Archive for the 'Colorado U.S. Senate' Category

Media omission: With House adjourning, Gardner faces last chance to withdraw his name from federal personhood bill

Wednesday, September 17th, 2014

It’s a big week for senatorial candidate Cory Gardner, as the clock ticks down on his opportunity to withdraw his co-sponsorship from a federal personhood bill, which aims to ban all abortion, even for rape and incest.

To get his name off the legislation, Gardner is required to make a speech from the floor of the U.S. House of Representatives, which is expected to adjourn as early as this week. And it would not meet again prior to the election. So this is Gardner’s last chance.

Fact checkers in Colorado (here and here plus yours truly) and nationally have concluded that the Life at Conception Act, which Gardner cosponsored just last year, is substantive legislation, written and promoted by its sponsors to end a women’s right to choose.

But, inexplicably, both Gardner and his spokespeople, like Owen Loftus,  have told reporters that the bill is symbolic. Most recently, Gardner told 9News’ Brandon Rittiman, “There is no federal personhood bill.” The bill he cosponsored “says life begins at conception,” Gardner told Rittiman. Loftus once said, “The Democrats like to say that it is personhood but it’s not.”

Given these statements by Gardner, who’s challenging pro-choice Democrat Sen. Mark Udall, you wouldn’t expect Gardner to withdraw his name at this point, because he’d have a mouthful of explaining to do–like why he thinks his legislation is symbolic when no one else does.

Reporters should put that question to Gardner regardless of whether he removes his name form the bill in the coming weeks.  Why is he repeating the documented falsehood that the Life at Conception Act is symbolic, given the text of the legislation and the fact checks. With the deadline approaching, now would be a really great time to ask him.

Republican talk-radio host deserves credit for revealing his troubles booking Gardner

Tuesday, September 16th, 2014

KNUS radio host Dan Caplis said this morning that during 21 years on air, he’s “never had trouble booking Cory Gardner.”

But he said, “we have had, on a regular basis, trouble booking Cory Gardner for the last three-or-four months,” even though his show has the “friendliest audience you could ever hope for.”

“My concern is whether [the Gardner] campaign, and this is where I get back to tactics, has allowed Cory to be Cory, and whether they’ve had him out there enough. And whether it’s been a play-not-to-lose strategy. That’s my concern, because I think Cory is magnificent. I know even on this show, which is about the friendliest audience you could ever hope for, we have had on a regular basis trouble booking Cory Gardner for the last three or four months. And I’ve been on air 21 years, and I never had trouble booking Cory before.”

Listen to Dan Caplis discuss his troubles booking Gardner for his friendly show.

You gotta give credit to Caplis, who sounds on air like he runs in elite Republican circles, for coming clean with his criticism of Gardner’s media dodge.

Media omission: Personhood ties run deep in Jeffco GOP campaigns

Thursday, September 11th, 2014

I wrote last week about how senatorial candidate Cory Gardner’s support for Colorado’s personhood abortion ban was part of his formula for winning the 2010 Republican caucus process, which was a big step to his being elected to Congress.

If you look at the State Senate races in Jefferson County today, you see that the influence of key personhood backers persists, meaning that Cory Gardner would have likely faced the same pressure to embrace personhood positions today as he did then. Gardner, of course, did not run in Jeffco, but similar dynamics play out statewide.

And don’t forget that Jefferson County is the most critical battleground between Democrats and Republicans for control of the state legislature. The swing district could also decide Colorado’s Governor and U.S. Senate races, and the outcome of Colorado’s Senate contest could put the entire U.S. Senate in Democratic or Republican hands.

The latest campaign finance reports reveal that Jeffco Republican candidates Tim Neville (SD-16), Laura Woods (SD-19), and Tony Sanchez (SD-22) all have notorious GOP strategic consultant Jon Hotaling on the payroll via his company, “Liberty Service Corporation.” Liberty Service Corporation was Sanchez’s largest expenditure ($1,750) during the latest campaign-finance-reporting period and the second largest for Woods ($1,000) and Neville ($1,000).

