Archive for the 'Colorado 6th Cong. Distroct' Category

Reporters should press Colorado’s Congressional Republicans on replacement for Obamacare

Wednesday, January 18th, 2017

The Colorado Republican congressional delegation is talking a lot about a “replacement” for Obamacare, as if they have something in mind, without actually pointing to an actual factual replacement–or even any details leading in the direction of a replacement.

Reporters should be extra careful to point out that Republicans have no replacement plan, because all the talk about one can easily confuse already confused people into thinking that Colorado Republicans have a plan.

As an example of how Republicans try to disguise their absence of a plan as a plan, check out this passage from a Jan. 13 Denver Post opinion piece, authored by all of Colorado’s GOP members of Congress (with the glaring exception of U.S. Sen. Cory Gardner.)

And speaking of replacement plans, the narrative that Republicans have offered no plan to replace Obamacare is false. Republicans have introduced multiple alternative health care plans since 2010, and we encourage you to review them. The most recent replacement plan was offered by the Republican Study Committee, called the American Health Care Reform Act. The Empowering Patients First Act was a plan put forth in the 114th Congress by future Health and Human Services Secretary, Dr. Tom Price. Our Better Way Agenda also includes a blueprint for replacing Obamacare that is centered on more choices, lowers costs, and greater flexibility.

Many plans does not mean you have a plan. Gentlemen, which plan do you favor, if any?

Even though Gardner didn’t join his colleagues in the Denver Post opinion, he made a similar statement on KOA 850-AM Jan. 13 (audio below):

Gardner: We have introduced several bills — hundreds of bills, really — small and big over the past several years to replace Obamacare. Some are very targeted, some are much more comprehensive: legislation by Tom Price –soon to be the Secretary of Health; legislation by Dr. Grasso, a Senator from Wyoming who is a physician; legislation from Bill Cassidy, a physician himself from Louisiana that will be introduced next. These are all going to be considered as part of the replacement once it’s repealed.

Hundreds of bills! Small and big! Very targeted! All will be considered! (But, alas, still, no plan.)

But, it’s worth noting, and it’s in fact newsworthy, that  Colorado’s congressional Republicans are saying the Price plan is in the mix, because analysts say that millions of people would lose their health insurance under Price’s proposal. And Price is Trump’s nominee for the Department of Health and Human Services.

The Cassidy plan, also mentioned by Gardner, would leave millions of people uninsured or underinsured, according to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities.

In fact, Trump’s promises aside, I can’t find someone who’s making a credible case that any of the floated Republican plans, either individually or combined with one another, won’t throw millions of people off the health insurance rolls. (Here’s a look at a few more GOP plans.)

9News anchor Kyle Clark noted Gardner’s awareness of the problem, reporting that Gardner “would not commit to having an Affordable Care Act replacement that covers everyone with insurance now.”

But the big numbers involved might explain why Gardner literally turned and walked away from Vox.com editor Sarah Kliff when she asked about coverage under the Price plan, because millions lose it.

The numbers and obfuscation also are the reason reporters should press for an answer to the questions about a replacement plan and its impact. And not mince words in informing us of non-answers.

Listen to Cory Gardner on 850-KOA Jan. 13.

Fake news accusation rings false

Tuesday, January 17th, 2017

Conservatives tweeted “fake news” in response to the 9News story, now spreading across the country, that U.S. Rep. Mike Coffman (R-Aurora) made an early back-door exit from a crowded “constituent meeting,” while scores of people were waiting to talk to him about his intention to repeal Obamacare.

How could the story be fake? The news outlet? Real. The crowd in Coffman’s office? Real. The early exit? Real. Sneaking out the back door? Real. The yellow police tape stretching from the back door to Coffman’s car? Too real (and too bizarre).

In support of the accusation of fakeness, @COPeakPolitics pointed to a Denver Post story indicating that Coffman did not leave the constituent meeting early. But later The Post corrected its story with:

CORRECTION: This story was corrected at 10:28 p.m. Jan. 17 to show that Rep. Mike Coffman left his 90 minute constituent meeting early. The meeting was scheduled for 2 to 3:30 p.m.

