Archive for the 'Denver Post' Category

Media coverage spotlights gay bashing at conservative summit

Monday, June 29th, 2015

Reporters covering the Western Conservative Summit did a good job spotlighting the gay bashing that permeated the event over the weekend.

The Denver Post got the money quote for irony from Sen. Bill Armstrong, president of Colorado Christian University, which sponsored the summit.

“I do think that the homosexual agenda in part is to shut down further discussion of the [morality of the gay] issue. That will not happen,” he told The Post.

Who’s shutting down the discussion? Armstrong is the guy who refused to let the Log Cabin Republicans have its own booth at the event to discuss the issue with participants, saying the pro-gay organization doesn’t fit well with his group.

The Post reported that Rick Santorum, who’s again running for President, shared Armstrong’s views during his Summit appearance.

“Why are we losing the public debate? You can’t win an argument you don’t make,” Santorum said. “We have been bullied into silence, in not standing up for the truth and here’s where we are.”

Of course, the anti-gay side of the discussion was well represented at the event, with presidential hopefuls slamming last week’s Supreme Court decision legalizing same-sex marriage.

And, as I reported today for RH Reality Check, the official registration packets for the Summit contained a booklet titled, “Top Ten Myths About Homosexuality,” published by the Family Research Council.

The “myths” included that “homosexual conduct is not harmful to one’s physical health,” “children raised by homosexuals are no different than children raised by heterosexuals, nor do they suffer harm,” and “homosexual relationships are just the same as heterosexual ones, except for the gender of the partners.”

Summit organizers did not shut down the pro-gay side of the debate completely. They allowed the Log Cabin Republicans to share a table with the Colorado GOP, and progressive bloggers covered the event. And The Post reported that younger Republicans at the event supported the Supreme Court’s decision.

Still, if you attended the Summit, and opened you ears, you heard gay bashing.

“I have nothing against gay people,” Ben Carson said at one evening session, adding, “Like everybody else, they don’t get extra rights. And they don’t get to change things for everybody else.”

Roberts’ flawed attack on “liberal columnist” spotlights tragic defeat of LARC family-planning legislation

Thursday, June 18th, 2015

Last month, The Nation magazine’s Katha Pollitt reported that State Sen. Ellen Roberts was opposed to legislation providing funds Colorado’s amazing pregnancy prevention program because Roberts was unconvinced that Obamacare didn’t already pay for the long-acting-reversible contraption (LARC) offered under the family planning initiative.

“Republican Senator Ellen Roberts told me she might have supported the bill if she’d had a good answer for that,” reported Pollitt.

In her column, Pollitt provided the widely-known fact that insurance companies are not currently paying for the services and care provided by the LARC program.

About a month later, The Denver Post’s Lynn Bartels reported that Roberts, who’s a Republican from Durango, was unhappy with Politt’s column:

Roberts said she should have been aware she was talking to a liberal columnist, and explained more clearly that she already had told GOP leaders if the bill made it to the Senate floor, she would support it.

If Roberts was opposed to the LARC bill because she thought Obamacare already covered the program, as reported by Pollitt, how could Roberts possibly have promised GOP leaders that she would support the bill if it came to the floor? No amount of clarifying to Pollitt could explain this inconsistency, whether Pollitt was radical communist or a hatchet-wielding or blackmailing Colorado Republican.

And, not that it matters, but Roberts had no excuse for failing to know that Pollitt is a progressive columnist. In an email prior to her interview with Roberts, Pollitt actually factually told Roberts she was with The Nation–and Pollitt says she has the email to prove it. Roberts had plenty of time to type the name “Katha Pollitt” in Google.

Pollitt told me via email: When I emailed Sen. Roberts I identified myself as a columnist with The Nation magazine. (I have the e mail.) If she didn’t know we are a liberal publication — and if she would have said something different had she known that — she could easily have found out. It’s not a secret!

