Archive for June, 2013

Media omission: Talk-radio war over Morse recall

Thursday, June 27th, 2013

If you choose staid National Public Radio over the rollicking and squirmy world of conservative talk radio, you may not know about the war brewing over how Republicans would pick a candidate to oppose Senate President John Morse, if a recall election takes place in the peaceful land of El Paso County.

Two Republicans, Jaxine Bubis and Bernie Herpin, want to take on Morse, which leaves inquisitive minds on conservative talk radio to wonder how to choose between the two.

KVOR talk-radio host Jeff Crank, along with Rep. Doug Lamborn, Sheriff Terry Maketa, Laura Carno, and Steve Schuck, signed a letter suggesting that the “duly elected Republican Central Committee of Senate District 11 decide which candidate shall be the best candidate to face the Democrat.”

On KLZ’s Grassroots Radio Colorado Wed., co-hosts Ken Clark and Jason Worley discussed the Crank, et al., letter on air, as well as former State Sen. Shawn Mitchell’s Facebook reaction, which included the line that the letter amounted to “the establishment telling the grass roots to get lost.”

Worley said he doesn’t “like the idea of the ‘those-that-be’ coming in with money and choosing who the person is going to be.”

Co-host Ken Clark added that he thought Herpin would “just barely” be a better legislator than Morse.

Clark, who doubles as the Colorado Director of Freedom Works, told listeners that Crank and Colorado GOP Ryan Call refused to help in the Morse recall effort.

Clark: Jaxine Bubis was one of those people who was out there gathering signatures.  She gathered thousands of them herself, on her own. [Bigmedia note: Was she paid like many others?]  Okay?  She was part of that effort.  She was neck-deep in that effort.  She was making phone calls.  She was going door to door.  She was working on the recall effort….

Then you’ve got the Jeff Cranks of the world; you’ve got the Ryan Calls of the world. Everybody starts flooding El Paso County, running down there, going, “Oh! Me, too!  Me, too!  We’re going to put in our candidate.  Now that you guys did all the work, we’re going to put in our candidate.  We’re going to take this thing over, and you are going to vote for ours, because we say so!”

You know what, a lot of people are pissed off about that.  And it’s wrong!  In my opinion, there is no reason why the El Paso Republicans and the Colorado Republicans couldn’t get involved in that recall.  But they didn’t!   And Jeff Hays ran for cover.  He did not help with that recall effort.  Neither did Ryan Call.  So now, if they want to come in and put in their candidate, I’m crying – I’m saying, “Foul!” I’m saying, “Go back home! You didn’t start this!  We will finish it!”  That’s what I’m saying….

Worley:  Where was Jeff Crank?  I realize some of Crank’s allies came in at the last minute to help. understand that.   [Bigmedia note: paying for signature gathering, for example] Great.  Good news.  But the people who got it off the ground did it on their own.  And they didn’t get a whole lot of help.  So, it does kind of look like, “You know what?  You guys did all the heavy lifting.  Now we’ll come in and we’ll grandfather you.  We’ll grant you a candidate who we think can win.”  Now, you know what?  You didn’t get your hands dirty in the first place, so I do have a problem with that.  This is the same thing that pisses people off and gets them out of the Republican Party in the first place.

Clark:  Well, and I can tell you that the candidate that they’re working on, this Bernie Herpin, when he was a city councilman, you know, we’re talking train wreck.  We’re talking Waller.  He’s worse than Waller.  I mean, this guy is the – even the fact that he’s got an “R” next to his name.  My opinion, he was the only guy that said that Jeff Hays and Ryan Call could find out there that was willing to say, “Okay.  I’ll be your stooge….”

Worley:  You know what?  This grandstanding, this paternalism from the Republican Party here in Colorado, sucks!  And you know what?  I’m – for those who know me, they know I’ve been a Republican my whole life.  My grandfather would roll over in his grave if I [inaudible].  But you know what?  I’m damn close!  I am damn close!

