Archive for the 'Denver Post' Category

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.

Reporter uses measured language to spotlight repeated GOP infighting during legislative session

Friday, May 8th, 2015

Hey, the three of you out there who were following the state legislature. How many of you thought state senate President Bill Cadman was going to be able to control his own caucus this session? Seeing no hands, I’ll say none of you.

Still, if you’re a reporter, you can’t just say, “No one in their right mind thought Republicans would get along with each other and compromise with their leader. Are you kidding me? The party is ripped apart by wild ideologues who would rather see Cadman go down in flames than face the wrath of tea-party talk-radio hosts Ken Clark, Randy Corporon, and Kris Cook.”

If you’re a reporter, you don’t say it that way. But you can say that GOP infighting was surprising. That’s what Denver Post reporter John Frank said on The Denver Post’s TV video program, DPTV: On the Spot.

Denver Post Politics Editor Chuck Plankett: John, what were some of the biggest surprises you saw this session?

Denver Post reporter John Frank: At the start of the session, all eyes were on the senate Republicans. They had just taken power for the first time in 10 years in the senate, and President Bill Cadman was in the spotlight, trying to lead a caucus that had numerous divisions. So one of the surprises that I saw throughout the session was how many times his caucus split on major bills. It actually took President Cadman and the GOP leadership [help from] the Democrats to pass a number of these measures, whether it was major efforts on red lights or major fiscal bills. And how many times that caucus fractured was something we didn’t quite expect going in but there certainly wasn’t a lot of caucus discipline.”

Dear Digital First Media, please hire a replacement for Denver Post opinion writer, Alicia Caldwell

Tuesday, April 21st, 2015

You’d be excused for assuming, from all the talk about The Denver Post being in free-fall, that the newspaper is shedding writers like a cat in springtime.

But it turns out, when you do the bean counting, that The Post has pretty much maintained its editorial staff over the past year or so. If you count two positions that are apparently waiting to be filled, the departed staffers equal the hired/filled positions.

Many veterans have left, leaving serious memory loss, but some excellent reporters have been hired as well (e.g., the newish politics reporters: John Frank, Mark Matthews, Jon Murray.)

You can argue that the journalistic stability at The Post, such as it is, is the owner’s, Digital First Media, transparent attempt to prop up a sick business that’s currently for sale.

Against a backdrop of stability, even if it’s manufactured, you wonder whether the newspaper has plans to replace opinion writer Alicia Caldwell, who left last month. I asked Post Editorial Page Editor Vincent Carroll about this.

“The position that Alicia vacated has not been filled, and I am not currently looking for a replacement,” Carroll told me via email on Thursday. “Alicia was a valuable colleague and I regret that she moved on, but her new job sounds like a great opportunity for her.”

If you look below at the Post’s editorial jobs that have been filled over the past year or so, it’s hard to comprehend why the newspaper wouldn’t hire a replacement for Caldwell, given the impact the opinion page continues to have on civic affairs in Denver. Would you argue with my estimate that 90 percent of political elites, even Rep. Gordon Klingenschmitt (here’s proof), read The Denver Post’s political coverage, including its opinions,despite the paper’s serious circulation drop overall.

It’s not feasible to expect other staff on the opinion page to pick up Caldwell’s work. Her position is essential.

So, please-oh-please, Digital First Media, whoever and whatever you are, please add another writer to The Post’s opinion page to allow it to continue to produce informed opinion, with meaningful input from the community.

List of Denver Post Departed and Hired Editorial Staff over the Past Year or So

Departed (15)

Kristen Browning-Blas from features
Alicia Caldwell
Karen Crummy
Adrian Dater from sports/hockey
Mary Idler, an editorial assistant
Nancy Lofholm
Kurtis Lee
Kristen Painter from business
Ryan Parker from police
Howard Pankratz from business
Tim Rasmussen, photo editor (replaced from within by Meghan Lyden)
Allison Sherry in D.C.
Zahira Torres from education (replaced from within by Eric Gorski)
Andy Vuong in business
Kyle Wagner from features/travel

Hired/Filled (13)

Dave Krause (filled the opening when Dana Coffield was named business editor)
Molly Hughes for DPTV
John Frank, politics
Jon Murray, politics
Mark Matthews, (replaced Allison Sherry)
Alicia Walace (replaced Pankratz)
John Aguilar, general
Noelle Phillips, general
Jesse Paul, general
Tamara Chuang in biz (replaced Andy Vuong)
Jean Fields, Features
Brent Lewis, Photography
A replacement for Mary Idler

Denver Post editorials contradict each other on necessity of new law

Monday, April 20th, 2015

At the heart of Thursday’s Denver Post editorial supporting a personhood bill introduced by State Sen. Bill Cadman is the argument that Colorado needs a new law to penalize people like Dynel Lane, who faces over 100 years in prison for her alleged attack on Michelle Wilkins, who was pregnant and lost her fetus.

