Archive for the 'Colorado Attorney General’s Office' Category

Reporters omit AG candidate’s position on the constitutionality of CO gay-marriage ban

Tuesday, April 29th, 2014

Reporters have covered GOP Attorney General candidate Cynthia Coffman’s attacks on Democratic AG candidate Don Quick for saying he wouldn’t defend Colorado’s gay-marriage ban, if Quick were elected state AG.

But strangely, they haven’t reported if Coffman thinks the ban, which is overwhelmingly opposed in Colorado, is constitutional.

So, to fill in the media gap, I asked Coffman and Rep. Mark Waller, who dropped out of the race yesterday, for their views on the marriage ban.

Jason Salzman @BigMediaBlog
Dear @Rep_Waller & @CynthiaHCoffman, i’m filling a media gap & asking you, do you believe CO gay marriage ban is constitutional? #copolitics

No response yet, but I’ll  update this post when I hear back.

On radio, with facts absent, Cynthia Coffman attacks Quick for saying he won’t defend CO gay-marriage ban

Friday, April 25th, 2014

KVOR guest host Jimmy Bensberg talked last weekwith Cynthia Coffman, who’s running for Colorado Attorney General.

CYNTHIA COFFMAN: Taking a page from U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder’s playbook, [Democratic AG candidate Don] Quick held a press conference on the steps of state courts building and called on John Suthers to drop his defense of the definition of marriage – BENSBERG: Ugh! COFFMAN: –that’s in the Constitution of Colorado. You know the voters, a number of years back, amended the Constitution and said we want marriage to be the traditional definition of being between a man and a woman. That’s what the voters approved, and Don Quick says he doesn’t agree with that. He doesn’t believe that that is constitutional, even though the Supreme Court of the United States hasn’t said that. And so presumptively, he thinks that the Attorney General should not defend that provision of the Constitution. And you know, that kind of picking and choosing as an Attorney General, what parts of the Constitution you defend, I can’t imagine a better thing to criticize my opponent about, than starting there.

Left out of this loving, tolerant, and legally ignorant conversation is the fact that Suthers’ proactive defense of the federal “Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA),” which was filed in the name of protecting Colorado’s gay-marriage ban, was actually an attack on gay couples who wanted to be buried together in military cemeteries or to get spousal benefits under Medicaid, etc. Suthers’ DOMA action looked like a wrong legal tactic, from the perpective of protecting Colorado’s Constitutional amendment. But more broadly, and to the heart of the matter, you want an Attorney General who will make public-minded decisions about what makes constitutional sense, regardless of the politics involved. In the case of defending Colorado’s anti-gay-marriage amendment, Suthers could have decided, as six other state Attorneys General did, that it’s a wrong legal move. Despite what Cynthia Coffman says, nothing forces Suthers to take action. Here’s what the Attorney General Eric Holder told the New York Times:

But Mr. Holder said when laws touch on core constitutional issues like equal protection, an attorney general should apply the highest level of scrutiny before reaching a decision on whether to defend it. He said the decision should never be political or based on policy objections. “Engaging in that process and making that determination is something that’s appropriate for an attorney general to do,” Mr. Holder said. As an example, Mr. Holder cited the landmark Brown v. Board of Education case, which forced public school integration in 1954.

Waller’s promise to be activist AG, in contrast to his opponent, raises questions about other candidates

Friday, March 21st, 2014

Love him or hate him, Scott Gessler has brought an activist’s style to his job as Secretary of State, while others in his position, including Republicans, have tried to stay out of the partisan fray. Ditto for Colorado Attorney General John Suthers.

So going into November, when we’ll be voting for a new AG and SOS, the question is, do we want to elect an AG and SOS in the Gessler/Suthers mold. Or do we want more passive, traditional office holders, regardless of their political party?

It’s an important question for media figures to tease out of the candidates, and reporters can take a cue from State Rep. Mark Waller who addressed the issue spontaneously when asked Sat. by KNUS’ Jimmy Sengenberger what sets him “apart” from his primary challenger, Cynthia Coffman.

