Republican TV star’s policy stances absent from media coverage

July 19th, 2016

What does it take to score national media coverage even before you decide to run for a northwest Denver state house seat? Try being the star of ABC’s hit show, “The Bachelor.”

Bachelor star Ben Higgins has been stacking up the news coverage for his decision to run, as a Republican, for Colorado House District 4, which is an incredibly progressive northwest Denver district. I should know; I live there. Voters in HD 4 sent Democrat Dan Pabon into office with a 78 to 22 percent margin in 2014, and it’s hard to imagine his DUI arrest would turn voters to any Republican.

So how is Higgins possibly going to win in HD4? Is Higgins going to be some kind of anti-Republican Republican?

News coverage of the race didn’t illuminate his specific policy positions. So I called him with questions, and he had time to answer four on my list, leaving 21 queries for later, I hope.

This week, the biggest question for Republicans like Higgins is, will they vote for their party’s presidential nominee, Donald Trump?

“How everybody votes is up to them,” said Higgins, declining to answer my question of whether he’d vote for Trump.

It’s a “good thing” that Trump’s running mate, Indiana Gov. Mike Pence, is from Indiana, said Higgins, who’s also from Indiana, but he doesn’t know enough about Pence, a right-wing conservative, to comment on him.

Higgins would not say whether he’s pro-choice.

“My goal as a representative will be to listen to people’s stories,” said Higgins. “We can get in the weeds and the gray areas all the time. When it comes to any social issue, my decisions we be based on my foundation, which is my faith, and I will listen to people’s stories.”

Colorado Statesman referred to Higgins’ Christian faith, but Higgins has not detailed how it would play into the mix in his policy decisions.  From the Statesman:

While producers didn’t emphasize it on the show’s 20th season, fans have flocked to Higgins in part because of his strong Christian faith, demonstrated by a prominent tattoo that has been visible in his shirtless appearances on the show and on social media. “Commit to the Lord whatever you do and your plans will succeed — Proverbs 16:34,” the tattoo reads. (It should read “Proverbs 16:3,” Higgins acknowledges, but the tattoo artist mistakenly added a “4.”)

The business analyst from Warsaw, Indiana, was considered “such a catch” that contestants competed for his affection more intensely than in any previous season, The Bachelor creator Mike Fleiss told E! News in January.

Asked about gay marriage, Higgins said, “I am about everything that makes people happy. I believe love is love.”

In another Statesman piece June 2, Higgins was praised by well-known conservatives Jon Caldara, president of the right-leaning Independence Institute, and former GOP State Sen. John Andrews. For his part, Higgins was vague, according to the Statesman:

“My objective is sparking a movement to engage people in our community, working to find common ground and making a positive impact,” Higgins said, thanking Caldara and Andrews for their advice. “I know with the blessings God has given me, I can provide some of the leadership and support for such a movement.”

“My priority is giving back to my community and serving my neighbors. Since the conclusion of The Bachelor, I have been exploring how I can best be of service,” Higgins said in a statement. “I am definitely not a politician, but I have a lot to offer through my years in the financial services industry and, more importantly, my work in charitable and humanitarian organizations.”

A new reality-tv show, depicting the life of Higgins and his fiancee, is set to air in the Fall.

“In fact, this new TV program would provide the chance for me to talk directly to an expanded number of HD4 residents, rather than face the same obstacle experienced by most candidates — having their message ignored by the news media,” Higgins wrote, according to the Statesman.

 

 

Adams County GOP chair did not mean that all Black Lives Matter protesters are “Punk ass bitches”

July 18th, 2016

Sampson Facebook Post

In a Facebook post Wednesday, Adams County Republican chair John Sampson called Black Lives Matter “Punk Ass Bitches,” but in an interview the next day, he said he was only referring to those “who assault us, who burn, who loot, or who destroy property, because they’re having a temper tantrum.”

I called Sampson after reading his Facebook post, which stated:

To Black Lives Matter, I say this. ALL lives matter. But then again, you should already know this. Somehow you feel as if anyone of color should be held in a higher regard than those who are “not of color”.