Hotaling’s firm has worked over the years for Rep. Janak Joshi, gubernatorial candidate Tom Tancredo, and other personhood supporters, most notably for Colorado For Equal Rights, which ran the pro-personhood campaign, fronted by Kristi Burton, in 2008, according to campaign-finance reports. In 2008, Hotaling collected about $12,000 from Colorado For Equal Rights.

So a major consultant for Personhood is deeply integrated into the campaigns of the three Republican senate candidates in Jeffco. Neville, Sanchez, and Woods all support personhood, as defined by Colorado Right to Life, based on their responses to its candidate survey this year.

Using what Republicans themselves called unethical tactics, Woods and Sanchez hammered their Republican primary opponents on the abortion issue during their primary campaigns against Lang Sias and Mario Nicolais.

In one flyer produced by “Colorado for Family Values,” (see link below), Nicolais was pictured next to openly-gay Democrat Pat Steadman and accused of advancing the “radical agenda of gay marriage” by supporting civil unions.

A search for Colorado for Family Values on the Secretary of State’s website returns, “Decommissioning Colorado for Family Values,” which was previously called “Colorado for Family Values.” Its agent is Mark Hotaling, Jon’s brother. No expenditures are listed, apparently indicating a campaign-finance violation, like the one that prompted a complaint Tuesday by Colorado Ethics Watch against Colorado Campaign for Life and Rocky Mountain Gun Owners.

The bulk mail permit (#255) used for 2014 mailers against Sias by the Christian Coalition of Colorado, a staunch anti-abortion group previously directed by both Jon and his brother Mark Hotaling, is identical to the bulk mail permit number used by Colorado for Family Values for Gosnell mailers against Nicolais.

(Click here to see the Christian Coalition of Colorado mailer using bulk permit #255 and the Colorado for Family Values mailer using bulk permit #255.)

pile of accusations point to Hotaling as using similar mailers and messaging to destroy his past opponents, Republicans or Democrats.

For example, Hotaling was accused of orchestrating dirty tricks in support of Rep. Doug Lamborn’s primary victory in 2006 over talk-show host Jeff Crank and CO Springs Mayor Lionel Rivera. In that race, a mailer linked to Hotaling and his brother accused the ultra-conservative Crank and Rivera, of supporting the “homosexual agenda.” And you can imagine how that was received by Colorado Springs Republicans. On his KVOR radio show, Crank still talks bitterly about the race.

The mailed advertisement against Crank came from the Christian Coalition of Colorado, directed at the time by Jon Hotaling’s brother Mark, who’d just taken over the organization from brother Jon, who’d left to run Lamborn’s campaign.

Hotaling, who was once Marilyn Musgrave’s campaign manager, has been investigated by the Federal Election Commission (See graphic on page 9.).

I didn’t receive a response to phone and/or email messages offering Jon and Mark Hotaling, Sanchez, Woods, and Neville a chance to respond to the issues raised in this blog post.

I’m not saying all personhood backers are anything like Jon Hotaling.

My point in this short blog post, and there’s more where this came from, is that the personhood pressure, in its various forms, faced by Gardner as he worked his way to power, is still very much alive within Colorado’s GOP, even in Jeffco, one of the entire country’s most critical swing counties.

This post was updated 9/13/2014

9News Rittiman does journalism proud by asking key questions of both Gardner and Udall

Sunday, September 7th, 2014

9News political reporter Brandon Rittiman got one-on-one interviews with both senatorial candidates last week, and the questions he chose to ask Sen. Mark Udall and his Republican opponent, Rep. Cory Gardner, should earn him the respect of conservatives and progressives.

One of Rittiman’s questions for Gardner has been consistently overlooked by Denver journalists:

Rittiman: How do you square your recent change on personhood at the state level with the bill that you still are on in Congress. The life begins at conception act?

Gardner: Well, there is no federal personhood bill. They’re two different pieces of legislation, two different things.

Rittman followed up by pointing out that other co-sponsors of the bill say it it is federal personhood, and asking, “But it’s still a piece of legislation that says abortion ought to be illegal, no?”

