Archive for the 'Colorado State Legislature' Category

Whose gold-plated spoon is feeding The Denver Post?

Tuesday, March 8th, 2016

The Denver Post is an outfit that likes to think of itself as standing up for everyday people, who rightfully worry about the ways the rich take advantage of government loopholes to get richer, while most people are left treading water and wishing politicians would stand up for them.

Yet, when Democrats in the state House pass a bill that moves the fairness needle toward working families, The Post decides to misrepresent their efforts so egregiously you wonder whose gold-plated spoon is feeding the newspaper’s editorial board such nonsense.

The Democrats’ bill, which passed the House along party lines Monday, would simply stop Colorado companies from hiding profits in well-known overseas tax havens, like the Cayman Islands. And the millions of dollars of tax revenue recovered would go to schools–which are the starting point for economic opportunity in America.

The bill would actually help level the playing field for businesses that play by the rules, which is the vast majority of them, by making sure their competitors pay the same tax they do.

Yet, somehow, The Post found a way to turn legislation that’s about basic fairness into an albatross on Colorado business, even saying the legislation would threaten Colorado jobs.

The Post thumped it chest and declared that  “not even longtime Democratic strongholds like California and New York have such laws. Indeed, California held hearings on the idea a few years ago and declined to go further.”

That’s because the same special interests that want to kill the bill here in Colorado did so successfully in New York and California.

But what The Post didn’t tell you is that the bill actually factually passed in Montana and Oregon, with bipartisan support.

That’s bipartisan support from lawmakers who decided to do something about one of the most blatant tax loopholes enjoyed by businesses who line their pockets by flouting tax laws.

Maybe a taxpayer’s miracle will strike, and The Post will change its opinion. This might convince state senate Republicans to pass it. As of now, they’re expected to kill the Democrats’ proposed law, because, it seems, they’re listening to the same special interests who successfully pedaled their greed to The Post.

The GOP’s Evolutionary Opposition to the Hospital-Provider Fee

Monday, March 7th, 2016

If you’re a journalist or even a blogger, you love to point out evolutionary explanations by politicians for taking a political stance. Inconsistencies, when one politician’s statement one day contradicts what she said previously, are better, but changing justifications for taking a political position are a close second on the hypocrisy scale, because they’re a likely indicator that politicians have ulterior motives, which they’re struggling to hide by trying to come up with a false explanation that makes sense.

So here’s a brief history of GOP lawmakers’ explanations for their opposition to the hospital-provider fee, first, and then, later, for their opposition to turning it into a Tabor-defined enterprise zone, which would free up about $370 million for highways, schools, and other government projects that lack funding.

It would increase the federal deficit. Back in 2009, when Democrats first proposed tapping federal funds to expand Medicaid to cover more low-income children and others, Republicans didn’t say they were opposed to helping the kids and the poor. They worried about increasing the federal deficit.

It would run up medical expenses that would be shifted to non-Medicaid patients. Back in 2009, in addition to the deficit, Republicans fretted about whether hospitals could pass on the Medicaid costs to upstanding insured people, despite a lack of evidence over how they could do this. If anything, the fee helped offset a shift that was burdening insured people.

It would burden working families. “It’s only to expand government and to expand an entitlement program one more time,” Rep. Frank McNulty, R-Highlands Ranch, told The Denver Post in 2009. “It’s simply a shell game where the governor is shifting cost to working families who are already struggling to pay their bills.” No evidence of how the alleged shift would affect working families emerged–other than the amorphous worry that the federal government might stop paying its share.

Between 209 and this year, after the hospital provider fee was in place and helping hundreds of thousands of actual factual poor people, Colorado Republicans continued to try to repeal it, but their venom toward the fee didn’t really emerge again until the last couple years, when Democrats tried to re-define the fee under TABOR, as a small step toward addressing the state’s budget woes.

First, they argued that the Democrats plan was unconstitutional. But GOP Attorney General Cynthia Coffman thought otherwise, ruling that the Dem plan meets constitutional muster.