That somehow, Black Lives Matter MORE than any WHITE or ASIAN person’s life. Say what??? And that’s the one word missing from your group’s name. It should be, given your agenda, “Black Lives Matter More”. More than “whitey”. More than “Asians”. More than Society as a whole. You’ll understand when I say you are, to use the current vernacular, “Punk Ass Bitches…”

To the “Punk Ass Bitches”, you will not destroy us. You WILL, however, destroy yourselves. with a little help from the rest of us. You are either WITH us, or AGAINST us.

But Sampson said emphatically that he did not mean to disparage all Black Lives Matter protesters, whose right to protest he respects.

“The punk-ass bitches are the ones demanding that we destroy society without having any idea of how to resolve the problem and what to replace it with,” he said. “They are out there simply to destroy it, simply for the sake of destroying it. Those are the punk-ass bitches.”

Last month, Sampson, who believes Obama uses the Social Security number issued to a now dead Connecticut man in 1977, posted anti-Islamic bigotry for the sake discussion, he said.

Adams County is widely regarded as a critical battleground in November’s election.

Reporter should have asked candidate why Palin’s speech was “just spot on”

July 13th, 2016

Colorado state senate candidate Nancy Doty praised Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin’s speech in Colorado last week, calling it “just spot on” and “very, very good.”

Doty made the comments to KNUS 710-AM’s Julie Hayden, who bumped into Doty at the Western Conservative Summit in Denver July 2.

“I thought Sarah Palin was right on, just spot on!” Doty told Hayden when asked for her “thoughts” on the speeches. “She was very, very good – brought a clear message that people need to get on board.  And I really enjoyed hearing [Donald] Trump.”

Given that she’s a reporter for Fox 31 Denver, Hayden knows that people want more details about Doty’s assessment of Palin. “Spot on” is exuberant and laudatory, but what really stood out for Doty, beyond the message to get on the Trump train? And what did Doty “really” enjoy about hearing Trump?

Doty, who’s an Arapahoe County Commissioner running against Democratic Rep. Daniel Kagan to represent Colorado Senate District 26, didn’t return a call to explain, so I’m forced to speculate.

Palin’s speech amounted to a semi-understandable endorsement of Trump. So it’s not surprising that Doty, who’s said she’ll back Trump, would like it.

But Palin went beyond expressing support for Trump. She raved about him.

She derisively referred to Republicans who oppose Trump, the #NeverTrump people, as RATs (Republicans Against Trump).

If you look at the folks who vote in Doty’s district, you have to think Doty needs to win over a lot of ticket-splitting RATs to defeat Kagan. Is Doty worried about offending the RATs by, well, calling them vermin? Or saying it’s spot on to do so?

Then there was the part of Palin’s speech when she said Trump “really connects.” “We found a messenger!” said Palin.

That’s “spot on” only if you’re not a woman, not a Hispanic, not African-American, or not just about everybody.

I guess it’s spot-on true, as Palin said, that Trump is a messenger for the Tea Party.

Trump, Palin said, is the standard bearer for a “grassroots, populist movement that’s fertilized by the still passionate Tea Party, in all its glorious independence.”

Does Doty think the Tea Party is spot-on in its “glorious independence,” as in shutting down the federal government, denying global warming, blocking bipartisan immigration reform, etc?

I could go on, but I won’t.

And I haven’t even touched on why Doty “really enjoyed” hearing Trump.

Lots for Hayden dig into during her next interview with Doty.

LISTEN TO DOTY HERE:

Statesman freelancer calls on Mizel to come clean

July 12th, 2016

Colorado journalist David O. Williams has a great post in RealVail.com today, based on his decades of newspaper-industry experience up there, beautifully illustrating the dangers and weirdness of anonymous political journalism and calling on Republican mega-donor Larry Mizel, who’s been raising cash for Donald Trump, to come clean about whether he owns the Colorado Statesman.

