Archive for the 'Denver Business Journal' Category

Follow up needed on whether Coffman is giving personal and specific answers to questions from voters, as promised to Post

Thursday, October 25th, 2012

UPDATE: The Post’s Kurtis Lee has posted a Spot blog post, headlined, “Liberal group posts video revealing failed attempts to reach Congressman Coffman,” addressing whether Coffman has, in fact, been answering questions, as promised. Thanks to the Post for following up on this matter.

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A recent post in the Spot Blog had a headline that grabbed your attention, if you’ve been following Rep. Mike Coffman’s up-and-down relationship with reporters, a talk show host, and other people who’ve wanted to ask him questions during this election season. The headline read:

“Have a question for Coffman? Reach out, he’ll respond with a ‘very specific’ answer”

A very specific answer? Great!

The article explained:

“Everybody who has a question can come on to my website, at any point and time, and they can get a very specific answer back,” Coffman said.

An answer from the Congressman directly?

“Absolutely,” Coffman said.

A spokesman told The Post that Coffman would take questions by phone and mail and email as well.

Coffman hadn’t been answering my queries, so I got excited after reading this and decided to post some questions that reporters and I could ask Coffman, while Coffman was in the mood for answering questions not hiding (e.g., holding private “town hall meetings” behind the closed doors of large corporations.)

I still got no response from Coffman.

It’s quite a promise Coffman made to personally answer all questions with specificity, when you think about it, especially the answering-questions-personally part, and I was glad Denver Post reporter Kurtis Lee wrote about it.

But now it’s been three weeks, and we don’t know if Coffman has kept his promise. There are signs, including this video and my experience, that he didn’t, but we don’t know for sure, because neither Lee nor any other reporter in town has informed us on how Coffman’s heat-of-the-election-openness-pledge has been working out.

The Post obviously has no obligation to follow up on every blog post, but in this case, given Coffman’s unusual promise, casting him in quite the flattering light, I think The Post owes readers another story assessing whether Coffman’s kept his promise, especially because it was made five weeks before the election and there’s about two weeks left.

Without context, Post’s Nottingham references in Hancock stories unfair

Thursday, June 23rd, 2011

In three of the stories that The Denver Post ran about Michael Hancock’s alleged ties to prostitutes, including the big splashy ones on the front page, Post reporters, as if to bolster a weak story, tossed in vague and misleading references to U.S. District Judge Edward Nottingham.

9News revealed in 2008 that Nottingham was allegedly a client of the same prostitution outfit that Hancock allegedly used, and “fallout” from that investigation, the Post informed us June 11, “led to the resignation of then-Chief U.S. District Judge Edward Nottingham.”

In case you missed it, the next day, June 12, The Post repeated itself, stating that stories by 9News “led to the resignation of then-Chief U.S. District Judge Edward Nottingham.”

If you know the exploits of Nottingham, which themselves were over-publicized by the Rocky in the day, you know that it’s really unfair and self-serving to imply, as the Post does here by mentioning Nottingham without proper context, that Hancock’s situation is comparable to Nottingham’s.

Nottingham had a bunch of serious problems that had been building up for years, before 9News revealed that his name was on the Denver Player’s client list.

Remember Nottingham’s divorce records were dragged through the media cycle in 2007, when it was revealed he had allegedly spent $3,000 in one night at a strip club and didn’t  recall much of the evening because he was drunk.

Then he allegedly threatened to call federal agents when a women, in a classic act of civil disobedience, parked her wheelchair behind Nottingham’s car, which was illegally in a handicapped slot.

It was also alleged, through Nottingham’s divorce dispute, that he was watching porn on a work computer from the bench. Back in 2007, the year before the Denver Players story came out, The Post revealed that the FBI was allegedly investigating Nottingham regarding the use of his computer and possibly other matters.

So his nickname of Naughty Nottingham stuck.

And recall that the Judicial Code of Conduct states that a judge must avoid the appearance of impropriety. There’s no such Politician Code of Conduct, just so you know.

Then, after all this, 9News aired its story in 2008 that not only was Nottingham’s name allegedly on the client list for the prostitution outfit, but Nottingham had allegedly told a prostitute to lie to investigators about their weekly trysts.