WALLER: You know, I think there are a couple of things that set us apart. Number one, we view the role of Attorney General’s office a little differently. You know, [Cynthia Coffman] has said a couple of times that she feels that I’d be more of an ‘activist’ Attorney General, if I were to become the AG, meaning that I would engage more upfront on the development of legislation and fight against bad legislation that’s moving forward. And I would be more. You know, I would take the role as an elected official more seriously and place more focus that way, on the office. Whereas, you know, the way she sees the office, it’s more of a nonpartisan office, where it’s the role and responsibility of the Attorney General to be the the lawyer for the state. So, I think we see those roles a little bit differently…. See, I’m an old military guy, Jimmy. I deployed to Bagdad, Iraq in 2006 where I prosecuted insurgents. I led other lawyers and paralegals there. You know, if I can lead lawyers and paralegals during a war in Bagdad, Iraq, I’m very confident I can do it in the state of Colorado, as well.

Listen to Waller discuss his promise to be activist attorney general

What about Democratic AG candidate Don Quick and the SOS candidates, Dem Joe Neguse and Republican Wayne Williams?

Do they see themselves in the Gessler/partisan mold? Or would they take the more nonpartisan approach of former GOP SOS Natalie Meyer, as explained here?

Radio host should follow up with Waller

Tuesday, June 18th, 2013

Just a couple days before Cynthia Coffman officially launched her campaign for Colorado state attorney general, State Rep. Mark Waller sounded awfully serious when he told KNUS’ Jimmy Sengenberger that he was considering entering the race as well.

Here’s what Waller told Sengenberger June 10:

Sengenberger: Rumor has it, your name has been tossed about in consideration for Attorney General. Is that a thought process that you are going through, or what can you tell us?

Waller: You know, certainly several people have approached me on that issue. They have asked me to do that. They think given my law enforcement background, my background as an Iraqi war veteran, and my background in the legislature, that that might be a great opportunity for me to serve going forward. So, we are certainly considering that. We haven’t made any final decisions at this moment in time, but I’d be looking for something soon.

Sengenberger was subbing for Steve Kelley, who’s been out recovering from a car crash, and he should bring Waller back on the KNUS morning show to find out if Coffman’s official announcement affected Waller’s thinking on the AG race.

Nothing wrong with Post Publisher saying 1) GOP “dead in Colorado” 2) Udall a sure winner, 3) next CO Attorney General will be Democrat, and more

Saturday, March 2nd, 2013

I can see the veins bulging out on the necks of conservatives across Colorado when they hear that Denver Post publisher Dean Singleton thinks the Republican Party is “dead in Colorado” and that he doesn’t expect to see another Republican president elected in the United States in his lifetime.

If that’s not vein-popping enough, Singleton went on to say that Udall will win big in 2014, Colorado’s next Attorney General will be a Democrat, and there’s no one in the United States of America who won’t take his phone call.

That’s what Singleton told KHOW’s Peter Boyles March 1 during the 6 a.m. hour:

Boyles: The Republican Party, for all intents and purposes, is dead.

Singleton: I think it’s in trouble nationally. It’s not in trouble locally. I mean, Republicans control 30 State Houses.

Boyles: But I’m talking about in Colorado.

Singleton: I think it’s dead in Colorado.

Boyles: I think it’s dead in the country.

Singleton: It’s not dead–

Boyles: You think we’ll ever have another Republican President in our lifetime?

Singleton: Ahh, no.

Boyles: I agree with you.

Singleton: And it really doesn’t matter whom the Republicans put up. Republicans, in my view, won’t win another presidency in our lifetime.

Listen to Dean Singleton tells Boyles GOP is dead in CO 3-1-2013

Singleton amplified on these thoughts during 7 a.m. hour March 1:

Singleton: The Republican Party is not dead. The Republican Party controls 30 State Houses. Because of redistricting and gerrymandering, Republicans have the chance to hold the House from now on, because most their congressional members come from safe seats. But if you look where their electoral seats are, the Republicans just can’t play at a presidential level. They can’t win in enough states to have enough of the Electoral votes. So I don’t think we will see another Republican President in our lifetime.

Boyles: I don’t either….

Singleton: Republicans have two elected state-wide office holders, the Treasurer and the Attorney General. The Attorney General is not running for re-election, so that will go Democratic. .. [BigMedia comment: Colorado’s Secretary of State is also a Republican.]