Others speculated that organizers were involved in getting some of the people to Coffman’s office and letting the media know. Gasp. If it’s true, and we don’t know, that’s politics and community organizing, not fake news.

Journalists often want to know, what’s the back story of an event. How did it come to pass? It’s a fair question, but that doesn’t make what actually took place any less real.

Fake news is a fabricated falsehood made to look somehow like real journalism–and identified as false by credible fact checkers.

It’s not a story (with video) of Coffman leaving early from the back door of a building full of people clamoring to talk to him about an upcoming vote.

Coffman, Doty, Woods offer reporters localized election-night Trump material

Wednesday, November 2nd, 2016

Doty Tweets from Trump Rally 10-16The story of Trump’s impact on down-ballot races Colorado is unfolding in front of us in the strangest ways, with Colorado Republicans going every which way when it comes to the mogul.

A unique approach to Trump has been taken by Arapahoe County Commissioner Nancy Doty, who’s running against Democrat Daniel Kagan in a Cherry Hills state-state race that Democrats must win to take control of the chamber.

Doty said in June that she’d support Trump, and later called Sarah Palin’s endorsement of Trump “spot on.”

But then she told the Aurora Sentinel last month that her vote is a “private decision.” The Denver Post reported most Oct. 23 that Doty’s not commenting on Trump.

But lo, Doty tweeted a photo Saturday from her apparent appearance at the Trump rally in Golden, without comment, as if to say, “Look! I’m still voting for Trump, but a secret is a secret.”

But in any case, on election night, reporters should reflect on what’s worked Trump-wise for Colorado Republicans in tight races. The Doty approach?

State Sen. Laura Woods’ I-Believe-Trump-Will-“Lead-our-Country-to-Greatness-Once-Again” strategy.

U.S. Rep. Mike Coffman’s strategery of dodge trump (December), then yes Trump (February), then maybe Trump (May and August), then no Trump (October). And possibly no one (October).

We’ll never know Trump’s exact impact in Colorado’s down-ballot races, but that shouldn’t stop reporters from having fun trying to figure it out anyway on Tuesday night, using our abundant local material.

Best local journalism of the 2016 election season

Tuesday, November 1st, 2016

Here are my favorite election stories by local journalists:

Denver 7’s Marshall Zelinger of course gets the top prize in both the journalism and entertainment categories. His series of stories showing forged signatures on the ballot-access petitions of former GOP state Rep. Jon Keyser had a game-changing impact on Colorado’s U.S. Senate race and reflected everything you want from journalism, especially at a time when it’s going to the dogs. (Don’t miss your chance to see Zelinger’s Keyser interview again here.)

Without the state-senate campaign coverage by Marianne Goodland at the Colorado Independent and Ernest Luning and John Tomasic at the Colorado Statesman, we would’ve had little reporting—until the final weeks—on the key state senate races that will determine control of Colorado government. Other outlets weighed late, which is great, but these races were so pivotal and important to the entire state this year, they deserved the early and sustained focus they got only from the Statesman and the Independent.

Luning also exposed a Democratic state legislative candidate who basically made up his entire resume and was later defeated in his primary race. In a similar vein, Goodland’s piece revealing the potential jail time faced by state house candidate Tim Leonard also deserves high praise. So does former Post reporter Joey Bunch’s treatment of Darryl Glenn’s legal troubles as a young man.

Denver Post reporter John Frank’s series of inside-view articles on the revolt by Colorado Republicans against Trump at the GOP National Convention informed the national debate on the growing #NeverTrump and plain-old anti-Trump movement among Republicans.  (Frank’s prodigious output generally also deserves mention.)

The Denver media’s political-ad fact-checkers have my eternal admiration because their job is tedious and difficult but really valuable. So, a shout out to Denver 7’s Alan Gathright, The Denver Post, 9News’ Brandon Rittiman, and  CBS 4’s Shaun Boyd. Reporters, like the Grand Junction Sentinel’s Charles Ashby, who dip into this territory, deserve credit too.

