Fact check shows Rep. Conti’s claim in Biz Journal not fully supported

State Rep. Kathleen Conti (R-Littleton) said last week that multiple businesses laid off workers after the Legislature rescinded tax breaks they had enjoyed for many years, according to the Denver Business Journal.

But Conti didn’t specify which businesses she was talking about, and neither did the Business Journal’s article, which stated:

“When the Legislature suspended or eliminated 12 tax exemptions worth $140 million in 2010, businesses that Conti knows laid some workers off, she said. The state no longer received income tax revenue from them, and it had to increase the services it offered to them …- but that link was not discussed, she said.”

I called Conti and asked her to tell me which specific businesses she was talking about.

She cordially referred me to someone named Lou Langdon, who owns G & S Vending in Arvada.

“He knows a couple companies,” she said.

Langdon quickly returned my phone call, but he was not able to get me the names of the businesses in question.

“I don’t want to go into giving the actual names,” Langdon told me. “I don’t want to bring attention to them. ”

But he told me that not only did some vending companies lay off workers after the law was passed, but others were forced to close completely.

“The owners couldn’t do it anymore,” he said, but again, no specific names could be given.

Langdon did say, however, that his own company laid off two employees recently, and the law lifting the tax break for soft drinks “had a lot to do with it.”

“Since we’ve been forced to raise prices, we’ve lost a lot of business,” he told me, adding that he lost money because the price for his products went up but his fixed contracts did not allow him to pass on the price increase. He said it’s “a really hard time” for his business and the “government is beating us up.”

Nothing Langdon said fully supported Conti’s statement in the Business Journal, that multiple companies laid off workers due to last year’s law.

In journalism world,  just because you attribute a fact to someone doesn’t mean a reporter absolves himself of the obligation to make sure the fact is correct. A fair-minded journalist who reporterd that a legislator said something that might be completely inaccurate would want to set the record straight, or look into the matter. 

 So I emailed Ed Sealover, who wrote the article that sent me on the dead-end chase first to Conti and then to Langdon.

Sealover promptly emailed me back:

“I am juggling a lot of balls at the moment. So, I will put onto my pile of things to look at the issue of companies and job cuts based on exemptions but can not promise any particular follow-up in any particular time frame. ”

A more than fair response. Obviously, my point isn’t hugely important in the big picture, and reporters are paid to help us distinguish the small stuff from the big stuff. But, still, Conti’s assertion amounts to some dust floating in the Legislature that may cloud someone’s vision down there if it’s not cleaned up by a legitimate outfit like the Business Journal.

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