Archive for the 'Denver Post' Category

Reporters should call other co-sponsors of federal personhood bill

Monday, July 28th, 2014

Senatorial candidate Cory Gardner’s spokespeople are saying that a federal personhood bill cosponsored by Garder, called the Life at Conception Act, is not a real personhood bill because it “simply states that life begins at conception” and would not actually outlaw abortion or contraception.

If so, you’d expect other co-sponsors of the Life at Conception Act to agree with Gardner. But this is not the case.

After co-sponsoring the same Life at Conception Act in March, 2013, four months before Gardner signed on, Rep. Charles Boustany, (R-LA) issued a statement saying:

“As a Member of Congress, I take the cause of fighting for the unborn just as seriously. That’s why I cosponsored H.R. 1091, the Life at Conception Act. This bill strikes at the heart of the Roe v. Wade decision by declaring life at conception, granting constitutional protection to the unborn under the 14th Amendment.”

Boustany’s comment comports with the actual factual language of the bill. It’s an attempt to outlaw all abortion, even for rape and incest, via the 14th Amendment.

I’ve made multiple attempts to reach the House sponsor of Life at Conception Act, Rep. Jim Jordan (R-OH), for his take on his own bill, but I have yet to hear back. [Hint to a reporter who might be reading this: Would you please give him a call?]

But Sen. Rand Paul is the Senate sponsor of the Life at Conception Act, which is identical to the bill co-sponsored by Gardner. And this is how Paul described his own bill in March of last year.

“The Life at Conception Act legislatively declares what most Americans believe and what science has long known-that human life begins at the moment of conception, and therefore is entitled to legal protection from that point forward.” [BigMedia emphasis]

In January of this year, Paul released a statement saying:

“Since the Roe v. Wade decision in 1973, 55 million abortions have taken place in America. The question remains, can a civilization long endure if it does not respect Life? It is the government’s duty to protect life, liberty, and property, but primarily and most importantly, a government must protect Life,” Sen. Paul said. “In order to protect the unborn from the very moment Life begins, I introduced the Life at Conception Act. Today, our nation wavers and our moral compass is adrift. Only when America chooses, remembers and restores her respect for life will we re-discover our moral bearings and truly find our way.”

You can argue that Jordan’s personhood bill–and its Senate counterpart–would lead to a major court fight with an uncertain outcome. And anti-choice crusaders have different views about the most effective way to enact abortion bans. But the clear intent of the Life at Conception Act is to establish personhood as federal law, as co-sponsors and sponsors of the bill have stated.

Media omission: Federal personhood bill, co-sponsored by Gardner, aims to ban abortion just like state version

Wednesday, July 16th, 2014

A spokesman for senatorial candidate Cory Gardner told The Denver Post today that the federal personhood bill, co-sponsored by Gardner in July of last year, “simply states that life begins at conception” and would not change contraception laws.

“The federal proposal in question simply states that life begins at conception, as most pro-life Americans believe, with no change to contraception laws as Senator Udall falsely alleges,” [Gardner spokesperson Alex] Siciliano said.

In fact, the federal “Life at Conception Act” aims to make personhood federal law, applicable to all states, including Colorado and banning all abortion, even for rape, and common forms of birth control.

Here’s how: The full title of the Life at Conception Act is: “To implement equal protection under the 14th article of amendment to the Constitution for the right to life of each born and preborn human person.”

You may be surprised that the 14th Amendment, Section 5, allows Congressto pass legislation to re-define the definition of a “person” under federal law. This skirts the normal, lengthy process for amending the U.S. Constitution. The 14th Amendment, Section 5, states:

“The Congress shall have power to enforce, by appropriate legislation, the provisions of this article.”

Anti-abortion activists have seized on this provision of the 14th Amendment to push federal legislation that would define a “person” as beginning at the fertilized egg (or “zygote”) stage. They argue that by passing such legislation, they are enforcing the due-process and equal-protection guarantees of the 14th Amendment. Hence, the Life at Conception Act states in part:

To implement equal protection for the right to life of each born and preborn human person, and pursuant to the duty and authority of the Congress, including Congress’ power under article I, section 8, to make necessary and proper laws, and Congress’ power under section 5 of the 14th article of amendment to the Constitution of the United States, the Congress hereby declares that the right to life guaranteed by the Constitution is vested in each human being. …

The term “human being” is defined in the billas “all stages of life, including the moment of fertilization…”

The terms “human person” and “human being” include each and every member of the species homo sapiens at all stages of life, including the moment of fertilization, cloning, or other moment at which an individual member of the human species comes into being.

