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Debate-watch panels at Regis University will address media coverage of presidential race

Monday, October 17th, 2016

Public affairs TV host Aaron Harber will moderate two debate-watch panels at Regis University Wed., discussing media coverage of the presidential campaign and the Oct. 19 presidential debate.

The panelists are former Denver news anchor Tamara Banks, Editor of The Denver Post, Lee Ann Colacioppo, KNUS Radio Host Krista Kafer, and yours truly.

A 6 p.m. panel, in the Mountain View Room of Peter Claver Hall at Regis, will address media coverage of the presidential race to date, as well as what can be expected going forward. An 8:30 p.m. panel will discuss the debate itself, which will be shown at 7 p.m. on a large screen with live tweeting.

The event is free, and questions from the audience will be encouraged. Doors open and 5:30.

A livestream of both panels will be carried by Regis and made available to members of the Colorado Broadcasters Association.

A news release about the event quoted CBA President Justin Sasso: “We’re very pleased to work with Aaron and his team as well as Regis University to bring this nonpartisan public affairs educational opportunity to Colorado television and radio stations across the state right at such a crucial juncture in the election cycle when citizens are receiving their ballots.”

The release also quoted Colorado Press Association CEO Jerry Raehal: “Given the prominent print journalists on the panels and the fact many Colorado publications have Websites which can offer the live-streaming of the event, this is a great public service for everyone in Colorado.  Colorado publications exist to serve their communities so we’re delighted to partner with Aaron, a CPA member, to bring these discussions to our members’ readers across the entire State.”

John Hickey, Regis University Associate Dean and Chair of the Communications Department, stated via a news release: “This is a wonderful opportunity for Colorado citizens to hear from and interact with some of the best-known and most insightful journalists in our state. We are especially grateful to have someone of Aaron’s caliber — who is known for his balanced and effective moderating skills in challenging debate situations — leading this effort.”

Moderator Aaron Harber stated, “We’re delighted to work with Dean Hickey and everyone at Regis University to bring this opportunity to as many people as possible.  By live-streaming the event, Regis is making this as accessible as possible to millions of Coloradans. I’m also honored by the incredible line-up of journalists that we have on our two panels.”

Harbor is moderating a in-depth series, called Your Decision 2016, on aspects of Colorado’s upcoming election.


TrumpWatch: Where do Colorado Republicans Stand on Trump These Days?

Tuesday, October 11th, 2016

I’ve previously chronicled the various positions of Colorado Republicans on Trump, but this time I ran into problems categorizing their stances.  As you’ll see below, there’s Never Trump, Dumped Trump, Maybe Trump, Love Trump, and many more.

It’s confusing to be the bean counter (me), but it’s undoubtedly far more taxing to be them, trying to figure out where they stand on their standard bearer.

In any case, below is my handy guide–and please send me new information and updates, as the list is changing rapidly with each debate and video tape.

I haven’t seen a tally like this in the Colorado media—though it’s been good to see numerous outlets reporting on the shifting loyalties of top GOP officials toward Trump.

Elected Officials Who Jumped Aboard the Trump Train, AND Affirmed Support after The Release of Trump’s Pussy Comments

State Sen. Laura Woods (In January, she called him one of her two favorite presidential candidates. In August, she called him the “people’s candidate,” and last week she affirmed her support and agreed that no presidential candidate is “perfect.”)

U.S. Rep. Scott Tipton (affirmed support here)

El Paso Country Commissioner Peggy Littleton

U.S. Rep. Doug Lamborn (affirmed support here)

U.S. Rep. Ken Buck (affirmed support here)


Elected Officials who Backed Trump, Dumped Him, but Haven’t Said Whom They Will Vote for

U.S. Rep. Mike Coffman (His spokeswoman said her boss would “absolutely” back the GOP presidential nominee, but Coffman later hedged, and now Coffman says he won’t vote for Trump.)

