In excellent interview, Stephens says fellow Republicans owe us an “apology for seven years of blustering with no plan”

October 3rd, 2017

Colorado Public Radio picked a perfect guest today to discuss the GOP’s failed efforts to kill Obamacare: former Colorado’s former GOP House Majority Leader Amy Stephens of Monument.

I’d been vaguely hoping someone would solicit Stephens’ opinion on the Obamacare saga, after she cosponsored bipartisan legislation to establish Colorado’s state-run insurance exchanges in 2011.

Stephens has been brutally criticized for her support of the exchanges, which she continues to maintain was not an expression of support for Obamacare, but instead an effort to allow state control of the insurance marketplace, which would otherwise have been run federal government.

Her GOP opponents think otherwise, saying her “Amycare” bill ushered Obamacare into our state.

Today, speaking with CPR’s Ryan Warner, Stephens defended her work on healthcare in Colorado, and she offered a critique of the seven-year GOP campaign to repeal and replace Obamacare, saying in part that Republicans owe us an “apology for seven years of blustering with no plan”:

Warner: …How was the exchange used against you, whether it was running for reelection at the state legislature, or later you considered running for the U.S. Senate, right?

Stephens: That’s correct. I think in part, in running for the U.S. Senate and really going to my own party was saying, you know, I didn’t do the whole, “Hey! No Obamacare!” tattooed on my arm. There were people that actually had to make decisions – right? — and be the adults in the room. And I considered that my job as a leader was to do that. However, I think that my party owes everybody, really, an apology right now. We’ve had seven years —

Warner: Your Party, the Republican Party.

Stephens: Yeah. I do think they owe people an apology for seven years of blustering with no plan. And to actually say that, you know, we have a plan. I think it’s important for all of us to say, “Where do we want to go with this? Where do we want to be? I applaud Hickenlooper and Kasich for working together […]

Warner:  So, let me say, that the governors of Colorado and of Ohio – Kasich, a Republican and Hickenlooper, a Democrat came together with a plan to stabilize the insurance markets

Stephens: Right. I’d say that’s not the only answer, but I think it’s a good first start. It’s a fair first start. I wish the governor had perhaps come to some of our — our Governor, Hickenloopoer — had come to perhaps some of our own Republicans to perhaps work on that. I didn’t hear of that happening

Warner told his listeners he wanted to interview Stephens, in part, to get the “long view.” If you’ve been part of the history of healthcare in Colorado, or even if you haven’t, you should listen here.

Journalists fail to note that Gardner contradicted himself on national TV

September 25th, 2017

On Face the Nation Sunday, John Dickerson had this exchange U.S. Sen. Cory Gardner (R-CO):

Dickerson: …And there’s a New York Times piece in which you’re quoted as saying, “Donors are furious we haven’t kept our promise.” The picture that emerges from all of this is a rush for political reasons to support this and not substantive reasons. What are your thoughts about that?

Gardner replied with: “Well, this has nothing to do with politics. It has nothing to do with donors. It has everything to do with the people of this country who are suffering each and every day under a health care bill that is failing to meet their needs, that’s bankrupting them.”

Gardner told Dickerson that “the people who are opponents of the bill want this to be about politics and not policy.”

If you’re a reporter, how could you possibly report Gardner’s answer to Dickerson’s question without noting that Gardner essentially contradicted what the New York Times quoted Gardner as saying?

Yet, multiple outlets made no mention of the New York Times account.

For example The Hill’s Rebecca Savransky reported yesterday:

Sen. Cory Gardner (R-Colo.) said Sunday the GOP push to get an ObamaCare repeal bill passed has nothing to do with politics.

“This has nothing to do with politics. It has nothing to do with donors.” Gardner said on CBS’s “Face The Nation,” when asked about whether there was a rush to pass the ObamaCare repeal bill for political and not substantive reasons.

“It has everything to do with the people of this country who are suffering each and every day under a health-care bill that is failing to meet their needs, that’s bankrupting them.”

Locally, Denver Post reporter Jesse Paul at least noted that Gardner “brushed off a question about whether Republicans are just trying” to make good on their promise to repeal Obamacare. But he, too, failed to not that Gardner’s answer, that this has “nothing to do with politics, it has nothing to do with donors,” contradicted reporting by the New York Times.

