Archive for the 'Colorado State Treasurer' Category

Reporters need to dog Stapleton for answers

Tuesday, August 18th, 2015

Update: Colorado Independent reporter Nat Stein’s answer to my question of whether Stapleton’s office gave her a reason for declining comment: “His comms guy pretty much hung up on me, and three emails went unanswered,” tweeted Stein. “I just wanna talk!!”


When a public official starts to develop a reputation for stonewalling the media, the trend should be highlighted, especially now that fewer reporters are out there to ask public officials anything at all. Every reasonable question should be cherished. And every denial called out.

No long ago, State Treasurer Walker Stapleton declined to take questions from the evil Denver Post about why he withdrew his support from a bill aimed at making money for PERA, the state’s public retirement program. Then Stapleton shamelessly called the resulting article “completely misleading,” even though he’d refused to talk to the reporter about it.

Now Stapleton declined to comment on a softball request by the Colorado Independent’s Nat Stein about a #BlackLivesMatter campaign to change the name of the Stapleton neighborhood, because former Denver mayor Benjamin Stapleton was a member of the KKK.

Stein reports:

The Stapleton legacy — or its name, at least — still lives on in state government. Republican Walker Stapleton is currently serving his second term as state treasurer. His press office declined to comment on this article.

And as for the obvious question — well, what should Stapleton be named instead? — Pullen said Black Lives Matter 5280 hopes Stapleton could be renamed after a woman of color who made significant, historical contributions to Denver.

Nat Stein did not respond immediately to a request via Twitter to explain why Stapleton’s office refused to address questions about his family’s KKK history. I mean, how hard can this be for Stapleton to answer?

Ambush in the Public Interest

Thursday, May 28th, 2015

In an online Denver Post op-ed yesterday, I urged reporters to seek out and interview hiding politicians. I gave some recent Colorado examples, like Rep. Mike Coffman hiding from reporters after he said he wasn’t sure Obama was an American.

On Twitter, former CU regent Tom Lucero told me I left out instances of Democrats hiding from reporters, but he won’t provide me with any examples, saying he doesn’t want to do my “job.”

Too bad because I’d like to see his examples, and I’m sure they exist. But I couldn’t think of many in recent memory (I mentioned Udall)–and my piece focused on Colorado reporting.

In any case, Lucero should join me, because if journalists did this more often, it would benefit all of us. The ambush interview shouldn’t be relegated to showboaters like Bill O’Reilly and consumer reporters, like (mostly) the investigative units at 9News and channel 7.

In my piece, I quoted Eli Stokols, who told the Columbia Journalism Review in March that among Colorado reporters, “There seems to be a reluctance to hold people accountable for policy positions.”

What’s not to like about that suggestion, regardless of where you sit on the partisan spectrum? But how to do it?

One simple way is to not let public officials hide out and avoid answering questions. Journalists should track them down and force them to respond.

For example, State Treasurer Walker Stapleton is under fire for telling conservative radio-host Mike Rosen he did not support a proposed law to bolster Colorado’s public pension program when, in fact, he did support the legislation.

What are some other examples from any politician in Colorado?

Reporters should recall another reversal by Stapleton under pressure from conservatives

Tuesday, May 19th, 2015

State Treasurer Walker Stapleton apparently caved to pressure from conservatives earlier this month, when he claimed not to have supported legislation that he helped draft and later promoted.

It was a weird reversal–but not the first time Stapleton has walked back a moderate position after hearing from his conservative allies.

In January, in an interview with Colorado Public Radio’s Ryan Warner, Stapleton clearly stated he was open to not returning TABOR refunds.

Asked by Warner if he would support  “something that you felt was responsible and meant the state held on to the TABOR refunds,” Stapleton answered:

Stapleton: “Absolutely. TABOR is the popular whipping post, but Gallagher and Amendment 23 have also created a Gordian Knot of automatic ratchets in the budget and we need to free ourselves of automatic ratchets and get more control over where we spend dollars and more results-oriented spending for our budget going forward in the future. But I’m not opposed reflexively to anything, other than I’m opposed to anything that doesn’t give taxpayers a voice in where their money is being spent.”

Sounds kind of reasonable, doesn’t he, like he did in supporting a common-sense bill to bolster Colorado’s public retirement system. That is until conservatives got to him.

Same thing happened to his reasonable attitude toward TABOR. It disappeared.

Shortly after I blogged that Stapleton was open to not returning TABOR refunds, Peak Politics, a right-wing blog, came out with a piece headlined, “TWISTED WORDS: Liberals Distort Treasurer’s Remarks in Service to Their Own Agenda.”

