Archive for the 'Durango Herald' Category

When Republicans downplay the importance of women’s issues, reporters should provide historical perspective

Thursday, July 18th, 2013

On Friday, the Durango Herald ran an article on newly-minted CO Republican Senate candidates, state legislators Owen Hill and Randy Baumgardner.

The Herald reported that Hill has taken strong anti-choice stands in the past. (Opponents say he supported de-funding Planned Parenthood in Colorado.) And Baumgardner “pitched an Arizona-style immigration law for Colorado two years ago when he was in the House.”

The Herald’s Paige Jones reported that Owen Loftus, a spokesman for the Colorado Republican Party, “downplayed the candidates’ proposals on abortion and immigration – both of which quickly failed – and said voters make their decision based on a range of issues.”

“People in Colorado don’t vote on just two issues. They vote on the whole package,” he said.

Maybe they don’t vote on just two issues, but Jones should have asked Loftus how he could possibly downplay the importance of women’s issues, like abortion, and immigration after Loftus’ deflating experience as spokesman for Ken Buck’s failed Senatorial campaign in 2010.

Buck was poised to win his race, you recall, and before the 2010 election, Republicans like Loftus were saying the same thing about itsy-bitsy women’s issues: they don’t matter. And look what happened to Buck.

At the time, as Buck was attacked as an anti-abortion extremist, Buck campaign consultant Walt Klein told The Denver Post:

“If they think they can make Michael Bennet a more appealing incumbent by going on and on about abortion, then fire away. But all the polling data show economy, jobs and unemployment is pushing all the other issues to the bottom of the chart.”

Responding to a news story about a college student who was angry at Buck for telling reporters that the student would be accused of having “buyer’s remorse” if her rape case went to trial, Loftus told The Denver Post: When it comes to women and men, they’re worried about jobs. … That’s what everyone cares about. Voters understand this is a machine set up to smear Ken Buck, and they aren’t buying it.”

As everyone now knows, Loftus was wrong then, he’s wrong again, and reporters should press him on why he continues to say the same lines even though he’s had a two-bit role in the history that proves him wrong. Loftus did not immediately return an email seeking comment.

Three days after 2010 election, Buck himself told The Denver Post:

“My effort was to focus on spending and unemployment, and they wanted to talk about anything but,” Buck said. “It was part of their effort to focus more on their version of Ken Buck rather than the issues that I thought most voters were concerned about. I don’t know that there’s any way to avoid it; I wasn’t going to derail my message to have an election decided on abortion, or any social issue, for that matter.”

The Post’s Michael Booth did readers a favor by following up Buck’s quote with this:

The irony is, of course, that the election may have been decided on precisely those issues, with even Republican analysts saying the Democratic strategy hurt Buck among independent women in Arapahoe and Jefferson counties. The final margin with Bennet was fewer than 20,000 votes, out of 1.5 million cast.

Media Omission: Gun activist Pratt calls on Colorado sheriffs to arrest federal officials if necessary

Wednesday, April 17th, 2013

Larry Pratt, Executive Director of Gun Owners of America, praised Weld County Sheriff John Cooke recently for taking a “very strong stand on what he thinks the limits of the Federal government are.”

Speaking to Greeley talk show host Scooter McGee, Pratt, who’s in Colorado now to support the recall effort of State Rep. Mike McLachlan, said some sheriffs around the country are ready to arrest federal officials if, in the sheriffs’ views, they are violating the U.S. Constitution.

PRATT Well, I’m very encouraged by the number of sheriffs that–it’s at least pushing 400 now, that have said– there’s a spectrum. At a minimum, they’re saying they’re not going to cooperate with any unconstitutional gun grabs that the federal government might participate in. And at the other end of the spectrum, sheriffs are saying, “Not only will I not cooperate, but if the Feds are doing something unconstitutional in my county, particularly a gun grab, I’ll put them in jail.” But they’re also addressing other issues where the Feds act unconstitutionally and threaten to incarcerate citizens of their county, the sheriffs are interposing themselves and saying, “If you try to do that, you don’t have authority, and you’re not going to do that in my county, and if you try it, I will arrest you.” This has happened in confrontations with the Forest Service, BLM, the Food and Drug Administration, and of course, the ATF – the gun police.

In a column in the Cortez Journal Monday, Montezuma Country Sheriff Dennis Spruell echoed Pratt’s comments, writing that if sheriffs “think a state or federal law contradicts the Constitution, they are under no obligation to enforce it.”

