Archive for the 'Colorado 3rd Cong. District' Category

What did Tipton campaign tell the Colorado Observer?

Tuesday, April 17th, 2012

I’m going to name three political figures, and you tell me how they became embroiled in mini-media frenzies over digitally altered images or websites.

Marc Holtzman

Scott McInnis

Andrew Romanoff

Here are the answers: GOP gubernatorial candidate Marc Holtzman’s photo was altered in 2006 to make him look taller than Reagan. GOP gubernatorial candidate McInnis’ 2009 website portrayed the Canadian Rockies as our own. And Romanoff doctored a photo on his 2010 Senate campaign website to make a crowd look more diverse.

If you got any of the right answers, and you should have, it’s because of all the media attention they got in Denver.

And deservedly so. Maybe they aren’t the biggest deal in the world, in the mix of all the ways political candidates are polished and handled, but digital alterations are tangible acts that can get real people, none of whom read this blog, thinking about politics and the real issues involved.

Same with expensive hair and mustache cuts by candidates.

Such an opportunity presents itself today, in an article broken by the Colorado Independent, a progressive news site

It reported yesterday that the Colorado Observer, a conservative website, posted a story Saturday with the following quote from Rep. Scott Tipton’s campaign Manager, Michael Fortney:

“With gas prices doubled, the national debt doubled, and unemployment has barely moved, we feel good.”

Then, after the Washington Post spotlighted the Fortney quote, it was changed on the Observer website to:

“Voters in the 3rd District are rejecting Obama’s policies that have led to gas prices doubling, the national debt doubled, and unemployment has barely moved. We feel good about our chances.”

Fortney told The Post that the Observer originally quoted him out of context. He told The Denver Post:

“I was not out talking to him about policies,” Fortney said this morning. “I was talking to him about electoral prospects, how the campaign was going to go in 2012 … Scott is voting for a budget that will rein in the deficit, rein in high gas prices.”

Fortney told The Post that the phase “about our chances” had been left out of the Observer article, and as you can see, it was  added to the Observer’s corrected quotation, along with other changes.

So what’s up with the Observer? What exactly did Fortney say? How did the changes to the quote come to pass?

I can hear skeptics, two of which read this blog, saying that the fact that the Observer changed the quote, and not the Tipton campaign, lessens the news value of this story.

But we’re talking about the Observer, a right-leaning entity, here. If The Denver Post had changed or altered a quote, the political significance would not be the same (and a correction would have been written). As it is, there could be more to this story than meets the eye.

The Observer remains mum about the incident. The Colorado Independent reports that it did not return e-mails, and its website provides no enlightenment.

I was able to reach Observer Valerie Richardson, who told me:

“I’ve got to tell you, I was completely out of the loop on that,” she said I hear. “It wasn’t my story. I probably know as much as you do, if not less. Max would be the one to ask.”

She was referring to Mac Zimmerman, who’s listed as the copyright agent for the site. He did not respond to my email seeking comment. He’s in Malaysia, Richardson told me, but she had been in touch with him via email an hour before I tried. I wanted to confirm that he is the former chief of staff for Josh Penry and worked for Tom Tancredo, but I haven’t heard back from him.

More local reporters at the legacy news outlets should cover this story, and try to get an answer from the Observer on what happened and why. What’s the relationship between the Observer and Tipton?

This is the kind of political story that sheds light on how political campaigns operate nowadays.

Reporters should correct Tipton’s facts when he claims that Obamacare cuts $500 billion from Medicare and hurts seniors

Friday, March 16th, 2012

This got lost on my to-do list, but even if it’s late, and not exactly a new topic, I’m gonna write a quick blog post about Rep. Scott Tipton’s statement, paraphrased in the Pueblo Chieftain last month, that Obamacare’s “target of shrinking future Medicare costs by $500 billion over a decade would ultimately mean the government denying senior citizens needed medical services.”

Numerous fact checkers have shown this to be false.

For example, Pulitzer-Prize winning Politifact reported June 15, 2011:

Also, the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, tagged Obamacare by critics, doesn’t eliminate benefits.