The radio show then ended abruptly, and I found myself thinking, maybe these talk radio hosts, Crank, Clark, and Worley, should get together and urge the GOP to just drop the Morse recall campaign. Who knows if they’ll survive it.


PERA News Undermines Treasurer Stapleton and Talk Show Hosts’ Message of “Fantasy” Projections

Tuesday, June 25th, 2013

by Michael Lund

The news out of Public Employees’ Retirement Association today is good news for Colorado and Coloradoans. 

PERA’s Comprehensive Annual Financial Report announced a realized 12.9% return on investments for 2012, and a 22 year average of 10%.  This return outpaced PERA’s projection which had been set at 8%. 

However, for Colorado State Treasurer Walker Stapleton and his sycophantic chorus of talk radio hosts, the news undermines a centerpiece of their talking points. 

Since taking office in 2011, Stapleton has been making the rounds of right-wing talk radio shows, inciting GOP and Tea Party posses with predictions of looming financial Armageddon due to an unsustainable pension system for Colorado’s public employees.  Without a squeak of protest from his hosts, he asserts the root of the problem to be unfunded liabilities resulting from the PERA board’s unrealistic projection on the rate of returns for their investments. 

Here’s an exchange with Jon Caldara on Devil’s Advocate from November 2011: 

Walker Stapleton: In Colorado, we have set an expectation that people will be guaranteed effectively an 8% rate of return on the investments that the pension fund makes over a 30 year time period.

Jon Caldara: Eight percent?!

Stapleton: Eight percent. So —

Caldara: Wait, wait, wait, slow down, here! Because I’m not a financial genius on this, but I’ve been looking at my 401K plan and it’s not getting anywhere close to 8% — more like negative 8%. But it doesn’t seem that 8% as a guaranteed rate of return has anything to do with reality. Does it?

Stapleton: Right. I don’t believe that it does. And if you look, you know, markets go up and markets go down. We’ve witnessed the stock market lose more than five percent in one week alone this year. So to guarantee a 8% rate of return is a very difficult benchmark to achieve […]

Caldara: Am I wrong, or is this just fantasy […]?

Fantasy?  Apparently not.  Despite a desperately challenging economic climate for investments since 2008, PERA has proved to be a capable and responsible steward of the retiree’s assets.  Sound decision-making based on actuarial data and smart investment strategies have quelled the hyperbolic  fearmongering on talk shows, for now. 

Perhaps we should just feel thankful that talk show hosts aren’t managing our portfolios.  Their “realistic” rate of return would miss the mark of actual earnings by a factor of ten.  On Grassroots Radio last year, hosts Ken Clark and Jason Worley, along with their guest, CO Senate candidate Dave Piggot, scoffed at PERA’s projections.

Ken Clark: […] You tell me where on this planet right now anybody can get an 8% return.

Jason Worley: Guaranteed.

Dave Pigott: [laughs] I can’t do it. I don’t know where you can get near 8% rate, unless you work for a payday lender, or you are on the receiving side of VISA or MasterCard.

Clark: Guido and Rocco—

Worley: Yeah, there might be some loan sharks out there who—

Clark: Guido and Rocco, I think, are getting about 8% but that’s about it. There isn’t any place you can go. We just talked about in our very first segment how the market and this last week has lost all of the 2012 games. You think the mutual funds are doing well? You think Oppenheimer is really having a great day? I don’t think so.

Worley: Do you think that all the money that PERA has out there invested—

Clark: […] oh yeah! PERA just took a hit as well. If you want a guaranteed rate of return, you’re talking 1.2%.

Projections are not guaranteed, granted.  But PERA realized returns above the short- and long-term projections.  For that, we should all be happy. 

Considering the optimistic indications, perhaps Stapleton, Caldara, Worley, and Clark will reform their message to a more upbeat, accurate representation of reality.  But then again, considering the ideology that drives them, perhaps we shouldn’t hold our breath. 