It wasn’t clear if Pratt thought Cooke would actually arrest federal officials, or if Spruell would arrest them, if necessary to enforce their views of the U.S. Constitution, so I called Cooke and Spruell to find out. Cooke did not return my call immediately, but Spruell said, “I swore an oath to the Constitution, but there’s no law that says I can arrest someone who violates the Constitution.”

In his radio interview, Pratt went on to point to a specific example of a situation, in addition to stopping alleged gun grabs, when Sheriffs need to exert their power and arrest the feds–when the Department of Education sends in a SWAT team to collect student loans.

PRATT: Well, it can get pretty absurd. There was a case last year, a young woman looked outside and realized that her residence was completely surrounded by the Men in Black. And when all the commotion finally subsided, it turned out that that was the Department of Education SWAT team, and they were coming for her because she was delinquent on her education [loans]. McGEE: Oh, on her student loans! PRATT: Exactly. Now, the fact that in the past creditors were able to garnish your wages, put a lien on if you own your house, repo[ssess] your car–. Those are actually sensible, measured, equivalent responses to the problem. But now, if they have a SWAT team, they figure they got to use it, or else why do we ask the taxpayers to spend all this money on – McGEE: And, when it comes to budgets, remember we spent a hundred and fifteen thousand dollars last year and we increase the budget every year and we have to justify it by spending it, and using it and—oh, my god, Larry. You’re absolutely right, again. PRATT: So, off we go and the Department of Education is now using a SWAT team to collect delinquent student loans. Frankly, that’s where we need sheriffs. The sheriff needs to come in and say [affecting a ‘good ol’ boy, southern accent], “Boy, I don’t think you ought to be doing that.” And make sure that the boys understand that the sheriff is serious as a heart attack, that he is just talking smooth, and that he is not going to let them do that.

The Durango Herald will live stream a speech by Pratt in Durango today at 6:30 p.m.. He’s in Colorado in support of efforts to recall State Rep. Mike McLachlan.

Durango Herald correct in asserting that academics don’t see partisan advantage in election-day registration

Friday, April 12th, 2013

In his April 9 article about proposed legislation that would, among other things, allow citizens to register to vote through Election Day, Durango Herald reporter Joe Hanel wrote:

Conventional wisdom holds that same-day registration will give Democrats an advantage. However, academics who have studied the idea find the evidence for it is sketchy.

Hanel didn’t cite a specific academic, but his assertion is, in fact, correct.

Not that it matters. Presumably, in America, we want as many people to register and vote as possible, within budget and security constraints, whether they do it picking their nose in the shower or on Election Day at the polls. In other words, the debate about whether same-day registration favors one side or the other is irrelevant, unless you’re against voting.

But, in any event…

I called Associate Professor Michael McDonald at George Mason University, and he told me that early voting and same-day registration may, in some situations, benefit Democrats and, in others, benefit Republicans.

“It depends on the ability of the campaigns to mobilize voters,” he told me. “In different situations, Democrats may win the early vote. Republicans may win the early vote in other situations. It depends on the context.”

In 2010, I interviewed Curtis Gans, Director of the Center for the Study of the American Electorate, about whether he believes same-day registration benefits Democrats or Republicans. Gans is not a Ph.D., but he is a widely quoted independent expert, who’s been associated with American University, the Woodrow Wilson Center, and elsewhere.

“I think it’s not predictable at all,” he answered. “We have been shown that it’s not predictable one way or the other. There’s plenty of evidence.”

He added: “So long as a state does not have a history or likelihood of abuse of the registration system…- fraudulent registration, voting in the name of dead people, that sort of thing…-there is no harm and maybe a little good that can come out of election-day registration.”

Colorado has no such history of election fraud, as far as I could find.

I asked Gans, “What’s the little good that can come of same-day registration?”

“The good part is, that if people get interested in the election closer to the election, they don’t have to sit it out because they’re not registered,” he told me. “That’s the good part. It enhances the opportunity to vote.”

I called Gans yesterday to get an update on the situation. He told me his view remains the same.

“It’s also true with in-person early voting,” Gans said. “In 2004, the Republicans got the benefit of in-person early voting. The last two elections the Democrats did. It depends on the political climate.”

Colorado’s current practice is to cut off voter registration 29 days before ballots are cast.

“It depends on who’s motivated to go vote,” Gans said, adding that he doesn’t think there’s any dispute among election experts on this point.

Reporters should find out if GOP caucus goers think their delegates should be up for grabs or committed to their chosen candidate?