Boyles: Is it because of the party or is it the candidates they choose?

Singleton: Well, it’s both. The party has shifted so far right that that’s the kind candidates they pick. And they pick candidates that aren’t in the mainstream. And you see the growth of Colordo, and where the growth has come from demographically. I think Colorado is probably a Democratic state from now on.

It is a Democratic state today, and I don’t think it’s going back. I’m an independent. I’ve never registered for either party, and, in fact, the first Democrat I ever I voted for for President was Barack Obama. So I’m not a Democrat, but when you go to vote you, you have the choice of two candidates. And you pick the best candidate if you’re thinking straight…

You’ll see a lot of Republicans trying to get back in the game statewide, but I don’t see it happening. I don’t think it’s necessarily good. I just think it’s what it is… The Republicans don’t have a candidate to run against Udall in 2014. They have nobody to run.

Boyles: It’s a year away.

Singleton: And they don’t have anybody to run against him. Part of it is, nobody wants to run against him, because he’s going to win big. So, why do it?.. I find it sad that in 2014 we won’t have a spirited Senate race. There just won’t be. That’s not the way democracy was supposed to be….

Boyles: Is there anyone who won’t take your phone call?

Singleton: Not that I know of.

Listen: Singleton on Boyles, says Udall will win, discusses prostitution-scandal reporting, explains why CO GOP dead, and more 3-1-13

As Publisher of the Post, and founder of MediaNews, Singleton can air his opinions, and he has strong ones, even tantrum-like explosions, one of which manifested itself in a front-page editorial screed against Bill Ritter and unions.

Still, no one who actually reads The Post would expect Singleton’s pessimism about the Colorado GOP to leak into the news reporting, in the form of reporting that would hurt Republicans.

So please, let’s not hear fresh cries of unsubstantiated media bias.

If I’m a conservative, and I read what Singleton has to say, I wouldn’t get mad. I’d take it seriously, thank him for the honesty, and re-subscribe.

Media Omission: Suthers has his own idea for feds to “constitutionally mandate health insurance”

Tuesday, April 3rd, 2012

Colorado Attorney General John Suthers was all over the media last week, talking about what a terrible thing it would be if the federal government forced Americans to buy health insurance.

But in an email back in 2010, Suthers told The Denver Post’s Vincent Carroll that it wasn’t the federal health insurance mandate itself that bothered him, from a legal perspective, but how the mandate was instituted.

In the email, obtained via that Colorado Opens Record Act by Colorado Ethics Watch, Suthers wrote to Carroll:

“The way to constitutionally mandate health insurance would be to incentivize the states to do it,” Suthers wrote.

There’s nothing wrong with a lawyer wanting things done in accordance with how he sees the law, but let’s be clear that Suthers’ federal incentives, if they’re devised to “mandate health insurance,” as Suthers suggests, are simply a more polite form of Obama’s Commerce-Clause mandate.

Conservative objections about alleged federal intrusion or alleged lost individual freedom would,  as a practical matter, be nearly identical if the health-insurance mandate were the result of federal incentives or federal powers under the Commerce Clause.

Either way, its federal action, which makes you wonder why Suthers gleefully told KNUS’ Steve Kelley in November:

“Federalism has been on life support for 30 years. We are going to decide if the Court is going to pull the plug or resuscitate it. That is what this case is all about.”

Really? How does that square with Suthers’ view that the feds could accomplish the health-care mandate with incentives?

Anyway, in his media tour last week, Suthers told KHOW’s Craig Silverman that “it shouldn’t be the federal government pushing this down our throats.” But again, this sounds hollow when you know that Suthers simply wants federal throat-pushing of a different manner.

Suthers also told Silverman that the expansion of Medicaid under Obmamcare, as a vehicle to cover uninsured people, is a state burden that’s “so coercive as to violate federalism.” Yet, he told Carroll that a health-care mandate could be achieved with state incentives. If he believes the incentives are constitutional, then you’d think he’d have to believe the Medicaid expansion would be constitutional as well.