Indeed, portions of the law improve benefits and coverage, according to Tricia Neuman, director of the Medicare Policy Project at the Kaiser Family Foundation, a nonpartisan, nonprofit health care research organization. Medicare will cover more preventive health care services, such as wellness visits, and recipients won’t face the “doughnut hole” gap in prescription coverage imposed under an existing Medicare program.

Other provisions reduce the growth in Medicare spending by helping the program operate more efficiently and fund other coverage expansions to the uninsured. Other provisions are designed to improve the delivery of care and quality of care, Neuman has said.

In another article, Politifact found the statement, “The new health care law ‘will cut $500 billion from Medicare. That will hurt the quality of our care,’ ” to be deep in its “Mostly false” category, which is as deeply false as its ratings go.

Fact checkers at the Washington Post also found that the $500 billion is saved in Medicare efficiences which are “wrung from health-care providers, not Medicare beneficiaries.”

In last month’s article, that I quoted above, The Chieftain did not report that Tipton’s statement about Medicare cuts under Obamacare was false.

But in the past, to its credit, it has put the number in context, showing different ways journalists deal with the misleading use of the $500-billion figure.

Oct. 29, 2010, the Chieftain reported:

“…[Tipton]  repeated his charge that Salazar and Democrats want to cut $500 billion from Medicare — a cut that Tipton said would hurt seniors. That part of the legislation calls for reducing the growth in Medicare expenses by $500 billion over 10 years by eliminating fraud and waste.

Oct. 7, 2010, the Chieftain reported:

Tipton has shot back, accusing Salazar of supporting a $500 billion cut in Medicare — a reference to the Democratic health care legislation that requires the future growth in Medicare expenses to be reduced by $500 billion over 10 years. A reduction in future growth is not a cut in the current Medicare program.

This kind of reporting  is more fair than letting Tipton’s allegations hang unchallenged. But journalists should also include the fact that benefits under Medicare will not be affected.

Here’s another way Chieftain reporter Peter Roper, who wrote all the articles I cite in this blog post, dealt with the $500-billion figure. This actually might be the best approach journalistically, because it focuses on what Republicans themselves have said. But it requires more space than a simple fact check.

On June 28, 2011, the Chieftain pointed out that Republicans first ridiculed the $500 billion figure as being imaginary, and then they switched course and declared that it was a real cut that would hurt seniors.

In an article about a Democratic ad targeting Tipton, the Chieftain reported:

[Tipton] reached back to the 2010 election debate over health care, noting that the Obama administration was touting cutting future Medicare costs by $500 billion over a decade.

At the time, Republicans scoffed that such savings were imaginary in the Democratic legislation intended to broaden health care coverage.

“The Democrats ended Medicare as we know it when they cut $500 billion from it,” Tipton said in a statement sent to reporters Monday.

Aug. 26, 2011, the Chieftain similarly reported:

Two years ago, Republicans ridiculed President Barack Obama’s health care legislation for claiming it would lower the deficit by reducing future Medicare expenses by $500 billion over time. Now they’ve embraced that number as a Democratic cut in the popular health insurance program for seniors… “(Democrats) took $500 billion from Medicare,” Tipton replied…

You want reporters to correct any factual errors in quotations that appear in their work. This is not always practical, unfortunately, for reporters these days.

But when reporting statements that are obviously politically charged, and are easily found to be false or lacking in context, reporters should set the record straight. Tipton’s allegation about Medicare falls into this category.

The $500-billion figure will almost certainly come up again, and when it does, given the sensitivity of the issues involved, it’s only fair for reporters to present a factual statement about the issue, and/or to ask Tipton to provide proof for his allegations about Medicare.

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.

Romney slammed for heartlessness about “very poor,” but what about people like Coffman who think Medicaid expansion is “very radical?”