The bottom line is, Nottingham’s problems and allegations were way more serious than what Hancock is accused of, and for which no credible evidence was present when the Denver Post started hyping this story. And there’s still no credible evidence.

Yet, The Post spiced up its story with Nottingham’s naughty name, and, wouldn’t you know it, Nottingham was being tossed around by other news outlets, and the talk-radio gang, and blogs.

Asked via why he included the Nottingham reference, with so little context, Post reporter Chuck Plunkett, who was the author of two of the three Post pieces mentioning Nottingham, wrote:

I do think it’s important to note the Nottingham connection. It gives readers a bit of reference to the source of the recent allegations. But I don’t know that it’s necessary to go into every detail of Nottingham’s case.

Fact check shows Rep. Conti’s claim in Biz Journal not fully supported

Friday, February 18th, 2011

State Rep. Kathleen Conti (R-Littleton) said last week that multiple businesses laid off workers after the Legislature rescinded tax breaks they had enjoyed for many years, according to the Denver Business Journal.

But Conti didn’t specify which businesses she was talking about, and neither did the Business Journal’s article, which stated:

“When the Legislature suspended or eliminated 12 tax exemptions worth $140 million in 2010, businesses that Conti knows laid some workers off, she said. The state no longer received income tax revenue from them, and it had to increase the services it offered to them …- but that link was not discussed, she said.”

I called Conti and asked her to tell me which specific businesses she was talking about.

She cordially referred me to someone named Lou Langdon, who owns G & S Vending in Arvada.

“He knows a couple companies,” she said.

Langdon quickly returned my phone call, but he was not able to get me the names of the businesses in question.

“I don’t want to go into giving the actual names,” Langdon told me. “I don’t want to bring attention to them. ”

But he told me that not only did some vending companies lay off workers after the law was passed, but others were forced to close completely.

“The owners couldn’t do it anymore,” he said, but again, no specific names could be given.

Langdon did say, however, that his own company laid off two employees recently, and the law lifting the tax break for soft drinks “had a lot to do with it.”

“Since we’ve been forced to raise prices, we’ve lost a lot of business,” he told me, adding that he lost money because the price for his products went up but his fixed contracts did not allow him to pass on the price increase. He said it’s “a really hard time” for his business and the “government is beating us up.”

Nothing Langdon said fully supported Conti’s statement in the Business Journal, that multiple companies laid off workers due to last year’s law.

In journalism world,  just because you attribute a fact to someone doesn’t mean a reporter absolves himself of the obligation to make sure the fact is correct. A fair-minded journalist who reporterd that a legislator said something that might be completely inaccurate would want to set the record straight, or look into the matter. 

 So I emailed Ed Sealover, who wrote the article that sent me on the dead-end chase first to Conti and then to Langdon.

Sealover promptly emailed me back:

“I am juggling a lot of balls at the moment. So, I will put onto my pile of things to look at the issue of companies and job cuts based on exemptions but can not promise any particular follow-up in any particular time frame. ”

A more than fair response. Obviously, my point isn’t hugely important in the big picture, and reporters are paid to help us distinguish the small stuff from the big stuff. But, still, Conti’s assertion amounts to some dust floating in the Legislature that may cloud someone’s vision down there if it’s not cleaned up by a legitimate outfit like the Business Journal.

A reporter, not Gessler, started the conversation on moonlighting

Tuesday, January 25th, 2011

Colorado Secretary of State Scott Gessler told KHOW radio’s Craig Silverman yesterday that he “purposely decided to have this conversation to start talking and telling the people of Colorado what was going on before” starting to moonlight for his old law firm.

But do you “purposely decide” to start conversation, if you have to be asked about it by a pesky journalist before you start talking about it?

I don’t think so.

In Gessler’s case, it was the Denver Business Journal that started the conversation by asking Gessler about his planned moonlighting.

“I was tipped to it by someone,” said The Journal’s Ed Sealover, who broke the story Friday. “And I approached him, and he agreed to sit down and talk.”