In the broader picture, and this is the take-away from Suthers’ behind-the-scenes correspondence with Carroll, conservatives should not be fooled into thinking that Suthers, by joining the lawsuit to stop Obamacare, is taking a principled stand against an alleged loss of individual freedom. He’s clearly not. It’s just this legal pathway he dislikes.

For Suthers, it’s the form, not the substance.

Email exchange between Denver Post columnist Vincent Carroll and Colorado Attorney General John Suthers, March 23, 2010

Suthers: Vince, I’m curious. I understood from my conversation with Alicia Caldwell that the editorial board doesn’t think there is anything unprecedented about Congress using the Commerce Clause to sanction economic activity and force you to buy a product or service it deems beneficial. Even the Congressional Budget Office told Congress that was unprecedented. If Congress can sanction your commercial activity and force you to buy a product, where does it end? Can you enlighten me a bit?

Carroll: I am not sure what our official position will be regarding whether forcing Americans to buy health care insurance is an unprecedented action by the federal government. As you know, though, the Post’s editorials have repeatedly backed a universal mandate, so it is extremely unlikely that the page would now argue that what it has been advocating is unconstitutional. Like many people, I too worry about what a court decision upholding the legislation would say about the reach of the commerce clause. But given recent legal precedents, I suspect the court would uphold the law.

Suthers: One last point. The way to constitutionally mandate health insurance would be to incentivize the states to do it.

Rosen should offer counterpoint to Suthers view that the legal decision allowing undocumented kids to attend public grade school is bogus

Monday, March 12th, 2012

KOA’s Mike Rosen agreed with Colorado Attorney General John Suthers Thursday that the legal decision forcing states to offer a grade-school education to undocumented children is bogus.

If you don’t think this tidbit deserves to be my first blog post of the week, you would be wrong.

Here’s what Suthers had to say on the topic, which came up during a discussion of the ASSET bill, granting a tuition break to children of illegal immigrants, which Suthers called the “a complete run around” of two federal statutes:

Colorado Attorney General John Suthers: For some incredible reason, in 1982, the United States Supreme Court in a case called Plyler v. Doe, I think it was a San Antonio case, said any child regardless of immigration status is eligible for a free primary or secondary education. I’ve never been able to find that in the United States Constitution, but they said it’s in the 14th Amendment.

Rosen: Yes, which was all about slavery by the way, but that’s another story.

The federal requirement to give a basic education to all children, regardless of immigration status, is a long-settled legal matter.

No reporter, no teacher, no chef, no mom, no dad, not even a Republican talk-radio host, should let Colorado’s top-dog lawyer trash this Supreme Court’s decision in favor of undocumented kids without any discussion or scrutiny whatsoever.

Too much is at stake. We’re talking about grade-school education for some of the most vulnerable children in our country. And Suthers’s unsympathetic tone on Rosen’s radio show seems to show that it’s not just the legal issues that bother him, but the notion that children of illegal immigrants should be offered a public-school education in the world’s richest nation.

Rosen should have Suthers back on his radio show to illuminate more details on this topic, and, meanwhile, Rosen should bring a guest on air who will defend the basic humanity — and legal reasoning — for giving undocumented children a public-school education.

Suthers tells radio host he wants “everybody to have health insurance” but host doesn’t ask how he’d achieve it

Tuesday, November 29th, 2011

You learn lots of little things when you listen to talk radio, and many of them you could do without knowing, like lawyer Dan Caplis’ assessment of Tim Tebow’s football skills.

But other small stuff catches your attention, like the fact that Colorado Attorney General John Suthers wants everyone to have health insurance.

You might think Suthers is the last person in Colorado who wants universal coverage, given that he’s pushing a lawsuit to stop Obamacare.

But that’s what he told KNUS morning host Steve Kelley Nov. 18:

SUTHERS: The founders never envisioned the federal government would be in the healthcare business. The individual mandate requiring every individual to buy insurance is premised, Congress said, on their Commerce Power, their power to regulate commerce among several states. In fact, the Commerce Power has been broadly construed to allow Congress to essentially regulate any economic activity that impacts interstate commerce. But therein lies the rub: this would be the first time in history that Congress will be reaching out to every individual American and saying we are going to punish you for your economic inactivity. For not engaging in commerce because your failure to do so impacts the marketplace by imposing burdens on other people who do buy insurance.