I asked Pollitt if she quoted Roberts accurately and she politely responded with, “I quoted her accurately.”

Plus, bottom line, after LARC funds were rejected by a Republican-controlled State Senate committee, Roberts voted against a Hail-Mary budget amendment funding the LARC program. It was defeated on the Colorado Senate floor in a 16-19 vote, with Roberts joining all Republicans and Sen. Pat Steadman, in opposition (Here at page 650). Steadman is a member of the Joint Budget Committee, and it’s an unwritten rule that JBC members always vote against budget amendments. Roberts has supported such amendments in the past, meaning it’s not her policy to oppose them.

So it loooks like Roberts was trying to be both for the LARC pregnancy-prevention program and against it at the same time, just like she recently tried to be both “pro-choice” and “never” pro-choice at the same time– until she got called out on it by ColoradoPols, a progressive blog. Roberts, who may challenge Democratic Sen. Michael Bennet next year, then said she’d made a mistake in claiming she was never pro-choice.

But the overarching tragedy is that funding for Colorado’s LARC program, which helped reduce Colorado’s teen-pregnancy rate by a life-affirming 40 percent and lowered our state’s teen abortion rate by 35 percent, was rejected by State Senate Republicans.

Now, with LARC money running out at the end of this month, Roberts’ flawed attack Pollitt only spotlights that tragedy.

 

Reporters need to hold Gardner accountable on his birth-control promise

Wednesday, June 10th, 2015

Yesterday, Senate Democrats, including Colorado’s Michael Bennet, introduced a bill that Sen. Cory Gardner should have co-sponsored as well–at least if you believe what Gardner said during last year’s campaign.

Last year, Gardner repeatedly told reporters that oral contraception should be available over the counter — and be covered by insurance policies.

In one one exchange, Fox 31 Denver’s Eli Stokols specifically challenged Gardner to explain how his proposal for over-the-counter birth control could be less expensive than what’s offered to women under Obamacare, which requires insurance companies to provide birth control for free

Stokols: You say it’s cheaper… Politifact says that’s ‘mostly false,’ that under the Affordable Care Act, two-thirds of women get their birth control for free.

Gardner: Well, they’d still be able to find an insurance policy and use their insurance to pay for it. That’s why we need to fix Obamacare.

That’s what the bill introduced by Sen. Patty Murray of Washington would do. It would not only make FDA-approved contraception available over the counter but mandate insurance companies to pay for it, like they’re required to do now.

But Gardner’s bill, introduced last month, simply allows FDA-approved contraception to be sold over the counter–without requiring insurance plans to cover it. Insurance companies could decide to cover the pill out of their love for women. But not likely.

Or, under Gardner’s bill, women could use health savings accounts and flex accounts, if they have them, to buy contraception. But those are savings accounts, set up voluntarily by individuals!  They are not the insurance promised by Gardner repeatedly.

Reporters need to go beyond allowing Gardner to write off these real-life concerns as partisan politics.

As Gardner told The Denver Post yesterday: “It’s unfortunate they have decided to bring partisanship to an issue that could have brought support on Capitol Hill but we are pleased they are following our lead.”

The substantive differences between what Gardner advocated on the campaign trail and what he’s offering women now should be spotlighted by reporters who allegedly love to hold elected officials accountable.

A comparison o f Murray’s birth-control bill versus Gardner’s tells you all you need to know about Gardner’s broken campaign promises.

 

Reporters should find out why Gardner didn’t deliver on his promised legislation to “fix Obamacare” and require insurance companies to pay for over-the-counter birth control

Monday, June 8th, 2015

Last year, then U.S. Senate candidate Cory Gardner had a nice-sounding proposal: offer birth control over the counter, easy and quick.

But… more expensive, journalists pointed out, because under Obamacare, birth control prescribed by doctors is free. Insurance companies are required to cover it.

Not to worry, replied Gardner. He promised to fix an “obscure provision” in Obamacare and require insurance companies to pay for over-the-counter birth control.