Then they tried to destract reporters by saying Obamacare is the cause our budget problems, which it isn’t.

Then Republicans argued that the TABOR enterprise would require “rebasing” the budget, which would eliminate the availability of money for schools, roads, etc. But The Denver Post eviscerated this argument over the weekend, writing:

“The current TABOR threshold, which is adjusted every year based on population and inflation, was established in fiscal 2007-08, before the hospital fee was enacted. That fee came on in 2009.

In other words, the spending limit would be the same today if the hospital fee had never existed, or if it had been created as a separate enterprise right at the outset.”

So here we are on Monday, another new week and you wonder what’s next. Will the evolutionary explanations continue? You have to think Republicans will come up with something new, given the history, which points to an ideological opposition any growth in government spending, no matter how the spending is paid for.

That’s an honest position but it requires an explanation of how Colorado pays for roads, schools, medical care for the poor and disabled, and more. Should government stop funding these things or cut back. And if not, how to fund them?


On Facebook, County GOP chair says taking down confederate flag is bowing to “leftist, racist political correctness”

Monday, February 29th, 2016

Trump won in South Carolina because GOP primary voters were angry at establishment Republicans for “submitting to the leftist, racist political correctness and removing the confederate flag without discussion,” according to Anil Mathai, the chair of the Adams County Republican Party.

Mathai: “People are totally missing what happened tonight in South Carolina,” wrote Mathai in an analysis on Facebook. “It doesn’t make sense at all but, wait, it does. It wasn’t about Trump. The Republicans of South Carolina rejected Nikki Haley, Sen. Tim Scott, Sen. Lindsay Graham, and Congressman Trey Gowdy. Why? Because they all endorsed the establishment candidate Rubio, but what’s worse? A few months ago they sold the people of South Carolina out by immediately submitting  to the leftist, racist political correctness and removing the confederate flag without discussion. They cursed out the conservative base in South Carolina by listening to the leftists and tonight the base returned the favor. This wasn’t about Trump. It was about establishment Republican control of once popular but now loser politicians in South Carolina. Tonight, Haley, Scott, Graham, and Gowdy (with Rubio) are urinating in their pants as their time in office is coming to a close really soon! You turn on your constitution loving, Republican platform supporting base, and you will pay a price. Trump and Cruz rode the wave.”

Gov. Nikki Haley signed a law in July, 2015, removing the confederate flag from the SC state capitol, after a massacre at nine black churches in Charleston. The flag’s presence had obviously long been a source of conflict there and nationally prior to last year.

Mathai did not return a call for comment on the Feb. 20 post on the Colorado Tea Party page. He also discussed on conservative talk radio in less stark language.

But by referring to arguments for the removal of the confederate flag as “leftist, racist political correctness,” it appears that Mathai himself sides with those in South Carolina who opposed the removal of the confederate flag.

The Colorado Republican Party has apparently not taken a position one way or the other on the confederate flag, but county chairs like Mathai, elected by fellow Republicans, are free to take positions on issues as long as they don’t endorse candidates in a primary. In his radio interview and Facebook post, Mathai did not endorse a presidential candidate.

Last year, liberals accused Adams County Republican Vice Chair John Sampson of posting racist comments on Facebook, but Sampson said he judges people based on their character, not skin color or anything else.

Key swing state races will take place in Adams country in November.


State senator’s anti-choice record may lead to the end of divided government in Colorado

Thursday, February 25th, 2016

Choice issues will continue to impregnate political discourse as we head toward November for the simple reason that women, a huge swing voting bloc in Colorado, care about candidates’ positions on abortion. Of course they do. That’s common sense.

Yet, you still hear anti-choice conservatives saying how insulted they are by progressives who talk about choice, because somehow they think it means progressives don’t think women care about the economy, the environment, etc. Women obviously care about those things too. But also, choice–which is often less muddled, in terms of where candidates stand, and therefore defines a candidate more than other issues.