I’ve shown that Mizel, in fact, controls the Statesman, which makes Williams’ post today all the more admirable, because Williams is a Statesman freelancer, whose last Statesman piece appeared in June 15. He’s written a handful of stories for the political weekly this year, one of them co-authored by John Tomasic.

Here’s part of what Williams wrote about Mizel in his post today:

“For me, the issue of ownership now raises the question of what Colorado political stories the Statesman is choosing to cover, and what stories the venerable political journal is ignoring.

And if you’re scratching the checks for a publication these days, why not just put your name on it and end the mystery, even if your agenda really is just about getting one person or a group of like-minded people elected to political office? Then let your readers judge whether your reporting is biased based on your agenda or fairly reflects the views of the opposition.”

You should take a moment to read Williams’ entire post, but it will be interesting to see how Williams is received by the Statesman, now that he’s challenged Mizel. I honestly wouldn’t expect any repercussions for Williams.

But wouldn’t it be nice if Mizel took this issue off the table by laying out his relationship with the Statesman?

Correction: an early version of this blog post indicated that Williams’ last Statesman article appeared in May. It was actually June 15.

“Really, there’s no ground game,” says Adams County GOP Chair of Trump efforts

July 12th, 2016

After Colorado Trump campaign director Patrick Davis said last week that Trump will rely on the “robust operations” of the Colorado Republican Party to mobilize voters in November, a key county Republican chair said Saturday there’s no signs of any Trump ground game in Adams County, a critical battleground in our state.

ADAMS COUNTY GOP CHAIRMAN, ANIL MATHAI: Honestly, I have not seen [the Trump ground game] in Adams County.
KNUS RADIO HOST CHUCK BONNIWELL: [chuckles, knowingly]
MATHAI: It’s consistent with what happened before caucus. Really, there’s no ground game. There’s no campaign here in the state. I know that [Republican donor and Colorado Statesman owner] Mr. Mizel is helping with fundraising here in Colorado. Also, I believe Mike Shanahan and Pete Coors are helping to raise major donations for Mr. Trump.
CO-HOST JULIE HAYDEN: Right.
MATHAI: So, there is activity going on. It’s going to ramp up. But honestly, there is no real solid ground game here.And that needs to be increased. And the state party, [Sate GOP Chair Steve House], I believe, is working on that.
BONNIWELL: Well, you better get to it one of these days. [laughs]
HAYDEN: I agree with you, there, too. I was worried that that was going to be your answer because, you know, just as a reporter, having covered it and sometimes seeing the difference in sort of the Democratic Party’s ground game and the Republican Party’s ground game – it seems to me it can make a big difference.
MATHAI: It can. And we expect – I expect the state party, and I believe, will set the tone on this and set the leadership on this. They’re having a unity tour for, uh, Darryl Glenn up and down the state, going to different places, here. Yeah, it starts in Larimer at, I believe, nine o’clock, and then all the way down to Pueblo County. So, they are making attempts here to make sure that we win all of our races.

Adams County is widely regarded as one of the most important counties in the state, so the total absence of a Trump ground game there in mid-July is not good for Republicans, who’ve been facing the same problem nationally, according to an Associated Press piece yesterday titled, “A lot of holes in GOP ground game in key states.” The AP reported:

“In Colorado, recent staff departures have left about two dozen employees, far short of the 80 that were to have been in place.”

With no ground game, Trump campaign will “graft” itself to “robust operations” of Colorado Republican Party, says Trump state director

July 11th, 2016

Colorado’s Trump campaign is relying on the “robust operations” of the Colorado Republican Party to mobilize Trump voters, including “many new people” who are drawn to Trump but are not yet in the campaign databases.

Davis: “Because Donald Trump has been bringing so many new people back to politics and to politics, they are really not in our databases,” Colorado Trump campaign director Patrick Davis told KLZ 560-AM’s John Rush on Thursday.  “We don’t know what they believe. In some cases, they are not registered to vote.  In some cases, we don’t know how to find them to remind them when Election Day is, because, believe it or not, people do forget. You do have to remind them.” [BigMedia emphasis]

Davis said the Colorado Republican Party, with its “robust operations,” is tasked with finding these newly politicized people, along with voters of “all stripes,” totaling 1.3 million people, the number of votes Davis thinks Trump needs to win in Colorado.