She got ribbed by fellow reporters for burying the lede, but former CO Springs Gazette reporter Megan Schrader gets credit for reporting U.S. Senator Cory Gardner’s off-the-cuff comment that he planned to vote for Trump after all. The story generated national buzz and shows what’s lost as we shed campaign-trail journalism.

The Colorado Independent’s Corey Hutchins’ story about anonymous campaign flyers may later play a role, in a small way, in a legislative fix that all sides would welcome.

I thought the debates moderated by 9News’ Kyle Clark and Brandon Rittiman were particularly informative.

It’s the little things that can make politics fun, so hats off to Molly Morrison at KRDO-TV in Colorado Springs for revealing that Trump was rescued by the Springs’ Fire Department after the head-strong mogul had insulted the Springs’ fire marshal. Nice.

Kudos to 9News‘ Rittiman and Denver’s 7‘s Zelinger for asking U.S. Rep. Mike Coffman, after he released an ad critical of Trump in August, who he’d vote for. The fallout from his response—that Coffman would still consider voting for Trump or for the Libertarian candidate–got national coverage. And it t turned out to be a harbinger of Coffman’s troubles later, as he’s tried to both support and oppose Trump at the same time, ultimately opposing Trump. We all love it when journalists follow up beyond the canned statements and ads.

Finally, can you beat the editorials in the Aurora Sentinel? No. Even if you like U.S. Rep. Mike Coffman (R-CO), you still have to love the writing in the Sentinel’s endorsement of his Democratic opponent Morgan Carroll, as well as the fire in its other editorials on any political topic.

Forget the rabbit hole, Coffman is opposed to a path to citizenship for immigrants

Thursday, October 20th, 2016

9News anchor Kyle Clark did an excellent job interviewing U.S. Rep. Mike Coffman Tuesday, and his Democratic challenger Morgan Carroll Monday, pressing them on a range of issues.

On immigration, Clark asked Coffman what he’d propose for adult undocumented immigrants:

Coffman: “As long as they haven’t violated criminal laws to give them a legalized status that would allow them to work here without fear of deportation.

Clark: “Not citizenship but legal status?”

Coffman: “Legal status.”

Clark: “Any path to citizenship for those people?”

Coffman: “No. No.”

But without skipping a beat, Coffman kind of contradicted himself, with the camera rolling, saying he could possibly support a path to citizenship.

Coffman: “I don’t want to box myself in. If we get into negotiations, and there’s everything that I like, and it would be a very long path, and very selective. You know, I don’t want to totally back myself—but ideally I would say no.”

If you’re a journalist, what do you do with Coffman’s qualifier? Do you say he’s opposed to a citizenship path? Against it, unless he’s for it?

In a news segment yesterday based on the interview, Clark contrasted Coffman’s stance against a path to citizenship with Carroll’s position in favor of it. He didn’t mention Coffman’s qualifying comments.

In an email, I asked Clark why he apparently concluded that Coffman is against a path to citizenship.

Clark: “I took Representative Coffman’s answer to mean that he is not in favor of a path to citizenship but stopped short of saying he’d never support it,” wrote Clark.

Clark could have gone down the rabbit hole of trying to figure out, specifically, what Coffman means by theoretically favoring a citizenship path if negotiations produce “everything that I like.”

But it’s a rabbit hole other reporters have tried to go down without coming up with specifics on what Coffman wants for citizenship. And besides, Coffman’s statement, especially with “ideally no” tacked on, is clear enough as it is.

So Clark was right to conclude Coffman opposes a path to citizenship.

Plus, it’s consistent with Coffman’s stance historically. When a specific proposal for a path to citizenship was on the table, and negotiations were possible, as part of the bipartisan comprehensive immigration bill that passed the U.S. Senate in 2013, Coffman opposed the bill.

But Coffman said at the time he might support comprehensive reform, piece-by-piece, some other time. But, over three years, we’ve seen no specifics from Coffman on a citizenship path for adults.

