Archive for the 'Uncategorized' Category

Journalists should note lawyer’s $50,000 dark-money donation to group backing Carrigan

Thursday, June 16th, 2016

If you like summer election mysteries, you’ll enjoy pondering why personal injury attorney Frank Azar gave $50,000 to a committee backing Denver District Attorney candidate Michael Carrigan. And why would Azar run the money through a Texas entity?

The Colorado Independent’s Marrianne Goodland first reported the donation last month, but Azar, whose ads are a well-known blight on TV, wouldn’t tell Goodland why he made the donation.

This week, Azar’s money was behind an ugly mailer attacking Carrigan’s Democratic primary opponent, former State Rep. Beth McCann.

See the Carrigan mailer attacking Beth McCann here.

In response to the mailer, McCann wrote in an email to supporters, “This mailer is the perfect example of why we need to get dark money and Super PACs out of our democratic elections. The public has no way of knowing why Mr. Azar contributed $50,000 to elect my opponent.”

Beth McCann for Denver District Attorney campaign manager Daniel Aschkinasi added in a statement, “We have all become too familiar with this circus of dark money trying to influence important political races.  This group has one purpose, and that is to smear the record of a dedicated public servant. At a time when our nation looks to solve gun violence issues, we have an opportunity to elect the woman who stood up to the NRA and passed universal background checks three years ago.”

Goodland reported May 19:

Donors [to Fair Public Advocate, an independent expenditure committee] include Denver personal injury attorney Michael Sawaya, with $5,000. Another $1,000 came from attorney Norm Brownstein of Brownstein, Hyatt, Farber & Schreck, one of Denver’s best-known and most politically-connected law firms.

The biggest donation, $50,000, came in February from a Texas holding company, FDJR Holdings, Inc. of Houston.

According to the Texas Secretary of State, FDJR Holdings is one of a group of holding companies owned by Azar and/or his wife, Jeanette Renfro Azar.

Carrigan gave Goodland no explanation for the Azar donation, except to say that individuals and groups who “agree with my platform” are free to donate, but he will not be “beholden” to them. And he attacked McCann’s donations, even though she has no comparable donation to a group backing her.

Good journalism frequently starts with a good question. In this case it is this: Why is big bad personal injury attorney Azar spending 50K to back Carrigan? What is he hoping to get out of Denver’s next district attorney?

Denver7’s Zelinger responds to baseless criticism of his work on Keyser forgery story

Friday, May 27th, 2016

It’s a basic part of a reporter’s job to respond publicly to criticism. Yet, many don’t do it

So, in case you missed it last week, it was good to hear Denver7’s Marshall Zelinger responding to hostile questioning from KNUS 710-AM’s Dan Caplis.

Caplis was upset with Zelinger’s reports on the forged ballot-access signatures of Republican U.S. Senate candidate Jon Keyser. Caplis accused Zelinger of doing the work of Democrats generally and pulling a “punk-ass move” by seeking a mid-afternoon interview with Keyser at Keyser’s home, after Keyser and his campaign didn’t respond to numerous requests for interviews. Zelinger responded directly to Caplis’ accusations. Here’s the audio.

CO Republicans will back Trump but still aren’t endorsing him

Tuesday, March 1st, 2016

I’ve been searching for a Colorado Republican candidate or elected official who’s endorsed billionaire Donald Trump.

I thought I found my guy in Gerald Eller, a Colorado native and disabled Army veteran, who’s one of the dozen or so Republicans seeking to unseat Democratic U.S. Sen. Michael Bennet.

I noticed Eller liked a “Donald Trump Supporters” page on Facebook.

But he told me he’s not endorsed Trump.

“I support all of them,” said Eller, when asked about Trump. “I like all the Republican presidential candidates, even the ones who aren’t running anymore.”

So, here in Colorado, the closest we apparently have to an elected Republican who’s endorsed Trump is State Sen. Laura Woods, of Westminster, who told a radio host that her two favorite candidates were Trump and Cruz.

But Woods later she tweeted that she’d decided, for “no specific reason,” that Cruz was her top presidential candidate.

Other Republican candidates in high profile races told the Colorado Statesman last month that they’d back the GOP nominee, including Trump.

Included in the group is Rep. Mike Coffman, who brushed off questions about Trump in December with, ““He’s not going to be the nominee.”

Secrecy of Bush visit shouldn’t have negated its news value

Monday, October 19th, 2015

Visits by former presidents usually make news in Denver, if nothing else, because these people are major celebrities, known by all. So you’d think an appearance in Denver by a former president, with his brother, a current presidential candidate, plus a cousin, would be high on the news radar.