Gardner: No. It says life begins at conception. Look, Sen. Mark Udall is trying to say that it’s something that it’s not.

Rather than letting Gardner’s false statement slide, Rittiman reported:

Rittiman: At the very least, the bill is meant to set up a legal challenge to a woman’s right to choose. [Factcheck.org supports Rittiman's reporting here.]

Rittman also brought up the subject of Gardner’s failed healthcare plan, reporting: “9NEWS asked a few times for Gardner to share the details of his canceled healthcare plan, which he has used as an issue in the campaign.”

Rittiman: You don’t want to discuss the details of your old plan?

Gardner: “Well, look. This is about a promise that Mark Udall made. About being able to choose the health insurance that they liked for their family. Mark Udall didn’t tell people that if you had this policy or that policy you might be able to keep this but not that. Mark Udall promised if you like your plan you could keep your plan. He broke that promise.”

Rittiman should have explained to his audience that details of Gardner’s plan are important because Gardner has ranted about how much more money he had to pay for insurance under Obamacare, which covers pre-existing conditions and preventative care, among other benefits.

If Gardner’s old plan was bare-bones, or if it had a giant deductible that would make it too risky for average voters, then his complaint about the increased cost of his Obamacare insurance starts to smell rotten. As it is, the smell of his answer to Rittiman is pretty bad and deserves more scrutiny by journalists. Why won’t Gardner release details of his old plan?

As for Udall, Rittiman asked the question that comes up most frequently on conservative talk radio:

Rittiman: Frankly, does Colorado deserve for this campaign to be about more than just about abortion?

Udall: My campaign is about contrasts and comparisons. An election is a choice…. It’s my responsibility to bring that to the attention of Colorado voters, and I will continue to do so, but I will also talk about all the other things that I’ve accomplished.

Rittiman followed up twice by asking Udall about fracking, “They didn’t hear you saying specifically where you think the policy on oil and gas should go. Do you think that local governments ought to have the power to full on regulate it, or is it just about giving them meaningful input?”

Udall: Look, I’m gonna let governments speak from their point of view, but I think there’s a sweet spot there. You definitely want meaningful involvement, you want meaningful input. And again, there may be places where the local community decides that the use of that land is better directed at a park or a wildlife refuge or subdivisions, versus drilling for natural gas. I think there’s broad support for that, including in the industry.

Rittiman reported that Udall “opposed the now-dead ballot questions to restrict oil and gas operations, but still gets support from the environmental lobby.”

Some details on how Gardner “built his entire political career on support of personhood”

Friday, September 5th, 2014

Back in July, Cosmo’s Ada Calhoun quoted Keith Mason, president of Personhood USA, as saying:

Mason: “[Cory Gardner has] built his entire political career on support of personhood. I think he’s just listening to some bad advice, and he’s playing politics.”

Calhoun didn’t get into the details of how and why Gardner relied on personhood to advance himself in politics, so I’ll hit on it briefly now, not only because it gives you insight into Gardner but, in the bigger picture, the anti-abortion movement’s lock on Republican candidates as they move through caucus and primary processes in Colorado.

From the time he was elected to the State Legislature, Gardner clearly made his anti-abortion stance a priority, sponsoring state personhood legislation, in 2007, defining life as beginning at conception and outlawing abortion even in the case of rape and incest.

In 2008, Gardner stood with other Colorado legislators in support of Colorado’s first personhood ballot measure, earning a shout out from Kristi Burton, the mother of our state’s personhood movement.

When she helped launch the 2012 personhood measure, which didn’t make the ballot, Burton praised Gardner as “very supportive” and “one of our main supporters” of personhood campaigns.

Gardner’s deep support from anti-abortion activists paid off when he launched his first congressional campaign against a tough field of candidates, including Tom Lucero, the former CU regent.

At a Tea Party event in November of 2009, Gardner was asked if he’d carry legislation to end the “practice” of abortion:

Gardner: “Yes, and I have a legislative background to back it up.”

The applause you hear in the video is a clue to how important the abortion issue is to the activists in attendance. You can imagine the reaction of any if the three candidates present had offered anything but a full-throttle acceptance of banning abortion.