And choice issues could prove decisive in the senate district that will likely determine if Democrats control Colorado’s government after November. That would be the seat held by anti-choice state Sen. Laura Woods (R-Westminster).

You can read more details in RH Reality Check, but, briefly, Woods isn’t following the mold of Colorado Sen. Cory Gardner. He completely denied his co-sponsorship of a personhood abortion-ban bill in an effort to win over state-wide voters, who pretty much mirror the voters in Woods’ swing district, evenly divided among Democrats, Republicans, and unaffiliateds.

Woods is sticking to her conservative principles, as she puts it. After openly embracing Dudley Brown’s vision of America, including personhood, 1) during her 2014 primary, 2) during her 2014 general election campaign, and 3) during her first year in office, Woods is 4) again sponsoring a personhood bill this election year–along with a bill requiring women to be offered an ultrasound prior to having an abortion (and also to wait 24 hours).

Last week, Woods’ Democratic opponent, Rachel Zenzinger, wrote on Facebook that after last year’s Planned Parenthood massacre, Woods was, in Zenzinger’s words, “advocating for this kind of [clinic] violence.” Woods responded on Twitter by condemning the clinic attack and all violence, but, as someone pointed out on Twitter, it took Woods 83 days to do this. And to this day, she’s never explained the timing or meaning of her Facebook post, which was supportive terrorism to fight injustice. No one would argue that war or revolution are sometimes justified, but in the wake of the clinic shooting, Woods’ post made it appear like she supported the shooter–especially because she didn’t comment on the attack.

Political junkies agree that the odds are against Woods winning the Jeffco seat during a presidential election year, in a district she won by only about 650 votes in the 2014 GOP wave year. And, you’d also have to think that the women who didn’t vote in 2014, but turn out this year, will likely to pay attention to Woods’ positions on abortion and birth control.

“If you’ve looked at my voting record at all, what you will know is, I’m an independent thinker,” Woods told The Post Jan. 10. “…I bucked my leadership, I bucked the party, I bucked the caucus … if it didn’t line up with my principles or my district.”

But repeated polls, and common sense, say the swing voters in her district disagree with her on choice.

Woods names Trump as a favorite prez candidate

Monday, February 22nd, 2016

As Trump surges, reporters should tell us about the support, or lack thereof, the magnate gets from local Republican muckety mucks.

We’ve seen coverage of politicos lining up for Clinton (Hick), Cruz (Buck), Rubio (Gardner), Sanders (Salazar), and others. And the Colorado Statesman has reported that top U.S. Senate and congressional candidates in Colorado will support their party’s nominee.

But there’s one Colorado Republican who’s openly saying Trump is one of her two top presidential candidates.

That would be State Sen. Laura Woods (R-Westminster), whose November election will likely determine whether Democrats control Colorado state government next year.

On the radio last month, Woods named Trump as one of her two favorite candidates.

Here’s what Woods had to say about Trump on KNUS 710-AM’s Saturday morning show, hosted by Chuck Bonniwell and Fox 31 Denver’s Julie Hayden:

BONNIWELL:  Well, have you decided who you like in the primaries – the Republican primaries for president?

WOODS:  For president. I have narrowed the field –.  You know, I attended the debate in Boulder, and it really helped me to see that anyone of these up on that stage would be better than the 3 running on the other side of the ticket.   […]  So, I at least wrapped my mind around the fact that, you know, — whichever Republican gets the nod, I will vote for that Republican. But my favorites are Ted Cruz and Donald Trump.

BONNIWELL:  Yeah! Those are mine to.  That’s who I like, too.

HAYDEN: That’s everybody’s favorites when you get right down to it. Well, not everybody’s, but….

Let’s be clear that Trump has vocal supporters in Colorado, like KNUS 710-AM’s Peter Boyles, and other notorious vocalists on conservative talk radio. But Woods stands out among folks who can be held accountable by voters for what they do or say.

Listen here to Woods on KNUS Jan. 16.

