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

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 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.




Tancredo says he’d vote for Morgan Carroll but later changes his mind

Tuesday, August 23rd, 2016

At this point, nothing about Tom Tancredo should surprise me, but my jaw bounced off the floor when he said Saturday he’d vote for state Sen. Morgan Carroll over U.S. Rep. Mike Coffman.

After Tancredo lashed into Coffman for caring about nothing except staying in office, KNUS’ Saturday host Craig Silverman asked Tancredo if he’d vote for Carroll over Coffman, if Tanc lived in Aurora where the Coffman and Carroll are battling each other in one of the closest congressional races in the country.

And Tancredo, whose Congressional seat was won by Coffman (with Tanc’s support) after Tancredo stepped down, said he’d vote for the Democrat.

Silverman: Former Congressman Tom Tancredo says, ‘Vote for Morgan Carroll over Mike Coffman.’ Do I have it right?

Tancredo: You got it right.

But, I told Tancredo in a subsequent phone call, Coffman is much more hostile to immigrants than Carroll.

Coffman opposed a 2013 bipartisan comprehensive immigration reform bill, which included a path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants, and Coffman still stands against the measure. 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.

I told Tancredo I couldn’t see how he’d favor Morgan Carroll, who, for example, has attacked Coffman for opposing the bipartisan immigration bill, and she supports a path to citizenship.

But didn’t Carroll vote against the “Dream Act” in Colorado, Tancredo asked, reminding me that he’d referenced this on the radio, when he said, “Who knows, we may have something better [with Carroll].”

I told Coffman that Carroll had initially voted against providing in-state tuition for undocumented students in Colorado, but she later joined state lawmakers in passing the measure.

So, today, even with Coffman’s shifts on immigration, Coffman is much more in Tancredo’s immigration camp than Carroll, who’s now as immigrant-friendly as they get, I told Tancredo.

“With that in mind,” Tancredo said after hearing this, “I guess I’d write somebody else in. That would probably be my fallback position.”

So Tancredo changed his mind. He wouldn’t vote for Carroll.

“My point is this, more than anything else,” said Tancredo. “… I am absolutely convinced that [Coffman] is a fraud. If Trump were [running] even in the district, or if [Trump] were ahead, I know that Mike Coffman would be putting ads on TV talking about how wonderful Trump is.”

But does Tancredo think Coffman is sincere about his past and present opposition to the comprehensive immigration bill that Carroll supports?

“No. I don’t think there’s anything sincere about Mike Coffman,” said Tancredo, whom Coffman once called his “hero.” “Nothing that I have observed over the last several years would lead me to that conclusion, except his sincere desire to remain in Congress. So I guess I would say that’s a caveat there.”

How many conservatives can Coffman piss off before he loses an election?

Monday, August 22nd, 2016

A couple weeks ago, former Rep. Tom Tancredo skewered Rep. Mike Coffman in his weekly Breitbart column, writing thet the “only thing authentic about [Coffman] is his passionate desire to keep that House Member pin on his lapel.”

In a subsequent KNUS radio interview with guest host Matt Dunn, Tancredo said, “as a conservative, we would lose nothing” if Coffman lost his seat. And Tanc went further:

Tancredo: [W]hen he won the election, I was of course a supporter and was happy about the fact that he would be succeeding me in that office because of what he promised me, because of our discussions about the issues, especially immigration. And of course all those things have gone by the wayside, and done so because he feels that he has to give up those principles — if he ever held them. I don’t know if he has any real set of principles upon which — you know, that certain bedrock – I don’t know that they exist at all…As his district changes, so does he. He sort of morphs into a different person.

…I’ll tell you this: if Trump were polling well in his district, you would be hearing nothing but accolades from Mike Coffman about Donald Trump. So, it isn’t – it doesn’t really have anything to do with Trump’s positions, his faux pas, his – whatever. It’s got nothing to do with that. It’s got everything to do with Mike wanting to keep that little pin on his collar – I mean, on his lapel, on his suit, that indicates you’re a Member of Congress. Because that’s more important to him than anything else. And I’m just sick of this stuff! I’m sick of it because it’s a seat we could still retain by somebody better. And you know, you just think to yourself, “What a — what a waste!” [Aug. 11, KNUS Peter Boyles show]

Keep in mind that Coffman once called Tancredo his “hero.

Tancredo’s comments deserve wider media attention because they raise the question, again, of how many conservatives Coffman can piss off and still win a narrow majority in his district.