Monday, February 6th, 2012

Even people like Colorado Sen. Greg Brophy, who’s told me he’s willing to put the health, and even lives, of poverty-stricken kids at risk by charging more for state health insurance,  says it’s hard to decide what to do about Medicaid, given the complexities involved and the struggles of the poor, especially kids.

That’s the tenor of the debate about cutting Medicaid in Colorado. It’s not like the Republicans want to do it, we read in the media, because they know that cutting money for poor people can cause hardship, sickness, and even death.

But there’s a budget problem (assuming we don’t want to raise taxes on the vulnerable 1 percent) and, besides, skin should be inserted in the game.

When Mitt Romney changes the tone of the conversation about poverty, and says brazenly, “I’m not concerned about the very poor,” that’s news.

And rightly so, because in America, we’re supposed to care about each other, and our country is supposed to provide basic opportunity for everyone, right? And, as the debate about Medicaid shows, no one’s saying, let the poor get sick and die.

But what about proposals to expand Medicaid? These proposals save lives, yet politicians go around trashing the Medicaid-expansion aspects of Obamacare day in and day out, with near media immunity, as if saving poverty-stricken Americans from sickness and death is so outrageous.

You don’t have to search very hard to find examples, but I’ll use one from Rep. Mike Coffman, who, as I’ve written, deserves more media scrutiny now that he’s in a competitive district.

Coffman told Mike Rosen during the debate on health care that “there are some very radical elements to [Obamacare] such as the expansion of Medicaid, a government run healthcare program.”

Very radical elements? Sounds like communists are hiding in the bill, but Rosen treated the statement like normal air.

It turns out that, from perspective of anyone who is concerned about the very poor, Republicans and Democrats alike, the Medicaid expansion in Obamacare isn’t so radical.

It sets a national standard for Medicaid eligibility at 133 percent of the poverty level, which amounts to about $30,000 for a family of four, according to Elisabeth Arenales, Health Program Director at Colorado Center for Law and Policy.

“Across the country, most people who are poor, if they are childless adults, unless they are disabled, don’t have access to Medicaid,” Arenales told me. “It’s setting a uniform framework.”

Very radical.

Arenales says the Medicaid expansion under Obmacare would also benefit early retirees, under age 65, who run into health problems.

As you can imagine, health insurance is expensive for people around 65, who have health problems. Under Obmacare, these retirees with very low incomes will be covered by Medicaid, Arenales said.

She points to another example of an early retiree whose kids are grown, gets cancer, exhausts COBRA, and spends all their money on treatment. Under Obamacare, these people get treated under Medicaid. It gives them an option.

“You see those stories,” Arenales said.

I’m not saying there shouldn’t be a debate about whether to cut or expand Medicaid, but my point is, why do we give the silent treatment to the Coffmans of the world who say Medicaid expansion is so radical, while a guy like Mitt Romney is slammed for making a similarly extreme statement that he’s “not concerned about the very poor.”

Why are reporters still not asking if 2010 personhood supporters, like Coffman and Gardner, will back it again?

Thursday, January 5th, 2012

Now that Colorado’s review board for ballot initiatives has approved the wording of the proposed personhood amendment, and the race is on to find enough signatures to put it on the November ballot, you wonder if more reporters will get around to asking the measure’s former supporters, like Rep. Mike Coffman, Rep. Cory Gardner, and Rep. Doug Lamborn, whether they will go for it again in 2012.

Given what happened to failed Colo Senate Candidate Ken Buck, who un-endorsed the personhood amendment shortly after he won the GOP Senate primary in 2010 and was attacked nonstop on abortion issues during his campaign, you’d think it would be a no brainer for reporters to address the serious politics of this issue, pick up the phone, and call those guys listed up there (Coffman, Gardner, and Lamborn).

But it looks as if only the Colorado Statesman has tried to reach them so far, and it did so back in November.

Coffman was out of town when the Statesman tried to reach him, Gardner did not return the Statesman’s call, and Lamborn said he’s a “supporter of personhood.”

A spokesman for Coffman told me Thursday that he’d check to find out what his boss’ current position on personhood is.