So Gessler should be giving himself credit not for starting the conversation, but for agreeing to continue it. The rest of us should be thanking Sealover for doing his job so well.

And once Sealover got Gessler ignited, other media types like Craig Silverman, have done a good job getting more information on the table, including Gessler’s statement that he hopes to do legal work at home with a sleeping toddler in the house. I wish Silverman had asked Gessler if he plans to add surcharge for pulling that off.

“I’m not hiding anything,” Gessler told Silverman yesterday. ”And when it comes to conflicts and what not, most state legislators do stuff on the side, even though they are state legislators. There has been a lot of, well, several that I know, I haven’t fully researched it, but you know state-wide office holders who also had things on the side. And I think that’s appropriate. At the end of the day, we want people who have connections to the real world. We want people who face the same struggles that other people do, whether it’s family obligations or other things. I think I fit in that category, but you want people who face those and have those connections, and I think the difference between, or the reason why there is a lot of attention on me, is because I want to be up front about this. And I purposely decided to have this conversation to start talking and telling the people of Colorado what was going on before I did anything.”

Transcript of Scott Gessler Interview on the Caplis and Silverman Show, Monday, January 24, during the 5 p.m. hour.

Craig: Tell everybody about your background-. How long have you been a lawyer?

Gessler: I graduated from Michigan, passed the bar in 1990, so I guess you could say 21 years. I didn’t practice law during all of that time. There were about eight years in there where I primarily focused on business stuff and didn’t practice full time. So about 12, 13 years total full-time as a lawyer.

Craig: -How many employees do you have in the Office of the Secretary of State?

Gessler: We’ve got about 130 here-.

Craig: Tell us what you were doing before you ran for Secretary of State-.

Gessler: Well, I was a partner in a law firm, Hackstaff Gessler, now Hackstaff Law Group. I had done that, I was with a guy named Jim Hackstaff, for about five years, actually almost six now.

Craig: How big of a law firm was it?

Gessler: When I left there, which was a few weeks ago, we had I think about 10 attorneys and about 13, 14 people total.

Craig: Now the situation that’s gotten everybody talking about you, and it’s great for talk radio, so thanks for doing it, is you want to do some law work for your old law firm. Tell us in your own words how that came about.

Gessler:  Well, obviously I’ve got service to the state, and that’s very important to me, but I also have some family obligations. And so the current salary is a lot lower than what I had been making for quite a while so I wanted to, still want to, supplement that a little bit. So the challenge that I have had is to make sure there are no conflicts. So that anything I do is completely segregated from any election law work or anything that the Secretary of State does, that it’s temporary and focused in nature, so that I don’t have any conflicts. And then I also want to make sure that I don’t have the appearance of conflict. And my view on that is, right now I’m not doing anything. I’m not practicing or doing any work outside of the Secretary of State’s Office.  But I’ve sort of started this conversation, I’ve sort of revealed to everyone, obviously, what I’m thinking of doing. So I wanted to be really open and up front with that even before I do anything.  I know people talk about transparency a lot, and I want to make sure I am transparent.

Craig:  So this is not a done deal? You’re still thinking about doing it?

Gessler: I’m still thinking about it. I mean, I’m planning on doing it. I’ve asked the Attorney General to sort of give me their views on it as well, because I want another set of eyes on this. But I’m planning, I’m expecting to do it. At the end of the day, there has to be work for me to do. It has to be an area where there are not conflicts. And I still want to get another set of eyes to review that, too.

Craig: How would that work-?

Gessler: I’d be an independent contractor, and I’d pretty much be limited to sort of research and writing. So I wouldn’t represent anybody in court, or anything like that. It would pretty much be narrow research and writing. I’d be an independent contractor, for just very specific temporary projects that did not involve the Secretary of State’s Office.

Craig: What about clients whom you’d be working for? Would it be that they wouldn’t have any use for that law firm on any issue that could touch the Secretary of State’s Office.

Gessler: I think the answer is generally yes, generally yes. And from my knowledge of the firm, since I used to be part of it, there are a lot of clients there. They do a lot of transactional work.  But also litigation work, for example two people who have a property dispute or an appellate action where they are helping client that’s just very limited to a specific  project, whether it’s a specific litigation or Court of Appeals project or something along those lines that doesn’t touch the Secretary of State’s Office.

