Archive for April, 2012

KHOW radio host says election fraud a difficult topic for talk radio

Friday, April 13th, 2012

Should I write another blog about Secretary of State Scott Gessler? Probably not, but then I say to myself, if my three readers don’t know the kind of stuff smart talk-radio hosts like KHOW’s Craig Silverman let Gessler get away with saying, without raising a peep of protest, then there’s no hope that lesser radio hosts will do the right thing and ask Gessler follow-up questions that would illuminate the innuendo and misinformation in his statements.

You still  might say, who cares? Gessler and the radio hosts are hopeless. Let the hot air go float out of the room undisturbed.

I’d be inclined to think the same way if I didn’t hear the things Colorado’s top-dog election official says. But once I hear Gessler, I can’t convince myself that doing nothing is the proper response.

It started on KHOW’s Caplis and Silverman on Monday when Craig Silverman, hosting alone with Dan Caplis away, asked Gessler, “You always hear rumors about voter fraud, election fraud.  What’s the worst thing that’s ever happened in Colorado that you’re aware of?”

Good question, right? It’s a polite way of asking, “Mr. Secretary of State, you’ve spread baseless claims of voter fraud, including right here on this radio show when you said there’s a ‘pretty high incidene of fraud’ here in Denver, but can you cite a specific example of fraud in Colorado, ever?”

“Well,” replied Gessler to Silverman’s question, not mine (his office won’t talk to me). “There’s, historically, you know, going back like forty, fifty years ago, there were very clear instances of just outright stealing elections. In fact, I think it was down in southern Colorado some of the mining camps, the company towns there that they had, the companies would control the polling places and steal elections. And those were overturned. In Colorado, the last prosecutions I’m aware of, we’ve had some people vote in two states. And then when ACORN was operating, there were several people who were prosecuted, and convicted I believe, of voter registration fraud here in Colorado, as well. So, we’ve seen it happen historically in the past, you know, several decades ago, and we’ve seen it happen very recently too.”

I wish Silverman had asked Gessler about the “some people” who were allegedly prosecuted for voting in two states. When? How many? Where? I did some research and cannot find a recent case like this.

I wish Silverman had pointed out that “voter registration fraud” is a completely different animal than voter fraud. Because no one actually voted. So his reference to ACORN, apparently referring to a 2005 case when employees were convicted of submitting false voter registration forms, is misleading.

And I wish Silverman had jumped all over Gessler’s conclusion that “we’ve seen [election fraud] happen very recently, too.” Very recently? Gessler didn’t provide any facts to support this.

Asked about his interview with Gessler, Silverman told me he was too pressed for time to deal with the complicated topic of voter fraud.

“I did not have time to flesh that out,” he told me, adding the topic would  lead to a “ten-minute rabbit hole.” “A follow up would have led to an insider-baseball discussion about those cases.”

I don’t think asking for basic details about the cases, where and when they occurred, is insider baseball. Neither is a discussion about the distinction between “election fraud” and “voter registration fraud.”

“If you get into the minutia of legal cases it’s is a turn off [for listeners.],” said Silverman. “While I care about the issue, it’s not one of my areas of expertise.”

“I will say this,” Silverman said. “Gessler is good for talk radio. He’s in the eye of the storm.”

So here’s question that might lead Silverman, me, and Gessler out of the rabbit hole and into the sunlight.

(Sorry in advance if it sounds too lofty.)

Gessler may be good for talk radio, and for bloggers for that matter, but what about our basic trust in government, which rests to some degree on faith in elections? How seriously should we take it, or should we ignore it, when our Secretary of State is running around on the radio and elsewhere making accusations of very recent election fraud (we’re talking outright fraud, even by noncitizens), that are unproven or have been categorically disproven?

Talk-radio hosts should dig into why Planned Parenthood activists find aspirin-between-your-legs joke offensive

Wednesday, April 11th, 2012

Planned Parenthood activists shouldn’t have a problem with GOP donor Foster Friess’ joke about how the cost of birth control could be dramatically reduced if only women would put aspirin between their legs.

That’s what KFKA talk-show host Devon Lentz, who’s an executive board member of the Larimer County Republican Party, told listeners Monday.