Later, in 2010, Gardner touted his personhood chops at one Republican congressional candidate forum, where he infamously said the following. (Again, note the round of applause.):

Gardner: “I have signed the personhood petition. I have taken the petitions to my church, and circulating into my church. And I have a legislative record that backs up my support for life.”

All his trumpeting of his personhood stance set Gardner up perfectly to win the votes of pro-life delegates at the 2010 GOP district convention, where the congressional nominee is selected.

Indeed, as reported by the Colorado Statesman in May of 2010, Gardner “stormed the 4th Congressional District GOP assembly last Friday — winning 60 percent of the delegate vote and shutting out University of Colorado Regent Tom Lucero and businessman Dean Madere, the two other Republican contenders.”

Leslie Jorgensen, covering the assembly for the Statesman, reported a detail that brings us back to the exact point personhood’s Keith Mason made about Gardner building his “career on support of personhood.”

Jorgensen reported:

Christian Family Alliance of Colorado distributed a flyer to delegates that reported the three candidates’ positions on several conservative issues that included public funded abortions, the personhood ballot initiative, gay rights, and posting the 10 Commandments in public buildings. Gardner scored perfect responses, Lucero missed the mark on two issues, and Madere had “refused to respond.” [BigMedia emphasis.]

This (as well as the rest of this blog post above) obviously isn’t proof that Gardner owes his political career solely to his support of personhood, but it’s clear enough that personhood was one of the foundational building blocks of his climb to Congress, proving Keith Mason correct and shedding light on the short-term gain GOP candidates encounter by joining with anti-abortion activists. And the long-term pain they encounter if they seek state-wide office in Colorado and are forced to defend their positions.

Fact check: More evidence that Gardner tried to stop Obamacare by threatening government shutdown

Tuesday, August 26th, 2014

In a blog post last week, I noted that senatorial candidate Cory Gardner threatened, during a radio interview in August of last year, to shut down the government unless Obamacare was defunded. This is in 180-degree-contrast to what a Gardner spokesperson was quoted as saying last week, that “Gardner had warned against requiring Democrats to defund the Affordable Care Act as a requirement for keeping government open.” It turns out Gardner also launched the defund-Obamacare-or-we-shut-down-the-government warning from the floor of the House of Representatives. And he did it the day before the shutdown occurred:

Gardner: “Over the weekend, this House worked to find a solution to the impasse over the Continuing Resolution, sending over various options to the Senate to try to jump start negotiations to work through an agreement to find a solution to keep our government funded. In the early hours of this morning we finally said to the leader of the U.S. Senate, Harry Reid, let’s find a way to meet face-to-face, through a conference committee, to negotiate a solution and avoid a government shutdown. We passed three times now measures to keep the government funded and a way to find solutions to this critical issue. But there are many people in Colorado who are struggling now because of the shutdown and who are worried about what happens to their situation, particularly those who may have been impacted by the flood. And that is why we must find a way to get government funded, to find a solution to get government going back on track, while preventing policies that we know are bad for the economy.”

Here, Gardner acknowledged the concern that the shutdown could affect flood recovery, and he blamed Harry Reid for the impasse, but he insisted that a budget deal must prevent “policies that we know are bad for the economy” (i.e. Obamacare riders in the Gardner-supported funding resolutions to keep the government open). This contradicts his spokesperson’s statement that Gardner warned Republicans not to shut down the government to try to stop Obamacare. I don’t see any such warning in Gardner’s floor speech, and, in fact, the government shut down the next day.

Who will be first reporter to get Gardner (and Beauprez) to explain why they support federal personhood?

Wednesday, August 20th, 2014

It’s not just senatorial candidate Cory Gardner who’s taken the endlessly puzzling position of being opposed to personhood at the state level but supportive of the federal version.

Gubernatorial candidate Bob Beauprez draws a false distinction between the two as well, saying he’s opposed to the state amendment but supportive of federal legislation. Even though they aim to do the same thing, according to yours truly and, more importantly, Factcheck.org.