So, to summarize:  The Life at Conception Act aims to redefine the definition of a person in the Fourteenth Amendment, and apply the 14th Amendment’s protections to zygotes, hence banning all abortion, even for rape, as well as common forms of birth control that endanger, or even potentially endanger, fertilized eggs. It would give legal protections to fertilized eggs. In a word, personhood.

Reporters should not let Gardner, or his spokespeople, mislead the public about the aim of the federal personhood bill that he co-sponsored last year.

Post reporter does good job sorting out past (and present) Romanoff-Coffman immigration positions

Monday, July 14th, 2014

Denver Post reporter Kurtis Lee did a good job over the weekend of sorting out the past immigration positions of Rep. Mike Coffman and his Democratic challenger, Andrew Romanoff.

Lee noted that Romanoff pushed compromise immigration legislation through the Colorado legislature in 2006, in order to deflect a more extreme immigration measure from making the Colorado ballot and being locked in the state Constitution.

Lee is among the only journalists who’ve reported on the context of Romanoff’s 2006 immigration legislation, which was opposed by some immigrant advocates.

During the summer of 2006, in his first term as state House speaker, Romanoff faced a critical decision: Have a broadly worded initiative appear on the November ballot that would strip state benefits and even some medical services from those in the country illegally — including children — or strike a legislative compromise.

Lee reported that Romanoff “chose the latter option and staved off a late effort to revive the ballot initiative,” which was supported by Coffman.

Among the proponents of the ballot initiative that didn’t make it to voters was Coffman, the state treasurer at the time.

Coffman later headed to Congress to represent the then staunchly conservative 6th Congressional District, touting positions as a hardliner on immigration reform and following in the footsteps of his predecessor and a man he called his “hero” — Republican Tom Tancredo

Moving forward in time, Lee again correctly reports that Romanoff supports the comprehensive-immigration-reform bill passed by the U.S. Senate, while Coffman backs, in Lee’s words, “piecemeal reforms.” Lee does a good job of clarifying that Coffman doesn’t just stand for vague “reform” but a piecemeal approach, with the pieces glaringly undefined.

Lee should have noted that just over a year ago, Coffman announced his grand support, in a much-read Denver Post op-ed, for “comprehensive immigration reform.” This startled the three people paying attention because it ran counter to Coffman’s past positions.

But now Coffman’s “comprehensive immigration reform” is out the window, and he wants piecemeal legislation. Coffman has said that a “comprehensive approach doesn’t have to be a comprehensive bill,” but if you’ve ever had a conversation about immigration among people with differing views on the topic, you understand why that’s not true. Comprehensive reform allows for compromises to be folded together, with different pet issues included, so everyone can hold a nostril or two and vote yes, like Senators in their compromise by a 68-32 margin.

Lee, who’s leaving The Post Wed., probably won’t be able to delve into the question of whether piecemeal reform, with only a small piece (citizenship for minors via military service) actually on the table, is more than empty rhetoric, especially with the Senate bill ready to go. But maybe another reporter will pick up the thread.

Another political reporter departs from The Denver Post

Friday, July 11th, 2014

Denver Post political reporter Kurtis Lee announced via Twitter today that he’ll be leaving The Post Wednesday for a job covering politics on the Los Angeles Times’ new real-time news desk.

“It’s been a great three years here at The Post,” Lee told me via email. “I’m so grateful to have worked with so many amazingly talented reporters, editors and photographers–and to do it for a newspaper I grew up reading has been awesome. The Post will always be a must read for me.”

Lee’s new job is focused on online journalism, but Lee will work across platforms, he said.

Lee, who was born and raised in Colorado Springs, started at The Post in Feb 2011. His work was quickly thrust under the microscope, as he covered the state legislature, the contested 6th Congressional District race, the 212 presidential campaign, the Aurora massacre, and other political flashpoints in Colorado.