Can you guess why?

Because putting aspirin between your legs, if you’re a woman, is a form of “abstinence, which is still a form of birth control,” Lentz told her Colorado AM listeners.

So why were the Planned Parenthood activists, protesting the appearance of Friess as the keynote speaker at a Larimer County Republican fundraiser Friday, so upset, Lentz wondered?

“Their shirts said something about how everybody should be allowed to have birth control, be allowed access to birth control,” Lentz said on the radio. “Foster’s joke about how in his time women held an aspirin between their knees I’m pretty sure still goes to abstinence, which is still a form of birth control. And he was being funny. It was funny. These guys can’t laugh. These women were outraged he could make such a statement. They didn’t even know what they were standing out there doing.”

Lentz told listeners she “sent somebody out there to go talk to [the protesters],” and they didn’t really know “what [Friess’] statement was, let alone what it meant.”

Given that the protesters had symbolic aspirin between their legs, you have to wonder what basis the undercover GOP scout had for thinking the protesters were clueless about their own protest.

Now I’m a man, but I have to think it’s really hard for an adult woman to be clutching fake aspirin between her legs and not understand the point.

Especially after Foster Friess got all that attention for saying contraception need not be so expensive because, in his day, “The gals put [Bayer Aspirin] between their knees, and it wasn’t that costly.” Friess, who’s now supporting Mitt Romney, later apologized.

So I called up Lentz, who organized the Friess event, and co-host Tom Lucero, who was the Master of Ceremonies, to find out why they didn’t dispense with the stealth reconnaissance of the Planned Parenthood folks, and simply have them on their show to find out what they know about birth control, and GOP proposals to ban some forms of it, and what they don’t.

Lucero, who’s a former chair of the Larimer Country GOP, told me he was “not the guy who went out and interview [the protesters].”

“I took Devon’s comments to mean they didn’t know who Foster Friess was,” Lucero told me. “We would probably need to get further clarification.”

Asked if he’d have the activists on his show to discuss the issue, Lucero said: “Absolutely, if they’re interested in coming on the show and talking about it, we’re willing to take anyone as guests.” He offered to schedule a specific time in advance.

I’d love to hear Lentz tell the women from Planned Parenthood to lighten up, because, as she said on the air, if the activists take Friess’ aspirin joke seriously, he’s just promoting abstinence as a “form birth control.”

Lentz is right, of course.

And in Freiss’ day, that’s all the “gals” had access to, a fact that would lead to a useful discussion on the radio about why the Planned Parenthood protest was important and why Lentz is the one who doesn’t get it, given that Republican leaders, like the one Friess gave big money to, would ban common forms of birth control, even if abstinence isn’t on the chopping block.

Conservative talk radio fights United Nations threat to America

Monday, April 9th, 2012

Even if you weren’t paying attention, you probably remember back in 2010 when GOP gubernatorial candidate Dan Maes spoke up against then Mayor John Hickenlooper’s bicycle programs, which, along with other policies,  was “converting Denver into a United Nations community.”

“These aren’t just warm, fuzzy ideas from the mayor,” Maes was quoted as saying in The Denver Post, which broke the story.  “These are very specific strategies that are dictated to us by this United Nations program that mayors have signed on to.”

“This is all very well-disguised, but it will be exposed,” Maes said.

This prompted the progressive blog ColoradoPols to comment:

“Oh, Dan Maes! We don’t know where you came from, and we’re still amazed at how you got here, but we can’t deny that you are one amusing fellow. Even if you don’t mean to be.”

We know that one of the places Dan Maes came from was the Colorado tea party and its allies on conservative talk radio.

Now, however, the tea-party radio show “Grassroots Radio Colorado” has a specific policy to refer to Maes as the “Mr. Irrelevent” or the one “who shall not be named.”

Still, it’s clear that the themes of Maes’ once energetic campaign still live in tea party circles, incuding the U.N. paranoia stuff.

The other day, Rich Bratten with right-leaning Principles of Liberty Colorado gave listeners of KLZ’s Grassroots Radio Colorado a legislative update, specifically addressing Senate Bill 130, which would create the Office for Child and Youth Development in the Department of Human Services in Colorado.