As Lizeth Chacon wrote in an Aurora Sentinel op-ed yesterday:

For Republicans grappling with immigration in 2013, opposing the Senate’s Gang of Eight plan was more than just splitting hairs on the particulars of a bill – or advocating a “slower” approach, as the Post characterized it.  Rather it was a decision that doomed reform in an attempt to appease anti-immigrant hardliners in the conservative base.

For Mike Coffman, it also meant that this so-called “leader” on immigration reform placed himself squarely to the right of Republicans like John McCain and Marco Rubio, senators who actually took a position and passed legislation.

Coffman has since tried to cover up for his opposition by saying he believes comprehensive reform can be done in pieces. What the media in general has failed to understand, however, is that this procedural talking point represents Coffman’s biggest and most craven reversal on the issue.

Congress usually passes landmark pieces of legislation by clearing the deck of all sticky issues at once and including give-and-take compromises designed to attract enough supporters from both parties to ensure passage. That’s why the word “comprehensive” in immigration reform is so important.

The good news is, thanks to the intersection of an election and journalism, we can now definitively conclude, after years of equivocation, Coffman is against a path to citizenship.

What principles allow Coffman to be who he is?

Tuesday, September 27th, 2016

Former U.S. Rep. Tom Tancredo’s string of attacks against U.S. Rep. Mike Coffman raise questions again about what underlying principles motivate Coffman, who’s a Republican from Aurora.

Tancredo now says he doesn’t know if Coffman has “any real set of principles” at all.

But reporters haven’t really explored the question, about how Coffman can go from being, for example, opposed to all abortion, even for rape, to being okay with some abortions. Or from embracing Tancredo as a “hero” to apparently ignoring Tancredo’s criticism of him. Or from saying the Dream Act is a “nightmare” to allegedly supporting it.

It’s time for reporters to help us understand the set of principles that allow Coffman to act this way.

To illustrate the point, I offer this video.

Post could improve its editorial page by criticizing Coffman more often

Thursday, September 22nd, 2016

“Good for Mike Coffman.” That’s the first line of an August Denver Post editorial, and, as it turns out, an excellent summation of the The Post editorial page’s singular stance toward Coffman over many years.

I just finished reviewing five years of Post editorials mentioning Coffman, and, of the 43 editorials citing the Aurora Republican Congressman during that period, including two endorsements, he’s been criticized only four times, while being praised in 34 editorials. The newspaper has lauded him mostly on issues related to the Veterans Administation but also on immigration, Selective Service, Afghanistan, marijuana, the federal budget, and more.

Yet, during these five years, Coffman has run seriously afoul with the broad positions/principles taken by The Post: on Planned Parenthood (Coffman voted twice to defund just last year, after putting the organization’s logo in a campaign ad the previous year.) and on immigration (Coffman opposed a 2013 bipartisan comprehensive immigration reform bill, and he reiterated his opposition to birthright citizenship, even stating so in an interview with a Post editorial writer.).

In 2013, Coffman threatened to shut down the government instead of raising the debt ceiling. Nothing from The Post. And nothing from The Post when Coffman belittled global-warming science in 2013.

The Post was silent in 2012 when Coffman said Obama was not an American “in his heart,” and Coffman strangely told 9News’ Kyle Clark five times:  “I stand by my statement that I misspoke, and I apologize.”

Coffman’s positions over many years have been at odds with stances The Post has taken. But the newspaper has been mostly silent.

To be fair, a more cursory analysis shows that The Post doesn’t criticize U.S. Sen. Michael Bennet much either, and he was also endorsed by The Post.

The difference? Bennet’s policy positions, on the issues mentioned above and others, align very closely with The Post’s, while Coffman’s do not.

You can’t blame Post editorial page editor Chuck Plunkett for much of this, since he took over the job exactly three months ago, but I called him anyway for his take on whether the newspaper deliberately refrains from criticizing Coffman, even when his positions clash with the newspaper’s editorial views.