In a memo to staff, The Post’s Politics Editor Chuck Plunkett praised Lee’s reporting and wrote that Lee has been on the “leading edge of The Post’s efforts to function as a 24/7 news organization. His use of social media, blog posts and video journalism is as powerful as the best in the business.”

“I applaud the good sense of the LAT in snaring Kurtis Lee,” wrote Plunkett, “and regret that I will be deprived of working with this promising young journalist going forward. But we are lucky in that we work in an industry that wishes to see its players do well. And this move should be a great opportunity for Kurtis to do just that.”

For context: compromise immigration laws backed by Romanoff in 2006 deflected hard-line anti-immigration initiative backed by Coffman

Friday, May 16th, 2014

Back in 2006, then State Treasurer Mike Coffman stood in font of 200 people on the steps of the state Capitol as they launched a ballot initiative that would have stopped Colorado from providing services to all undocumented immigrants, even children.

Coffman led the group in reciting the pledge of allegiance, and then handed the microphone over to a string of speakers from an organization called Defend Colorado Now, which was organizing the extreme anti-immigrant initiative.

After the rally, Coffman told a reporter from the Longmont Daily Times- Call that he supported Defend Colorado Now’s ballot initiative.

Coffman “said afterward that he supports Defend Colorado Now’s ballot initiative,” reported the Daily Times-Call April 28, 2006.

The history of Defend Colorado Now’s initiative is worth dredging up for reporters, for context, as Republicans step up their attacks on former House Speaker Andrew Romanoff for his role is passing legislation in direct response to the ballot initiative.

If you were around in 2006, you may remember a bipartisan group of lawmakers, including then Gov. Bill Owens and Romanoff, agreed on compromise legislation to stop the hard-line initiative from being placed on the ballot.

A set of 2006 laws, passed during a special session by the Democrat-controlled Legislature and signed by Republican Owens, softened the draconian approach of the Defend Colorado Now initiative, known also as Amendment 55.

The Denver Post reported in July of 2006:

Former Mayor Federico Peña likes the special-session legislation better than the proposed Amendment 55, which would have prohibited undocumented immigrants from receiving state services that are not mandated by federal law.

“It’s far better than the negative consequences of 55,” he said.

The compromise legislation, backed by Romanoff, was more immigrant-friendly than the Defend Colorado Now initiative, supported by Coffman. This fact makes a mockery of GOP attacks on Romanoff for pushing compromise immigration bills, which are credited for keeping Coffman’s hard-line initiative off the ballot. (Amendment 55 was rejected by the CO Supreme Court on a technicality but was expected to be resurrected the following year.)

The Defend Colorado Now initiative, which was also backed by Tom Tancredo, would have denied all non-emergency state services to undocumented children, preventing them, for example, from getting vaccinations.

In contrast to some of the cruelest provisions of the ballot initiative supported by Coffman, Romanoff’s bill (HB-1023), passed during the special session in 2006, protected undocumented kids by allowing people 18-years or younger to receive state services without presenting identification.

Another law (HB-1002) supported by Romanoff specifically allowed state funds to be used for children, regardless of their “immigration status,” to receive preventative care as well as treatment, for communicative diseases, such as HIV and tuberculosis.

The immigration-enforcement laws passed in 2006 were widely considered to be tough, and were described as such both locally and nationally. There were new identification requirements, police reporting procedures, and tax provisions.

Some pro-immigrant groups and lefties like me criticized the new laws. And so did the Tom Tancredos of the world.

But no one would say, then or now, that the laws backed by Romanoff were worse for immigrants than the initiative favored by Coffman would have been.

That’s the context through which reporters should see Republican attacks on Romanoff’s 2006 immigration legislation.

Post story exaggerates GOP unity this election cycle

Friday, May 2nd, 2014

I was all set to write a blog post this morning about Scott Gessler saying on the radio that his Republican gubernatorial opponents are all losers, including Mike Kopp who, Gessler said, presided over the Republicans’ disastrous legislative-election collapse in 2010.

Gessler told KNUS talk-radio host Jimmy Sengenberger a couple weeks ago:

“If you want to have the same results that we’ve had in the past, just do the same thing… I’ve won a state-wide election. You know, Tom Tancredo is a good man, he has not won one. Bob Beauprez is a good man, he has not won one. Mike Kopp is a good man. When he ran the state Senate Majority Fund, which was the 527 to support senators in 2010, we didn’t win any of the competitive races then either. I think we need to stop looking to the past and looking instead to the future.”