SenCory Gardner (once called Trump a “buffoon,” then said he’d vote for him (after being asked seven times), and then dumped him.


Candidate Who Jumped OFF the Trump Train, But Is Now Reconsidering

El Paso County Commissioner Darryl Glenn


Elected Officials Who’ve Expressed their Support for Trump but Not Necessarily Confirmed it since the Pussy Video

State Rep. J Paul Brown

Former State Rep. Greg Brophy  (if Trump is nominee)

State Sen. President Bill Cadman (if Trump is nominee)

A reporter characterized State Rep. Don Coram as a Trump fan

State Sen. Vicki Marble (Facebook)

State Rep. Patrick Neville.

State Sen. Tim Neville.

State Rep. Clarice Navarro (here and here and elsewhere)

State Rep. Dan Thurlow.


Elected Officials Who Were Undecided Along the Way

State Rep. Kathleen Contiwho’s said, “I’m hearing growing support for [Libertarian] Gary Johnson.”

State Rep. Justin Everett

State Sen. Kevin Grantham.

State RepYuelin Willet


Former Elected Officials Backing Trump

Former Colorado Senate President John Andrews

Former Rep. Bob Beauprez

Former Rep. Jon Keyser (He reiterated  his support here.)

Former CU Regent Tom Lucero

Former State Rep. Spencer Swalm (an “out-of-the-closet” endorser)


Former Elected Officials Who Will Not Vote for Trump

Former State Sen. Shawn Mitchell (also left GOP, posting on Facebook, “Whores don’t merit unwavering loyalty.”).


Candidates Backing Trump

George Athanasopoulos (Running against Perlmutter)

Arapahoe County Commissioner Nancy Doty

House District 1 candidate Raymond Garcia

Casper Stockham, who’s the Republican challenging Rep. Diana DeGette.

House District 14 candidate Jeff Williams


Notable Republicans Who said, “We May Be Seeing the Final months of the Existence of the Republican Party”

Former Rep. Bob Schaffer


Colorado GOP Officials Who’ve Left Republican Party

Vice Chair of Rio Grande County GOP Patrick Crowder

Chair of House District 43 Republicans Craig Steiner.

Activist Jennifer Raiffie (Facebook)

GOP Congressional candidate criticizes Coffman ad

Friday, August 5th, 2016

Republican  Congressional candidate Casper Stockham thinks it was “wrong” for U.S. Rep. Mike Coffman to produce an ad critical of GOP presidential nominee Donald Trump.

Coffman says he still may vote for Trump, which is not surprising since Coffman’s actual factual positions on abortion (opposed to a woman’s right to choose), immigration (opposed to birthright citizenship), Obama (questioning his citizenship), the debt ceiling (opposed to increasing it), and others are in line with Trump.

“If you are going to be a Republican, be a Republican,” said Stockham. “I’m voting for Trump, absolutely, because I’m the party nominee. I’m running for Congress on the Republican ticket. I find it fascinating what goes on in politics.”

Stockham is challenging U.S. Rep. Diana DeGette to represent Denver, a dense Democratic district, even more anti-Trump than Coffman’s Aurora district.

So I asked Stockham if he thought about distancing himself from Trump.

“I understand why [Coffman] did it, but I think it was wrong for him to do that,” Stockham said. “You would never find any Democrat Congressperson running a negative ad against Hillary Clinton or any nominee. And the reason is, the Democrat Party has its act together and the Republican Party does not.”

Stockham said he’s running “to serve the community.”

Another election year, another journalist exposes a Republican Senate candidate talking in different directions on personhood abortion ban

Monday, August 1st, 2016

If you look at the Colorado Right to Life website, you’ll see that Colorado U.S. Senate candidate Darryl Glenn is labled “pro-life.”

What does that mean, if you’re Colorado Right to Life? It means Glenn answered questions on seven “pro-life issues,” revealing his position “through specific language with no weasel-room.”