Women should “still be able to find an insurance policy and use their insurance to pay for it,” Gardner told Fox 31 reporter Eli Stokols Sept. 28 (at 15 seconds in the video).  “That’s why we need to fix Obamacare.”

Women “will have an insurance policy that covers it,” Gardner promised a skeptical Stokols.

“We should change Obamacare to make sure that insurance can reimburse for that over-the-counter contraceptive purchase,” Gardner told reporter Lynn Bartels (at 50 seconds in the video) during The Denver Post debate against Democrat Mark Udall. Gardner even attacked Democrats, telling the Denver Post during the campaign: “If Democrats are serious about making oral contraception affordable and accessible,” Gardner wrote, “we can reverse that technical provision [in Obamacare].”

Once elected, however, Gardner didn’t deliver on his promise. He introduced a bill that simply offers incentives to drug companies to gain FDA approval to sell contraception over the counter.

Nothing in the bill mandates that insurance companies would be required to cover birth control that’s sold over the counter. Instead, the bill allows Health Savings Accounts and Flexible Spending Accounts to be used to purchase over-the-counter medications. Those are savings accounts, with tax advantages, that individuals can set up. That’s not anything like insurance coverage.

News coverage of Gardner’s OTC bill has noted that women’s health groups, including the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, have condemned the freshman senator’s proposal as insufficient and expensive for women. Planned Parenthood Votes Colorado’s statement that the bill is a “sham” has been duly noted.

But reporters have yet to spotlight the fact that Gardner did not deliver on the pledge he made during the campaign. The question is, why? Was he lying? Did he change his mind? Did he determine that his original promise was unworkable?

Reporters should find out.

Partial transcript of Sept. 28 Fox 31 interview with Cory Gardner:

Gardner (@ 15 seconds): We ought to talk about access. We ought to increase access to oral contraception. We ought to make it easier, 24-hours-a-day, around the clock availability. That’s why I’ve supported making it available over-the-counter without a prescription. We need to change the provision of Obamacare that would prohibit insurance to be paying for it. That’s an obscure provision. Those are the things we can do to make it easier to access.

Stokols: You say it’s cheaper that way. Politifact says that’s mostly false, that under the Affordable Care Act, two-thirds of women get their birth control for free.

Gardner: Well, they’d still be able to find an insurance policy and use their insurance to pay for it. That’s why we need to fix Obamacare.

Stokols: How though, if you repeal Obamacare, about 27 percent of women, I believe, actually use the pill. So you make the pill available over the counter. Still, about three out of four women use another form of birth control. If you repeal Obamacare, what happens to their coverage?

Gardner: They will have an insurance policy that covers it.

Coffman does little to promote immigration reform besides create the appearance of support for it

Thursday, May 28th, 2015

In response to my post yesterday urging reporters to spotlight Mike Coffman’s weak advocacy for immigration reform, Coffman’s spokesman Tyler Sandberg told me via Twitter that “Google is Your Friend,” and directed me to an instance when Coffman said he was “deeply disappointed” with House opposition to a resolution allowing young immigrants to gain citizenship via military service.

Google is my friend, and it confirms my larger point that Coffman does little to promote immigration reform besides create the appearance of seriousness without the much substance at all.

Coffman has expressed disappointment, yes, and I regret writing that he didn’t use the word, but he hasn’t seriously challenged Boehner, who’s arguably been the biggest obstacle to immigration reform in the country.

Where was Coffman’s disappointment when the Senate’s bipartisan immigration legislation, with Marco Rubio’s name on it, died in the House. Coffman didn’t even support a vote on the bipartisan and comprehensive bill, despite Coffman’s public statements in favor of comprehensive immigration reform.

And what did he do instead? Nothing on comprehensive reform, except scrub his website of the phrase “comprehensive immigration reform” and to tell the Aurora Sentinel, “What Boehner has said, and I agree with, is that a comprehensive approach doesn’t have to be a comprehensive bill.”