The post quoted Stapleton’s spokesman, Micheal Fortney.

Stapleton Spokesman: “Walker never said he was for tax increases or Coloradans not getting their refund, only that he was for Coloradans’ right to vote on any proposal that raised taxes. Big difference. Walker was for a full statewide hearing on Amendment 66, the largest proposed tax increase in CO history to date. And Walker weighed in when he led the fight to defeat that wasteful spending initiative. He believed the people’s voice should be heard back then and still does.”

Right, so how did I twist Stapleton’s words by writing that he “was open to not returning TABOR funds”? And why didn’t Fortney say his boss is open to backing such a tax increase?

Looks like the righties at Peak Politics somehow got Stapleton to twist what he was actually recorded as saying–just as conservatives somehow convinced him to deny supporting a bill he helped draft.

Radio interview casts more doubt on Stapleton’s explanation for supporting PERA bill

Monday, May 18th, 2015

If you’re a reporter, it’s tough to be fair when the person you’re writing about won’t talk to you, but The Denver Post’s John Frank did the best he could in an article Sunday about State Treasurer Walker Stapleton.

Stapleton, who declined to be interviewed for Frank’s story, is clearly on record supporting legislation this session allowing him to issue bonds to make money for the state’s public retirement system. But speaking on conservative talk radio after the bill died, Stapleton denied ever supporting the legislation. The question is, why?

Frank points out that one reason for Stapleton’s about-face is pressure from conservatives who are wary of debt. That’s charitable to Stapleton. Actually, Stapleton admitted on the radio that he was under pressure from conservatives who want only to reduce expenses of retirement programs (higher age of retirement or contribution, lower pay outs). Stapleton’s bill intended to increase PERA’s revenue, so that the retirement system would be stronger and have a better chance at functioning as promised. This pissed off the conservatives, whose apparent underlying goal is to weaken or kill public pension programs.

Stapleton’s own explanation for his apparent hypocrisy is, as Frank reported, that he “supported the bill to give him the authority to issue bonds but not the issuance of bonds.”

This didn’t impress The Post’s Vincent Carroll, who wrote last week:

Actually, the legislation had everything to do with issuing bonds. You don’t give the state authority to do something unless you anticipate that it will exercise that power at some point and are comfortable with that possibility. And this bill wasn’t a permanent authority. It expired on Dec. 31, 2018, roughly when Stapleton will leave office. Obviously the bill contemplated Stapleton himself signing off on bonds at some point.

Frank produced evidence showing that Stapleton thought actually issuing the bonds was a good idea if “done in a prudent and conservative manner.”

On KLZ 560-AM’s nooner show, hosted by Ken Clark, Stapleton got even more specific, identifying a financial window during which he was prepared to issue the bonds.

“We had a provision that we would not even consider issuing the bonds if the arbitrage wasn’t at least a two-point spread.” (Listen to the KLZ interview at 4:25 below.)

You don’t need to know what an arbitrage is to see that Stapleton was happy and ready to consider issuing the bonds under very specific circumstances–if the arbitrage was at least a two-point spread. Case closed.

It makes sense that Stapleton would have specific circumstances in mind because Stapleton’s office helped draft the bill, and on the radio, he bragged about the bill requirements he insisted on. He wanted and got veto power on whether to issue bonds at all and how many. (Listen to the KLZ interview below beginning 40 seconds into it.)

Toward the end of his KLZ interview, Stapleton was more direct in explaining the conservative arguments that apparently won him over between the time that he favored issuing bonds and then denied favoring issuing them.

Stapleton (@7 minutes below): I’ve talked to a lot of people about this issue since it began, and someone made a very good point to me. And that was, and I think this is an interesting point now that this has died, if we really want to address lasting pension reform, we have to deal with the expense of the system that’s been created. We have to deal with it on the expense side and not the revenue side. And this bill attempted to flood PERA with revenues to make up for the shortfall, but it didn’t bring any structural reforms on the expense side.”

So he’s saying that he’s now not interested in intelligent fiscal management of the state pension system–only in taking away benefits. But it looks like Stapleton didn’t want to talk to The Post’s Frank about this or anything else.

Walker Stapleton on KLZ 560-AM’s Freedom 560, May 5, 2014.

Walker Stapleton on KOA’s Mike Rosen Show May 5, 2015

Wider perspectives needed on TABOR impasse

Tuesday, January 6th, 2015

In a piece yesterday outlining the partisan agendas at the state legislature, Denver Post reporter John Frank reported that state Senate and House Republicans are unified in wanting to return tax-surplus funds to taxpayers, as stipulated by TABOR.