But then I saw Denver Post reporter Lynn Bartels’ article about all the “unity” among Colorado Republicans this election cycle.

Bartels reported:

Although there’s a four-way race this year for the GOP nomination for governor, [GOP State Chair Ryan] Call & Co. so far have done an effective job cajoling the candidates to aim their potshots at Democratic Gov. John Hickenlooper and not each other.

I thought, “Huh?  What Tea-Party planet have I been on, to have missed this alleged unity?

Tom Tancredo, who’s the GOP front-runner, is arguably the face of Republican dis-unity in Colorado.

He’s repeatedly bashed by Republicans, even in The Post (by former Colorado GOP Chair Dick Wadhams), and Tanc wastes no time fighting back, also in The Post, beginning with the line, “Asking Dick Wadhams’ advice on how to win Colorado elections is like asking Barack Obama’s advice on how to balance the federal budget.” He’s constantly telling KNUS’ Peter Boyles that Ryan Call wishes he’d disappear.

Before he left the race, Sen. Greg Brophy was in attack-a-fellow-Republican-a-minute mode, saying Tancredo is weak on guns and is focused mostly on writing books. Gessler, he said, has ethics and budget issues.

“You look back at the Holtzman campaign and the damage done to Beauprez at this time — Both-Ways Bob and all that stuff,” Bartels told me, acknowledging that Brophy was “the most vocal.” “Where is Beauprez-Holtzman? You have to make things relative to 2006. This would be July in 2006 right now. And it’s nothing like it was. I mean, Beauprez was so damaged by Holtzman.”

“I realize you’ve got the two Jeffco races involving Rocky Mountain Gun Owners and all that, but I expect that,” Bartels continued. “It’s not news to me that the Rocky Mountain Gun Owners is involved in a primary. It’s going to be below-the-belt torture. But it is news to me when Dave Pigott gets 45 percent at the assembly and jumps out.”

Bartels has a good point. It could be worse.

But still, aside from the GOP Senate primary, if you’ve been observing Republicans fighting in the trenches, “disunity” is still mostly the word that comes to mind, and Bartels should have toned down the unity theme and provided some examples of infighting in her piece.

To un-endorse federal personhood, Gardner must speak from House floor

Wednesday, April 30th, 2014

Rep. Cory Gardner un-endorsed Colorado’s personhood amendment last month by telling The Denver Post’s Lynn Bartels he changed his mind.

But if Gardner is going to un-endorse federal personhood legislation, which he cosponsored nine months ago, he’ll have to trot down to the floor of the U.S. House of Representatives and ask for “unanimous consent” to have his name removed from the legislation, which would ban all abortion, including for rape and incest.

“A member has go to the House floor and technically ask for unanimous consent to remove their name as co-sponsor of the bill,” said Sarah Binder, a Senior Fellow at the Brookings Institution. “And you can do that up until the point at which the committee reports the bill to the floor.”

If you’re completely bored and you feel like reviewing the “Life at Conception Act,” which is a federal personhood bill, you’ll find Gardner’s name is still listed as a cosponsor, having signed up nine months ago.

So it appears Gardner hasn’t un-endorsed the bill yet, but calls to the Gardner’s office and to the office of the bill’s sponsor, Rep. Jim Jordan (R-OH) were not returned.

Gardner still has time to remove his name, because the House committee hasn’t reported on the bill, which means the committee hasn’t voted on it.

During an interview on CBS4 Friday, Gardner suggested that he may not take back his support of federal personhood legislation. And he defended his anti-abortion record in Congress during a recent radio interview as well.

“In the state of Colorado, the personhood initiative, I do not support,” Gardner told CBS4 Political Reporter Shaun Boyd.

Boyd should have asked Gardner if he has plans to withdraw his cosponsorship of federal personhood and, if so, when.

“It’s somewhat rare for members to feel compelled to take their names off bills,” said Binder, but she could understand how the pressure of a state-wide campaign would put “heat” on Gardner.