The bill, which would simply consolidate various government functions, is the culmination of several years of work, going back to Gov. Kofi Bill Ritter’s administration.

A Colorado Springs church called this bill a “United Nations conspiracy,” which Bratten wouldn’t do.

“I don’t think this was a U.N. conspiracy…,” he said on the radio March 30.

But the funny part is, he went on, without objection from the radio-show hosts, to say that the Office of Child and Youth Development would lead to a  socialist takeover of America, possibly leadin’ to a U.N. power grab.

“However,” Bratten said, “[the Office of Child and Youth Development] is very consistent with the Convention on the Rights of the Child of the UN, if you’ve done any research on that.  You’re listeners might be more familiar with the UN Small Arms Treaty….

HOST:  Yeah, they’re very familiar with that one ….

BRATTEN:  Right, which would put constraints upon if we  .…   You know, of course, Clinton adpopted the UN… that treaty, but it hasn’t been ratified by the senate.  Obama says he would like to get it ratified by the senate.  If we were bound to that treaty, we would  basically be giving up our second amendment rights.  And you guys are very familiar with Agenda 21?

HOST:  Very! We spent half the day on it yesterday.

BRATTEN:  This Convention on the Rights of the Child is kind of a similar animal.  And so, is it a UN conspiracy?  No, of course not!  However, is it that inex-OR-orable slide that we’ve been seeing our federal government make towards European Socialist Democracy type of government?  And, you know, the answer is yes — honestly, it is.  So, I’m thrilled to see Speaker Mc Nulty assign this quickly to that committee, and I hope that it gets a quick hearing.

Who knew how much of a threat the U.N. is? I’ve been depressed that it was in decline, but I guess I was wrong.

In any case, no one thought Maes was a lone ranger in Colorado’s battle against the United Nations, but his view, or permutations of it, is alive and well on talk radio, even if the name Maes has been banished.


GOP official tells radio listeners Friess “may or may not” make another birth-control joke at Republican fundraiser tonight

Friday, April 6th, 2012

“There may or may not be a joke tonight about birth control,” said Tom Lucero, the master of ceremonies at tonight’s Larimer County GOP fundraiser featuring keynote speaker Foster Friess, who was embroiled in a national controversy after he joked that contraception need not be so expensive because, back in the old days, “The gals put [Bayer Aspirin] between their knees, and it wasn’t that costly.”

Lucero made the comment on KFKA radio’s AM Colorado (at the 36:45 in hour 2), which he hosts weekday mornings.

“I thought it was funny, frankly,” said Lucero, “when he made the joke about birth control in his day and age, and birth control back then was Aspirin. We are going to have a good time tonight.”

Organizers told me last month they had no plans to disinvite keynote speaker Foster Friess, who apologized for the Aspirin joke.

Here’s what I reported on my blog last month:

Asked if the flap around Friess had given him second thoughts about inviting Friess to their fundraiser, Larimer County GOP  Chair Michael Fassi said,  “We’re going to move ahead with Foster Friess.”

Former CU Regent Tom Lucero, who’s the master of ceremonies for the event, told me that Friess’ joke didn’t give him second thoughts about his own involvement in the dinner.

“I think that Foster handled it appropriately,” said Lucero, who’s served as Chair of the Larimer County GOP. “He was  trying for a joke, and it fell flat. It wasn’t the appropriate forum for that particular joke, and we moved on.”

On the radio this morning, Lucero said, “My friend Foster Friess graciously accepted the invitation to come to Colorado.”

Lucero called Friess “an amazing man” who started with nothing and eventually sold his business for $400 million.

When interviewing Gessler, media types should reserve two slots, one for initial questions and a second for follow-ups

Friday, April 6th, 2012

I have to say, it must be tough to interview Scott Gessler.

He says so many half-baked, half-proven, innuendo-laden things that, as an interviewer, you’d have to constantly be interjecting with: Where do your numbers come from? Do you have proof? On what documents do you base these claims? Do you think your behavior befits your office?

Just yesterday I bashed Mike Rosen for failing to interrogate Gessler when he said Democrats like to “rile” up Hispanics to get their votes.