Monday, February 13th, 2012

As the Colorado GOP caucuses approached last week, state Colorado GOP Chair Ryan Call told the Durango Herald that a lot was riding on the outcome. That is, if you believe the GOP delegates are an honorable bunch.

The Herald reported:

Those delegates [chosen at the caucuses] are “bound by honor” to vote for the presidential candidates they supported at the precinct caucus, said state Republican Party Chairman Ryan Call. If a candidate drops out before the assembly, his delegates are released to vote for someone else.

But the morning after the caucuses, Call was downplaying the significance of the Stantorum victory, telling KNUS’ Steve Kelley:

Call: Last night’s preference poll is really just a straw poll. The delegates elected in each of these precinct caucus meetings are now going to go on to participate in county and district assemblies. And then at the state assembly in April is where we will actually be electing the slate of delegates that will be sent from Colorado to the national convention…This is still an open race, and it can be expected to play out over the next couple months.

Kelley asked the follow-up question that was on my mind:

Kelley: It begs the question then, Ryan, why do the caucuses if you’re not going to secure the delegates for sure?

Call replied:

Call: The caucuses are the first step in a multi-step process. It’s that sort of winnowing of the field as the process moves along. It’s a very representative, grassroots-oriented process where the folks who took the time to show up are the ones whose votes matter and whose voices get heard.

An impartial observer, like a reporter, might want to know how all those grassroots folks “who took the time to show up” are feeling now, as their participation, not whom they voted for, seems to matter most to Call.

Call: I think the most exciting thing is the level of turnout, the level of participation, and then we move on to the next step.

You’d think delegates would, in fact, feel some commitment to support the candidate they were selected to vote for, as long as that candidate stayed in the race.

I’d feel betrayed (and pissed), if I voted for, say, a winner like Newt Gingrich, and my trusty Gingrich delegate dumped his chains of honor and switched to Romney at the county or state conventions.

But Call apparently doesn’t see it that way, and neither does former GOP Chair Dick Wadhams–or Ron Paul, who thinks he has stealth delegates faking it for other candidates.

Reporters should be wondering what the GOP caucus goers think of this situation. Just how committed do they believe their delegates should be to the preferences of the hard-working caucus attendees who selected them?

When GOP (or Dem Party) has no plan to pay for a tax break or budget increase, reporters should say so

Monday, July 25th, 2011

These days, Republicans in the Colorado Assembly are facing a question they’re not used to being asked: how will you pay for that?

In 2009, state Republicans and Democrats were both saying they wanted to pass legislation to upgrade Colorado’s roads and bridges. The Dems’ plan, the FASTER legislation that passed over GOP objections, was funded by increased vehicle registration fees and a $2 fee on rental cars.

Speaking for the Republicans, Rep. Mike May said: “The Republican plan is: Building roads, not bureaucracies.”

Yet reporters couldn’t bring themselves to writing, plainly, that the GOP had no plan to fund road construction. Instead reporters mostly regurgitated vague GOP notions to sell bonds, maybe raise vehicle fees way lower than Dems’ proposed, or leverage the “value of state buildings.”

In the last few years, reporters have gotten better at stating that Republicans have no plan, when they don’t have one for paying for tax cuts or pet spending increases.

For example, the headline on a Spot blog post July 21 stated, factually, that House Republicans wouldn’t say how they would pay for restoring a property tax break for seniors, which is set to take effect in 2012, after being suspended for two years by Democrats in 2010, generating about $100 million for the state.

The Post quoted House Speaker Frank McNulty as saying that the days of balancing the state budget on backs of seniors were gone.

But the article pointed out that the reality that relieving the back ache would require cuts to other programs.

And so The Post did what you, I, or any sane journalist would do. It asked McNulty about how he’d adjust the state budget to pay for the tax break, but the House Speaker refused to tell The Post where these cuts would be made.

A day after The Post piece appeared,  the Durango Herald covered Gov. John Hickenlooper’s response to McNulty’s plan to restore the property tax break for seniors. Hick said more budget cuts were likely and so the only way to pay for a tax cut for seniors would be to make even deeper cuts to the state budget.

But unlike The Post, the Herald didn’t get a direct response from McNulty on how he planned to pay for the tax break.

Neither did the Pueblo Chieftain, in its article about Hickenlooper’s response to McNulty. The Chieftain reported:

“McNulty said he is optimistic that a rebound in state revenue will enable Colorado to restore the tax break to seniors.”

I’m glad McNulty is optimistic, but the Chieftain should have asked the follow-up question: What if the rebound doesn’t materialize? What’s McNulty’s plan? What would he cut?