Radio host identifies conservative lawyer, with connections to Morse-recall campaign, only as an “election attorney”

Friday, June 21st, 2013

UPDATED June 22 with a response from Jimmy Sengenberger and a correction that the organization I am Created Equal donated over $55,000 to Colorado-Springs consulting company Kennedy Enterprises, as opposed to at least $14,000 as previously reported, to gather signatures and perform other functions for the Morse recall campaign.


On KNUS yesterday morning, guest host Jimmy Sengenberger convened a panel so that listeners could, as Sengenberger put it, “learn exactly what’s going on” regarding the campaign to recall State Senate President John Morse.

How you learn “exactly what’s going on” from a one-sided panel is beyond me, but that’s standard fare for conservative talk radio.

But Sengenberger’s discussion went beyond misleading into grossly-manipulating territory due to the way he introduced one of the three panelists.

The panelists were Jennifer Kerns, identified as a “Spokeswoman for Recall Morse;” Jeff Hays, identified as “Chairman of El Paso Republican Party;” and Mario Nicolais, identified as an “election attorney” on the panel to give “legal insights.” Sengenberger later referred to Nicolais as an “election attorney” or an “election lawyer.”

What Sengenberger didn’t say was that Nicolais is a staff attorney for Scott Gessler’s former firm, the Hackstaff Law Group (formerly called Hackstaff Gessler), which is obviously a conservative outfit. Gessler’s office will be presiding at a hearing to determine the validity of a protest, filed by Morse backers, of the language used on the Morse-recall petitions.

What’s more, and you wouldn’t expect Sengenberger to know this, Nicolais’ name, along with the Hackstaff Law Group, appears on the Articles of Incorporation for, Inc., which donated over $55,000 to the Morse recall effort in in-kind contributions to Kennedy Enterprises to support a paid signature-gathering campaign and other activities. The fact that the signature gatherers were paid is often omitted on talk radio.

Sengenberger should inform KNUS listeners about Nicolais’ conservative affiliations, as well as the fact that Nicolais’ law firm (which is also Gessler’s former law firm) represents a major funder of the recall, and now Gessler’s office is presiding over the petition-protest hearing.

Sengenberger was very precise, and fair, in identifying the other guests on the show but, for some reason, he was incredibly vague about Nicolais.

I asked Sengenberger via email why he didn’t identify Nicolais more precisely.

“Regrettably, I was unaware that Hackstaff is the former law firm of Secretary of State Scott Gessler, so that particular point of emphasis wouldn’t have come to mind,” wrote Sengenberger. “As for not mentioning the law firm where Mario Nicolais is an attorney, this was simply an unintentional oversight on my part that is inconsistent with what I usually do when I have attorneys on. However, I don’t see how anyone listening wouldn’t be able to determine his political leanings based on the tone and tenor of the conversation, including his comments.”

Reporter omits detail that Hispanic population in Coffman’s district is about 20%

Friday, June 21st, 2013

The National Journal’s Alex Roarty wrote Wednesday it was “surprising” that most House Republicans voted to reverse Obama’s order halting deportations of many undocumented young people who were brought to the U.S. by their parents.

He pointed specifically to “House members like Reps. Mike Coffman of Colorado” whose district represents a “large Hispanic” constituency.

Roarty should have specified just how large Coffman’s Hispanic constituency is in his new district.

The Denver Post’s Kurtis Lee reported in 2011 that when Coffman’s district was re-drawn, the Hispanic population increased “from around 9 percent to about 20 percent.”

This gives you a more precise sense of the stakes involved as Coffman continues to take positions, long-held by the Congressman, that are considered hostile to Hispanics.

You’d expect the Hispanic voting population in Coffman’s district to be less, but still.

Media omission: Personhood USA spokesperson disappointed by Coffman’s support for abortion-ban exceptions

Thursday, June 20th, 2013

After pointing to Rep. Mike Coffman after the last election as a national model of a winning candidate, in a swing district, who “maintained his 100% pro-life position,” including his opposition to abortion for rape, Jennifer Mason, communications director of the anti-abortion group Personhood USA, is disappointed by Coffman’s statement yesterday that he now “strongly” supports the “exceptions for rape, incest, and protecting the life of the mother” that were included in a House bill banning abortion after a woman is 20-weeks pregnant.

