Archive for the 'Colorado Independent' Category

Should elected officials talk to all journalists, progressive, conservative, or rabid?

Tuesday, March 20th, 2012

Secretary of State Scott Gessler recently made an appearance Colorado’s flagship Tea-Party radio show, KLZ’s Grassroots Radio Colorado.

I was jealous because Gessler’s office won’t talk to me, and it’s possible that even my audience of three people is bigger than KLZ’s.

But it made me feel a little bit better when I found out that Gessler’s also boycotting the Colorado Independent and AM760′s David Sirota show, as I’ll explain below.

Still, it raises the question of whether it matters all that much that a conservative elected official, not just Gessler but any of them, boycotts progressive media outlets. Or whether a progressive office holder should feel obligated to talk to conservative media types.

If I were Gessler, I’d look at the actual work of the journalist or media person who’s requesting the interview. If their work shows them to be unfair, inaccurate, and generally unconcerned about civil discourse, then an elected official can justify not talking to them.

For my part, I can’t help but be nicer to people if they let me interview them. I normally try to be fair, but I’m even more careful if I actually talk to someone. I like to think most writers are this way.

I asked progressive columnist and talk-show host David Sirota for his thoughts on this broad topic. According to John Turk, producer of the David Sirota Show on AM 760, Gessler spokesman Rich Coolidge told him last week, just after Gessler appeared on Grassroots Radio Colorado, that Gessler had “no interest” in coming on Sirota’s show to talk about possible voter fraud.

Sirota emailed me:

My view is that the best elected officials are those who make themselves available to the widest possible audience of their constituents. In Colorado, though, that’s the exception (Ed Perlmutter is one for instance), not the norm. Here, most politicians see themselves – and carry themselves – as if they are part of an elite country club. They typically only make themselves available to their friends in the media who they know won’t ask them a single substantive or hard-hitting question – those who will simply propagandize for their agenda and kiss their ass in a very public way. I’m not surprised by that. I’m a journalist, and genuine journalism is a threat to those in power who are either ashamed of their behavior or who shouldn’t have to answer to anyone. Most of the politicians in the state know that regardless of party, I don’t pull punches and will ask them tough questions, and so many of them avoid my show. I see that as a badge of honor.

The Colorado Independent’s John Tomasic has also gotten the cold shoulder from Gessler. Tomasic offered these thoughts in an email:

The question of officeholder responsiveness matters mostly in its relationship to accountability.

It seems obvious that when people elected to office are willing to go on public record regularly on topics big and small and to field unscripted questions, it’s always a good sign for the city or state or country they’re serving. As any fair-minded person in a position of authority knows, explaining your actions means making the case for them. If you can do that well, you gain legitimacy for those actions and support for them and cooperation to bring off your grand plans.

The energy it takes to explain yourself, even in fraught political or business environments, is worth it

Our secretary of state is a longtime controversial figure. It’s my opinion that he revels in it. He’s a courtroom attorney. I like that about him, the fact that he’s a fighter, if for no other reason than he’s fun to write about. Unfortunately, in office, it seems clear he is increasingly adopting what has become a familiar approach to the media on the right, which is to malign the media and retreat into a silo of friendly outlets while delivering an occasional stock quote to the paper of record. That just seems like a short-haul strategy to me.

Gessler is not a  representative from some very conservative district.

He is a state officeholder. The topics he deals with every day as secretary of state are enormously important for all the citizens of Colorado. He oversees voting, campaign finance rules– really basic stuff that is of equal interest to citizens all across the political spectrum. For that reason alone, he is a person of interest for everyone reporting about politics in this state: newspaper people, broadcast people, bloggers, etc, and he has a crack staff of communication experts at his disposal. Use them, I say! Let’s hear more every day from spokespeople Rich and Andrew at the secretary of state’s office. Turn those guys loose! “Free Rich!” “Free Andrew!”

Granted, the media is a player in the political process and dealing with the media as an elected official can certainly be like navigating a mine field. It’s only my opinion but, as someone who has watched this politics-media tug of war with keen interest for years and who has watched big political stories unfold from the inside, as an editor and reporter, I can say that the subjects of those stories would have nearly always fared better by talking to the reporters writing the stories.