The Colorado Right to Life blog states that Coffman, during the 2010 election cycle, was “on record supporting Personhood and is on record as Pro-Life with no exceptions.”

I asked Colorado Right to Life Vice President Leslie Hanks how her organization knew that Coffman supported personhood two years ago.

“Our blog reports on our candidate survey results,” she emailed me. “Congressman Coffman answered all our questions correctly to reflect he is a no exceptions pro life elected official who supports the personhood of the baby in the womb.”

I asked what “no exceptions” means in the context of the survey, and she said, among other things, that abortion would not be allowed in the case of rape and incest.

“Babies are persons, not ‘exceptions,'” she emailed me. “No innocent baby should be punished for the crime of his or her father. If mom’s life is in danger, the doctor has two patients & he should make every effort to save both. BTW, five of the Republican prez candidates have signed the PH pledge, so Mike is in good company.”

I called Denver talk-show host anti-abortion activist Bob Enyart to find out if he’d spoken to Coffman about personhood.

“I’m not going to comment for him,” Enyart told me, adding that he had a conversation with Coffman at a convention, and it was “not a significant conversation.” He did not specify if they discussed personhood, but if you know Enyart, you have to think they did.

Gardner, whose office didn’t return my call, has been described by a leading personhood activist as a “main supporter,” and the Colorado Right to Life blog showers praise on him for being “100 percent pro-life.”

Colorado Right To Life describes Lamborn’s position this way: “Incumbent Republican Doug Lamborn has always been solid on life issues, and has co-sponsored Personhood legislation at the national level.”

Personhood USA Legal Analyst Gualberto Garcia Jones told me he has no reason to believe his initiative will receive less support this time around than in 2010.

“I think a majority them [major CO GOP candidates] supported us last time,” he said. “And most of them were elected. I think the highest profile ones, like Ken Buck, who did waver, were the ones that suffered because they still got punished by the Democrats, and they didn’t have the benefit of the support of the base.”

Garcia Jones told me he welcomes an expected lawsuit from Planned Parenthood, trying to disqualify the ballot measure, because it motivates his base of supporters. “The only real concern for us was the fatigue of the base, and we rely on the base to get signatures,” he said. “So a lawsuit actually helps us. We’re not upset at being sued.”

State Sen. Scott Renfroe, who’s sponsored personhood legislation at the Capitol during his political career, said he supports the efforts to pass the personhood amendment in 2012.

“It’s never wrong to support life,” he told me. “Science is showing more and more that life is present at the earliest stages. And we have to give it a chance to prosper in this country.”

Renfroe said he thinks a ballot initiative is the “proper place” to bring the issue up, as the state legislature should focus on “jobs and the economy.”

Asked whether he thought past personhood supporters, like Coffman and Gardner, would support the measure in 2012, Renfroe said, “I don’t know. You’d have to ask them.”

Politics should be focus of personhood coverage

Monday, November 21st, 2011

UPDATE: This blog post was corrected on 8-7-2-12. Scott Tipton did not support the personhood measure in 2010, as previously reported here.

———–

Another attempt at passing a personhood amendment, defining zygotes as people, would almost certainly fail if it makes the Colorado ballot next year, given that it’s gone down decisively twice in a row.

So journalists covering the announcement today by personhood backers that they are petitioning  to put the measure on the ballot shouldn’t get bogged down in the old questions of which forms of the Pill this amendment would ban. It’s well-known to Coloradans that common forms of birth control would be banned.

The focus for reporters should be the politics of having a personhood measure on the ballot in 2012, in a swing state like Colorado.

So I attended today’s news conference announcing the personhood petition drive to make sure these issues were raised by reporters, and since they were not, I filled in the journalistic gap.

I asked Kristi Brown, who’s changed her name from Kristi Burton since she sponsored the first personhood amendment with her father in 2008, if she expected to get the same support from major candidates that her measure had gotten previously.

Kristi Brown announces effort to put personhood on 2012 ballot

I mean, you can argue that without a Republican primary, GOP candidates like Mike Coffman and Cory Gardner might not endorse the 2012 measure, given its apparent unpopularity with voters, especially women.