I could see a journalist being reluctant to report the New York Times’ account, because it came from an anonymous source, even if it did come from the New York Times, not Breitbart News.

But Gardner did not dispute the NYT story, when asked directly about it by Dickerson.

And a reporter could always ask Gardner directly if the Times story is accurate–instead of simply omitting the Times’ information and letting Gardner contradict it directly. In fact, that’s still worth doing.

For the record, here’s exactly what the Times reported Friday:

As more than 40 subdued Republican senators lunched on Chick-fil-A at a closed-door session last week, Senator Cory Gardner of Colorado painted a dire picture for his colleagues. Campaign fund-raising was drying up, he said, because of widespread disappointment among donors over the inability of the Republican Senate to repeal the Affordable Care Act or do much of anything else.

Mr. Gardner is in charge of his party’s midterm re-election push, and he warned that donors of all stripes were refusing to contribute another penny until the struggling majority produced some concrete results.

“Donors are furious,” one person knowledgeable about the private meeting quoted Mr. Gardner as saying. “We haven’t kept our promise.”

Does Gardner still think Cassidy-Graham “could result in a 42% increase” in CO health funding?

September 21st, 2017

You have to wonder if U.S. Sen. Cory Gardner (R-CO) is going to produce new information about the latest GOP bill to kill Obamacare–something that might make it, at least, look more appealing to Colorado, which stands to lose billions of dollars in federal health care dollars and to see a spike in the number of people uninsured.

Asked about about the bill, called Graham-Cassidy, last month, on Aug. 2, by KDMT 1690-AM’s Jimmy Sengenberger, on his “Business for Breakfast” show, Gardner hinted that he might have some information that no one else has.

Gardner: “But I certainly am interested in it. And I think it’s the right direction… So, it is something that I am very intrigued by. I’d have to understand how the formula works a little bit. And they’re being very quiet about how the formula would work. But it does sound like it could result in a 42 percent increase in funding for the state of Colorado. And so, I just need to learn more about it.”

Gardner did not say a 41 percent increase, nor did he say a 43 percent increase. It was precisely 42 percent, making it appear as if someone whispered a specific numeral in his ear, and the numeral emerged later from his mouth on the radio.

But where or where did Gardner get this figure?

Adam Fox, a spokesman for the Colorado Consumer Health Initiative, speculated that the 42-percent figure might have come from U.S. Bill Cassidy (R-LA), the sponsor of the legislation. He was circulating numbers weeks ago showing that some states would benefit from his bill, but his work was discredited, and he’s not produced new numbers, Fox said.

“Multiple studies have slightly different numbers, but they show drastic cuts, especially in states like Colorado that expanded Medicaid. Cassidy-Graham penalizes states like Colorado that covered more people,” said Fox.

“All outside analyses show that Cassidy-Graham will hurt Colorado and devastate our state budget,” Fox said.

Listen to Gardner here:

Denver Post editor disputes GOP gubernatorial candidate’s claim that Post won’t endorse Polis

September 18th, 2017

At a Sept. 9 campaign stop in Grand Junction, GOP gubernatorial candidate Doug Robinson told the crowd that the “editor” of The Denver Post informed him that U.S. Rep Jared Polis (D-CO) is “too left” for Colorado, and that the unnamed editor “can’t see [The Post] endorsing” Polis.

“This is an interesting story,” said Robinson told supporters at the meet-and-greet event. “When I announced my candidacy, the editor of The Denver Post called me. I was like, ‘Really?’ [laughter]. You know what I mean? Because they have endorsed Democrats for generations. [crowd: “Oh Yeah!”] You know what I mean? And he said, ‘Don’t write us off.’ He says, ‘We are going to endorse a candidate. And if it’s Jared Polis, I can’t see us endorsing him. He’s too left.’ [crowd: “Wow! Ohooo”]. ‘Too far out for Colorado.’ He says, ‘He may be too far out for Colorado.'”

That’s an “interesting story,” to say the least.