But if you Google the phrase, “I ask unanimous consent to remove my name as a cosponsor,” you find examples of Congresspeople doing this. Here’s an example.

“By and large, people cosponsor bills to take a position in support, either because something’s bothering them or because a colleague has said, ‘I’d like to demonstrate support for the bill; I need you to sign on,’” Binder said.

If a change of heart occurs, a Congressperson can’t just announce the switcheroo in writing, according to Donald Wolfensberger, Congressional scholar with Woodrow Wilson Center. A short speech on the House floor is required, he told me.

Wolfensberger’s and Binder’s views comport with House rules I ploughed through.

One congressional document, titled “House Practice: A Guide to the Rules, Precedents and Procedures of the House” states:

Before the bill is reported, Members may remove their names as cosponsors by unanimous consent. Manual Sec. 825. Alternatively, a cosponsor may announce withdrawal of support for a bill, or a statement indicating that an error was made in the listing of a cosponsor’s name may be made on the floor for publication in the Congressional Record. Deschler Ch 16 Sec. Sec. 2.5, 2.6.

Reporters omit AG candidate’s position on the constitutionality of CO gay-marriage ban

Tuesday, April 29th, 2014

Reporters have covered GOP Attorney General candidate Cynthia Coffman’s attacks on Democratic AG candidate Don Quick for saying he wouldn’t defend Colorado’s gay-marriage ban, if Quick were elected state AG.

But strangely, they haven’t reported if Coffman thinks the ban, which is overwhelmingly opposed in Colorado, is constitutional.

So, to fill in the media gap, I asked Coffman and Rep. Mark Waller, who dropped out of the race yesterday, for their views on the marriage ban.

Jason Salzman @BigMediaBlog
Dear @Rep_Waller & @CynthiaHCoffman, i’m filling a media gap & asking you, do you believe CO gay marriage ban is constitutional? #copolitics

No response yet, but I’ll  update this post when I hear back.

Hat tip to editor for posting scrubbed information but his reasons for deleting article still make no sense

Friday, April 18th, 2014

Denver Post Politics Editor Chuck Plunkett wrote a blog post yesterday titled, “No Facts Hidden From Coffman Story.”

The most effective way to convince us that no facts were hidden would be for Plunkett to explain his thinking as well as re-publish the entire Coffman article, which Plunkett removed from The Post’s website Tuesday night. The article, which offered new information about Coffman’s abortion stance, is readily available on the web anyway.

But in two blog posts, yesterday’s and in one the day before, Plunkett has instead been offering up key facts from the article, and to Plunkett’s credit, all the new information contained in Kurtis Lee’s original article is now living on The Post’s website. That’s good.

What’s still inexplicable, is Plunkett’s logic in spiking the article in the first place.

In trying again yesterday to explain his decision to remove the article, which was newsworthy for eight big, fat reasons, Plunkett wrote:

When I discovered near our print deadline that Coffman had been on the record for months with some of the same information we gained in a recent interview, I had to act quickly.

It’s true, Coffman supported an anti-abortion House bill, allowing for abortion-for-rape-and-incest, even though he’s opposed this exception throughout his career.

And at the same time Coffman continued to be on record (for years) in support of the personhood amendment, which bans abortion-for-rape-and-incest. He didn’t un-endorse personhood when he decided to support the House bill.

Given the totality of Coffman’s anti-abortion record, you’d still conclude that Coffman was opposed to abortion-for-rape-and-incest, even though you found out he voted for the House bill.

That is, until Post reporter Kurtis Lee asked Coffman about it on Saturday and wrote his deleted article, which was headlined: “Mike Coffman adjusts abortion stance in cases of rape and incest.”

In his blog post Wednesday, Plunkett suggested The Post might “write a different story,” based on the Coffman interview.

That’s a good idea, particularly if the article would go deeper into Coffman’s thinking about abortion, getting into why such a passionate anti-abortion advocate could have such a serious change of heart, as well as explaining what Coffman’s abortion position is now.

Eight reasons why a Denver Post reporter’s blog post, deleted by his editor, was newsworthy and should be re-posted on The Denver Post’s website

Thursday, April 17th, 2014

CORRECTION: This post describes the piece scrubbed by The Post as a “blog post.” It was actually  an article planned for the print edition.
——————

Here are eight reasons why Denver Post reporter Kurtis Lee’s blog post, quoting Rep. Mike Coffman about personhood and abortion-for-rape-and-incest, was newsworthy and should not have been deleted from The Post’s website.