I’m reporting on the war over voting laws that has taken the nation by storm in the past two years. Gessler has put himself on the frontlines of that war, proposing major changes to our state election rules. So I’ll keep asking questions. Maybe some day soon, I’ll get a response.

Meantime, I’m developing a cordial and, I must say, fruitful relationship with the secretary’s office conducted via the Colorado Open Records Act. It could be worse.

I’m ready to join the “Free Rich” campaign, and I’m thinking about offering myself up for the dunk tank at the first “Free Rich” fundraiser.

But as Tomasic illustrates, part of the trick of journalism is to find ways to get information when you can’t get it mouth-to-mouth. Who else knows? What documents are available? Getting blacklisted for interviews, even in an apparently partisan manner from the Secretary of State, is how it  goes.

And obviously both parties do this. Gov. John Hickenlooper won’t go on KHOW’s Caplis and Silverman show, the hosts allege on air. Though he’s on KOA’s Mike Rosen’s Show monthly.

Rep. Scott Tipton isn’t talking to the tea-party-leaning radio program, the Cari and Rob Show. But Tipton’s Democratic challenger Sal Pace will go on the show.

KHOW’s Peter Boyles likes to say no elected official will go on his show anymore, though I heard Rep. Chris Holbert and Sen. Ted Harvey on Boyles’ show Feb. 15 to discuss their gun bills.

Mitt Romney skipped over all the major Denver media last month, eliciting an admirable Howard-Beale-like outcry from Fox 31 political reporter Eli Stokols.

It’s always been this way, you’d say. But the changes in the media make the situation worse for real people (who stopped reading this blog post before the first paragraph, even though I put “rabid” in the title to lure them in).

With the major media in decline, and more small outlets lining up along ideological lines, many people are less likely to hear from elected officials they disagree with.

Progressives, for example, who consume news from progressive news outlets, won’t be hearing from Scott Gessler directly any time soon, it appears.

That’s not good, and you have to think it will get worse, because, politically, Gessler can write off the left, talk to his conservative base, and try to reach moderates through other means, which may or may not include The Denver Post in the long run.

Under this scenario, how does the partisan divide do anything but get wider?

To be fair, and this is my attempt at ending on a hopeful note, I should tell you that even after Gessler’s office rejected my own interview requests, Gessler was willing to speak with me when I approached him after a speech  he gave at Colorado Christian University. I told him I was a liberal blogger, and he still spoke with me.

In the semi-public setting, maybe he felt a responsibility, as an elected official, not to turn away from me?

But,  like Westword, I didn’t ask him the right follow-up question. Who knows if I’ll get another chance?

Post shouldn’t forget about Stapleton’s DUI case

Wednesday, November 3rd, 2010

Even though Walker Stapleton has been elected State Treasurer, The Denver Post shouldn’t forget to make sure he turns over, at some point, the police report from his 1999 DUI arrest in San Francisco.

In an interview Oct. 27 on KHOW’s Caplis and Silverman show, Stapleton said he ordered the report and promised to deliver it to The Post’s Tim Hoover as soon as he gets it.

Last week, I criticized The Post for not interviewing one of two woman whose cab Stapleton hit when he drove his car through a red light and into their taxi. An interview with this victim was published in the Colorado Independent.

In the KHOW interview, Silverman seems to have made a mistake (uncorrected by Stapleton) when he said on the air that “as recounted by you, the accident wasn’t even your fault.”

In fact, Stapleton said told Silverman:

“What happened is, I had been drinking, and I had been under the influence of alcohol at the time, and I was hit by a taxi cab. And it was at an intersection where I had a blinking red and the taxi had a blinking yellow light. It caused my car to spin, to do a 360, and there were two people in the back of the taxi at the time.”

To me, it appears that the accident was Stapleton’s fault, even if the taxi hit him.

One of the women in the taxi also said Stapleton’s car ran a red light.