Asked about it Friday, Denver Post editorial Page editor Chuck Plunkett said via email that no one on The Denver Post’s editorial board, which has the job of making endorsements for the newspaper, spoke with Robinson about Polis in April, when Robinson claimed the call took place, and that The Post has “not reached any conclusions about endorsements in any of the races.”

Robinson had a phone conversation with the Chair of The Post, Dean Singleton, a few days before Robinson entered the gubernatorial race, but Singleton did not talk to Robinson about Polis at all, according to Plunkett.

Plunkett wrote:

Robinson’s account is incorrect on many levels. For one, I am the editor and I don’t even have his phone number. We’ve never talked.

Only one member of our board has talked with Robinson, and that is our chair, Dean Singleton. I have talked to Dean about the transcript you sent and learned that Robinson’s account is badly flawed.

Dean knows Robinson casually. He got a call from Robinson before he entered the governor’s race. Dean told him that he didn’t think he had a chance at winning, and suggested he might consider running for treasurer. The call came the day or so before Robinson announced, which was in late April. Jared Polis didn’t enter the race until weeks later, in mid-June.

Dean has said publicly that he doubts Polis can win the race, as he’s too liberal for a statewide contest, so Robinson must be conflating events. Dean says he didn’t talk to Robinson about Polis back in April, as the congressman hadn’t even entered the race.

Dean meets with candidates and expresses his opinions as is his right. But — and this is an important point — in doing so he doesn’t speak for our editorial board, or attempt to derail the process we take in coming to conclusions on our endorsements.

I can tell you without doubt we have not reached any conclusions about endorsements in any of the races. A long process awaits before we can get to that point.

I wish Robinson, who’s the nephew of Mitt Romney, returned my phone call or multiple emails seeking comment, but, alas, I didn’t hear back from him.

So we don’t know his side of the story, but clearly someone is confused or not telling the truth here. Or maybe Robinson talked to another Post editor–which is highly unlikely since you wouldn’t expect an editor on the news side to be offering opinions to Robinson.

But, in the absence of a response from Robinson, I’d have to say the guilty party is probably Robinson, especially because his false statement about The Post’s past endorsements punctures his credibility.

Robinson may be so upset that The Post didn’t endorse his uncle that he didn’t noticed all the other Republicans The Post has backed, including Gardner in the 2014.

In the 2014 general election, for Congress, The Post endorsed three Republicans and four Democrats. In the 2016 election, The Post backed five Republicans and five Democrats. The Post picked Obama over Robinson’s uncle in 20012.

I’ll update this post if I hear from Robinson. Meanwhile, this blog post shows, again, that you never know what a political candidate will say at a meet-and-greet.

Robinson is pictured on the right, next to  former gubernatorial candidate Scott McInnis, in the above photo, which I found on former Post reporter Lynn Bartels Facebook page.

It’s overreach to blame increased insurance costs on Obamacare

September 7th, 2017

Colorado gubernatorial candidate George Brauchler took to Twitter yesterday to blame Obamacare for steep increases in the cost of health insurance purchased from Colorado’s health insurance exchange.

“Thank you, #Obamacare,” tweeted Brauchler, a Republican, citing a Denver Post article.

The Post piece reported that U.S. Rep. Mike Coffman, U.S. Sen. Cory Gardner, and U.S. Rep. Scott Tipton, all Republicans, also blamed Obamacare for the rate increase.

Trouble is, if you read the Post’s story, by Jon Ingold, you find that the cause of the rate increase is, at least in part, the Republican efforts to kill Obamacare, according to state insurance commissioner Marguerite Salazar, who was quoted in The Post:

Salazar said insurers told regulators that the ongoing debate over whether to repeal the Affordable Care Act — and, essentially, change the rules for the individual market only a few years after the rules were first rewritten by the law, also known as Obamacare — led in part to the price increases. Insurers also cited more general market conditions in filings with the state justifying the proposed premiums.

“It was a struggle,” Salazar said. “Markets don’t like uncertainty, bottom line.”

Obviously, we don’t know what “general market conditions” contributed to the rate increases–or to what extent they were related to Obamacare. Though we do know that health insurance prices were increasing prior to Obamacare as well. And we know Republicans have so far chosen not to try to fix problems with Obamacare.

