledge for elected officials, it would have been within the guidelines for him not to remove the California-prostitution item, because it wasn’t rated 100 percent “false” by Snopes, which the pledge uses, along with Factcheck.org, Politifact, and “respected” news outlets, as arbiters of fakeness.

Not so, however, with two other fake-news posts I found on Neville’s Facebook page. Both items, discussed in my recent investigation of fake news on state lawmakers’ websites, were found to be false by Factcheck.org.

neville-on-earth-in-21st-year-without-global-warming-2015-07-19-daily-caller

In one case, Neville posted an Daily Caller item headlined, “Satellites: Earth Is Nearly in Its 21st Year Without Global Warming.” The linked article cites satellite data allegedly showing a “prolonged hiatus” in global warming.

“Global warming alarmists have a real problem,” wrote Neville on Facebook. “Satellite data tells the real story.”

The mainstream scientific community, as reported by Factcheck.org, has found no hiatus in global warming on Earth, unless you cherry pick the data.

“There are a lot of sources on that,” Neville told me, adding that different temperature reporting procedures around the world throw off the “baseline” for comparisons.

He’s right that there are other sources, but I could not find a third-party arbiter that finds them credible.

neville-on-obama-new-national-reitrement-system-2015-09-03-nationalseniorscouncil

In another case that I cite in my investigation, Neville posted a fake-news  item in August headlined, “Obama Begins Push for New National Retirement System.” The linked article, based on a hearing way back in 2010, claimed the Obama Administration had begun an effort “to nationalize the nation’s pension system and to eliminate private retirement accounts including IRA’s and 401k plans.” But years ago, when the accusation was first hurled by the conservative National Seniors Council, Factcheck.org showed it to be false.

If Neville were a signer of the Fake News Pledge, it would be within the guidelines for him to post both the global warming and retirement items, but he’d have to explain why he did so, since his posts were found to be false by an independent arbiters listed in the pledge.

“I don’t put a lot of faith in Snopes,” Neville told me. “I used to rely on Snopes, and too often I would find that Snopes was incorrect.”

Is there any group of arbiters that the left and right could agree on? I’ve asked conservatives on Twitter and elsewhere to edit the Fake News Pledge to make it acceptable to them. None has responded.

“My point is, people have a responsibility [to think about information],” said Neville. “They read something. They can challenge it. They can argue.”

Neville said people should get news from a variety of sources.

“I don’t expect people to act and react on something I might post any more than I would act or react on something they might post,” he said. “We’re not experts. We put information out there. A lot of times, it reflects opinion. Sometimes a news source might let you down. I think they’ve all kind of let us down over the last few years, the last year in particular.”

“To me, each individual has to be the arbiter,” he continued. “And my hope is, those who are involved in journalism, it’s their profession, I hope they take it seriously. Sometimes they do and sometimes they don’t. That’s what we have to work with.”

Asked if he would delete something from Facebook, if he thought it was wrong, based on his own preferred sources, whatever they are, Neville said, “Yes, you take a look at it. You try to get more information out. And you try to follow up with something else, which is what you would do.”

“Call me and let me know,” he said.