Coffman joined nearly all House Republicans in supporting the abortion ban, and he issued a statement yesterday reiterating his “yes” vote, as well as his support for the rape-and-incest exceptions included in the proposed law.

Coffman’s support for the legislation shouldn’t have surprised reporters, given his track record on the abortion issue, but his decision to back exceptions to the abortion ban should’ve caught the attention of journalists–even if they might have suspected this was coming as Coffman, widely viewed as one of the most endangered Congressman in the country, fights for his political life against Democrat Andrew Romanoff.

Yet, I’ve seen almost zero news coverage of Coffman’s abortion statement. What’s Coffman’s explanation? What’s the reaction of people like Personhood USA’s Mason, who stood with Coffman in the past.

So I contacted Mason to fill in the media gap.

“It is not uncommon for politicians to lose moral ground once they are elected, Mason wrote via email. “Mike Coffman’s vote for the death penalty for babies conceived in rape is very disappointing. Let’s call it like it is: so-called ‘exceptions’ for babies conceived in rape are not exceptions at all. They are compromises that allow for innocent children to be killed. Every compromise causes us to lose ground, catering to our opposition’s demand to de-value human life. We expect better from our elected officials.”

I also asked Leslie Hanks, former President of Colorado Right to Life, for her reaction to Coffman’s new remarks.

Hanks sent me a photo reply, below, of two women holding signs with pictures of apparent fetuses and these messages: “I did not choose to have a rapist for a father. Must I die because of it?” And: “I am not of clump of cells. I am a human being.”

The Denver media embarrassed itself during the last election by essentially failing to question Coffman about his opposition to abortion, even in the case of rape and incest.

The details of Coffman’s thinking, why he’d come to take such a hard-line stance, fell through the journalistic cracks, as Coffman repeatedly told audiences that he’s “not focused on social issues.”

Now journalists are letting Coffman slide by again, as he suddenly supports abortion for rape, without finding out what’s up. When will they start questioning the Congressman on abortion issues?


In serious need of follow-up questioning, State Senator suggests possibility that wildfires were started by terrorists

Thursday, June 20th, 2013

State Sen. Greg Brophy said yesterday on conservative radio that recent wildfires may have been started by terrorists and that “the Governor and Democrats” have left Colorado vulnerable to terrorist attacks due to their failure to spend millions of dollars on air tankers to fight forest fires.

Click Here for Audio

Brophy said on Fort Morgan’s KFTM that “the governor and the Democrats would spend three-hundred-and-some-odd-million dollars to implement Obamacare but we couldn’t find $17.8 million to buy airplanes for safety and security here in Colorado.”

“What most people don’t realize,” Brophy told host John Waters, “is that both of these fires weren’t naturally caused. These were human-set fires. The fire at Waldo Canyon last year, no one knows who set even to this day, John.

And then, if you remember, when Osama Bin Laden’s hideout was overrun in Pakistan by our Seals, and they captured his computer, one of the acts of terrorism that they were looking at getting involved in was setting wildfires in the western United States.  I mean, we really need to address this, and the Legislature failed us last session.”  [BigMedia emphasis]

All Waters could muster for a response was a lovable, “That’s very sad.” (Is there a medical term for co-dependency between a conservative radio host and a conservative guest? If so, this is it.)

I was hoping for a question like, “Are you troubled by the complete absence of evidence of terrorism in these two fires?”

Or how about this deep follow-up, “Do you think there’s an element of fear-mongering and politicization in your terrorist theory?”

Or, “Do you think Democrats are adequately protecting the water supply and Bronco games?”

The specter of wildfire terrorism was raised before by state Republicans but Brophy has raised it to a new level in terms of timing and specificity.