Craig: How much would be making per hour with this independent contractor work?

Gessler: I don’t know. I think that’s going to be on a case-by-case basis depending on what the rate is. But usually depending on what the hourly rate is that’s billed out, my sense is that I’d get about a third of that. So if it were $240 per hour, I’d bring in about $80 per hour.

Craig: Have you and your former partners researched this-?

Gessler: I did the research, spent a lot of time on it to cross the t’s and dot the I’s. That’s why I feel comfortable, like I’m on solid ground, certainly with the bar association and ethics. They put out a lot of formal opinions, researching the ethics rules. And they have a very long opinion talking about temporary attorneys and how that interacts with the law firm and the fact that you don’t become part of the law firm as long as you have the fire walls in place.

Craig: What about the appearance of impropriety-?

Gessler: Well, I think that’s a fair discussion to have, and that’s exactly why I put this out front and center, right away, early on, to tell people what I’m doing and make it very clear that I’m not involved in the election law activity and that they aren’t sharing things with me. I’m not advising them or giving them any strategy. And at the end of the day, and they know this as well because we’ve had these conversations. I mean, I think they are great attorneys and they’ll do great work for anyone, but if, for example, they sue the Secretary of State’s Office, I intend to win that lawsuit. You could be friends away from the courtroom, but when it comes to the courtroom, my first is to the people of the state of Colorado and to the Secretary of State’s Office.

Craig: -You have a big job-How do you have time to do more [than run the Secretary of State's Office]?

Gessler: Well, what I’m looking to do is spend no more than about five hours every weekend. So this is not a huge number of hours that I’m looking at. It’s pretty limited. It’s what I think is sort of the minimum that I need to do to square my family obligations and state service. I’ve been very clear, I’m not asking from anything from the taxpayer, except the opportunity to do a small amount on the side.  And the other think I would say is this. Look, I’m being up front about this. I’m not hiding anything. And when it comes to conflicts and what not, most state legislators do stuff on the side, even though they are state legislators. There has been a lot of, well, several that I know, I haven’t fully researched it, but you know state-wide office holders who also had things on the side. And I think that’s appropriate. At the end of the day, we want people who have connections to the real world. We want people who face the same struggles that other people do, whether it’s family obligations or other things. I think I fit in that category, but you want people who face those and have those connections, and I think the difference between, or the reason why there is a lot of attention on me, is because I want to be up front about this. And I purposely decided to have this conversation to start talking and telling the people of Colorado what was going on before I did anything.

Craig: Would you agree that if you worked 20 hours on the weekend, it would carry over to your ability to be Secretary of State-?

Gessler: You know, I think that’s a valid point. What I’m looking at is something pretty limited to five hours a weekend where I can do this at home. So I sort of have the flexibility to be at home if I need to spend 10 minutes here or something, while the baby’s, a toddler now…-she always tells us she’s not a baby anymore…-So if she’s sleeping, or something along those lines, I can be there.  So, yeah, if it were 20 hours a week or 40 hours a week, yeah, I think you’re right. I’m looking at something five hours a weekend.

Craig: Without question, a lot of practicing lawyers serve in the state house-.But isn’t that a part-time position in the Legislature and weren’t you elected to a full-time job?

Gessler: Well, I think some of the legislators, and my heart goes out to them, because I think, really, for a lot of them, it’s a full-time position. I mean, they are answering constituent concerns year round, they are meeting in committees year round, but your point is right. I mean, we thoroughly expect people to be sort of citizen legislators. But I think, you know, as a matter in the past, I mean we’ve got sort of citizen executive-branch people too. You know, if you’re still focused on the Secretary of State’s Office, which I am, and I will continue to be, and you are not burdening yourself in such a way that you cannot spend the time on it. And if you’re also making good decisions. I mean, yes, there are 130 people here, but I don’t think we want a Secretary of State who’s going to assume responsibility for, you know, every time the toilet flushes to make sure everything is right. I mean, we’ve got great staff here that do good jobs. And my job is to sort of make sure that this office is headed in the policy directions that we need to be headed in, that we’re doing the right thing along those lines, that I am reviewing what staff is doing and helping tweak it, or make sure things are running well.  Yeah, that’s a busy job, but I think we also recognize that it’s not like I’m working, or any executive branch officer, works 200 hours per week. It’s supposed to be manageable. And to be honest with you, if I didn’t have to do this on the side, I wouldn’t.