“I think this is an election year stunt, not a genuine analysis,” he told me, arguing that there was no news hook for my blog post and I was not focusing on The Post’s treatment of other elected officials. “You’re picking Mike Coffman, when Morgan Carroll is struggling. Why is that? It looks like you’re trying to aid Morgan more than you are legitimately trying to critique an institution.”

I explained to Plunkett that as a progressive media critic, I look for instances where news outlets tilt rightward. That’s my bias, and with the election coming up, now is a valid time to analyze The Post’s editorial-page approach to Coffman, which I found inexplicable.

“As a journalist, I think trying to analyze a newspaper’s position over time is very tricky, especially if you only look at one particular angle,” Plunkett told me. “There are all kinds of things that go into thinking about an editorial or an endorsement or what have you.”

“You’re right,” Plunkett acknowledged, “when a newspaper endorses someone, that same board is going to be, understandably, more protective of that person.”

“But one the things I like about our business is, we don’t make friends and we don’t make promises,” he said. “And if someone crosses us, or crosses what we believe is a reasonable line, we call them on it.”

I told Plunkett that he was making my point exactly, that The Post should have been more critical of Coffman over these five years, even if the newspaper endorsed him.

“That’s where you’ve got me in a rough spot, because I wasn’t on the board over the past five years,” Plunkett responded. “I had absolutely zero influence on those pieces.”

I told Plunkett that I understood, and would make it clear I wasn’t blaming him for The Post’s love affair with Mike Coffman. Why would I blame Plunkett? In fact, the pattern even goes back further than the tenure of former editorial page editor Vincent Carroll.

I’m hoping this changes. It’s bad editorial writing. The Post is missing an opportunity to influence Coffman and advance the issues the newspaper cares about.

Why act as a PR mouthpiece for a Congressman, ignoring his faults and blunders, even if you’ve endorsed him? That’s my point.

 

Coffman again answers an immigration question with a non-answer

Monday, September 12th, 2016

The Colorado Independent’s Corey Hutchins took a risk last week and tried figure out U.S. Rep. Mike Coffman’s stance on a very specific immigration issue.

If you’re a reporter, you know that’s going to cause a serious headache before you start, because it’s so hard to sort out where Coffman stands on any specific immigration-related bill or proposal. That may sound like an opinion, but it’s a fact.

In this case, Hutchins, who profiled Coffman’s race against Democrat Morgan Carroll last week, knew the Aurora Congressman, in 2011, co-sponsored bill that would have eliminated the requirement, under the Voting Rights Act, for some jurisdictions to provide ballots in different languages.

As recently as 2014, Coffman remained opposed to the dual-language ballot requirement. What’s his position now, Hutchins wanted to know.

Here’s Hutchins story:

Asked last week whether Coffman still holds that position, his campaign spokeswoman Watson did not answer directly. Instead, she said, “Rep. Coffman is co-sponsor of H.R. 885, the Voting Rights Amendment Act.”

The measure currently counts 15 Republican lawmakers as co-sponsors, according to its public bill-tracking web page at Congress.gov. As of today, Coffman’s name does not appear, and the last congressman to sign onto the law was Ryan Costello, a Republican who was added on July 14. Costello is up for re-election in the swing state of Pennsylvania.

“The co-sponsor list will be updated tomorrow to include Rep. Mike Coffman of Colorado,” said Nicole Tieman, spokeswoman for Sensenbrenner. “That will be the only change to the best of my knowledge.”

Trouble is, if you read H.R.885, it doesn’t answer Hutchins’ question about whether Coffman’s position has changed. He could favor the bill but still stand behind his position that he wants to save money by not requiring local jurisdictions, with significant populations of non-English speakers, to provide ballots in multiple languages.

You’d be excused for thinking Coffman is deliberately obfuscating things, because, as Hutchins explains above, it looks like Coffman signed up as a co-sponsor after receiving Hutchins’ questions.

Hutchins reports: “Asked in two separate emails when Coffman became a sponsor, his spokeswoman Cinamon Watson did not answer, nor did she respond to a request to talk about it on the phone.”