This victim also said something that Stapleton has denied, namely that he tried to flee the scene, but his car was cut off by other cars, possibly taxis.

The police report may clear this up, to some extent, as could documents requested by the Independent, which has raised questions about possible drug use by Stapleton.

When Stapleton turns over the report to The Post, a full story…-including an interview with the victim…-should be run to clear up the air or pollute it, depending on what the record shows.

Partial transcript of interview with Walker Stapleton on the Caplis and Silverman Show

10/27/2010 HOUR 4

Silverman: This involves a DUI conviction. Isn’t that something that the voters should know and determine whether it’s important to them or not.

Stapleton: Sure. Absolutely. And that’s why I admitted to this transgression 12 years ago. I was 25 at the time. It was a mistake that I’ve owned up to, that I’ve been honest about. In fact, the first time I was asked about it I was honest about it in a very public forum, and I’ve taken full responsibility for it. I served my community service as a result of this. It’s not something I feel great about. It’s not something that needs to be put into a political attack ad where the facts are twisted and distorted to make it look like things happened that simply didn’t happen. That is disingenuous to voters and it’s also insulting to voters…-as if voters would vote on issues like this and not issues that pertain, policy issues, which pertain to the job of being state treasurer of Colorado.

Silverman: Sure, good people can get DUIs. There was an accident involved, and some people were shaken up. There was an issue about whether those people were in a taxi or on foot, and whether you left the scene of the crime or not. Why don’t you explain what really happened?

Stapleton: Well, you know quite well from your experience as an accident attorney that a lot of things take place in an accident. What happened is, I had been drinking, and I had been under the influence of alcohol at the time, and I was hit by a taxi cab. And it was at an intersection where I had a blinking red and the taxi had a blinking yellow light. It caused my car to spin, to do a 360, and there were two people in the back of the taxi at the time. I didn’t even know that there were two people in the back of the taxi, wasn’t even told about it until my insurance company contacted me and said that both of these two individuals had applied for and received back massages. Liberal interest groups tried to drum up this story by saying that I had hit a number of pedestrians. That did not happen, and it was confirmed that it did not happen by the San Francisco Police Department. But they still did not drop the story even though The Denver Post spent the time and got a categorical denial from the Office of Public Safety of the San Francisco Police Department that pedestrians were not involved in this accident. When I explained that I had pulled out of traffic to the San Francisco Police Department, they dropped the hit-and-run charge. You know, from being a lawyer, that just because you are charged with something and you go through the legal process, now 12 years old, doesn’t mean you’re guilty of it-.

Silverman: I agree. A lot of good people can have a DUI. And as you recounted, the accident wasn’t even your fault. And I could see how that could happen. But there are DUIs and then there are DUIs. Some people have a .082 blood alcohol content, which gets them in trouble in Colorado right now under with DUI. Heck if you’re over .04 you can be charged with driving while ability impaired. And  you sometimes seepeople with huge blood alcohol content and, what was yours? Did you take…-

Stapleton: The answer is, I don’t remember. It was well under .2, I can tell you that. And, just as evidence that I have absolutely nothing to hide, and Tim Hoover of The Denver Post can confirm this, as soon as the Kennedy campaign, in an effort to smear me, brought this issue up again, I immediately attempted to order the police report from the San Francisco Office of Public Information, at which I will deliver a full report to Tim Hoover at The Denver Post as soon as I receive it. Unfortunately, there are bureaucratic circles involved with receiving such a report. But I have told Tim at The Post that I have absolutely nothing to hide with this accident. I have owned up to my mistakes-.

Question of the week for reporters: Does Buck oppose the morning-after pill even for a woman who is raped by a family member?

Monday, August 30th, 2010

The Denver Post on Sunday became the first major news outlet in Colorado, with the exception of the Associated Press, to report that Ken Buck opposes abortion even in the case of rape and incest.

This leads to a second question, which will be the first in my regular series, “Question of the week.” The question-of-the-week will be my suggested query for reporters to ask a specific policymaker, activist, elected official, or candidate. It will not always focus on Ken Buck, like this week’s question.