Frank wrote Democrats are split on the issue, noting that Senate Democrat Morgan Carroll “supports a move to seek voter approval to spend the money if it comes from an outside ballot initiative effort.”

For perspective, reporters covering this apparent impasse should seek opinions of partisan leaders away from the Capitol, including the bipartisan leaders of Referendum C, which was approved by voters in 2005 and allowed Colorado to hold on to funds that would otherwise have been returned to taxpayers under TABOR.

Opinions from outside-the-dome could be surprising.  In an interview with Colorado Public Radio’s Ryan Warner, Colorado Treasurer Walker Stapleton said he was open to not returning TABOR refunds:

Warner: “You were a vocal critic of Amendment 66, which would have raised taxes to pay for education. In the way that you got involved with that, would you throw your support behind something that you felt was responsible and meant the state held on to the TABOR refunds?”

Stapleton: “Absolutely. TABOR is the popular whipping post, but Gallagher and Amendment 23 have also created a Gordian Knot of automatic ratchets in the budget and we need to free ourselves of automatic ratchets and get more control over where we spend dollars and more results-oriented spending for our budget going forward in the future. But I’m not opposed reflexively to anything, other than I’m opposed to anything that doesn’t give taxpayers a voice in where their money is being spent.”

Stapleton also said: “The more hopeful way to look at it is, if we in government do a good job and do our jobs in hopefully explaining to people where money is going to go and why resources are needed, that people will be reasonable enough to support fixes to our budget problems in Colorado.”

Stapleton cry of biased judges goes unchallenged on KLZ radio

Thursday, August 21st, 2014

Colorado State Treasurer Walker Stapleton took to the airwaves of KLZ 560-AM yesterday to raise the specter of judicial bias in Monday’s Colorado Supreme Court decision not to release records on the top PERA recipients.

Speaking on KLZ’s nooner show, Freedom560, hosted by Ken Clark, Stapleton said:

“It’s worth pointing out, call me a cynic, that every single member of the judicial branch is also a member of PERA. And that means that every single judge that heard my case had a vested economic interest in doing nothing about the problem, in maintaining the status quo, in feeling that their pension would be somehow released to me and not wanting that to be the case. I mean it’s mind-boggling to think our judicial branch is aiding and abetting a lack of transparency. It really is.”

Commenting via Twitter on Stapleton’s remark, Luis Toro, Director of Colorado Ethics Watch, wrote dryly: “Shocking admission that the point of his suit is to undermine PERA. If his suit was to strengthen PERA, the ‘vested interest’ would be to support him, wouldn’t it?”

KOA’s Rosen fails to challenge Stapleton’s statement that Social Security won’t be there for “most of us”

Monday, July 15th, 2013

You might think that Mike Rosen would be super-sensitive to over-confident “money” men with fancy titles, since Rosen lost big money in the Bernie Madoff Ponzie scheme.

But KOA’s Rosen showed no skepticism Thursday when State Treasurer Walker Stapleton told him:

Stapleton: “Most of us have no anticipation of actually getting Social Security.”

Rosen didn’t challenge, much less debate Stapleton, on his prediction that Social Security won’t be there for most people.  Not that you’d expect Rosen to disagree with Stapleton, but still, why not have a rational debate about it?

Social Security is one of the best programs ever devised by our government.. It’s been slightly modified over its 75 years or so of existence, as you’d expect for any long-lasting operation, public or private, and it continues to be a lifeline for seniors.

It’s on solid ground for about 20 more years, even without further tweaks. With minor changes, it will last indefinitely.

For example, simply taxing benefits on wages above $110,000, which are currently not taxed at all, would eliminate about 75% of Social Security’s projected long-term shortfall.

Rosen probably won’t rely on Social Security during his own retirement, despite his Madoff losses. But that doesn’t mean he should let Colorado’s Treasurer scare people of lesser means who are depending on their Social Security check being there for them.


Stapleton says he supports lawsuit to strike down FASTER but not asked how he’d pay for road upgrades

Thursday, June 7th, 2012

During an interview on KLZ’s Grassroots Radio Colorado yesterday, Colorado State Treasurer Walker Stapleton came out in support of a lawsuit alleging that the 2009 FASTER law, which raised Colorado vehicle registration fees to pay for road and bridge upgrades, is unconstitutional.

Here’s the key exchange on the radio show:

WALKER STAPLETON: Well, you know, my friend Rich Sokel is at the tip of the spear, there. And I think it’s a great thing. And I hope they prevail because, you know, the FASTER tax was one of many taxes and fees that was passed without our input as voters in Colorado. And it was passed and given cover by a liberal activist Supreme Court. And so I hope that it gets some traction, because these fees need to be called what they are, and that’s tax increases.