Davis: “Because the Trump campaign did not invest in a ground game—everybody knows it; it happened all over the country—we are having to graft ourselves into the robust operations at state Republican parties all over the country,” said Davis on air.

“Colorado is one of 11 battleground states, and the state Republican Party here has been preparing for this day for over a year. Now, I run campaigns based on metrics and numbers. We believe that for Donald Trump to win Colorado, he needs to identify and turn out 1.3 million voters in Colorado of all stripes. Republicans, Democrats, independents, Libertarians, liberals, conservatives, we got to turn them out.”

Trump officials have been saying in recent weeks that the campaign will rely on state parties, which have uneven strengths around the country.

The unprecedented upheaval in Colorado’s state GOP in recent years, including the ouster of state chair Ryan Call last March and the subsequent efforts to depose current chair Steve House last summer, raise questions about the robustness of the party’s operations. But House has insisted in recent radio interviews that the party is fully functional and up to the tasks it needs to perform to win races up and down the ticket in November.

Correction: Talk-radio host did not blame Obama and the “left” for the Dallas shootings

July 8th, 2016

My goal is to report and comment on what people actually believe. I don’t want to report inaccuracies or “catch” talk-radio hosts or anybody saying something they did not mean to say.

That’s why I usually tell people whom I interview or quote to call me if I get something wrong–or if they want to add anything that I’ve left out.

So I was glad KNUS 710-AM talk-radio host Dan Caplis contacted me to say that, contrary to what I’d written last week, he doesn’t necessarily blame Obama for the Dallas shootings.

In fact, he pointed out that he said on air, in the audio clip below:

Caplis: ” …again I am not claiming a direct causal connection with Dallas. We just don’t know enough yet.”

In an email, Caplis also pointed out that in my audio clip, he says, in reference to what he calls the Obama and the left’s dangerous anti-cop rhetoric:

Caplis: ” …now whether that’s what happened in Dallas or not we just don’t know yet.”

So I mischaracterized Caplis, and I regret it.

Here is more of what Caplis said on the radio:

Caplis: “This kind of horror, this kind of violence, against our best and bravest has been completely foreseeable. And I’ve been talking about it as others have for ages, based upon the relentless anti-police hatred that’s been emanating from the left and the extremely irresponsible, and that’s being charitable, anti-police movement that Barak Obama has been leading, including by empowering the likes of Al Sharpton, and making it, and I’ve been talking about this for over a year on air, making it now the dogma of the left that you must be anti-cop. And you see the Michael Hancocks of the world following that. And they must know. None of these people I’ve mentioned would ever want a police officer to be shot or killed or injured.

But these are smart people, including the President, and they must have known that this relentless anti-cop movement that they’re leading could very well trigger, green light, some of the fringe element to commit acts of violence against police.

Now whether that’s what happened in Dallas or not we just don’t know yet. But we know that, overall, Barak Obama has understood it. Those on the left who have been beating this anti-cop drum have understood that…again I am not claiming a direct causal connection with Dallas. We just don’t know enough yet.”

Based on this, I thought it was fair to say Caplis thinks Obama might have caused the Dallas shoortings, but Caplis didn’t mean it this way.

“I don’t believe I’ve said that [Obama or the left] may have caused Dallas or that there is proof they caused any of the attacks on police in the past,” Caplis wrote in an email. “My point is that the anti-police rhetoric of president Obama and the left has increased the overall danger to police and has increased the risk that some fringe actors would attack police officers.”

A previous version of this blog not only mischaracterized Caplis’ views on Dallas, but it also called Caplis a “former GOP U.S. Senate candidate,” when in fact Caplis has never been an actual candidate but seriously considered a run this year and previously.