1.  It was news! The core of Denver Post Politics Editor Chuck Plunkett’s written explanation for scrubbing the piece is that it was basically old news. But Lee’s piece advanced our understanding of Coffman’s thinking both on the personhood amendment (he opposes it under any circumstances; see number four below.) and on abortion-for-rape-and-incest (he supports it beyond he previous narrow support of it in a specific piece of legislation; see number three.)

2.  It was the first time Coffman made a public statement himself about un-endorsing the personhood amendment and withdrawing his longstanding opposition to abortion-for-rape-and-incest. These are major flips, and journalism is all about providing a record of actual statements by public officials, not their mouthpieces.

3. Lee’s deleted piece, for the first time, informed the public that Coffman has completely changed a long-held position and now broadly favors allowing a woman raped by her father to have an abortion.  Last year, as Lee noted in his piece, Coffman supported a provision in a bill allowing abortion for rape and incest. But this anti-choice bill focused narrowly on banning abortions 20 weeks after fertilization, and no news outlets covered Coffman’s position. It was completely unknown, until Lee asked Coffman about it, if Coffman favors broad rape-and-incest exceptions to his overall extreme opposition to abortion. It turns out his flip was complete. So Lee’s headline for his post reflected actual news: “Mike Coffman adjusts abortion stance in cases of rape and incest.”

4. Lee’s deleted piece reported, for the first time, that Coffman is opposed to any version of the personhood amendment, even of it were narrowed. In his deleted piece. Lee reported that “Coffman said there is no language he would change in the ballot initiative that would make him support it.” This advances Lee’s March 25 story, which quoted Coffman’s spokesperson, Tyler Sandberg, as saying only that Coffman did not support the personhood amendment in 2012 or this year, and the matter is settled because voters rejected it (not that Coffman’s thinking had changed).

5. Coffman has been avoiding abortion issues for years, and so any elaboration on his near silence takes on added value and newsworthiness. During the last election, the only substantive statement Coffman made on abortion that I can find was this comment to The Post: “I am against all abortions, except when it is necessary to protect the life of the mother. Given the fact I’m running for federal office, I will not be endorsing nor opposing any state or local ballot questions.” Frustrated by the lack of media coverage in 2012, I asked him about abortion for rape and incest, and Coffman replied with his pat, “I’m not focused on social issues.” This is what he would also say in debates that year, and reporters didn’t insist that he elaborate.

6. Lee’s direct interview with Coffman, which Lee described as “brief,” might inspire other journalists, who manage to snag Coffman for a longer interview, to go deeper and find out more details about Coffman’s abortion stance, like what is it? Does he support Roe v. Wade? Why did Coffman flip on these deeply and long-held positions? Does he support the personhood concept but not the amendment? What was the evolution of Coffman’s thinking?

7. Lee’s article made The Post look good. I know other media figures in town have been trying to ask Coffman more about his personhood stance, since his spokesperson was interviewed by Lee on March 25, and Coffman has not made himself available. Lee showed enterprise by tracking down Coffman at the Republican assembly and asking him substantive questions about these serious issues. That kind of reporting earns The Post respect and subscriptions.

8. With dwindling staff and resources, the newsworthiness of an accurate and informative news story, once it’s been written, is greater than it used to be. In other words, the old newspaper adage that “the greatness of a newspaper can be judged by the stories that don’t see the light of day” is sadly part of a bygone era. The piece was not only written but already on the website! Why delete an accurate news story?

And finally, a reason why the story is even more newsworthy today than when Lee originally wrote it: Now that Plunkett has deleted the piece, a much larger number of people are curious about it. This adds to its news value. Not a ton, I know, but reader interest is a consideration of newsworthiness.

Obviously, Plunkett didn’t rob Kurtis Lee of a Pulitzer by deleting his blog post from The Post’s website. It wasn’t an earth-shattering piece, but it advanced, in its small way, an issue that’s important to a lot of real people as well as political elites.

Plunkett should re-post Lee’s piece immediately.