Yet, I can’t find a Colorado news outlet that covered George W. Bush’s visit on Sunday evening to Denver, where he was apparently joined by brother Jeb Bush and cousin State Treasurer Walker Stapleton.

I asked Denver Post Politics Editor Chuck Plunkett why The Post ignored the event, which was a closed-door fundraiser at the Denver Art Museum.

Plunkett: We reported in advance that Bush would be here for a conference and a fundraiser. Had his appearance at the financial conference been open to press, we would have covered it. Same with the fundraiser.

Here’s The Post’s advance piece.

As it turned out, a loud group of demonstrators were on hand for the event, as depicted by a liberal group, spotlighting the closed doors. With the concentration of Bushes (and power) in one room, it’s surprising the visit went completely unmarked by big media, not just The Post. At least a mention of the secrecy, and the possible explanations for it, would have been welcome.

It’s not an exact comparison, but recall the media conniptions when Mark Udall decided not to appear with Obama last year in Denver. That was a legitimate story, and so was this.

The secrecy (and lack of photo ops) doesn’t negate the issues at play (e.g., Jeb Bush’s fear of his father). In fact, you’d think a reporter would find the closed doors even more newsworthy.

Forget the corpse flower. Smell the putrid fungus.

Saturday, August 22nd, 2015

The corpse plant over at the Botanic Gardens is getting viral love because it’s supposed to be so stinky. But it turns out to smell quite mild, as articulated in tweet from Denver Post reporter Kirk Mitchell: “Early visitors to Denver #CorpseFlower disappointed by lack of stench.”

If you want stench, you should check your yard for the stinkhorn mushroom, Plallus impudicus. While he corpse flower allegedly smells like rotten meat, this mushroom smells like something in between skunk, semen and moldy cheese. It’s the star of stink.

It’s guaranteed to small awful, and it’s common in Denver lawns, so you won’t have to wait in line like all those wanna-be sniffers at the Botanic Gardens.

As we write on our UrbanMushrooms.com website of the stinkhorn:

With their long white shafts and slimy greenish head, these penis-shaped mushrooms emerge from what looks like a smooth pinkish golf-ball.

It’s one of the few mushrooms that you often smell before you see. Noted mycologist Charles McIlvaine called the odor “aggravatingly offensive, attracting blow flies in quantities.”

Seriously, if you can find this in your yard, or a nearby park, why bother with the crowds at the Botanic Gardens. And this, you can actually eat! That is, if you’re the kind of person who likes to eat grasshoppers.

If you can’t find it, head over to the Denver Botanic Gardens Sept. 6 for the Colorado Mycological Society’s Mushroom Fair. It runs 11 am to 5 pm.

As you walk into Mitchell Hall, where the fair takes place at the Gardens, you’ll find a nice display of “City Mushrooms,” including, of course, the stinkhorn! Smell it until your craving for the foulest of odors subsides.

Also, bring along any mushrooms you find in your yard or the mountains. Expert mycologists will be on hand to identify them. And check out the huge display of wild mushrooms, as well as other mushroom exhibits for kids and adults.

Sure, the corpse flower has turned into a celebrity, but the poor Phallus mushroom is more deserving of attention as a reliable stinker.  Trust me on this.

Media not responsible for Roberts’ campaign problems

Tuesday, July 7th, 2015

Those of you who’ve been following the strange public downfall of State Sen. Ellen Roberts will thoroughly enjoy her interview last week on KNUS 710-AM.

If you don’t know, Roberts quickly went from being a rarity in Colorado, a Great Republican Hope to defeat Democrat Sen. Michael Bennet, to being just another common Colorado Republican implosion, in the tradition of Ken Buck, Scott McInnis, Bob Beauprez, etc, etc.

Now Roberts is saying everyone made too big a deal of her contemplation of a U.S. Senate run, especially the Durango Herald’s Peter Marcus, who first broke the news that Roberts was “in the process of thinking” about challenging Bennet. Roberts told KNUS radio-host Krista Kafer last week:

Roberts: I had honestly answered a question to my local hometown reporter after the session ended. He said, “You know, your name keeps getting floated out there as a possible candidate for the Republicans in the U.S. Senate race.” And he said, “So, are you going to think about it?” I said, honestly, thinking of the average person’s definition of ‘thinking’ — not a Hillary Clinton ‘no-I’m-not-thinking-about-it-while-you’re-developing-your-whole-campaign-years-ahead — actually meant I was going to go home to Durango, unpack my boxes, reintegrate with my family and my community, and think about whether that was a choice that I would make. And from there it went gangbusters, because he put it in the newspaper and the Democratic machine went – and I would say, ‘the Democratic nasty machine’.

