Archive for the 'Colorado Independent' Category

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.

“Ubiquitous” Marcus heads to CO Springs Gazette

Wednesday, October 26th, 2016

More moves in Colorado’s political jounalism world. In his “Local News and Media” newsletter, Corey Hutchins reports:

Readers of this newsletter over the past few weeks likely have noticed The Gazette in Colorado Springs is making moves under its new editor, Vince Bzdek, who came from The Washington Post last spring. A bevy of new hires— Joey Bunch from The Denver Post, Jim Trotter from Rocky Mountain PBS— is forming a political team with a goal of ramping up statewide political coverage. The paper, owned by conservative Denver billionaire Phil Anschutz, is already doing its own polling, a service other Colorado newspapers have scrapped as their resources dwindle. The latest hire to the politics team is Peter Marcus, a young and ubiquitous reporter who spent the past few years at The Durango Herald and was at The Colorado Statesman before that.

 

 

 

Bush cousin Stapleton doesn’t denounce Trump

Monday, October 24th, 2016

In an appearance on KNUS 710-AM’s Kelley and Kafer Oct. 11, Colorado Treasurer Walker Stapleton chose not to disavow Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump–as Stapleton’s second cousin, failed presidential canidate Jeb Bush, has done.

Asked by host Steve Kelley for a “quick comment” about the “top of the ticket,” Stapleton stopped short of denouncing the mogul:

Stapleton: “Well, you know, I think it’s a messy situation. It’s an unfortunate situation. I think it’s a lost opportunity to expose the many, many flaws that Hillary Clinton has.  I think she’s a very duplicitous individual. And I just wish we could find a way to pull it together. And in the last month of the campaign, we should be uniting Republicans, not dividing Republicans. So, I’m pretty frustrated, as you might imagine, with the ‘macro’ — I guess — state of affairs on the national level, which is why I am really redoubling my efforts to focus here in Colorado on what’s at stake on the ballot this election cycle.”

The radio appearance marks the second time Stapleton, who’s mentioned as a possible gubernatorial candidate in 2018, has passed on a chance denounce Trump. Last week, the Colorado Independent’s Marianne Goodland posted a story about the reaction of Colorado Republicans to Trump, and Stapleton did not return the Independent’s request to comment.

Other Replicans rumored to be considering future runs for statewide office,  Attorney General Cynthia Coffman and District Attorney George Brauchler, did not returns calls and/or emails from The Independent.

With Trump unlikely to disappear from the national Republican stage after the upcoming election, the current stance of future Republican candidates toward Trump could prove important next year and beyond.

Stapleton is the second cousin of former President George W. Bush and of failed presidential candidate Jeb Bush, who sparred with Trump repeatedly during the Republican presidential primary. Jeb’s and W’s father, and Stapleton’s first cousin, is former President George Herbert Walker Bush, with “Walker” as the linneage connecting Walker Stapleton to the Bushes.

Jeb Bush has stated that he will not vote for Trump, and neither will his mother Barbara Bush.

Jeb Bush, whom Stapleton supported of course, wrote on Facebook:

Jeb Bush: The American Presidency is an office that goes beyond just politics. It requires of its occupant great fortitude and humility and the temperament and strong character to deal with the unexpected challenges that will inevitably impact our nation in the next four years.

Donald Trump has not demonstrated that temperament or strength of character. He has not displayed a respect for the Constitution. And, he is not a consistent conservative. These are all reasons why I cannot support his candidacy.

The reaction of Colorado Republicans to Trump has spanned the full spectrum, from enthusiastic support to denunciation.

Take two: Doty now says she’s against the hospital provider fee

Thursday, October 6th, 2016

The Colorado Independent’s Marianne Goodland reported earlier this year that Republican state senate candidate Nancy Doty had yet to formulate a stance on whether state lawmakers should reclassify the hospital provider fee as an enterprise fund, freeing up over $300 in tax money for roads, schools, and other projects. Goodland reported:

The hospital provider fee isn’t a subject that has come up on the campaign trail, Doty indicated, and although she comes from a strong financial background, she admitted she isn’t quite up to speed on the issue and needs to spend more time looking into it.

“The ironic thing is that we’re talking about money that will solve all the issues once the transfer takes place. I don’t know if that’s the answer,” she said.

Doty’s “strong financial background,” referenced by Goodland, includes being chief financial officer under Gov. Bill Owens.

So how could she not have an opinion on the hospital provider fee, given that it’s one of the top issues facing the state legislature?

Especially now that conservatives have started attacking State Rep. Daniel Kagan, who’s Doty’s Democratic opponent in senate district 26 race, for supporting reclassification of the fee. Surely, Doty is aware of these attacks.

I decided to confirm that she still holds no opinion, as reported by the Independent.

I talked to Doty last week prior to an event at Las Brisas restaurant in Greenwood Village, and she declined to comment on the recent attack on Kagan over the hospital provider fee.

“I haven’t done that, so it’s not my campaign,” Doty said.

Asked if she had a position, Doty said, “I’m against it.”