Denver Post erred in deleting Coffman quote about his marriage

July 8th, 2016

Of all the crazy stories we heard last summer about the GOP efforts to depose Colorado Republican Party Chair Steve House, this snippet from the Washington Post’s Ben Terris was perhaps the most shocking.

… House arrived the night of June 15 to find himself outnumbered — and on the defensive. Coffman was joined by Tom Tancredo, a firebrand former congressman, and Becky Mizel, a Pueblo County chairwoman. Three months earlier, these three had been his biggest supporters when he challenged and beat the incumbent party chairman — but now, suddenly, they wanted him out.

They ticked off a litany of grievances: House’s bookkeeping habits, his communication style, his refusal to hire one of their allies as executive director.

“Is that all?” House asked after each point, in an exchange recalled by Tancredo and confirmed by House’s office.

“Well, there’s Julie,” Coffman said.

“I know three Julies,” House said.

Come on, said Coffman — who was he trying to kid?

“Are you accusing me of having an affair?” House asked.

“Well,” Coffman said, “are you?”

All of us have dirt to be uncovered, and you hate to see it trotted out in the media, but this story is an absolutely legitimate invitation for  reporters to take a look at Coffman’s own house, literally, the one she lives in alone, separate from her husband, U.S. Rep. Mike Coffman.

But it appears that the only public statement Mike Coffman has made about his marriage has been expunged from the public record by The Denver Post.

In an article last June, then ace political journalist Lynn Bartels reported Mike Coffman as saying:

Mike Coffman: “The fact the we’re married in this day and age is a success story in and of itself.”

But if you look for that quote in The Post’s archives now, you find it gone, disappeared.

Bartels tells me the quote is accurate, as recorded by her from Mike Coffman.

So the purpose of this blog post is to scold The Post for deleting the quote and to reinsert it into the public record, for what it’s worth. (Note: first versions of Post stories are sometime changed prior to being finalized, but this deletion was a mistake.)

And also, to be fair, here’s Cynthia Coffman’s explanation for the unusual living arrangement of herself and her husband, as explained in 2014 through Cynthia Coffman’s spokeswoman to The Denver Post’s Kurtis Lee, who pointed out that the Coffmans’ separate addresses prevent Cynthia Coffman from voting for her husband.

“Cynthia and Mike owned their own homes before they were married,” said Sarah Lenti, a spokeswoman for the attorney general campaign. “Mike works in Washington, D.C., but for the weekends, and Cynthia lives and works in Denver as chief deputy attorney general.”

And, also for perspective, here is Cynthia Coffman’s statement from last year explaining why she confronted Steve House about his alleged affair, which he denied, and other matters:

Cynthia Coffman: I don’t relish the hardship for Steve or the party, nor was anyone involved in that meeting eager to have the conversation at all. But as someone who was being inundated with information raising some very serious questions, I had no choice but to sit down and lay out the accusations to Steve. There was no joy in this, there were no threats, nor was there any desire for the meeting to become public fodder. At the same time, just sort of sweeping it under the rug wouldn’t have been responsible. [BigMedia emphasis].

As for the question of what’s next, that’s a matter for Steve and the executive committee to weigh and decide. They need to get past the talk radio jousting, they need to evaluate the facts and circumstances, and then they need to make the best decision for the Republican Party.”

Last year, dozens of Colorado Republicans joined an anti-LGBT group, funded by Anschutz, in attacking Planned Parenthood

July 7th, 2016

UPDATE: The Anschutz Foundation has issued a statement in response to Jonathan Capehart’s Washington Post column about Freedom for All Americans’ report “Enemies of Equality.” Here is the complete statement:

The Anschutz Foundation is not a member of [Washington Post columnist] Jonathan Capehart’s alleged “vast right wing conspiracy.” The Anschutz Foundation donates to thousands of worthy organizations each year, and it does not attempt to dictate to those organizations how they spend their monies. Moreover, those donations are made in accordance with our process and guidelines, and neither process or guidelines identify or reference in any way sexual orientation or gender issues.

Mr. Anschutz, and the Anschutz companies, invest in many businesses employing tens of thousands of people. In all instances, personal lifestyles are neither a requirement or limitation to employment.