Despite the obvious relevancy of personhood on the campaign trail, I can’t find a local reporter who’s asked either one of them the simple question of why they favor federal personhood legislation over the state version.

Instead, multiple reporters, including Mark Matthews at The Denver Post and Bente Birkeland at Rocky Mountain Community Radio, listened to Gardner’s spokespeople tell them that that federal personhood legislation is essentially a toothless symbol–without asking for an explanation. On Tuesday, the Hill’s Elise Viebeck reported Gardner’s position, apparently without seeking an explanation. So did The Post’s Anthony Cotton.

CBS4′s Shaun Boyd taped Gardner himself implying that there’s a distinction between federal and state personhood legislation, without asking him why.

At least Politico’s Paige Winfield Cunningham asked the Gardner campaign about the discrepancy. But she got no response, and she’s apparently let it drop.

A question about the federal personhood bill was reportedly put to Gardner on KRDO radio’s Morning News March 24, but, again, he wasn’t pressed for an explanation when he said it’s a “Democratic talking point” and an “incorrect characterization of the federal legislation” to call it a personhood bill.

So does anyone detect a hole in the reporting here?

Who’s gonna be the first reporter to get the details on why Gardner (and Beauprez) support one personhood bill and not the other?

Fact check: Gardner demanded defunding Obamacare to avoid government shutdown

Monday, August 18th, 2014

The Associated Press’ Nicholas Riccardi reported Aug. 15 that senatorial candidate Cory Gardner’s spokesman, Alex Siciliano, “noted that, before the shutdown, Gardner had warned against requiring Democrats to defund the Affordable Care Act as a requirement for keeping government open.”

Maybe Siciliano doesn’t listen to Gardner much on talk radio. Maybe he’s too busy talking to reporters on behalf of his boss.

But when I read Riccardi’s piece, I recalled hearing Gardner advocate for, as opposed to against, demanding Dems defund Obamacare or face a government shutdown.

On August 1, 2013, two months before the government shutdown, Gardner told KOA’s Mike Rosen:

Rosen: “Perhaps we can talk about some other items on the agenda, such as the current dispute, even with the Republican Party, about whether Republicans, who have a majority in the House, ought to take a stand now, as the continuing resolution question comes up, take a stand on Obamacare, and refuse to fund it, while at the same time, agreeing with a continuing resolution that would allow the rest of the federal government to operate. Have you got a position on that?

Gardner: I want to do anything and everything I can to stop Obamacare from destroying our health care, from driving up increases in costs. Whether that’s through the continuing resolution, I want to defund everything that we can….

Rosen: There’s a political concern that if the Republicans stand their ground on this [repealing Obamacare], they are going to be blamed for shutting down the government.

Gardner: Well, I think if the government gets shut down, it’s going to be the President’s decision to do so. I believe that we don’t need to shut down the government because we ought to just lift this health-care bill out of the way and let America work. [BigMedia emphasis]

If that’s a warning “against requiring Democrats to defund the Affordable Care Act as a requirement for keeping government open,” then mushrooms aren’t popping up in our mountains right now (and they are).

Next time Gardner’s Siciliano tells me something, if I’m a reporter, I think I go the extra mile to make sure it’s accurate.

Media omission: Under Gardner’s abortion bill, doctor could have faced more jail time than rapist

Tuesday, August 12th, 2014

It’s been widely reported that Colorado Senate candidate Cory Gardner sponsored a bill in 2007 that would have outlawed all abortion in Colorado, including for rape and incest.

But there’s a detail about the ramifications of Gardner’s legislation that’s gone unreported, and it’s important because it illuminates, in a tangible way, just how serious his bill was about banning abortion.

Let’s say a woman was raped, became pregnant, and wanted to have an abortion.

Under the Gardner’s proposed law, a doctor who performed her abortion would face Class 3 felony charges.

If the raped woman found a doctor willing to break the law and perform an illegal abortion, and if both the rapist and the doctor got caught by police, what would have been the potential charges and punishments against the rapist and the doctor?

I put that question to Mark Silverstein, Legal Director of the ACLU of Colorado.