But it’s clearly a ludicrous overreach for Republicans to blame insurance increases on Obama’s health care law, after we just witnessed the spectacular crash of the GOP’s seven-year crusade to repeal Obamacare.

In deleting fake news from her Facebook page, and owning her mistake, state representative is model for all lawmakers

August 26th, 2017

At a time when the president of our country sets an example as a liar who refuses to correct his own brazen falsehoods, Colorado State Rep. Susan Lontine (D-Denver) should be considered a hero for deleting a fake news item that she shared on Facebook earlier this month–and taking public responsibility for the mistake.

After deleting the post, which showed Trump’s parents in KKK garb, Lontine explained on her Facebook page that she holds herself “accountable to not spread fake news of any kind.” She also thanked “those who held me accountable.”

In removing her post, deemed “false” by Snopes, Lontine joins two other Colorado lawmakers who’ve done the right thing and removed fake news from their Facebook pages after being alerted to its fakeness.

In December, without commenting, two Colorado Republicans removed fake news from their Facebook pages (State Rep. Polly Lawrence of Roxborough Park and former State Rep. Kit Roupe of Colorado Springs). Two other Republicans said they would not remove it (former State Rep. Gordon Klingenschmitt of Colorado Springs and State Sen. Tim Neville of Littleton) And two did not respond to my request that it be deleted (State Rep. Ray Scott of Grand Junction and former State Sen. Laura Woods of Arvada). Earlier this year, U.S. Rep. Jared Polis (D-CO) removed a tweet without comment.

Lontine, however, did more than just delete the post. She owned the mistake.

As far as I know, she’s the first Colorado lawmaker to delete fake news and then acknowledge it on Facebook, as stipulated by the Fake News Pledge, which Lontine and other lawmakers have signed. Here’s Lontine’s Facebook post on the matter:

Folks, yesterday I posted a picture of President Trump and his parents that looked like his parents were wearing KKK outfits.

Turns out, the picture was photoshopped to look like that. I posted it without checking its origin or veracity. I posted it because it confirmed my biases. I hold myself accountable to not spread fake news of any kind and thanks to those who held me accountable.

The response to Lontine’s correction on Facebook has been positive.

“This is why we love and trust you… you are always honest” wrote one commenter.

Lontine is a model for all lawmakers. She did exactly what all of us want and what the country badly needs at this moment. She’s showing us that anyone can make a mistake, even our leaders, and it’s honorable to make corrections. In response, we owe her our admiration–especially against the backdrop of Trump’s brazen lying.

For those of you who think I’m praising Lontine too much: Normally, you might be right. This should be leadership-101 behavior.  But it shows how far our political discourse has fallen that a politician deserves such high praise for the simple act of correcting herself on Facebook. Yes, we’ve hit that low point. Now we need a wave of lawmakers to act responsibly and correct themselves, if they spread fake news. Imagine if all politicians, including Trump, would do so.

Veteran political reporter Peter Marcus leaves journalism for pot industry communications job

August 23rd, 2017

Veteran Colorado political reporter Peter Marcus will leave journalism at the end of August to become  communications director for Terrapin Care Station cannabis company.

Marcus started his newspaper career in Colorado in 2005 at the Longmont Times-Call (as an intern). Then he had stints at the Denver Daily News (defunct, tragically), Colorado Statesman (recently absorbed by ColoradoPolitics.com), Durango Herald, and, finally, ColoradoPolitics.com.

Marcus answered a few questions via email about his plans, his work as a reporter, and the state of journalism in Colorado. (See similar “Exit Interviews” with scribes who’ve left journalism here.)

What are you going to be doing in your new job?

Marcus: My new role is as communications director. In addition to crafting cannabis messaging for Terrapin Care Station, I’m going to be working with the industry as a whole in an effort to build bridges so that we can move forward with a unified message that debunks many of the false and misguided opposition efforts that exist. We’re going to be establishing a website that includes original journalism, facts, data, videos, points and counterpoints. When someone runs a column that says the sky fell in Colorado because of legal marijuana, I’ll be responding with facts and journalism to show that in fact the “experiment” has not only been successful, but a boon for Colorado, which is how it would look under a national scheme as well.