Mr. Capehart’s attempt to smear individuals with unfounded allegations is straight out of the Saul Alinsky playbook. It is unworthy of him and of the publication by which he is employed.

There is no reason to comment further on his unfounded statements or on the individuals quoted in his article.

———————–

In a report released today, Freedom for All Americans, which aims to “secure full nondiscrimination protections for LGBT people nationwide,” documents, among other things, a trail of cash leading from Colorado billionaire Phil Anschutz to 1) Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF), a national anti-LGBT group, to 2) anti-LGBT extremists like former Rep. Gordon (“Dr. Chaps”) Klingenschmitt and numerous other far-right Christian conservatives.

But, as I blogged previously, here in Colorado, ADF has enjoyed the embrace not only of Anschutz but of 33 Republican state legislators who joined with ADF last year to push for an investigation of Planned Parenthood.

The lawmakers, who appeared to be led by State Rep. Dan Nordberg of Colorado Springs, included State Sen. Larry Crowder of Alamosa, State Sen. Tim Neville of Littleton, State Rep. JoAnn Windholz of Commerce City, and State Sen. Laura Woods of Arvada/Westminster, whose fate in November’s election will likely determine whether Democrats gain control of state government.

Last November, Windholz wrote that Planned Parenthood was the “true instigator” of the domestic terrorism at a Planned Parenthood clinic in Colorado Springs, and last week she wrote on Facebook that pro-choice people don’t care as much about women people with anti-choice views.

In the September 25 letter to the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment (CDPHE), ADF along with the 33 GOP lawmakers requested the “standards or criteria that are required to initiate an investigation” of Planned Parenthood, and the letter asked why a heavily edited video that falsely purported to show illegal dealings in fetal tissue donation would not be investigated.

The video and others like it were part of an undercover series by the anti-choice front group the Center for Medical Progress (CMP) and have been discredited and their creators indicted.

The Republicans sent their letter, after CDPHE rejected a demand by many of the same state legislators to “initiate an investigation” of Planned Parenthood.

The GOP letter was signed on behalf of ADF by Michael Norton, an outspoken social-conservative attorney in Colorado, who drafted a 2006 Amendment to the state constitution that defined marriage as between a man and a woman.

Many of the Colorado legislators who aligned with ADF were part of an unofficial “hearing” in November focused largely on the CMP smear videos and turned into a day-long condemnation of Planned Parenthood. It took place just over two weeks before three people were murdered at the Colorado Springs Planned Parenthood clinic.

Correction: Crowder represents Alamosa, not Colorado Springs, as stated in an early version of this post.

AFP could help expose Coffman’s right-wing record

July 6th, 2016

A Denver Post article yesterday heralded the decision by Americans for Prosperity (AFP) to spend an undisclosed amount of money attacking Morgan Carroll, the Democrat challenging Rep. Mike Coffman (R-Aurora), as a “big boost” for Coffman.

But not necessarily.

As ColoradoPols has pointed out, AFP’s right-wing agenda doesn’t square with the moderate image Coffman promotes of himself. Coffman is trying to run away from his right-wing record, but AFP is widely known as right-wing, and it’s funded by the poster children of the right, the Koch brothers.

The Post quoted Carroll’s campaign manager making this point.

“It’s no surprise that the far right Koch Brothers are desperate to prop up Mike Coffman’s struggling reelection campaign,” said Jennifer Donovan, Carroll’s campaign manager, in a statement. “After all, they share the goal of shilling for the wealthiest and most well connected while turning their backs on the middle-class.”

So AFP’s involvement in the race could backfire and actually help Carroll bring down Coffman, exposing Coffman as the right winger that he is.

It turns out that Coffman scored 100 percent last month on AFP’s scorecard, with a lifetime score of 96 percent.

On its scorecard, AFP trumpets votes of Coffman that are discordant not only with Coffman’s swing district but his carefully cultivated image as a moderate.

Check out those votes here.

So we’ll see how things work out for Coffman and AFP.