But I have to give Rosen a bit of a break here. I took a second look at the Gessler interview and found yet more outrageous claims that I had missed previously, demonstrating that even with the luxury of sitting at a computer and being able to re-wind a podcast, it’s easy to miss stuff Gessler says that should be challenged.

My first time through the Rosen interview I managed to miss Gessler’s statement that he thinks, categorically, that Democrats are trying to “game the system” by backing a bill in the state legislature allowing clerks can to send ballots to registered voters who did not vote in the previous election.

Gessler said: “So, it seems to me that they were really invested in making this change, trying to game the system. And it was maybe more than just a policy dispute for them.”

In retrospect, Rosen should have asked Gessler for evidence that Democrats are essentially against fair elections, trying to rig the system in their favor. This is a serious allegation, even coming from Gessler.

As it was, the only proof Gessler offered in his interview was that Democratic State Chair Rick Palacio was, Gessler said, “uncorked” and “red-faced.”

Gessler: You know what I found really interesting?  When we were sort of in this battle at the legislature, I mean, I viewed it very much as a policy disagreement.  And, you know, you can have different views on the policy.  I think that the position they were trying to advocate was completely wrong.  But when you look at how uncorked [Palacio} became, and was just all sort of red faced and angry, it makes me wonder if there was something in there that the Democrats were using to try and game the system.  And remember, this is the same framework that we’ve had for seventeen years, now, in Colorado. And then to sort of trot out these stale claims of disenfranchisement, as if there are thousands of people in Colorado now being disenfranchised, which is simply not the case. So, it seems to me that they were really invested in making this change, trying to game the system. And it was maybe more than just a policy dispute for them.

So here’s my advice for anyone whom Gessler grants interviews to. Schedule two interview sessions, no just one. Tell the Secretary of State that your second interview slot will be for the follow-up questions that inevitably slip by in the rush of unsubstantiated allegations and outright misinformation that comes out of him.

Rosen doesn’t ask Gessler why he thinks ASSET bill is an empty riler upper

Thursday, April 5th, 2012

Mike Rosen likes to present himself as a stern parental figure on the radio, sounding rational even when he isn’t.

He builds this persona by pouncing on guests when their logic doesn’t add up. If you’ve heard Rosen, you know he can be effective (and mean) at this, often demolishing innocent callers who really don’t deserve the punishment.

So you wonder why Rosen can’t bring himself to demanding rational responses from a formerly high-paid lawyer, who’s used to verbal assaults like Rosen’s.

I’m thinking of Secretary of State Scott Gessler, who was on Rosen’s KOA show April 2.

Rosen and Gessler discussed a number of issues, but the one that caught my attention focused on the ASSET legislation under consideration in the state legislature. It would give qualifying undocumented high-school graduates a special in-state tuition rate at Colorado universities that elect to participate.

With his usual air of rational certainty, Rosen told Gessler that the ASSET bill is “transparently part of a strategy to court Latino voters.”

Yeah,” Gessler responded. “I think one of the challenges the Democrats have is Latino voters, in my experience and sense is that, I mean, they’re fundamentally conservative folks. I mean, they’re oftentimes very socially conservative. They’re people who put their heads down and work hard and aren’t looking for government handouts. And the Democrats’ stock and trade is government handouts. So they sort of have to rile ’em up as a way to try and get their votes.”

Rile ’em up? As if the Hispanics are like children who should be winding down before bedtime?

Yes, Hispanics are upset, and rightly so.

As Gessler should know, with all his knowledge of Latino voters, it’s the GOP that’s doing the riling. There’d be no issue here if Republicans took the advice of conservative Denver Post columnist Vincent Carroll and supported the ASSET bill.

But did Rosen even gently question Gessler’s condescending and irrational comments, like he might have if a first-time caller was on the line? No.

So I called Ricardo Martinez, Co-Director 0f Padres y Jovenes Unidos, for his perspective on Gessler’s comments.

“ASSET has passed in thirteen other states,” Martinez told me. “Among them are Texas, Utah, Kansas, and Oklahoma, which are all Republican-controlled. They saw it as an economic benefit. They didn’t let ideology stand in the way of common sense.”

So, I guess Gessler would say that it’s the GOP in Texas that’s riling up Hispanic voters?