Animosity-filled people blaming Medicaid for Colorado budget woes are wrong–again

Friday, February 19th, 2016

Colorado Springs’ Republican Mayor John Suthers told the Colorado Springs Gazette Tuesday that turning the hospital provider fee into a TABOR-defined enterprise would be “by far the easiest, least painful solution for the taxpayers” to address Colorado’s budget woes.

But in his interview with Schrader, Suthers repeats the misinformation that Obamacare’s expansion of Colorado’s Medicaid program, which provides health care to the poor, is eating up state money now.

Suthers: “A lot of the animosity surrounding this goes back to the fact that they are saying look if we didn’t participate in the Medicaid expansion we wouldn’t need all this money, and the provider fee was basically a means to pay for the expansion. I understand all of that, but having the provider fee in the TABOR calculation is going to create immense problems going forward. It’s just going to get bigger and bigger and bigger and if you don’t take it out I don’t know what’s going to happen.”

The animosity-filled people who told Suthers that Colorado “wouldn’t need all this money” if it weren’t for Obamacare’s Medicaid expansion are actually factually wrong.

Colorado’s Medicaid expansion has so far cost Colorado nothing (Here at page 26). It’s been 100 percent paid for by the federal government, which will slide down to paying 90 percent of the costs by 2020.

Next year, Colorado will contribute about $41 million toward covering Obamacare’s new Medicaid enrollees. If Colorado were paying the full 1o percent now, the state would contribute $142 million. And Suthers is correct that the Hospital Provider Fee, which is used to cover various health care services for poor people who can’t afford them, is earmarked to pay for this.

But $41 million is a fraction of the $768 million projected to be collected by the Hospital provider fee next year. Next year’s state contribution to covering Obamacare’s Medicaid enrollees, which looks to be on the order of $75 million, is still a fraction of the HPF money collected. So the HPF appears to be a solid source of funds for covering Colorado’s contibution to Obamacare’s Medicaid expansion.

The people, mentioned by Suthers, who have all the animosity about the hospital provider fee should explain how they’d fund basic health care programs for elderly, disabled, and other poor people without it. And, for that matter, how they’d pay for state government with it, if it’s not removed from the TABOR framework and $370 million in tax dollars is refunded to you and me.

CLARIFICATION: I updated this post to clarify that the HPF funds health care in Colorado, not other government programs.

Neville joins GOP Medicaid misinformation frenzy

Thursday, February 18th, 2016

Republicans have been blaming Obamacare’s expansion of Medicaid, the state-federal health care program for the poor, for Colorado’s budget woes—even though the Obamacare expansion of Medicaid didn’t cost Colorado anything.

State Sen. Tim Neville, who’s leading a pack of Republicans vying for the chance to unseat Democratic Sen. Michael Bennet, jumped on the baseless Medicaid-bashing bandwagon in a Jan. 4 interview with the “Americhicks,” Molly Vogt and Kim Munson, on KLZ 560-AM.

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.

Not only is this false, but it’s really mean, as it pits everything else the government is struggling to pay for (roads, schools, etc.) against funds for the (mostly) working poor, especially those undeserving old and disabled people.

Maybe Neville really meant that he thinks Medicaid is costing the state too much—which, again, would have nothing to do with Obamacare. The program’s costs are increasing, but less than in previous years, due to the growing numbers of elderly and disabled people who are enrolled.

If he’s worried about Medicaid costs, Neville should explain how he wants to “re-prioritize” government, as he put it, and specifically how he’d cut Medicaid or alter it. Neville is known to be unafraid of expressing his Tea Party views, but I can’t find any explanation from him on this one.

I don’t think Neville would follow the lead of GOP Sen. President Bill Cadman, who declined to explain how he’d change Medicaid but, instead, he actually told a reporter to put the question to Democratic Speaker of the state House, Dickey Lee Hullinghorst, even though she’s never suggested cutting Medicaid, as Cadman essentially did last month.

Maybe the Americhicks, who take personal responsibility seriously, will have Neville back on their show—or even land Cadman—and extract some specifics about their Medicaid plans. And, while they’re at it, everyone would love to hear a detail or two on how they’d like to shore up Colorado’s budget.