It appears that Ken Buck not only opposes a women’s right to choose abortion if she’s a victim of rape and incest, but he also supports a ban on the use of the morning-after pill or possibly other types of birth control, even in the case of rape and incest.

On KHOW’s Caplis and Silverman show Aug. 4, Buck suggests that he’s opposed the use of the morning-after pill, even in the case of rape and incest. Here’s the transcript:

Craig: -Let’s say, god forbid, that a 13-year-old boy impregnates his 14-year-old sister and does it by forced rape. You’re saying that the 14-year-old and anybody involved in the abortion should be prosecuted, if they choose to terminate the pregnancy, either through surgical abortion or a morning after pill?

Buck: I think it is wrong, Craig. I think it is morally wrong. And you are taking a very small group of cases and making a point about abortion. We have hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of abortions in this country every year. And the example that you give is a very poignant one but an extremely rare occurrence.

Craig: Incest happens. I’m sure your office prosecutes it. And we know rape and sexual assault happen all the time, and your office prosecutes it. So it’s not completely rare. I agree that most abortions have nothing to do with that. I don’t know if I’d go with rare.

Furthermore, Buck’s support of the Personhood amendment, which grants zygotes citizenship rights, would presumably include complete opposition to the use of some birth control measures, including the morning-after pill, even in the case of rape and incest. The Colorado Independent has been on this here.

So, the question for reporters to ask Buck:

Do you support a ban on the use of the morning-after pill even for a woman who is raped by a family member?

Reporters should ask for proof that McInnis paid tax on water money

Friday, August 6th, 2010

Asked by the Colorado Independent July 22 why $112,500 of his income from the Hasan Family Foundation was paid to “Invest 2, LLC,” McInnis said, “There is no reason.”

Of the $300,000 he got for his water fellowship, $112,000 was paid by the foundation to “Invest 2, LLC,” not to McInnis directly.

Reporters should investigate 1) how this came to pass and 2) whether McInnis used the arrangment to avoid paying income tax or evade taxes completely.

Today, I’ll shed a little light on the first question.

Dr. Aliya Hasan, who’s a board member of the Hasan Family Foundation, told me last week that McInnis requested that the foundation secretary pay the $112,500 to Invest 2, LLC.

“He just randomly asked us one day to do it,” Hasan told me. “He asked our secretary.”

Hasan said she did not know why McInnis did this.

Reporters should ask McInnis why he requested that the Hasan Foundation  pay Invest 2, if, as McInnis told the Independent, there was “no reason” for it.

With respect to the questin of whether McInnis paid income tax on this money, as I wrote before, Invest 2, LLC, was not listed among McInnis’ assets in The Denver Post back in April, when the McInnis campaign allowed a Post reporter to review portions of McInnis’ tax returns starting in 2005. Companies with similar names were listed in the Post article as assets, but Invest 2, LLC, was not among them. The Colorado Independent also looked at the McInnis tax returns in April and at his congressional disclosures, and did not see Invest 2 as one of McInnis’ assets. (McInnis did not allow reporters to make copies of his tax filings, so the Independent couldn’t check his returns again as of last week.)

Invest 2, LLC, was dissolved in 2006, so if McInnis was an owner, the entity should have been listed on his tax returns. McInnis told the Independent he paid taxes on all the Hasan foundation money.

If McInnis was not an owner of Invest 2, then the big question is why he paid the Hasan money to owners of Invest 2. The owners of Invest 2 are not known, but Lori McInnis, Scott McInnis’ wife, is named on the Colorado Secretary of State’s website as the registered agent for the corporation.

The Post reported that other McInnis LLC’s, like “Invest 1,” were partnerships with his five siblings and his wife.

Reporters should ask McInnis for proof that Invest 2 was included on his income tax. And, if he was not an owner of the company, why did he pay others the Hasan money?

This is basic follow-up reporting on a major story that has yet to be done.