“[The Legislature] didn’t get it done,” said Brophy. “They failed us. Everybody knows that those planes wouldn’t have been available for this fire, but don’t we learn the lessons from this fire, and from the one a year ago?”

Brophy favored legislation authorizing the purchase of four air tankers capable of dropping water and retardant on fires. The bill, which was criticized by The Denver Post as unneeded, passed, but the $17 million wasn’t allocated.

Substance needed behind Gardner’s speculation about Keystone pipeline

Wednesday, June 19th, 2013

Nothing wrong with a Congressman speculating on what President Obama might do.

But Rep. Cory Gardner’s speculation Saturday, on a national Voice of America show, that Obama will approve the Keystone pipeline later this year in exchange for a “regulatory action on greenhouse gasses” deserves media scrutiny.

The radio host apparently didn’t have the inclination to ask Gardner about his sources for the intel about Obama (presumably he has at least two such sources, and they’re not talk-radio hosts).

Neither was Gardner asked, more generally, for a ray of light into why he thinks Obama might do these things.

This leaves the door wide open for some journalist to ask Gardner for the substance behind his Keystone assertions.

Here’s more of Gardner’s thoughts on the topic:

GARDNER: You know, I actually think that the president will approve the pipeline. I think that sometime later in the fall of 2013 that the president will approve the pipeline. Now, I think there will be a trade-off, because he does have a significant number of his supporters that oppose the pipeline. So I think there is going to be some kind of a quid pro quo, so to speak, — an action that the president will take to try to say, “Well, all right. I’ve approved the Keystone pipeline. I’m also doing this” to try to appease or satisfy the people who [are] opposed to the approval of the pipeline. What that will be? My guess is it will be some kind of a regulatory action on greenhouse gases that could make it even more difficult to develop energy in this country. But I do think he wil approve it, but it’s going to come with something.

Radio host should follow up with Waller

Tuesday, June 18th, 2013

Just a couple days before Cynthia Coffman officially launched her campaign for Colorado state attorney general, State Rep. Mark Waller sounded awfully serious when he told KNUS’ Jimmy Sengenberger that he was considering entering the race as well.

Here’s what Waller told Sengenberger June 10:

Sengenberger: Rumor has it, your name has been tossed about in consideration for Attorney General. Is that a thought process that you are going through, or what can you tell us?

Waller: You know, certainly several people have approached me on that issue. They have asked me to do that. They think given my law enforcement background, my background as an Iraqi war veteran, and my background in the legislature, that that might be a great opportunity for me to serve going forward. So, we are certainly considering that. We haven’t made any final decisions at this moment in time, but I’d be looking for something soon.

Sengenberger was subbing for Steve Kelley, who’s been out recovering from a car crash, and he should bring Waller back on the KNUS morning show to find out if Coffman’s official announcement affected Waller’s thinking on the AG race.

Reporters should find out if Rep. Gardner favors secession

Monday, June 17th, 2013

Rep. Cory Gardner (R-CO) is reportedly sympathetic to a move by county leaders in northern Colorado to secede from the state.

It doesn’t appear that he’s been asked directly if he supports slicing a new state out of Colorado, but based on his statement below, it’s a reasonable question to ask.

Two country commissioners in northern Colorado are talking secession (See here) because they think Democrats who control the state Legislature are waging a war on rural Colorado. They point to new gun and renewable-energy laws as prime evidence for this, even though polls show support across Colorado for these measures.

Instead of condemning secession as contrary to the American way of standing together and working out problems in a non-tantrum-like-manner, Gardner, who represents northern Colorado, said this to the Post Independent last week.

The district that U.S. Rep. Cory Gardner, R-Colo. comes from would be split, but Gardner said in a statement on Thursday that he is sympathetic to what commissioners are doing.

“The people of rural Colorado are mad, and they have every right to be,” he said in the statement. “The governor and his Democrat colleagues in the statehouse have assaulted our way of life, and I don’t blame these people one bit for feeling attacked and unrepresented by the leaders in our state.”