Craig: -ProgressNow is saying resign from the Secretary of State Office, Scott Gessler. Is there any chance of that-?

Gessler: I’m not resigning. ProgressNow, they’ve got their job to do, which is attack Republicans. They are going to do that anyway. Here’s a group that screams for transparency, and I provide transparency and they scream louder. So that ain’t going to happen. I’ll go to plan B and I’ll look into maybe teaching at a university. I’ve taught election law at the CU Law School in the past. Maybe something along those lines. I will find a way to figure it out.  

A time and place for “he-said-she-said” reporting

Wednesday, March 10th, 2010

Journalists may be doing 17 things at once, but if they’re going to write a story quoting not one, not two, but three opponents of bills in the state legislature, you’d think they would at least quote one proponent of the proposed legislation.

But in a Feb. 26 article in the Denver Business Journal, three opponents of health-insurance-related bills in the Colorado Legislature were quoted–while proponents didn’t get a paraphrase much less a quote.

I asked Bob Mook, who wrote the piece, about his strategy in reporting the article.

“The story was about how the insurance industry was reacting to the legislation,” he told me, adding that he had “space constraints” and that the views of Democratic legislators or consumer groups “would convolute the piece.” He also pointed out that he described the bills in question (HB 1166, 1168, 1234, 1266, and SB 76), explaining what they would do.

“In general,” he said, “I’m finding that the he-said-she-said model of reporting has sort of fallen out of favor.”

To a degree, I’m with Mook about he-said-she-said style. With all the dubious information out there, people are looking to newspapers to tell them the facts, if the facts are clear or mostly clear. Who wants to read a newspaper full of regurgitated quotes with factually inaccuracies embedded in them?

For example, reporters shouldn’t give us the he-said-she-said routine when oil industry spokespeople claim that Colorado’s oil-and-gas regulations have driven rigs out of the state. Reporters should state that this is almost certainly false, rather than offer competing claims that are not supported by the facts. (I wrote in more detail about the limits of he-said-she-said reporting here.)

But in Mook’s story, the facts are reasonabley in dispute about the impacts of the health insurance bills. And so readers need basic reporting of different points of view, including views from folks who support regulation of insurance companies. With none offered, and none planned, Business Journal readers are left with the impression that business in general is opposed health insurance regulation, especially when opponents in the article say the cumuluative effect of the bills could be bad for business.

I told Mook that some businesses favor health insurance regulation.

“I’d like to meet some people who actually believe that, especially within the insurance industry” he said. “I’d like to talk to people who thought that was true.”

I called Kjersten Forseth, State Director of Change that Works, and asked her about businesses that support health insurance reform.

She told me her organization has held multiple events featuring small businesspeople concerned about the health care situation and favoring reform.

She said: “We’ve gotton Bob [Mook] on the phone, and he says, ‘We don’t cover those kinds of things.’ How is he going to become educated on these issues if he doesn’t attend our events? If Bob wants to take a true business stance, he needs to pay attention to the costs of health care insurance on small business.”

Mook, who is leaving the Business Journal at the end of the week to become Editorial Manager at the Colorado Health Foundation, said, “We [the Denver Business Journal] have the view of a business publication, and we’re pro-business. And you know, what’s good for the bottom line is good for our readers.”

That’s excatly why he should offer a variety of views when the facts are in despute–as they are on the health insurance bills in the State Legislature.

“Things are changing, especially with niche-oriented publications” Mook told me. “It’s not the traditional AP style anymore, where you try to be as comprehensive as you can. It was a business piece written for businesspeople. I didn’t see it as partisan at all. The thesis was, insurance industry insiders have concerns about this legislation. Here are their concerns.”