Fact Check: Medicaid expansion under Obamacare is not responsible for Colorado budget woes

Thursday, February 11th, 2016

A key component of Obamcare is to reduce the number of uninsured  by allowing more people to qualify for Medicaid, the federal-state health care program for low-income people. In Colorado, some 300,000 people enrolled in Medicaid as part of Obamcare–and the federal government picked up the tab.

But that fact didn’t stop Senate President Bill Cadman (R-Colorado Springs) from joining conservative Jon Caldara Monday in blaming Colorado’s Medicaid expansion under Obamacare for Colorado’s budget woes.

Caldara (at 2 min 30 seconds): In the last few years…Medicaid enrollment has gone up 350 percent. Do I have that right?

Cadman: Absolutely.

Caldara: And because of that, it’s squeezing out other things. [Emphasis added]

Cadman: Yes, Yes… we do have one program that has grown 350 percent in that same amount of time, and if you look back just one year ago, the growth was only 280 percent. So think of the growth in just the last year. And at the peak, about a year and a half ago, we were adding about 14,000 people per month to this program. And you can call this an offshoot of Obamacare, because that’s really what it is.

Why Cadman gave the eager “yes, yes” to Caldara is a mystery because Obamacare isn’t “squeezing out other things.”

While it’s true that Colorado’s Medicaid costs are increasing, though by less than in previous years, the reason, as I expalin here, is mostly due to the costs of caring for the growing numbers of elderly and disabled people.

Cadman’s baseless scapegoating of Obamacare is echoed in the official Twitter feed of the Colorado State Republicans.

Colorado Senate GOP (@ColoSenGOP) sent out this tweet, 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”

Cadman repeatedly talks, vaguely, as if Colorado is footing the full bill for the Obamacare expansion of Colorado Medicaid. In a 9News interview last month, Cadman stated that “we added nearly $300 million to [the Medicaid] program in Health and Human Services last year. The year before that, we added $250 million to that program. The year before that, we added another $250 million.”

If the “we” he refers to is Colorado, which is likely because he also talked about how Medicaid was squeezing out other state programs, then he’s again got his numbers wrong. Here are the actual increases in Colorado’s contribution to Medicaid  the past few years.

Notice that the increases actually went down the past two years–contrary to the Cadman’s implication in multiple interviews.

FY10-11 – $128 million
FY11-12 – $420 million
FY12-13 – $154 ,million
FY13-14 – $214 million
FY14-15 – $285 million
FY15-16 – $155 million
FY16-17 Request – $136 million

Again, these increases have nothing to do with Obamacare, but they are real increases, mostly due to serving growing numbers of old and disabled people, that the legislature has to deal with, along with other funding needs, like roads, K-12 education, and higher education. And, oh, there’s next year’s projected budget shortfall of about $250 million.

Yet, in multiple interviews, Cadman blames Medicaid for budget shortfalls, telling 9News, for example:

Cadman: “We have the money” but Medicaid is “demanding literally every dollar that could have been spent on virtually everything else.”

Literally every dollar!

So Cadman is, either intentionally or unintentionally, using misinformation about Medicaid to dodge questions about how to fund (or cut) state priorities.

Bottom line: If Cadman were doing his job, rather than blaming Obamacare or Medicaid, he’d be telling reporters what real-life option, or combination of them, he advocates for dealing with Colorado’s budget woes. (Cadman’s office did not offer a comment to me.)

One option, among others, is to turn the hospital provider fee into an TABOR-defined enterprise, freeing up about $370 million in TABOR rebates for state programs. Another option is to lay out specific budget cuts, including Medicaid cuts. Others would require voter approval, like a TABOR timeout or a tax increases. Cadman could advocate for an increase in government fees, including an increase in Medicaid co-pays, an idea floated by Cadman.

And there are other options, from the left and right, but whatever they are, the budget problems Colorado faces are not caused by Obamacare.