…And apparently, just by thinking about whether I might get into the U.S. Senate race was enough to send people to the moon and back. So, yeah, it was a – it hasn’t been a pleasant experience

He put it in the newspaper! Can you believe it? A leading Colorado Republican tells Peter Marcus she’s “thinking” of running U.S. Senate, and the stupid journalist actually tells us!

God knows what trick Marcus will play on Roberts next time he interviews her.

And there’s more there, as you can see. Roberts is trying to make us believe she wasn’t serious about a Senate run, and she’s implying Marcus’ lede paragraph, stating that Roberts was “seriously considering a run for U.S. Senate,” was somehow misleading.

But all you have to do is read Roberts’ own statements in Marcus’ article to see that she was definitely serious about running, as you’d hope would be the case if she’s telling one of the state’s few remaining political reporters about it.

She told Marcus she 1) was worried about surviving a primary, 2) pointed out that she’d have to file paperwork before making an official announcement, 3) lashed out at Bennet, indicating she’d thought about the campaign’s end-game, and 4) said nothing about not being serious, such as, “Hey, Peter, I’m telling you all this but I’m not serious about it.”

Then she went on to tell The Denver Post’s John Frank:

Roberts: “I’m not ready to announce yet, but I’m certainly exploring it pretty closely or I wouldn’t be talking about it.”

Then she seriously told KNUS radio’s Dan Caplis, “I’ve never called myself pro-choice as a politician.” Then ColoradoPols posted a video proving this to be false, and Roberts soon said she was no longer considering a U.S. Senate run.

Or, as she told KNUS last week, “I would say I have since stopped thinking. So, because I publicly said I’m not thinking about it anymore, all of a sudden it has magically disappeared from the Democrats.”

That’s almost as surprising as a reporter who actually takes notes when you say  you’re thinking about running for U.S. Senate.

At least Roberts is not progressive blogs for factual errors.

Roberts: Well, when I said on the radio show, as a politician, I don’t—I’ve never called myself pro-choice, I forgot that in 2011 in the heat of battle, I did said that because I was trying to drive home a point to the Democrats. Well, within twenty-four hours, the blogs had pieced together that time in 2011 and the radio show clip to say that I was wishy-washy, or flip-floppy, or whatever.  As far as I’m concerned, put me in category number three.

Whatever. That’s the category Roberts now wants to be in. That’s fine, but hopefully she won’t claim that her new”whatever” category is the radio’s or media’s fault. The media were not responsible for any of the catastrophes we witnessed during Roberts short, but serious, contemplation of a U.S. Senate run.

 

Irony watch: Stapleton calls Post article “completely misleading,” even though he refused The Post’s interview request for the article

Thursday, May 21st, 2015

If you’re a journalist, this is the kind of  irony that makes you want to jump into the raging Platte River: State Treasurer Walker Stapleton is trashing a Denver Post article as “completely misleading” even though Stapleton refused an interview request from the reporter who wrote the article that Stapleton is so upset about.

Over the weekend, The Denver Post’s John Frank reported that Stapleton caved to pressure from conservatives and withdrew his support from legislation aimed at making money for PERA, the state’s public pension system.

Frank sought Stapleton’s comments for his article, but alas, as Frank reported:

John Frank: “Michael Fortney, a spokesman for Stapleton, declined to make him available for an interview and blamed the media for spreading falsehoods about the legislation.”

So John Frank dutifully did the best he could anyway to piece together Stapleton’s best response to the substantive issues at play. But this wasn’t good enough for Stapleton, who trashed Frank’s reporting on KLZ 560-AM’s nooner show yesterday:

 Stapleton (@5:40 below): “John Frank’s reporting, which was lacking to be diplomatic, was completely misleading, never once illuminated my track record of suing the pension system, lowering the [assumed] rate of return, leading the defeat of Amendment 66, the largest tax increase in Colorado history, because the money was going to back fill obligations in the pension system. I mean, the notion that somehow I’ve become sideways, because I’m in league with the pension system–the facts don’t quite bear that out.”

That’s not what the article said at all, but Stapleton went further, telling KLZ host Ken Clark that he thinks The Post has a bias against “statewide elected Republicans,” and so he’s “really isn’t surprised” that The Post’s coverage “has been not accurate.”