“I haven’t personally talked to [Coffman and Gardner],” Brown told me.

“I know Cory Gardner is very conservative, has really good stands. I talked to him on the 2008 amendment. He was very, very supportive. He was one of our main supporters. So I would guess that he would.”

When she says a main supporter what does she mean?

“Very supportive,” she said. “He would come to events for us. He talked about it.”

Here’s Gardner at one personhood event.

Colorado Right to Life’s website lists Mike Coffman as a supporter of personhood 2010 as well, with the statement: “Incumbent Republican Mike Coffman is on record supporting Personhood and is on record as Pro-Life with no exceptions. However, he does not appear to have co-sponsored the Personhood legislation introduced in Congress. We hope that he would vote to support such legislation if he had the opportunity, as he has pledged.”

I asked Gualberto GarciaJones, who wrote this year’s amendment, which has more expansive and precise language than last year’s, if he thought presidential candidate Mitt Romney would support his amendment this time, given that he’s changed his position over the years. Garcia Jones said Romney is known as a flip flopper and that his group would persevere regardless of the positions of Democratic or Republican politicians. (No major Democrats support the effort, as far as I know, but Michele Bachman, Herman Cain, and Newt Gingrich back personhood, and it’s endorsed in a plank of the national GOP platform.

Asked if he thought he’d get Gardner on board for personhood this time, former gubernatorial candidate and “Generations Radio” host Kevin Swanson, said, “I think so,” adding that he hopes to get Democrats as well. (In his prepared remarks, Swanson repeated his view that said Dr. Suess summed up the amendment best when he wrote, “A person’s a person no matter how small.”)

“I think it’s real possible we could get some strong Republican support,” but he said he hadn’t been in touch with Tipton or Gardner.

In response to the personhood petition drive, Planned Parenthood of the Rocky Mountains’ President Vicki Cowart said in a statement: “Colorado voters spoke loud and clear in the 2008 and 2010 elections when they voted down the so called “personhood” amendments by a 3-to-1 margin each time. No means no, yet Personhood USA and Personhood Colorado continue to ignore the wishes of Colorado voters. Planned Parenthood of the Rocky Mountains will for the third time since 2008, work with our over 90 coalition partners to educate Colorado voters about this initiative which aims to ban abortion in all circumstances.”Historically, Colorado has been a state that votes in favor of trusting women and doctors. At the end of the day, Coloradans trust women to make personal, private decisions about their own body with their doctor, their family, their faith and without interference from the courts or lawyers.”

Conservative radio show parts ways with Tipton

Friday, November 4th, 2011

“We had Scott Tipton from our district stand in our studio while he was campaigning, and…he said he would go to Washington DC and, night and day, night and day, that he would fight to cut the government in half,” said co-host Cari Hermacinski Oct. 18 on her syndicated Cari and Rob Show.  “He would cut it down by 50 percent. And what has he done, every time it’s come down to cast a difficult vote? He goes with [House Speaker] John Boehner. He goes with the leadership.”

Tipton isn’t standing in Hermacinki’s studio any longer.

“I sent him an email,” Hermacinski’s co-host Rob Douglas told listeners on the same day. “I said, come on the show. We’re going to hold open any time slot you want. I don’t care who’s on air; we’ll bump them, put you on so you can explain to the people of Colorado and this nation why we sent you to Washington, why you are spending more than Nancy Pelosi.”

But, they told their radio audience, no word from Tipton.

“We have not heard back from Congressman Tipton or any member of his staff, his chief of staff, his press secretary, his scheduler, and Scott Tipton himself,” Douglas told his listeners. “I have his personal email address. I’ve emailed them all, not a peep back.”

“We warned our audience that there would be chameleons and charlatans amongst those the Liberty Movement sent to Washington in 2010. Unfortunately, Scott Tipton proved our point,” Douglas wrote response an email. “The bottom line is that we believe Congressman Tipton violated his pledge to voters in the 3rd Congressional District of Colorado that he would go to Washington and work to place the country on a more sustainable fiscal path and therefore is not worthy of support from true fiscal conservatives.”