Do you think you’d be leaving journalism if the profession were on more solid economic ground?

Marcus: My decision to leave journalism has less to do with journalism itself and more to do with a personal decision to take advantage of an exciting opportunity. I actually was lucky enough to have a stable job in the journalism world. Colorado Politics has honestly become the most trusted, aggressive political news site in the state of Colorado, and I’m sad to leave it behind because they’re poised for incredible growth. I just was presented with an opportunity that I felt I had to explore.

What’s the biggest problem with political journalism, as practiced now in Colorado, aside from the economic problems and related issues, like the shrinking number of political reporters?

Marcus: Shrinking number of journalists in political journalism is obviously heartbreaking. It weighed on my shoulders that I’m leaving it behind, because that’s probably the biggest problem, just too few of us left. But I’ve done this for more than a decade now, and it was simply time to move on. Colorado Politics is staffing up big time, so I believe the void that is left will be filled sooner than later. So, there is hope.

What’s a highlight or two of your career as a political reporter?  A low point?

Marcus: Many of the highlights have come in the last few months at Colorado Politics. Breaking stories like Ed Perlmutter about to jump into the governor’s race, and then his decision to drop out while declaring that he would not run for re-election to Congress was a high for me to uncover.  Then to break that he may actually jump BACK into the congressional race, was equally as fun to report. [Editor’s note: This was written before Perlmutter actually jumped back in his congressional race.] Those are very recent stories for me over a decade of reporting, but they serve as excellent examples of why we do this. Journalists want to bring the facts to people so that they can understand for themselves what’s going on. Low points, of course, have been watching the state of the industry collapse. From the Rocky Mountain News closing, to the Denver Post losing critical resources, it’s just all so sad to watch as journalism takes a huge hit. But I’m still a believer. I think that there’s a path forward.

[CORRECTION: Sept. 1 –Marcus did not break the story of Perlmutter exiting the gubernatorial race, though he was first to report, based on information from Marcus’ sources at the time, that Perlmutter would not seek re-election to Congress. The Denver Post broke the story about Perlmutter exiting the race about 20 minutes before CoPolitics did.]

What do you think you’ll miss most about practicing journalism? Least?

Marcus: I’m gonna miss being on the inside of everything. Within weeks journalists become has-beens. People forget all the wonderful work we did to keep them informed. But I’m going to be working hard to continue those relationships and to cultivate new ones as we bridge politics with cannabis policy. What am I going to miss the least? The pressure to always scoop everyone else and turn out a lot of copy every day. It weighs on you after a while. And writing stories at 1 a.m. gets old pretty fast. But if you have the drive for it, it can be a lot of fun.

 

Conservative radio host dropped after showing independent streak

August 22nd, 2017

Denver radio legend Steve Kelley’s retirement last month from KNUS 710-AM made some news, but less noticed was the quiet shuffling off the air of Krista Kafer, who was Kelley’s KNUS co-host on the Kelley & Kafer show.

KNUS’s decision not to offer Kafer her own show, or pair her with someone else, was disappointing to me, because she frequently took less conservative stances than her fellow hosts. This enraged KNUS listeners, which made for fun listening.

For example, she endured months of radio attacks and anger for being a NeverTrumper, and she wasn’t shy about her stance. Sometimes she’d interject something about her garden, which spoke to me personally, and then she’d get back to a calm dissection of Trump or to something else, like a defense of the basic civil rights of Muslims.

I hope Kafer wasn’t pushed off the air because she wasn’t conservative enough for KNUS, but the fact that station manager Brian Taylor didn’t return my call doesn’t help quell my suspicions. To be clear, Kafer is super conservative, so it’s not like she was such an outcast there. But the duo who replaced here, Chuck Bonniwell and Julie Hayden, is far more conservative, especially Bonniwell. And they don’t elicit the same right-wing anger on air.

I was reminded of Kafer this weekend because she showed her guts and independence by writing a Denver Post column linking the Taylor Swift trial to her own experience being sexually harassed by a “syndicated columnist and cable news contributor.” A while back, on the radio, Kafer referred to him as a FOX News contributor whom she met when she volunteered at a conference.