Host: Absolutely. So I’m going to wish them luck on that and we’re going to do everything we can to support those guys and their efforts. Walker Stapleton, Colorado state—

STAPLETON: Thank you, guys! I appreciate you!

HOST: We appreciate you and everything you’re doing and you know you’ve got a friendly voice here, so use us whenever we can and we’ll help you fight this battle. That’s Walker Stapleton, Colorado State Treasurer.

Listen to Walker Stapleton on KLZ 6-7-12

It’s painful to hear a public official, who claims to be the standard bearer for fiscal responsibility, support striking down the FASTER law without explaining how he’d fund road and bridge repair in the state. And this is of course not the first time Republicans have exhibited this problem.

So, please, all you entertaining people over at KLZ, put this question to Stapleton when you have him back on Grassroots Radio Colorado: Does he 1) want to fix Colorado’s crumbling roads and bridges, and, if so 2) how does he propose to pay for it ($300 million in bonds issued and $400 million to be issued in 2017).

Post should call on moonlighters like Stapleton to follow Hick’s lead on cell-phone use

Friday, February 4th, 2011

Kenny Be summed up Scott Gessler’s moonlighting problem nicely in Westword last month, depicting Colorado’s Secretary of State with a phone on each ear.

If you’re The Denver Post, the two phones in the cartoon would have caught your eye, because the newspaper waged a multi-faceted campaign to get Bill Ritter to turn over his personal cell-phone records for public review…-with his personal calls excised.

Ritter refused to do this, even though he apparently conducted state business on his personal cell phone, because he said it was an invasion of privacy.

The Post got pretty upset at Ritter. There weren’t any front-page editorials, but it hopped up and down on the editorial page, calling for the release of his cell-phone records, and even filed a lawsuit that drags on to this day. (Two decisions have gone against The Post, and the daily has appealed to the Colorado Supreme Court.)

Ritter has come and gone and, unfortunately, we never reviewed the state calls he made on his personal cell-phone.

But The Post’s campaign paid off.

John Hickenlooper  told a conservative journalist that he’ll use two cell phones, one for conducting the people’s business and another for personal and campaign work.

He’ll make records of calls on his “government cell phone” available for public review. And he plans to have a neutral party review the records from his private phone to make sure he’s not hiding state biz there.

Former Post Editorial Board member and current Post reporter Chuck Plunkett discussed Hick’s cell phone policies on Jon Caldara’s “Devil’s Advocate” TV show on KBDI. (The name of the show should actually be “The Devil,” dropping the “Advocate” part, but who am I?)

Caldara and Plunkett couldn’t say enough good things about Hick’s cell-phone policies. And a Post editorial patted the new gov on the back.

Recent news cycles have illuminated other state officials whom The Post should now call on to follow Hick’s lead.

I’m thinking of Colorado’s proliferating crop of moonlighting public officials. Among other things, we need to be sure that their “conflict of time,” as The Post put it, doesn’t blend their two jobs together on their personal cell phones.

So that means these guys: GOP Attorney General John Suthers, who’s teaching law classes; Secretary of State Scott Gessler, if he starts down the moonlighting path again; and Dwayne Romero, whom Hick appointed to lead the Colorado Office of Economic Development and International Trade.

Of most concern, when it comes to transparency, is Colorado Treasurer Walker Stapleton. He’ll be raking in to $150,000 per year, at $250 per hour, working for his old real estate firm.

This works out to 600 hours or over 11 hours per week. That’s over quarter time, based on a 40-hour work week. Of course, Stapleton’s weeks will likely be longer, but it’s a lot of time.

I mean, with 600 hours of out-of-state business to conduct, Stapleton will have to be on the phone so frequently that some state matters could slip onto his personal phone, despite his best intentions. He might just get mixed up about whose clock, I mean, phone he should be on, as he makes quick calls for his own business and then the people’s.

I asked Stapleton’s Communications Director Michael Fortney whether his boss would be following Hick’s example on the cell phone issue.

He said he’ll have one cell phone for personal use and another for matters relating to his state work.

“He’s going to do his state business either on his land line or state-issued cell phone,” Fortney told me. “He won’t do state business on the personal.”

Fortney has not yet discussed with Stapleton whether he will let a neutral party review records for his personal cell phone, as Hick says he’ll do, and weed out anything that should be made public.

The Post, which has waged the good fight on the cell phone issue, should stay the course, with a focus mostly on Stapleton, but all the moonlighters should be urged to follow Hick’s lead.

Here’s a video of Plunkett explaining this issue.