Coffman still supports dropping bilingual ballot requirement

Monday, August 15th, 2016

It’s difficult to write about what Rep. Mike Coffman actually believes these these days, because it’s so hard to sort out how he sounds like he’s changed from how he’s actually changed.

So a tip of the hat to The Denver Post’s Joey Bunch, who did a good job sorting through some of Coffman’s stances, such as they are, over the weekend.

One item deserves clarification.

FBunch reports, accurately, of Coffman:

This is a candidate who in 2011 introduced legislation to repeal portions of the 1973 Voting Rights Act to permit local jurisdictions to decide if ballots could be printed in English only. He noted that English proficiency is a requirement for citizenship. Immigrant advocates saw it as a way to disenfranchise voters.

As of the last election, that’s still Coffman’s position. He still wants to repeal portions of the Voting Rights Act that require bilingual ballots to be provided in areas with large percentages of voters who are not proficient in English.

Saying it’s too expensive, Coffman would eliminate the requirement for offering ballots in languages other than English and, instead, trust local officials to decide whether bilingual ballots are needed, even though the shallowest reading of American history (including a cursory understanding of politics today) reveals that local officials should not be trusted with this decision that affects the basic right to vote.

Coffman once suggested that immigrants “pull out a dictionary” if they’re having trouble understanding an English ballot.

Now, in a classic example of how he’s sounding nicer without changing his policy stance, Coffman is saying he “would hope that every voter will be able to get the information that he needs in a language he can understand.”

But the Voting Rights Act? We don’t need it telling people what to do on bilingual ballots.

Coffman’s sketchy vision of Aurora with no Planned Parenthood

Thursday, August 11th, 2016

U.S. Rep. Mike Coffman is telling reporters again this week how he’s standing up for “vulnerable and underserved” people who need healthcare.

But as they contemplate Coffman’s news release, reporters should recall that the Aurora Congressman voted six or seven times, depending on how you count, to defund Planned Parenthood.

Those votes are, at the end of the day, less about Planned Parenthood than about the low-income women the organization serves, because, dah, if you defund a healthcare organization, you’re pushing its patients out the door too.

To bring the point home, if it lost federal funds, the Planned Parenthood clinic in Coffman’s own district of Aurora would have to turn away 2,200 patients who currently rely on the clinic for basic health care services like HIV and STD tests, birth control, breast and cervical cancer screenings and more, according to a Planned Parenthood.

These are low-income women and men on Medicaid and women who are part of a federal cancer-screening program. So Planned Parenthood would have to raise private money to continue serving them.

Would safety-net organizations in Aurora be able to absorb all these patients, who’d be joining about 80,000 other low-income people statewide that Planned Parenthood could no long serve?

It’s a complicated question, and it’s one you’d think Coffman would have figured out in detail before his multiple votes against Planned Parenthood–and run his plan by his affected constituents to get their feedback. But he didn’t, so I’ll outline some of the issues for reporters.

There’s no exhaustive analysis of what would happen to Planned Parenthood patients in Colorado if the organization lost federal funding. A credible study of the impacts in Texas show disastrous consequences, including a 27 percent increase in births among women who used injectable contraception.

Urban Aurora is obviously different than Texas, but, still, it’s not fully certain that the network of Medicaid-friendly health centers in Aurora have the ability to readily absorb the 2,200 patients that could be cut out of Planned Parenthood, according to my interviews with a number of analysts. Even if it were, there are problems.

First, there’s the issue of where alternative care, if it were available, is located. For low-income people, who often rely on public transportion, access to healthcare can be dependent on its location.

Wait times are another unkonwn. Under Coffman’s anti-Planned Parenthood proposal, the influx on new patients at existing clinics could lengthen lines.

And there’s the preferences of the patients, particularly women who seek birth control and related care, who are served.

Does it matter to Coffman that patients may want to stay with Planned Parenthood, because they feel comfortable there?

I’m biased, I admit, but who could argue with Planned Parenthood folks who say that many women seek out Planned Parenthood, instead of other Medicaid-friendly clinics, because they want privacy. As women, they want a place where their medical and social needs are the top priority.

In any case, what’s Coffman’s plan for these women in his district? What does he have to offer them? What does he have to say to them?

Coffman has a vision of Aurora with no Planned Parenthood. Will he run his plan, if he has any, by the 2,200 women who now attend the Aurora Planned Parenthood clinic to see how they feel about it?