But just last year, The Post argued that existing Colorado law, specifically addressing crimes against pregnant women, was sufficient for cases like Wilkins’. The 2013 Crimes Against Pregnant Women law balances severe penalties for crimes harming fetuses with the preservation of abortion rights and the protection of pregnant women from criminal investigation.

Here’s what The Post said last week in its editorial endorsing Cadman’s bill:

A 2013 law made it a felony to unlawfully terminate a pregnancy, but it is a Class 3 felony with a sentencing range of 10 to 32 years unless the mother dies — when it becomes a Class 2 felony. The Class 3 felony is utterly inadequate.

But when The Post opposed last year’s personhood amendment, the newspaper argued that even a “horrific incident” did not justify a new law because “the state legislature already made the necessary statutory fix.” Here’s what The Post wrote last year:

The horrific incident laid bare a gap in Colorado law that did not allow authorities to charge the drunken driver with anything for the loss of Brady [an eight-month-old fetus].

The Yes on 67 campaign attempts to capitalize on this circumstance, saying the amendment is needed to protect pregnant mothers from violence. Proponents conveniently ignore the fact that the state legislature already made the necessary statutory fix.

It’s because of this 2013 “statutory fix” that Lane faces the 100-year prison term, because the 2013 Crimes-Against-Pregnant-Women law allows charges to be added on top of one another, over and above the Class 3 felony.

This severe penalties of Colorado’s 2013 law were apparently good enough for The Post last year, but now the statute is suddenly inadequate? What gives?

Clearly, both Cadman’s bill and Amendment 67 are attempts to take advantage of nightmarish incidents to pass different versions of “personhood.” Colorado’s 2013 law, considered the gold standard in balancing women’s rights with criminal justice, was a good argument against Amendment 67, as The Post understood at the time.

Newspaper editorials are supposed to be consistent and above-the-fray, so you’d expect The Post to point again to the 2013 Crimes Against Pregnant Women law and argue against Cadman’s personhood bill. But, alas, no, and the logic of the inconsistency escapes me.

Reporters should call bill giving legal rights to fetus “personhood,” not “fetal homicide”

Wednesday, April 15th, 2015

In response to the March 18 attack on a pregnant women in Longmont, state Senate Republicans have introduced legislation expanding the definition of “person” in specific state laws, including Colorado’s murder statute, to include an “unborn child at every stage of gestation from conception until live birth.”

If that sounds like personhood to you, giving legal rights to zygotes (fertilized eggs), that’s because it is a form of personhood. It establishes the fetus as a person, opening the door to possible bans on abortion and the arrest of pregnant women for crimes (e.g., child abuse) against their own fetus. And that’s what concerns Senate Democrats, who are opposing the legislation and saying Republicans are taking advantage of the horrific crime against Michelle Wilkins to pass personhood legislation.

“I am disappointed that the Republicans are choosing to use what happened to the Wilkins family to get ‘personhood’ into law,” said state Sen. Pat Steadman (D-Denver) in a statement after the GOP bill was introduced Tuesday afternoon.

Steadman, along with pro-choice advocates, point out that Colorado’s 2013 law, the “Crimes Against Pregnant Women” act, allows for severe penalties for crimes like the one Wilkins endured, while protecting abortion rights and preventing prosecutors from arresting pregnant women, for example, for abuse of her own fetus–which has been done even in states with laws specifically prohibiting prosecutors from doing this.

“What occurred in Longmont was horrible, and the perpetrator deserves to be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law, which if found guilty could result in a sentence of over 100 years in prison,” said Steadman. “Using this tragedy to promote new laws that Colorado voters have soundly rejected is out of bounds.”

Reporters should be clear that the bill introduced yesterday and sponsored by state senate Bill Cadman and 14 other Republicans, is a variation of personhood legislation, even though it excludes from prosecution acts “committed by the mother of her unborn child,” “a medical procedure” performed by medical professionals or doctors, or the “administration” of legal medicine.

This vague language, like “medical procedure” puts abortion rights in jeopardy–particularly because “abortion” is not mentioned at all in the text of Cadman’s bill.

In contrast, similar laws, like a one in Kentucky, very explicitly exclude the performance of an “abortion” from possible persecution. Kentucky’s law states that prosecution would not be allowed for “any abortion for which the consent of the pregnant woman has been obtained or for which the consent is implied by law in a medical emergency.”

So I don’t understand why some personhood activists, like Jennifer Mason, say the language in Cadman’s bill affirms abortion. It’s too vague to do this.

“We are urging a reconsideration of this bill – it can be written to ensure justice for victims like Heather Surovik and Michelle Wilkins, without going out of its way to protect abortion,” said Mason. “The overt inclusion and protection of abortion is not only wrong, it’s extremely inappropriate considering the tragic circumstances that call for fetal homicide laws in Colorado.”

Even when abortion is specifically excluded, pro-choice advocates say laws like Cadman’s, ironically, tread on the rights of pregnant women.

“Our research shows that in the current U.S. political environment, there is no way to put one of these laws in place without it becoming a tool for controlling and punishing pregnant women themselves,” said Lynn Paltrow, director of National Advocates for Pregnant Women.