Martinez also pointed out that the ASSET bill doesn’t provide any free benefits, so Gessler’s statement about handouts is irrelevant.

“They would be paying the standard tuition,” he said, adding that no tax dollars would support the tuition of undocumented students. “This is not a hand out.”

Rosen and Gessler also discussed the Colorado Democratic Chair Rick Palacio’s suggestion that Gessler resign or be removed from office.

Rosen read Gessler a portion of an article from a March 30 Denver Post by Sara Burnett, quoting University of Colorado Professor Ken Bickers’ view that Democrats are calling on Gessler to step down to appeal to Latino voters who are critical to the re-election of President Obama.

Rosen read from The Post:

Bickers speculated Democrats may have an ulterior motive [in calling on Gessler to resign or removed from office]: creating “a storyline” to appeal to a particular group of voters. Most likely that’s Latinos, who are among those voters Democrats say will be disproportionately affected by Gessler’s efforts, and a voting bloc that will be key to President Barack Obama winning re-election this fall.

“To me it’s a sign that they think they have a weakness in the presidential election,” Bickers said.

Gessler responded:

Well, it’s good that we’ve got some good professors at the University of Colorado because every now and then they nail it. And I think that’s absolutely correct as to what’s going on.

So, not only are Democrats are riling up Hispanics, but they’re creating a story line, with Gessler as a main character, in a cynical ploy to get votes?

I wish Rosen had asked Gessler if he thinks undocumented high-school graduates, who can’t go to college because Republicans like Gessler are blocking them, see the ASSET bill that way, as an empty story line or a useless riler upper.

Or do they see it as real? As a chance to work hard and get ahead?

If Rosen had asked questions like those, maybe more Hispanics and others who believe in all-American opportunity would get riled up.

But that wouldn’t be good for Rosen or Gessler, would it?

Internet radio host Art Carlson runs for Colorado Senate

Wednesday, April 4th, 2012

When Art Carlson started his internet radio program, “Art’s Place,” he wanted to create a “soap box” to voice his “opinions from a different perspective.”

Now, two years later, former Colorado Senate President John Andrews cites Art’s Place as one reason he’s endorsed Carlson in his GOP primary race against John Lyons to face off against Democrat Nancy Todd to represent Senate District 28.

“His radio show has networked him to leading conservatives across the state,” Andrews told me, adding that he has “a lot of regard for Carlson’s grit and gumption” and that Carlson is “a well-anchored conservative.”

“He’ll never quit on promises he’s made,” said Andrews.

When I guy like Andrews is impressed with Carlson for never quitting, it means a lot. Andrews is a guy who “positively” hates lunch, he says, because it’s a distraction form his “Niagara productivity.”  (I thought he said Viagra productivity, but he confirmed that he said Niagara, as in Niagara Falls.)

Carlson, who lost in the GOP primary for a House seat in 2010, told me he’s “always been interested in politics, but I didn’t get involved until about four years ago.”

“I got tired of yelling at the TV and decided to try to do something,” he said.

He says Colorado Sen. Shawn Mitchell and Rep. Chris Holbert “rally helped me out and encouraged me and got me pointed in the right direction.”

In terms of specific issues, Carlson is a serious conservative, as you’d expect with guys like Andrews, Mitchell and Holbert behind him.

He says, for example, he signed the Colorado Union of Taxpayers tax-cut pledge over two years ago.

Carlson’s  opponent, Lyons, promised to do so during a March 20 interview on KLZ’s Grassroots Radio Colorado:

Host Jason Worley:  Have you signed the Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights Pledge?

Lyons:  Not yet.

Worley:  Are you planning to?

Lyons:  Yes.

Lyons is not yet listed as a pledge signer on the CUT website, but Carlson prefers to discuss his own plans and positions.

He tells me during our phone conversation that he’s a Little Person and he has disability called Arthrogryposis, a non-progressive muscle and bone disorder.

I asked him why he told me this. “I don’t think it matters,” he said. “But when I go out to meet people, they go hmm, but once they get to know me, that goes away.”

Also, he says, “it gives people an idea that I know something about the health care system too.”

Does that mean he supports Obamacare?