I didn’t get to ask Doty for details, as she was about to speak at her event, so I don’t know when or why she formulated her stance on the issue. But it raises lots of questions about why she’d be opposed to a tax-free source of funds for roads, schools, etc. etc.

She may have struggled with her stance against the fee in her role as board member of the South Metro Chamber of Commerce, which voted–apparently over Doty’s opposition–to support legislation reclassifying the hospital fee as an enterprise under the Taxpayers’ Bill of Rights (TABOR).

The Kagan-Doty race is widely seen as one of the most important state contests this year, with Republicans holding to a one-seat majority in the Colorado senate. A Doty victory would almost certainly thwart the Democrats efforts to take over the state senate chamber, even if State Sen. Laura Woods (R-Arvada) loses her race to Democratic challenger Rachel Zenzinger.

So, needless to say, it’s important for the public to know Doty’s positions on major issues, like the hospital provider fee, especially when she’s told a reporter that she has no position.

Now we know.

Under-the-radar race gets TV coverage because… it’s so important

Friday, September 23rd, 2016

If you’re paying attention to politics in Colorado, you know that few people have any clue about the most important political contest in the state: the state senate race in Arvada/Westminster, where Republican Laura Woods is battling Democrat Rachel Zenzinger.

But the importance of the race apparently isn’t a good enough news hook for many reporters to give it the coverage it deserves, which is a lot.

So Fox 31 Denver’s Joe St. George gets our collective thanks for assembling a TV story about, as he labeled it, the state senate race in Arvada that could be “the most important race you’re not watching.” That was his hook! How great is that?

“At first glance this race doesn’t look very important,” says St. George in his piece, showing Woods and Zenzinger knocking on doors. “…the most important race you likely haven’t talked about….if Zenzinger wins this re-match, Dems may be in complete control [of state government]….

“While this race dominates the headlines,” narrates St. George, flashing images of Clinton and Trump. “This one in Arvada may end up impacting your life more come next year.”

Political insiders know this, yet coverage of the state’s most important race remains spotty (unless you get behind the paywall of the Colorado Statesman–or read the Colorado Independent), so few people know about it, much less where the candidates stand on the issues. St. George provided a bit of this info on the KDVR Fox 31 Denver website, listing, among others, these comparisons of the two candidates.

St. George reported:

In terms of the issues:

Abortion
Woods: Pro-life
Zenzinger: Pro-choice

Gun control
Woods: Against
Zenzinger: Supports common sense measures

Minimum wage increase
Woods: Against
Zenzinger: Supports

(For background, Woods is against all abortion, even for rape and incest, and, on guns, she’s against all criminal background checks prior to gun purchases.)

As we get closer to the election, more reporters will almost certainly inform voters just how important this race is. Good to see St. George leading the way.

More bad journalism news with a silver lining

Tuesday, September 20th, 2016

Local journalist Corey Hutchins reports in his “Colorado Local News and Media” newsletter (subscribe here) on the recent upsurge in ongoing shifts among Colorado political reporters:

“…Denver Post political reporter Joey Bunch announced he was leaving to join The Gazette in Colorado Springs, which is beefing up its statewide political profile. But then, Gazette political reporter Megan Schrader announced she was leaving The Gazette to join The Denver Post’s editorial board. This comes after Jim Trotter’s recent move from Rocky Mountain PBS to The Gazette, and Woody Paige also leaving The Denver Post for the Colorado Springs paper.

If that wasn’t enough, The Colorado Statesman, a POLITICO-like subscription-based trade journal, effectively laid off its editorial department— just 50 days out from the election. I’m told the paper slashed half its budget. Some of the writers will still write, but on a freelance basis, and they’ll focus more on the weekly print paper than on the website, which was frequently updated. Also on the cutting room floor in Colorado: four people at BizWest Media’s Fort Collins and Boulder offices got laid off and the publication will shift to a monthly print schedule.

Whew, head spinning? Let this stop you. Former Denver Post journalist Tina Griego has returned to Colorado after four years on the East Coast, and is now an editor at The Colorado Independent. Check out her first essay about the new, gentrified, displaced Denver she found upon her return.”

No one in their right mind likes Republican Larry Mizel’s “secret” ownership of the Statesman, but cutting veteran news reporters there is obviously bad and sad.

Usually bad journalism news has no silver lining, but this time the good news is Schader’s and Trotter’s moves and Griego’s return. Also, Post Editor Lee Ann Colaciappo informs me that the newspaper is advertising for a political writer and hopes to fill Bunch’s position soon. So let’s be thankful for that.

CORRECTION: An early version of this post incorrectly stated that The Post’s staff of political writers would be shrinking further due to Bunch’s departure. 

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.

With so much opposition from business, how did a conservative group convince so many Republicans on the hosptial provider fee?

Monday, February 22nd, 2016

Much has been written about the Democrats’ proposal to remove a hospital fee from TABOR restrictions, freeing up about $370 million for highways, schools, and other government projects that lack funding.

But one question that hasn’t been explained fully is, why the near unanimous opposition by Republican state lawmakers to the proposal? Unanimity that may be cracking, but still.