The missing follow-up question: Are Republicans proposing to cut Medicaid?

Wednesday, February 10th, 2016

Colorado Senate President Bill Cadman (R-Colorado Springs) told 9News political reporter Brandon Rittiman last month that Medicaid spending is siphoning money from “every other program,” including schools and roads.

As he told 9News political reporter Brandon Rittiman:

Cadman: “[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.

Cadman and other Republicans have made similar statements in multiple interviews.

The missing follow-up question in all these interviews is, does he propose to cut Medicaid? It sounds a lot like he is, but he doesn’t say so directly.

Cadman: “What I am suggesting is, when you have something that is supposed to be the safety net, you should protect it for those who need it the most,” Cadman told Rittiman, when asked if he wanted to eliminate Medicaid. “And if you grow it beyond that, and you are creating a program that is, one, cannibalizing the other programs and, two, has no funding source, you are creating a conflict.”

So, clearly, reporters should ask Cadman, whose spokesman did not provide a comment to me, if he thinks Medicaid, has grown beyond the “safety net” it’s “supposed to be.”

If he thinks so, he could, for example, advocate changing the formula for qualifying for the Medicaid. Currently, to be eligible for Colorado’s Medicaid program, families of four must make less than about $32,000 a year and individuals less than $16,000. Over a million people are enrolled state-wide. Keep in mind that about 75 percent of people who receive Medicaid are working already.

But before anyone starts throwing poor people off Medicaid, as Cadman seems to be proposing, or charging them more, he should be clear that the driving force behind the growing state costs of Medicaid aren’t coming from adding new people to the program.

About 300,000 people were added to Colorado’s Medicaid program under Obamacare, but 100 percent  of their coverage was picked up by the federal government (which gradually decreases to 90 percent in 2022). With exceptions for children, the cost of non-Obamacare Medicaid is split evenly between the state and the feds.

But even with the feds covering most (but not all) new enrollees, the cost of Medicaid to the state is increasing, by $136 million in this year’s budget proposal and $155 million last year.

Why? It’s largely due to the growing numbers of elderly and disabled people enrolled in Medicaid, who are expensive to take care of, according to Rich Jones Director of Policy and Research at the Bell Policy Center. The two cost drivers feed each other because, as you’d expect, the more elderly you have the more disabled people you eventually get.

Jones points to state data showing that about 82 percent of the proposed $102.8 million increase in state funding for Medicaid premiums (a subset of this year’s $136 million increase) is going to people with disabilities and the elderly.

In the current year, Jones points out, 12 percent of the people enrolled in Colorado’s Medicaid program were elderly and disabled, but they accounted for 42 percent of the costs of the program. Last year, it was 11 percent of enrollees and 40 percent of the costs. Covering the elderly and disabled under Medicaid requires seven times more funding than covering a child and three to four times more than an adult.

“I think this shows that our aging population and the cost of long-term care is a key factor driving the Medicaid budget,” said Jones. “A lot of these folks are middle class seniors who have spent down their assets and must rely on Medicaid to cover their long-term care costs.”

So an efficient way for Cadman to cut Medicaid might be to somehow cut down on the specific people, the elderly and disabled, who are the root cause of the program’s increasing costs.

I’m joking of course. Cadman wouldn’t want to do this.

But, seriously, what would he cut?

Here’s more of Cadman’s interview on 9News’ Balance of Power Jan. 17, 2016.

Cadman: We have the money. We have, again, a record budget. The reality is, where is it being spent? And what has never been discussed, what doesn’t get brought up, what you don’t hear in the State of the State speech [by Gov. John Hickenlooper] is, by the way, we added nearly $300 million to a program in Health and Human Services last year. The year before that, we added $250 million to that program. The year before that, we added another $250 million. And this goes back to when Gov. Ritter was here. Gov. Hickenlooper has picked up the mantel. They 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. We’ve come to the table year after year after year, and I’ve been here a while, and I still have the notes of over ten years of saying, ‘Here’s how we can start managing some of the growth in this program while we’re helping to prioritize funds for other programs. It’s completely fallen on deaf ears. We’re always at the table.