“No,” he replies.

Carlson currently works at Rocky Mountain Orthodontics, but he’s also made a living as a stand-up comedian.

“I went into it after college 20 years ago,” he says, explaining that he performed regularly in local clubs.  “I got to travel around the world and entertain our troops in Japan and South Korea. That was the high point in my stand-up career.”

His entertainment background adds a sort of dry poise to his Art’s Place interviews, where guests have included U.S. Rep. Mike Coffman, Colorado Rep. Robert Ramirez, and others.

He’s not sure he can continue the radio show during his campaign.

“I’m going to see how it goes,” he said. “Campaigning takes a lot of time. Right now I’m evaluating whether I should do another month or two of Art’s Place in addition to full-time campaigning.”

Media Omission: Suthers has his own idea for feds to “constitutionally mandate health insurance”

Tuesday, April 3rd, 2012

Colorado Attorney General John Suthers was all over the media last week, talking about what a terrible thing it would be if the federal government forced Americans to buy health insurance.

But in an email back in 2010, Suthers told The Denver Post’s Vincent Carroll that it wasn’t the federal health insurance mandate itself that bothered him, from a legal perspective, but how the mandate was instituted.

In the email, obtained via that Colorado Opens Record Act by Colorado Ethics Watch, Suthers wrote to Carroll:

“The way to constitutionally mandate health insurance would be to incentivize the states to do it,” Suthers wrote.

There’s nothing wrong with a lawyer wanting things done in accordance with how he sees the law, but let’s be clear that Suthers’ federal incentives, if they’re devised to “mandate health insurance,” as Suthers suggests, are simply a more polite form of Obama’s Commerce-Clause mandate.

Conservative objections about alleged federal intrusion or alleged lost individual freedom would,  as a practical matter, be nearly identical if the health-insurance mandate were the result of federal incentives or federal powers under the Commerce Clause.

Either way, its federal action, which makes you wonder why Suthers gleefully told KNUS’ Steve Kelley in November:

“Federalism has been on life support for 30 years. We are going to decide if the Court is going to pull the plug or resuscitate it. That is what this case is all about.”

Really? How does that square with Suthers’ view that the feds could accomplish the health-care mandate with incentives?

Anyway, in his media tour last week, Suthers told KHOW’s Craig Silverman that “it shouldn’t be the federal government pushing this down our throats.” But again, this sounds hollow when you know that Suthers simply wants federal throat-pushing of a different manner.

Suthers also told Silverman that the expansion of Medicaid under Obmamcare, as a vehicle to cover uninsured people, is a state burden that’s “so coercive as to violate federalism.” Yet, he told Carroll that a health-care mandate could be achieved with state incentives. If he believes the incentives are constitutional, then you’d think he’d have to believe the Medicaid expansion would be constitutional as well.

In the broader picture, and this is the take-away from Suthers’ behind-the-scenes correspondence with Carroll, conservatives should not be fooled into thinking that Suthers, by joining the lawsuit to stop Obamacare, is taking a principled stand against an alleged loss of individual freedom. He’s clearly not. It’s just this legal pathway he dislikes.

For Suthers, it’s the form, not the substance.

Email exchange between Denver Post columnist Vincent Carroll and Colorado Attorney General John Suthers, March 23, 2010

Suthers: Vince, I’m curious. I understood from my conversation with Alicia Caldwell that the editorial board doesn’t think there is anything unprecedented about Congress using the Commerce Clause to sanction economic activity and force you to buy a product or service it deems beneficial. Even the Congressional Budget Office told Congress that was unprecedented. If Congress can sanction your commercial activity and force you to buy a product, where does it end? Can you enlighten me a bit?

Carroll: I am not sure what our official position will be regarding whether forcing Americans to buy health care insurance is an unprecedented action by the federal government. As you know, though, the Post’s editorials have repeatedly backed a universal mandate, so it is extremely unlikely that the page would now argue that what it has been advocating is unconstitutional. Like many people, I too worry about what a court decision upholding the legislation would say about the reach of the commerce clause. But given recent legal precedents, I suspect the court would uphold the law.

Suthers: One last point. The way to constitutionally mandate health insurance would be to incentivize the states to do it.