Petroleum Club and McInnis disagree on canceled news conference

Wednesday, June 23rd, 2010

Republican gubernatorial candidate McInnis didn’t show up for a scheduled news conference after his speech before the Denver Petroleum Club yesterday.

The Colorado Independent reported that McInnis spokesperson Sean Duffy told journalists, who were waiting for McInnis after his speech, that McInnis was unaware of the press conference. The Denver Post quoted Duffy as saying McInnis had “other events.” (I was not aware of the Post’s reporting in an earlier version of this.)

Another journalist, who was one of the group of reporters waiting for McInnis, told me that Duffy entered the room and told reporters that the Petroleum Club hadn’t “told him [McInnis] about the press availability, but Duffy said he’d schedule individual meetings with anybody who wanted one.”

I asked Joyce Witte, President of the Denver Petroleum Club, if it was true that the McInnis Campaign wasn’t informed about the news conference.

“No, he did know about it, and I am not sure why he decided not to participate,” Witte told me. “It was my sense it was a last-minute decision on behalf of his campaign.”

I wanted to be sure I had this right, so I asked Witte, “But you’re sure he got the message, or Sean got that message somehow, because Sean is putting the blame on you guys?”

“Nope. They knew about it.”

Both McInnis and Democratic gubernatorial candidate John Hickenlooper spoke to the Denver Petroleum Club. A press conference with Hickenlooper took place, as planned, before his speech. McInnis was supposed to answer questions from reporters after his address to the group.

Hickenlooper sat down with about a dozen reporters and took questions not only about oil and gas issues, but about healthcare, immigration, stimulus funding, and more. At one point, the Mayor said he thought the press conference was going to be about oil-and-gas issues only, but he answered most of the questions put to him. (He told one reporter he’d have to get back to him on a question related to state legislation about a national identity card.)

Hickenlooper’s spokesperson George Merritt told me that his campaign was aware of the scheduled press conference well in advance.

I was on the press list for Petroleum Club event, which was moderated by Adam Schrager of 9News, and I attended half of it. I didn’t see a single organizational flaw there. The planned press events with both candidates were listed on press materials emailed to me two weeks in advance.

If tax forms released, McInnis would take “beating” from partners, Independent reports

Friday, April 30th, 2010

It slipped by me somehow, but Wed. the Colorado Independent was the first news organization to ask Colorado gubernatorial candidate Scott McInnis’ campaign what McInnis meant when he said on Fox Radio April 15 that he’d take a “beating” if he released his income tax returns.

McInnis, you recall, said on the radio: “So I’m not going to invite myself to my own beating.  I mean, let em [garbled words]. I’m going to give what I think the people want, not what The Denver Post wants.”

The Independent reported Wed. that McInnis spokesman Sean Duffy said that McInnis’ statement was a reference to the ”beating” the Republican candidate would take from his business partners for releasing their personal income information, which would allegedly be included on McInnis’ income-tax forms.

The Independent quoted James Vander Laan, a certified public accountant, who stated that the individual partnership income of all partners is not listed on K-1 forms, which are used to report partnership income, just the individual’s total. But the individual’s percentage of all the partnership’s income categories is listed. So the total income of  the firm could be calculated from the information provided on an individual partner’s K-1 form.

Presented with this information by the Independent, Duffy emailed the Independent that this was the reason the forms were not released to the public.

But the Independent didn’t ask the Vander Laan if McInnis could simply redact the information about the percentage of the partnership’s income that McInnis earned, thereby making it impossible to determine the total income of the firm from looking McInnis’ K-1 form.

“Absolutely,” Vander Laan said. “It would be pretty easy to take a black Marks-A-Lot and cover it up, wouldn’t it?”

Vander Laan added that McInnis could document his partnership income without releasing his K-1 form at all.

“Actually that information goes on a schedule in your 1040 that’s called Schedule E. By the time it hits Schedule E, you can no longer see ownership percentage. That doesn’t appear on Schedule E.”

News outlets should follow up, asking McInnis if he would be willing to take these steps and possibly others, if required, to protect the privacy of his business partners and avoid a “beating” by them, if he releases his income tax returns.