“A class 3 felony is punishable by 4-12 years in the penitentiary,” Silverstein told me via email. “Sexual assault is at 18-3-402 of the criminal code. It is a class 4 felony (18-3-402(2)), except when it is a class 3 felony (18-3-402(3.5)), or when it is a class 2 felony (18-3-402 (5)).

“When sexual assault is a class 4 felony, it is punishable by 2 to 6 years in the penitentiary.

“A class 2 felony is 8 – 24 years in prison. These penalties can be found at 18-1.3-401 (1)(a)(III)(V)(A).

“It looks like to get sexual assault into the class 2 category, there has to be serious bodily injury to the victim or the crime has to be carried out with use of a deadly weapon, or the assaulter made the victim believe there was a deadly weapon (even if there was not one).”

So, as I read Silverstein’s answer, it looked to me like a doctor who performed an abortion on a raped woman could actually have gotten in more serious legal trouble than a rapist.

To make sure I had this right, I asked Silverstein if he agreed with me that under Gardner’s bill, the doctor could have faced a more serious charge than the rapist, though this would not always be the case.

“Yes,” replied Silverstein, “the least aggravated category of sexual assault is a lesser category of felony.”

(An early version of this story stated that the hypothetical rape was also incest.)

Media omission: Gardner says “legal ambiguities” motivated immigration vote

Monday, August 11th, 2014

In what appears to be senatorial candidate Cory Gardner’s first direct comment on his vote against ending an Obama policy of allowing young undocumented immigrants to avoid deportation for at least two years, Gardner emphasized the legal “ambiguities” in ending Obama’s initiative, called Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA).

Gardner said on KNUS radio Sept 4 that the bill overturning DACA “had some serious legal ambiguities to it…you create a significant legal ambiguity problem that’s going to lead to children having the rug pulled out from underneath them, winding us in court, and creating a judicial ambiguity that is unacceptable in this country.”

Listen to Cory Gardner talk about his DACA vote on KNUS Sengenberger 8.2.14

It makes sense that in his conversation with KNUS radio host Jimmy Sengenberger Sept. 2, Gardner de-emphasized the human costs of deporting the young immigrants, called dreamers, who were brought here as children and know only the United States as their home. It was mostly legal ambiguities that apparently troubled him.

This is consistent with Gardner’s longstanding view that border security issues need to be solved to his unspecified satisfaction before consideration is given to the dreamers.

And that’s still Gardner’s position, as reported by The Denver Post’s Mark Matthews over the weekend:

There’s a story that Rep. Cory Gardner likes to tell when he’s asked about his position on illegal immigration. Although the details sometimes vary, it always involves a high school student from rural Colorado whom he met several years ago. When they meet for the first time, the young woman — whom Gardner doesn’t mention by name — is on pace to become valedictorian. But because she was brought into the U.S. illegally as a baby, she’s unable to attend college in Colorado at in-state rates. So she asks Gardner whether he supports changing the rules right away so she can afford a higher education. His response then — as it is now — is no. “Allowing passage of such a policy was avoiding the real problem,” Gardner recounted in testimony to Congress last year. “We can’t start with in-state tuition because we have to pursue meaningful immigration reform first.”

Fast-forward a few years. Gardner meets the young woman again — this time working at a restaurant in that same rural town. “The valedictorian of her high school, waiting tables,” he said with a downward glance.

The lesson, according to Gardner, is that Congress needs to get serious about passing immigration reform. But in such a way that it addresses security first — before tackling the needs of students such as that valedictorian-turned-waitress.

In light of this, what doesn’t make sense is another Gardner quote in the same Denver Post article, in which Gardner explains his June 6, 2013, vote to end DACA, subjecting the dreamers to deportation.

Gardner told The Post in a statement, “The immigration debate is in a different place than it was.”

Then why does Gardner still stand opposed, as Matthews put it, to “tackling the needs of students such as that valedictorian-turned-waitress?”

Why is Gardner still talking about “legal ambiguities” rather than the dreamers’ humanitarian plight, if, indeed, immigration reform is in a different place than it was?

What different place is it in now, versus last June? What gives?