On the air Oct. 18, Douglas pointed out repeatedly that Treasury Department figures show that there have been no spending cuts at the federal level since Republicans took control of the U.S. House. He said Tipton and House Republicans had chances, through votes on government-funding bills and the debt ceiling limit, to change this.

“There have been votes where Tipton did not stand with the true fiscal conservatives in Congress and instead aligned himself with Speaker Boehner and establishment Republicans who played a major role in creating our nation’s fiscal crisis during the Bush administration,” Douglas wrote to me.

As a result, Douglas promised his audience Oct. 18 that he will not be voting for Tipton.

“At the end of the day,” he said, “we all control one vote. The show is about the whole country. But we can only vote where we can vote. Scott Tipton will never get my vote again.”

Asked how the audience of his show, which airs on 10 stations in Colorado and Utah, including KFKA in Greeley and KRDO in Colorado Springs, reacted to this stand against Tipton, Douglas wrote me, “Indications are that many in our audience agree with our view.”

But Douglas wrote that he has no plans to back a candidate that might challenge Tipton next year.

During his last few appearances on the Cari and Rob Show, which originates in Steamboat Springs, Tipton faced the kind of hard questioning you rarely hear when conservatives interview conservatives or, for that matter, when liberals interview liberals.

In April, under tough questioning from both Douglas and Hermacinski, Tipton acknowledged that he had lost trust in House Speaker John Boehner. And he promised to return to the radio show to explain why Boehner had agreed to a budget compromise shaving just $352 million from the federal budget instead of a promised $100 billion.

Douglas complemented on the April show Tipton for answering questions on his radio show, saying on the air after Tipton hung up:

“I gotta hand this to Scott Tipton. He has come on this program every time we asked him to come on.”

As far as I know, Tipton never returned to the show to explain why Boehner didn’t cut $100 billion. But questioned by a Washington DC reporter, Tipton’x office later issued a clarification regarding his commenis on the radio, stating that he was, in fact, confident in Boehner’s leadership, even though he didn’t actually say he trusted Boehner.

Tipton returned to the Cari and Rob Show in May, and again was subject to intense questioning. Douglas grilled Tipton about whether his daughter, a government-relations officer for Broadnet, used the Congressman’s name as she tried to drum up congressional business for firms that use technology licensed by Broadnet, which is owned by Tipton’s nephew.

At the time, Douglas told the Colorado Independent that Tipton’s answers were “Clintonian.”

Tipton apparently hasn’t appeared on the Cari and Rob show since then, marking the end of a relationship with the hosts that, as Tipton entered office, promised to be close and illuminating.

“He said he was happy to be the canary in the coal mine for the Cari and Rob Show,” Douglas said on air Oct. 18. “He would be a representative in Congress who would explain what the Republicans were doing.”

Douglas continued: “Why is Congressman Scott Tipton, why is Speaker of the House John Boehner, Eric Cantor, Paul Ryan, why are the Republicans lying to the American people, lying to the Republican Party, lying to the men and women who break their backs every day in this country to send their hard-earned money to Washington to have it wasted publicly, have it wasted secretly…to have it wasted, while these fat cats enrich their families, enrich their wallets, and do not do what they took a pledge to do?”

Reporter suggests that Post Office coverage should include point that Congress doesn’t fund U.S. Postal Service

Friday, October 21st, 2011

I was glad to receive an email this morning from Matt Hildner, The San Luis Valley Correspondent for the the Pueblo Chieftain. He commented on my recent post arguing that reporters should question Rep. Scott Tipton about how his request that the U.S. Postal Service take a thoughtful approach to cutting rural post offices squares with his heavy-handed demand that the federal discretionary budget be cut by 10 percent, across the board.

Here’s our exchange.

Hi Jason,

My name is Matt Hildner. I cover the San Luis Valley for the Chieftain and I wanted to contact you about your post on the post offices.