Rittiman: Are you talking about Medicaid?

Cadman: We’re talking about Medicaid and the expansion of Medicaid, and all the subsequent programs in it. And it’s a big complicated issue, but it is demanding literally every dollar that could have been spend on virtually everything else. And when you share that with people, and the history, and you show them how the money’s been spent, everyone’s always in shock, because it’s always been used and it’s never being talked about.

Rittiman: Are you suggesting getting rid of Medicaid?

Cadman: Nope. I’m not suggesting getting rid of Medicaid. But what I am suggesting is, when you have something that is supposed to be the safety net, you should protect it for those who need it the most. And if you grow it beyond that, and you are creating a program that is, one, cannibalizing the other programs and, two, has no funding source, you are creating a conflict. And as soon as you have that, you can promote a crisis. That’s exactly what’s been happening.

Rittiman: How do you change that?..

Cadman: The math of growing this program with no borders has never worked, but the chose to grow it anyway. So maybe that’s a great question to go back to the speaker [of the state House, Democrat Dickey Lee Hullinghorst] and say, ‘Why have you supported this knowing it’s doing this to the budget, since you’ve been here, I believe this is her eighth year.’

GOP Candidate Won’t Delete Commenter’s Facebook “Wish” that Planned Parenthood Facilities Be Blown Up

Monday, February 8th, 2016

Two sort-of prominent Colorado Republicans are apparently refusing to delete offensive comments on their Facebook pages.

Here are the comments, written by commenters on the Facebook pages of Sate Rep. State Rep. Stephen Humphrey (R-Severence) and Denver congressional candidate Casper Stockham.

In response to an article, posted by Humphrey on his Facebook page, in which Democratic House Speaker Dickey Lee Hullinghorst (D-Boulder) criticizes anti-choice “ideologues,” one commenter, Daniel Lanotte, wrote, “Just think where we would be now if Speaker Hullinghorst’s mother had chosen the Speaker’s solution.”

A comment on Stockham’s Facebook page, written in response to an article with the headline,”Breaking: Grand Jury Indicts pro-life investigator behind baby parts video; clears Planned Parenthood,” “Who the hell is this judge that determined this? I’m so angry at Planned Parenthood right now. I wish someone would just blow up their facilities.”

Stockham tells me he doesn’t have time to delete “stupid” stuff from his Facebook page, though he did have time to write comments in the same thread where the blow-up-Planned-Parenthood wish appears.

Humphrey, who introduced a bill last month in the legislature banning all abortion in Colorado, even for rape and incest, hasn’t deleted the Hullinghorst insult, since I told him about it in a voice mail Thursday. (But the commenter himself, David Lanotte, says he was intending only to express his opposition to abortion, not insult Hullinghorst. Lanotte said, “I was not saying that I wish she were aborted.”)

For an RH Reality Check post on the topic today, I asked an expert whether politicians and candidates are responsible for such comments on their Facebook pages. An this has relevance for reporters covering these types of issues.

“When you look at the sheer volume of what people put on Facebook, it’s unrealistic to expect staff or candidates to keep up with it,” said Boise State Associate Professor  Justin Vaughn, author of Controlling the Message: New Media in American Political Campaigns. “They might be getting thousands of comments. Unless we know there’s active support, we should be cautious about inferring that inaction means tacit support.”

But Vaughn said the expectation could be different if a politician knows about the comment or actively promotes it, by retweeting a tweet on Twitter or ‘liking’ a post on Facebook.”

“If the campaign is made aware of an offensive comment and refuses to take action, that’s another story,” said Vaughn.

Vaughn said there could be a political expectation that a candidate will use “certain moments to communicate with the electorate about the limits of political discourse.”

He pointed to a 2008 presidential debate when Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) corrected a questioner’s assertion that then Sen. Barack Obama was a  Sen. Barack Obama was a untrustworthy Arab.