Stapleton (@1:30 below): “The Denver Post, their coverage of this, has been not accurate and misrepresentative of my position from the beginning, which really isn’t surprising as a statewide elected Republican.”

You can add another layer of irony to this accusation, because one of the state’s most conservative/libertarian journalists, Vincent Carroll, wrote that Stapleton “migrated into incoherence” when Stapleton previously attacked The Post’s coverage of the PERA legislation.

In his KLZ interview, Stapleton maintained that he never favored the issuance of bonds to bolster PERA, even though he did support giving himself the authority to issue the bonds. But evidence shows he was ready to issue the bonds under specific circumstances.

On the radio, Stapleton tried to explain his position with an analogy:

Stapleton: “The police have the authority to arrest anyone anytime, but they don’t necessarily do it. The same thing with the authority to issue these bonds.”

That’s Stapleton migrating into incoherence yet again, and you would have expected Ken Clark, an anti-PERA extremist, to call him on it.

You wouldn’t give the police authority to make arrests if people did’t break laws. Why would Stapleton, who’s specified when he’d actually issue the PERA bonds, seek authority to issue bonds if he didn’t want to issue bonds?

In the end, Stapleton seemed to slam the door on any future efforts to help PERA make money. He trashed the process and The Post.

Stapleton (Below @4:15): The mistake that I made was thinking I could go into negotiations with the pension system, even though I’d been at their throat for the last four years, and that they wouldn’t put out fictitious numbers behind my back that had nothing to do with the legislation, which caused the reporting of this to be completely misrepresented in The Denver Post.

Lesson for reporters from all this: Next time Stapleton goes into hiding and refuses to talk to The Post or some other reporter, track him down and don’t take “I’m-not-talking-to-you” as a response. And bring along a camera. Stapleton has asked for this treatment, but why not apply it to others like him, too?

Media omission: Personhood leader shows how Gardner stabbed him in the back

Monday, November 3rd, 2014

Here’s my favorite Halloween costume. I only wish I’d actually seen it.

Keith1Mason's avatarKeith Mason @Keith1Mason
@BigMediaBlog what do you think? My costume this year is a knife in my back with a “cg” on the side….

We all know senatorial candidate Cory Gardner stabbed the personhood movement in the back, but who would think Keith Mason, the co-founder of Personhood USA, would illustrate the point so brilliantly by inserting a Cory-Gardner monographed knife in his own back?

I offered to buy Mason a beer if he’d send me a photo of his costume. Then I realized he’d probably want harder stuff, so I said I’d buy him shots in exchange for the pic. No response yet, but I wouldn’t be surprised if he sent me the photo.

Mason hasn’t held back expressing his feelings about Gardner, telling Cosmo a few months ago, for example, that “[Cory Gardner has] built his entire political career on support of personhood. I think he’s just listening to some bad advice, and he’s playing politics.”

Or, put another way, Gardner stabbed Mason and his hard-working personhood colleagues in the back, after they stood with Gardner throughout his political career.

Reader: Jeffco parents and students have an obvious interest in school board AP review

Saturday, November 1st, 2014

In response to my recent post about KLZ talk-radio host Kris Cook calling Jeffco students “pawns” of the teachers’ union, I received the email below from an Arvada parent of two teenagers in JeffCo schools, one who took APUSH class and passed the exam with a 4, and the other teen who is on track to take it in coming years. The writer asked to remain anonymous due to fear of possible repercussions.

Dear BigMedia:

To support her contention that students are “pawns” Kris Cook asks and answers herself: “who has something to gain by mobilizing the students to protest a censorship that hasn’t even been proposed? The only answer that makes any sense is the union” since “students have nothing to gain from this” and “the parents have nothing to gain.” Based on these perceptions — and nothing else — she concludes the students are acting as pawns of the teachers union.

From her self-Q&A, it appears likely that Cook did not take AP classes, has any children who took these classes and the associated AP exams, or has children who might be eligible for these classes. Now, to be clear, there is nothing wrong with that, as AP classes are not for every student and plenty of students who don’t take/pass AP classes/exams go on to be quite successful and vice versa. Because if Cook had some experience with the AP subject matter, she would see the flaw in the assumptions upon which her conclusion is based.

Parents and students have a direct financial interest in whether a school offers AP classes, and whether an individual student learns enough in an AP class to then pass the AP exam. If a student passes an AP exam, he or she may receive full credit at their undergraduate college. This reduces the tuition cost for that semester by a substantial percentage and depending upon the college, that may be thousands of dollars. In cases where a college does not apply an AP exam as full course credit for tuition and graduation requirement purposes, that college may still allow a student to skip an intro level class, which frees him or her up to take more advanced classes while receiving their undergraduate degree. Finally some colleges may factor in passage of AP exams into admission and/or scholarship offers.