So, despite the best efforts by a reporter to lay out the facts, we’re forced to conclude (maybe) that Coffman remains opposed to dual-language ballots, but he’s making it appear as if he doesn’t. Until a reporter gets Coffman to respond, that’s where things stand.

FACT CHECK: Senate Democrats did not want abortion money in Zika bill

Friday, September 9th, 2016

On KNUS 710-AM yesterday, U.S. Rep. Ken Buck accused U.S. Senate Democrats of holding up funds to fight the Zika virus.

Buck: “Senate Democrats filibustered that bill. They wanted more money for Planned Parenthood for abortions related to the Zika virus.”

In fact, Senate Democrats did not want more money for abortions, and federal dollars can’t be used for abortion anyway.

The truth is, U.S. House Republicans, including Buck and Rep. Mike Coffman of Aurora, passed a Zika-relief bill in June, but the legislation blocked the United States’ Zika-response funds from going to groups (like Planned Parenthood) for birth control and family planning programs—even though Zika affects the developing fetus and appears to be sexually transmitted.

Since then, Senate Democrats refused to pass bill, which they see as fatally flawed. The New York Times reported June 28:

Senator Bill Nelson, Democrat of Florida, said Republicans had poisoned the chances for moving ahead by blocking money for Planned Parenthood, knowing Democrats would never agree.

“They’re just not living in the real world, and they’re just not facing the fact that this is an emergency,” Mr. Nelson said. He noted that at least five babies had been born with microcephaly in the United States — the most recent one in Florida — but said he expected the disagreements to continue.

Yet, Buck told KNUS host Krista Kafer, “This is tragic in a number of ways. It really is going to create a human tragedy, number one, and, number two, a burden on taxpayers in the future if we don’t start dealing with the epidemic , certainly the disease, that is rampant in some parts of this country.”

Coffman tried and failed with the same immigration attacks last election

Wednesday, August 31st, 2016

Reporters shouldn’t be fooled by Rep. Mike Coffman’s recycled attempts to paint his Democratic challanger Morgan Carroll as anti-immigrant. Coffman tried the same tactic in 2014 and failed.

The point needs to be made in light of the Coffman’s campaign tweet last week that Carroll “supported Tancredo’s immigration crackdown in the 2006 special session.”

Coffman tried to attack Coffman’s 2014 challenger Andrew Romanoff in the same way, and it failed, as exemplified in this Denver Post piece from a couple years ago.

During the summer of 2006, in his first term as state House speaker, Romanoff faced a critical decision: Have a broadly worded initiative appear on the November ballot that would strip state benefits and even some medical services from those in the country illegally — including children — or strike a legislative compromise.

He choose the latter option and staved off a late effort to revive the ballot initiative by spearheading a bill that pleased some hardliners and upset some in the Latino community…

Among the proponents of the ballot initiative that didn’t make it to voters was Coffman, the state treasurer at the time.

With Romanoff in 2006 was Carroll–and Republicans like the Gov. Bill Owens. With Coffman in 2006 was Tancredo. (Read more of this history here.)

The Post’s article from the last election goes on to explain that Coffman opposed (and continues to oppose) a 2013 bipartisan comprehensive immigration reform bill, passed by the U.S. Senate. Carroll supports this measure, including its path to citizenship. (In addition to this, Coffman is opposed to birthright citizenship, which allows children of undocumented immigrants born on U.S. soil to be citizens. Coffman is also against a provision in the Voting Rights Act that requires some jurisdictions to provide dual-language ballots.)

Coffman’s campaign acts as if Carroll’s 2006 stance and 2009 vote against in-state tuition for undocumented students are somehow equivalent to or worse than Coffman’s vast anti-immigrant record–despite the context of the 2006 special session and the fact that Carroll was a cosponsor of the ASSET bill when it passed in 2013. Carroll passed the ASSET bill.

Bottom line: Reporters saw through Coffman’s attacks against Romanoff on immigration in 2014. They shouldn’t be fooled by Coffman this time around either.