Colorado Right to Life states:

No candidate who supports abortion for any reason is “pro-life.” Regardless of what they may say, any truly pro-life citizen/candidate believes that government has an obligation to protect all human life from conception forward, and therefore pledge to oppose all abortion (with the understanding that a doctor may take action to save a woman’s life while also trying to save the baby’s life, even if the baby’s survival is doubtful due to other factors) – every innocent human being has an inalienable Right to Life at every age or stage of development.

But as the Durango Herald’s Peter Marcus reports today, Glenn appears to have described his abortion stance differently to different audiences.

Marcus quotes Glenn in an appearance on “Devil’s Advocate,” a television show sponsored by the conservative Independence Institute.

Glenn told Caldara: “As a person who has two adult daughters, I put myself in that situation. And I want to make sure that when we’re talking about health care, you want to make sure that women have the ability and access to health care, so that they understand all the different options that are out there. And at some point in time, maybe they might have to make that decision. But that is a personal decision that they have to make between them and… God.

Marcus’ report included a reaction to the Caldara interview from Colorado Right to Life:

“I’m willing to say on behalf of our organization that his comments were not nearly as strong as we would hope,” said Susan Sutherland, vice president of Colorado Right to Life. “He was just trying to play a little bit of political maneuvering there.”

Republican U.S. Sen. Cory Gardner ran into a similar situation in 2014 when he defeated incumbent Democrat Mark Udall. To defeat Udall, Gardner walked more to the middle on the abortion issue, attempting to distance himself from personhood.

Glenn proudly leaned to the right during the primary, which helped propel the relatively unknown El Paso County commissioner to success in a crowded GOP field.

And, of course, before Gardner, there was 2010 Republican U.S. Senate candidate Ken Buck, who, after the GOP primary, oops, took back his support for a personhood abortion ban  because, he said at the time, he didn’t understand the proposed amendment.

Like Buck, U.S. Rep. Mike Coffman was cozy with the poor folks at Colorado Right to Life, before he jumped ship and took back his personhood support a couple years ago–though he’s never offered up much detail on why and how his position evolved on the issue.

I woudn’t be feeling very good if I were in the shoes of Colorado Right to Life, but we all agree that it’s better to have journalists expose the buckpedaling than leaving it buried in candidate questionnaires few people bother to read.

Reporters should continue to reference Coffman’s pledge to back Trump — and seek explanation for shift

Monday, August 1st, 2016

Last week, the Aurora Sentinel became the latest media outlet to point out that Rep. Mike Coffman’s spokeswoman told the Colorado Statesman in February that Coffman would “obviously” support Trump over Hillary Clinton or Bernie Sanders.

Coffman originally endorsed Florida Sen. Marco Rubio for the GOP presidential nomination and has not publicly endorsed Trump, though a Coffman campaign spokeswoman in February told the Colorado Statesman — when asked if the congressman would support the GOP nominee over Clinton or Bernie Sanders — that “the answer is obviously yes.”

Back in May, when Coffman shifted and stated he wasn’t sold on Trump, 9News political reporter Brandon Rittiman also referred to Coffman’s previous pledge to back the celebrity mogul over Hillary.

Both the Sentinel and 9News are doing the right thing not to let Coffman hide behind his spokesperson and then, later, to contradict what his spokesperson said.

Trouble is, reporters have yet to ask Coffman for an explanation. Why was his spokesperson so adamant that Coffman would back the GOP nominee?

And what’s changed about Trump since February, assuming that Coffman’s spokesperson wasn’t spreading misinformation about her boss?

Some have speculated that there were 11 GOP candidates in the race when Coffman promised to endorse the nominee. Does that mean he’d support all of the rest of them if they’d been selected as the nominee, but not necessarily Trump? Which ones might have Coffman rejected?

And since Coffman himself is backtracking on a previous pledge to support the GOP nominee (and now saying Trump has to “earn” his support) it’s also a completely legit question to ask what Coffman will do with his vote if he doesn’t give it to Donald.

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 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.