Coffman’s legislation for young immigrants and his alleged support for a guest worker program fall short of comprehensive reform no matter how you wordsmith it, and they’ve failed, in part, because Coffman goes to a fundraiser with Boehner at the Brown Palace and doesn’t talk about immigration on the same day Coffman’s bill is being killed by Republican leadership in Washington.

Via Twitter, I asked Coffman’s spokesman Sandberg to write a blog post explaining how his boss has pushed Boehner for serious immigration reform–and better yet, to show us how it’s done.

There’s no public record of the kind of effort we’ve seen from Coffman on other issues. Nothing close. Google it.

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.

https://soundcloud.com/bigmedia-org/walker-stapleton-discusses-his-role-in-bringing-hb15-1388-to-co-state-legislature

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

https://soundcloud.com/bigmedia-org/co-state-treasurer-walker-stapleton-discusses-hb1388-on-mike-rosen-may-5-2015

Post covered wrong court decision last week

Tuesday, May 12th, 2015

I’m late getting to this, but The Denver Post made the wrong decision Thursday in covering a Court of Appeals decision in favor of conservatives on the Douglas County School Board–while ignoring a Court of Appeals decision against former GOP Secretary of State Scott Gessler on the same day.

The Gessler decision, which was unanimous, affirmed that one of the state’s highest elected officials used his position (and our money) for personal and political gain. That’s about as serious a ruling as you get in our representative government.

In a split decision with a stinging dissent, the Court of Appeals also ruled that the Douglas Country School Board did not violate Colorado election law by emailing a report, favoring conservative education policies, to 85,000 subscribers prior to the November election.

I don’t see The Post’s logic in prioritizing a not-guilty verdict in a school board matter over a serious decision against Colorado’s Secretary of State. You can argue that both deserved coverage, but if you pick one, Gessler wins (for once).

Luckily, the Colorado Independent, a progressive news outlet, covered the Gessler decision here, linking to the entertaining text of the ruling here.

Eight great stories on the Colorado legislative session

Friday, May 8th, 2015

Below I’ve listed some of my favorite reporting about Colorado’s legislative session that ended Wednesday.

My favorite: The Denver Post’s John Frank wrote an accessible yet detail-rich article on the failed effort to secure funding for a wildly successful teen-pregnancy-prevention program. Read it here: IUD Jewelry Emerges at Colorado Capitol to Demystify and Educate on Birth Control

The Post’s Joey Bunch and John Frank teamed up to show how middle class reality connects to the legislature. Read it here: Fear and Worry in Colorado’s Middle Class Lures Politicos.

The Grand Junction Sentinel’s Charles Ashby provided a cool look at the flaming arrows launched at Republican Rep. Dan Thurlow. Read it here: Thurlow Defends Record

Colorado Public Radio reporter Megan Verlee’ provides an outside-the-Capitol perspective on the teen-pregnancy issue. Listen here: For Colorado Teen Moms, There’s Help but Daunting Statistic

Colorado Public Radio’s Verlee demystified the complicated debate about the Earned Income Tax Credit. Listen here: 5 Things to Know about the Earned Income Tax Credit, a Proven Poverty Reliever.

Denver Post reporter Lynn Bartels explained how a bill offering help for the middle class was killed over one lawmaker’s concern that his rich constituents wouldn’t like it. Read it here: Upper Class Protected During Debate about Saving for College. 

Great in-depth reporting by the National Journal’s Nora Kaplan-Bricker about Colorado’s latest birth-control battle and teen pregnancy program. Read it here: The Big Battle Over a Little Device.

And finally, I can’t resist adding the Aurora Sentinel’s outstanding editorial on the failed teen-pregnancy prevention measure. (Sorry for the repeated citations of coverage of this legislation, but it generated the most inspired reporting.) Read it here: The birth of ignorance; get science right before voting on teen pregnancy bill.