While I don’t disagree that politicians should always be questioned on why certain budget decisions are justified when they normally pound on the need for cuts, I think the post office issue doesn’t apply, since the postal service hasn’t been funded by congress since 1982. I’ve linked to the semi-annual report of the agency’s inspector general below if you want to verify that.

Obviously, it’s on me as a reporter for not including that information in the story and it’s a worse story because of it.

If you feel like sharing this, feel free to quote from any section of this e-mail or attribute to me by name.

Inspector General report (see the introduction, page 3, seventh page overall including table of contents, etc.)

My response:

Hi Matt –Thanks very much for getting in touch.

I agree that this is different than your typical story about a politician who, say, voted to eliminate federal funding for military bases but then fights to keep all the bases open in his district.

That’s why I asked Fred Brown about it. It was an inconsistency in Tipton’s approach, not a flip flop, that was the problem, so it wasn’t necessarily an obvious point for a journalist to bring up.

Previously, Tipton advocated a 10 percent across-the-board cut for the federal budget, which is a heavy-handed approach to budget cutting. He didn’t suggest targeted cuts that would be less disruptive or possibly even more efficient.

Then, when it comes to the Post Office, he’s suggesting a highly detailed analysis, with special concern for rural economies, transportation issues, safety, etc.

Why is he being so much more careful about budget cutting in this case, whereas before he was acting like the clichéd elephant in a china shop?

Maybe Tipton’s “cut-the-federal-budget-across-the-board-by-10-percent” line made a good campaign slogan, but actual budget cutting hurts people and should be done with more care, like he’s advocating now with respect to the Post Office?

So the fact that the Post Office isn’t funded by Congress doesn’t matter.

Do you see what I mean?

Thanks.

Jason

Hildner’s response to my response:

Jason, Thanks for the reply. I understand where you’re coming from. If someone repeatedly uses a meat cleaver but then questions why someone else isn’t using a scalpel, it merits a question from reporters.  At the same time, I believe reporting needs to make clear that Congress doesn’t hold the purse strings here, which, again, is something I failed to do in the story linked in your post. I think both the question and the funding fact have a place in the story.

At any rate, I appreciate the exchange and am always glad to read your posts. 

Matt

My response:

Thanks.I wish I’d called you prior to posting. I will do so next time.

I’d like to post our exchange if you are willing?

J

Reporters should ask Tipton how his idea of cutting the fed budget by 10 percent squares with his plea to save rural post offices

Thursday, October 20th, 2011

The U.S. Postal Service, as you may know, is trying to save money by closing  post offices in rural areas, like the district of Rep. Scott Tipton.

This prompted Tipton and fellow Congressman Cory Gardner to deliver a letter, electionically I presume, to the Postal Regulatory Commission, protesting the closure of so many Colorado post offices.

We are aware of the grim fiscal position of the Post Office, and the need to make changes in order to survive in today’s competitive environment and adjust to the new means of communication in the 21st Century. However..Our constituents are concerned that retail discontinuance of some of these post offices could negatively impact their own businesses, especially during these tough economic times. Additionally, we are concerned that closing certain facilities will lead to costly and time-consuming commutes. Traveling to distant postal facilities in the 3rd and 4th Congressional Districts during winter months could be extremely difficult, expensive and dangerous. Some post offices that appear to be in geographic proximity are in reality not readily accessible. Finally, some of these post offices that seem to service a proportionately small population are essential to the existence of small isolated communities. The potential effect of these closures should involve significant consideration of the individual or unique characteristics of the respective communities served…. We would prefer to see a bottom-up approach that utilizes actual cost savings rather than a top-down approach focused on an arbitrary revenue figure.

So, what Tipton and Gardner are saying here is, don’t just close post offices willy nilly. Be smart about it. Think about economic costs and benefits, and use a selective approach to closing post offices.

Except…isn’t Tipton the guy who’s called for a 10 percent across-the-board cut in federal budget discrtionary spending?