The question flashed out from a Colorado Independent article Friday, in which a spokesman for conservative Americans for Prosperity, backed by the Koch brothers, emphasized that last year 307 lobbyists were on one side of the debate over the hospital provider fee, and only a single lonely group was on the other. That would be AFP.

How did AFP pull this off, particularly when the business community, normally home base for the GOP, is aligned against Republicans on this issue? You wouldn’t expect all Republican legislators to jump in the laps of business groups, given the issues at play and AFP, but this level of separation from establishment business interests?

The business support has been chronicled best by the Denver Business Journal’s Ed Sealover, who wrote one article listing business organizations that signed a letter in support of the Democrats’ plan for the hospital provider fee. The organizations:

Action 22
Associated General Contractors
Aurora Chamber of Commerce
Club 20
Colorado Association of Commerce & Industry
Association of Colorado Realtors
Colorado Competitive Council
Colorado Contractors Association
Colorado Springs Forward
Colorado Springs Regional Business Alliance
Colorado Wheat Growers Association
Denver Metro Chamber of Commerce
Progressive 15
South Metro Chamber of Commerce

That’s a bunch of power there–with deeeeeep ties to Republicans. You’d think they’d have been able to convince more GOP legislators. How did AFP manage to pull this off?

Questions about the hospital provider fee? Read this

Saturday, January 16th, 2016

Reporters have struggled to find a short-hand description for the “hospital provider fee,” because  it’s impossible to describe briefly. And lengthy descriptions of it often require multiple readings. And that’s without trying to understand the intracacies of why it’s such a big deal.

So the Colorado Independent did us all a favor by dedicating a full article to: “What you need to know about Colorado’s biggest political battle. It’s called the hospital provider fee, and it’s complicated. Let’s break it down.”

You should take a few minutes to read the entire piece, by the Independent’s Corey Hutchins, but here are a few paragraphs:

The hospital provider fee is a state program requiring hospitals to pay money each year depending on how many patients stayed in hospital beds overnight and how much outpatient services they provided. That money is then used, among other things, to help Coloradans who can’t afford insurance plans get care, and to help the state pay for people who are on Medicaid, which is a government healthcare program for low-income Coloradans and their families.

Each hospital pays a different amount — some pay a lot, some pay nothing — and the fee hauled in nearly $700 million last year. This money is then matched almost dollar for dollar by the federal government to expand Medicaid, provide health coverage for Coloradans who are using emergency rooms for non-emergency treatment, and reimburse hospitals for care. The more money the fee brings in the more money the feds give Colorado to make sure people who can’t afford healthcare get it. Since 2009, the program has helped more than 300,000 people get insurance coverage….

Democratic Sen. Pat Steadman, who sits on the state’s budget committee, explains it like this: Picture a bucket with water pouring in. The incoming water is state revenues, and when the bucket fills to the top (or hits its TABOR limits) water starts pouring over the edge— and that overflowing water (money) goes back to taxpayers in the form of rebates. Now, picture rocks in the bottom of the bucket. One of those big rocks is money from the hospital provider fee. It’s money that takes up space in the bucket, and those who want to take a big rock out can do so by reclassifying the hospital provider fee into an enterprise.

If my anonymous conservative critics “have something to say, just say it,” says conservative operative

Friday, October 30th, 2015

Advancing Colorado’s Jonathan Lockwood has this to say to conservatives who trashed him anonymously in a Oct. 26 Colorado Indpendent article:  “If you have something to say, just say it.”

The Independent’s Kyle Harris reported that “few conservatives are willing to go on record about Lockwood — he’s either too powerful, or too irrelevant, or too volatile, depending on who’s talking.” Some conservatives, Harris wrote, see Lockwood “as a ‘sideshow,’ drawing attention to himself rather than the issues he’s hired to spin.”

In response, on Facebook, Lockwood wrote:

Apparently there are conservatives who are more like burglers, wearing ski-masks hiding their identity, and won’t come out and say what they want to say on the record. If you have something to say, just say it.

These political burglers who squander their donors’ money on buyig urls and losing campaigns, apparently share their opinion of me with people like Laura Chapin and Alan Franklin, people who want to see the free market burn and the Constitution trashed, which should be telling. Every single effort I’ve worked on, won.

These people want to impose their version of ‘what people are supposed to say,’ don’t follow their own rules and I think what I have learned is that if you are making a difference and making an impact and changing lives for the better, fighting for freedom, free markets and a freer society, people will trash you, make fun of you for everything from your appearance to your history and background, and make campaign jobs ending and new opportunities presenting themselves, rapidly working from a press secretary to an executive diretor, a ‘bad thing.’

“No one can figure out who those anonymous people would be,” Lookwood told me, adding that he’s gotten an “overwhelmingly encouraging response” to his Facebook post. “Nobody really believes that conservatives would say those things.”

“What I’ve been able to do is bring together people from all over the political spectrum,” he said. And that includes Republicans of all stripes, he said.

The original post did not contain Lockwood’s response.