In response to Julie Williams’ initial proposal and subsequent statements to the press/TV, the College Board that oversees AP certification put Jefferson County School District on notice that too much tinkering with the AP curriculum could affect its certification, and thus the availability of APUSH to students in the district. The Williams-College Board dust-up put in play the financial benefits of APUSH for students and parents throughout Jefferson County.

From that moment on, students and their parents had compelling rationales and powerful motivations to oppose the JeffCo majority, independent from the interests of the teachers unions (who might be concerned with salaries and job security, etc). Unfortunately for Williams, Newkirk, and Witt, and their supporters, the interests of students, parents, and teachers are now aligned. For better or worse, the very students who are eligible and take AP classes, and their parents, skew towards the more affluent and educated. These demographics define some of the most potent of political adversaries, at least at the citizen-level. While it is true that teachers and student/parents may have different reasons and incentives for scrutinizing and opposing the actions of the JeffCo majority, the alignment of their respective incentives makes it natural that the efforts of one might leverage and amplify the political message of the other. For achieving each group’s political objectives, there is little downside for doing so, only upside: bigger crowds, reinforced messaging, and a broader range of individuals to represent multiple faces of opposition. This seems like Politics 101, right?

As to whether “censorship” is an accurate, much less fair, way to characterize the initial Williams proposal, that ship has sailed. There was enough ambiguity and ideological phrasing in the original language to make this a plausible-enough interference, at least from a messaging perspective. Without those elements, a cry of censorship would have fallen flat, but among Williams owns words there was enough fodder to attract media coverage from the angle of that most un-American of values — censorship. While “indoctrination” or “nationalism” might be more accurate one-word substitutes, those are a bit more abstract and don’t resonate in the same universal way, across the full political spectrum. This is why there is such an effort to explain why this is -not- censorship. Which of course only serves to keep that word on-the-air, or in-print…only helping to continuing to cast doubt on the motivations of the School Board majority, in a vicious or virtuous circle, depending on your position. In either case, this was a gift served up on a silver platter by Williams herself, and students/parents (and yes, teachers too) cannot be faulted for gratefully putting her gift to use.

Which finally leads to a less flattering chessboard analogy: Julie Williams’ clumsy introduction of the curriculum design committee proposal in the midst of the Board’s ambitious effort to revamp teacher compensation, was like her agreeing to add an extra rook and bishop to the side of the teachers, while announcing to the world that at least a few pieces on the Board/supporters’ side are checkers.

Panel of reporters to discuss highs and lows of 2014 election coverage

Tuesday, October 28th, 2014

Here’s a chance for activists on both sides of the partisan divide to beat up on journalists (or praise them) at the same time, in the same venue.

Panel Discussion: Colorado Journalism and the 2014 Election

Tuesday November 11, from 7:30-9 a.m.
1380 Lawrence Street, Terrace Room.

A panel discussion with:

Shaun Boyd, Political Specialist, CBS4
Peter Marcus, Denver Correspondent, Durango Herald
Chuck Plunkett, Politics Editor, The Denver Post
Nicholas Riccardi, Western Political Reporter, Associated Press
Eli Stokols, Political Reporter, Fox 31 Denver

The panel will discuss: Did Denver news outlets provide citizens with the information needed to make informed decisions during the 2014 election? What were the journalistic highs and lows during the election season?

Introductory Remarks:

Paul Teske, Dean, University of Colorado Denver, School of Public Affairs

Moderators:

Kelly Maher, Director, Compass Colorado
Jason Salzman, Blogger, BigMedia.org

Doors open at 7:30 a.m. for a light breakfast with coffee

Panel discussion, including questions from the audience: 7:45 – 9 a.m.

University of Colorado Denver, Terrence Street Center
1380 Lawrence, Terrace Room, Second Floor

Free and open to the public. Please share with anyone who’d be interested.

Come with questions for the journalists. You can also submit questions in advance to Kelly Maher at okmaher@gmail.com or Jason Salzman at jason@bigmedia.org.

Sponsors: BigMedia.org, Compass Colorado, University of Colorado Denver, School of Public Affairs

Please RSVP to jason@bigmedia.org. But if you don’t RSVP, just show up anyway.

The panel will discuss: Did Denver news outlets provide citizens with the information needed to make informed decisions during the 2014 election? What were the journalistic highs and lows during the election season?

Questions: jason@bigmedia.org.