KELLEY: But aren’t they assuming [Obamacare] is for our own good though? Really, the betterment of everyone.

SUTHERS: Well, that’s right and that is kind of the typical liberal response. And that is what I get most. Gee, this is a good thing. And indeed it is. We want everybody to have insurance. [BigMedia emphasis]

So, how do we get everyone covered, like Suthers wants?

Why Steve Kelley didn’t ask him is beyond me, because it’s the most basic follow up question you can think of for anyone who trashes Obamacare in one breath and says they want the 44 million uninsured Americans to have health insurance in the next.

Now back to the little things you learn on talk radio.

Back in February, Suthers told KOA’s Mike Rosen that the states can require citizens to buy health insurance, not the feds:

SUTHERS: The state can exercise any power that the citizens don’t deprive them of in the Constitution. So unless you put a provision in the state constitution saying the state couldn’t force you to buy auto insurance or health insurance…that was one that we just voted on that in November, that’s what that was all about. Then the state can force you to do that.

You might wonder if I was mistakengly quoting Mitt Romney not John Suthers, because he’s been saying Romneycare is well and good for Massachusetts, but Obamacare is sick and bad for America.

And if you’re thinking that Suthers must have been talking to Romney, you might be right, because Suthers backed Romney in 2008 and remains on the Romney train to this day. Suthers didn’t endorse Romneycare, as far as I know, but he seems open to it, and it’s a question Kelley should keep in mind for next time.

Stapleton will not seek formal AG opinion on moonlighting, despite 7News report

Monday, March 14th, 2011

One of the things I try to do as a media critic is keep track of what officials tell journalists they’re going to do. And if promises made to reporters aren’t reported on, I ask about them.

For example, there’s the dangling promise Scott McInnis made to The Denver Post about clearing up his name months ago, but tempting as it is, that’s not what I’m returning to now.

Today I’m writing about State Treasurer Walker Stapleton’s promise to 7News in January that he’d seek an opinion from Attorney General John Suthers about whether it’s ok for him to moonlight for his former company.

You recall Stapleton’s moonlighting job would add as much as a quarter-time-plus job to his life and bring in, at $250 per hour, up to a nifty $150,000 on the side, making The Denver Post wonder about a “conflict of time.”

I asked 7News content producer/presenter Marshall Zelinger whether Suthers had produced an opinion on Stapleton’s moonlighting. Zelinger emailed me that Stapleton spokesman Brett Johnson told him that Stapleton never asked for an official opinion from Suthers’ office.

Zelinger told me that he understood from Stapleton, during his Jan. interview with him, that he was going to seek an official opinion, and that’s why Zelinger stated in his piece that Stapleton had “asked the attorney general’s office to make sure it’s OK to moonlight afterhours.”

Zelinger contacted Suthers’ office and confirmed that Stapleton never sought an opinion.

However, in January, Politics Daily reported that Stapleton had talked about the issue with Suthers but did not ask for a formal ruling.

Rosen fails to ask Suthers to clarify his views

Thursday, February 24th, 2011

Today’s Denver Post reported that Attorney General John Suthers didn’t have much to say about the Obama Administration’s decision to stop defending the Defense of Marriage Act.

But Suthers discussed Obama’s decision for about 15 minutes on KOA’s Mike Rosen show this morning.

He told Rosen he doesn’t want Colorado to be forced to recognize gay marriages, performed in states like Massachusetts. This, he said, might require our state to give Colorado’s marriage benefits to gay married couples who move here from states like Mass. Suthers said on the radio:

“We’re going to defend Colorado’s right to say, this is what we think marriage is, and we would not like to have to recognize marriages in other states because that flows for Colorado benefits too, Mike. We’re not just talking about federal benefits. There are statuses of being married that have advantages in Colorado law too.”

Rosen failed to ask Suthers what Colorado marriage benefits he didn’t want same-sex married people to have.

So I asked Suthers’ Communications Director, Mike Saccone, which Colorado marriage benefits Suthers was referring to:

“What he was thinking of was the joint filing of taxes,” Saccone told me. “To the extent there are other benefits that mention marriage, Amendment 43 [which bans gay marriage in Colorado] could affect them too.”