He is, but you wouldn’t know it from reading press coverage of his efforts to save post offices. None of the coverage I’ve seen (e.g., Montrose Press, Pueblo Chieftain, The Craig Daily PressThe Denver Post’s Spot blog) explains how Tipton squares his chain-saw approach to cutting the federal budget (10 percent cuts for all) with his touchy-feely, wonky recommendation for post-office cuts.

But should a reporter raise this point with Tipton? Or would this be a snarky attack?

It’s clear that journalists should report a “flip-flop” by a politician. So if Tipton had said that the U.S. Postal Service should be closed, and then he said, keep it open, that would an obvious matter for a journalist to raise.

But Tipton’s inconsistency on this isn’t really an in-your-face  flip-flop. It’s more of a sleight-of-hand.

So were journalists right not to question Tipton about why he thinks the post office deserves careful budget cuts while the federal budget does not?

Via email, I asked Fred Brown, a veteran Denver joiurnalist and columnist who’s nationally known for his ethics work with the Society of Professional Journalists, “Would it be unfair for a reporter to ask Tipton about this? Or would this be seen more as an attack by someone out to get Tipton?”

I think that’s a legitimate question to ask, at least in the initial report. Is it worth a follow-up story? There, I’m not so sure. It is more likely then to come across as an attempt at “gotcha” journalism. But if the question is asked, and answered, as part of the story about Tipton’s (and Gardner’s) request to keep post offices open, it’s certainly pertinent — and it shows a nice bit of research and recall on the reporter’s part. Tipton may say it’s a silly question, or that this isn’t part of the 10 percent he was talking about, or that he’d be perfectly happy if each little post office cut its budget by 10 percent. But if the question and answer are reported in full, then I’d say leave it to the reader (or viewer or listener) to decide whether it’s a fair question. I think it is.

That’s what I thought, too. I don’t think it merits a stand-alone story either, unless this turns into a trend, with Tipton asking for lengthy cost-benefit analyses of cuts proposed for stuff in his district, while throwing everyone else under the across-the-board-cut bus.

But reporters won’t have to wait for a possible stand-alone story. They will probably have a chance to query Tipton during the normal course of reporting the post office woes.

In Silver Plume Nov. 16 and elsewhere on other dates in November and December, public meetings will be held on proposed branch closures in Colorado.

Community radio station should follow up with Tipton on why he likes rural radio and thinks Grand Junction could be model for national health care

Tuesday, August 16th, 2011

One of the beautiful things about journalism is, you never know what someone will say when you throw a question at them, especially when you preface your question with factual background information.

For example, when just-elected Rep. Scott Tipton was interviewd by KVNF Community Radio in Paonia, the host posed a question with information that may have affected Tipton’s answer:

KVNF: “Our station receives about a third of our budget from the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, and that’s because we are a rural station. Urban stations, it’s more like 5 percent of their budgets or 10 percent of their budgets. But there has been a proposal to cut off funding for the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, which would have an effect on rural stations in Colorado, particularly this district. Do you have a position on Corporation for Public Broadcasting funding yet?”

Tipton: You know, we’ll take a look at that. I happen to have a little more empathy, obviously, for our rural stations, as opposed to urban stations, which have resources that they are able to draw from and other outside sources. A lot of our local public radio stations do provide a valuable service and serve our local communities. Will it be at the same amount? I don’t know. We’re all going to have to tighten our belts.

Unfortunately KVNF hasn’t aired a follow up interview with Tipton to discuss why he voted to defund CPB, once he got into Congress.

So I called the station and spoke with reporter/producer Ariana Brocious, who said:

I hadn’t thought about doing that, but maybe we will follow up with him and see how he’s going to act on our behalf.

It’s also worth asking Tipton what he meant when he told KVNF that the health care system in Grand Junction and Mesa Country could serve as a national health-care model.

You can watch for interviews with Tipton and others on KVNF’s website, and Brocious told me that KVNF is now podcasting its local news show, in addition to special interviews and programming, so it’s accessible to us flatlanders and anyone else who’s interested.