Kafer wrote this weekend:

Some years ago when I was a technical writer with aspirations, I met a well-known syndicated columnist and cable news contributor at an event. He agreed to talk with me after his speech about my writing prospects. Advice over coffee! I was grateful and excited about the possibilities.

When I saw him at the post-speech reception, he didn’t ask me to sit and talk; he asked me up to his room. Completely stunned, I mumbled something vague and walked away. At 11:30 p.m. he called. I let it go to voicemail. When was I coming up, he asked. Bewildered and ashamed, I didn’t call him back. The incident hit me harder than the time a D.C. lobbyist slapped my butt.

Two months later the man called me and suggested that I’d misconstrued his invitation. Giving him the benefit of the doubt I suggested we have that coffee when I went to D.C. the next week. He wasn’t interested. He just wanted to know if I’d told anyone about the invitation to his room.

That’s pretty close to a mea culpa, but what am I to do with it? What he did wasn’t illegal. He has money, lawyers and prestige. What little I have can be taken from me. Plus my accusation would rouse a torrent of wrath from his supporters, who would accuse me of making it up or causing it to happen. Once again I would be objectified.

Wouldn’t you like to hear more of that kind of talk on KNUS?

“Colorado Obamacare lie” should be expunged from the state legislature as well as the campaign trail

August 21st, 2017

In an editorial this week, The Denver Post coined the term the “Colorado Obamacare lie” to describe repeated statements by GOP gubernatorial candidates that Obamacare is gobbling up the state budget when, in fact, it has “very little impact” on the state budget.

Nicely done.

And the phenomenon goes beyond GOP gubernatorial candidates, to Republicans in the state legislature and beyond.

For example, last January, State Sen. Tim Neville (R-Littleton) told the “Americhicks,” Molly Vogt and Kim Munson, on KLZ 560-AM, that the Obamacare, also called the “Medicaid expansion,” is “eating every single dollar that we have,” that could be spent on other priorities.

Neville: I believe it’s time for the government to re-prioritize, and of course the 800-pound gorilla in the room is the Medicaid expansion, which the governor did several years ago, eating every single dollar that we have in increased expense.

Also last year, we got this Tweet from the Colorado Senate GOP (@ColoSenGOP), linking to a chart of state and federal Medicaid expenditures: “Maybe Colo could afford FullDayK if #Dems weren’t pouring every spare $ into Obamacare #choices #copolitics #coleg pic.twitter.com/zrS1L6v5KO.”

The Post’s reporting, followed up by its editorial, should put an end not only to this kind of talk on the campaign trail, but in the state legislature as well.

Thanks to a reporter, we know Tipton won’t condemn Trump’s sympathy for white supremacists

August 21st, 2017

This is why you need regional reporters who will hold elected officials accountable.

Realvail.com’s David O. Williams wanted to report the thoughts of his area Congressman, Scott Tipton, on Trump’s handling of the recent actions by Neo-Nazis. So he called his office last week, and here’s what he reported.

Williams noted in a post that Tipton had been “careful not to criticize the president, tweeting: ““Neo-Nazis are abhorrent & only try to drive America apart. We must stand up to racism, antisemitism & hateful rhetoric wherever we see it.”

Williams: I asked a Tipton spokeswoman for the congressman’s thoughts on the president’s handling of the situation, including his comments Tuesday that demonstrated sympathy for neo-Nazi, white supremacist and KKK protesters, calling some “very fine people.” I also wondered if there should be a federal law banning the use of Nazi and other white supremacist logos, the way there is in Germany.

But she referred to his original tweet, saying, “Those are his feelings on the situation, period.”

Colorado Republicans Gardner, Doug Lamborn and Mike Coffman all pushed push back directly against Trump’s comments on Charlottesville.

Although he called Trump’s Access Hollywood sexual assault comments “appalling,” Tipton steadfastly supported Trump and refused to outright condemn his anti-immigrant, anti-Muslim rhetoric during the campaign, instead trying to link his Democratic opponent — former state Sen. Gail Schwartz — to Hillary Clinton.

Obviously, this is a grain-of-sand contribution to the national and local debate about Trump and the local reaction to him. But it’s a grain that would never exist unless a reporter created it.