Gardner has close ties to Weld County Commissioner Sean Conway, who’s a leader of the secession effort. They worked for Colorado Senator Wayne Allard from 2002 through 2005, when Gardner left to run for the CO statehouse.

Media omission: Gessler’s first direct response to Ethics Commission ruling

Friday, June 14th, 2013

Reporters apparently missed Secretary of State Scott Gessler’s first direct response to the Colorado Independent Ethics Commission’s finding that he violated state ethics law and “breeched the public trust for private gain.”

Gessler made his comments on KNUS’ Kelley and Company (710-AM) this morning, and reporters should have tuned in. So I’ll fill in the media gap and provide a transcript of most of his comments below. And I’ll update this post with audio of the interview later today.

Guest host Jimmy Sengenberger, filling in for regular host Steve Kelley, did a decent job interviewing Gessler.

Click Here for Audio

Sengenberger: What’s your side of the story?

Gessler: …The Elections Commission, unfortunately, is a just very partisan-driven organization. I mean, two of the members have actually contributed to Hickenlooper, sort of really staunch partisan Democrats. It was pretty clear seven months ago which direction these guys were going. It took them eight months to figure out how to do it. But it was really sort of an unfair process, and it’s frustrating, because you want to think that these guys are going to be fair and even-handed and you want to think that the IRS is going to be fair and even-handed, and you want to think that, you know, things work. But they really don’t a lot of the time. So we are going to be appealing. I’m pretty confident that we’re going to get it overturned because of the way these guys handled themselves.

Sengenberger: I’m curious as to what the Independent Ethics Commission claimed you violated in terms of a statute, rule, or anything in the Constitution that might be in play?

Gessler: Right now I just don’t know. I don’t know. I really don’t know. I mean they had deliberations and they said learning about elections is not official business, which just sort of seems crazy when everyone else disagrees with them.  And that was one of the most frustrating things. We spent seven months trying to get them to tell us what the legal standards were. And then a month ago they said the legal standards could be one of these two things or they could be something else, and we’ll tell you afterwards. And so we still don’t know. So, I mean, maybe when the draw up the report they’ll sort of tell me at that point. But that’s one of the frustrating areas. They just sort of make up the rules as they go along.

Sengenberger: …What do you make of the argument that, well, that you shouldn’t have done it, used discretionary funds, taxpayer money, for something that had a partisan tilt to it?

Gessler: Well, it didn’t have a partisan tilt. That’s the bottom line….We produced a three-hundred-page binder of all the materials that were discussed. None of it was partisan stuff…. I know it had the word Republican in front of it, that was the sponsoring organization, but it was not a partisan event. It was straight-up education. And all the evidence before the commission said that. But they are not really interested in the evidence before them. It was a very partisan-driven outlook.

Sengenberger: …I’m curious as to why you ended up paying back the twelve-hundred-something that you chose to pay back?

Gessler: $1278. Here’s why. I’m just trying to move on when it comes to what goes on with the people of the state of Colorado. But, the money here has been an absolute waste. The last Republican Secretary of State we had, Mike Coffman, also received a complaint from the same organization in front of the same ethics commission. And that cost probably about probably $100,000 to dispute. So these types of frivolous things have cost the state around a quarter million dollars already. And it is just sort of absurd. And you want to put it behind you. You want to have fair elections. You want to move on to trying to make it easier for people to do business and have jobs in the state of Colorado and things like that. I’m trying to put it behind me. I’m trying to push forward. And of course it’s a very vindictive organization and they’re not interested in that–the ethics commission. So that was the purpose. And I was very clear. Look, I don’t think we’ve done anything wrong. I don’t think we’ve ever done anything wrong. But $1,278 is a pretty big distraction when there’s been hundreds of thousands spent arguing over it. Let’s try to put it behind us. Let’s try to move forward. But, you know, even that’s not acceptable because the Ethics Watch organization—no I’m sorry—Ethics Commission. They all sort of blend together after a while.

Sengenbrenner: Yeah.

Gessler: They’re not really interested in that. They’re interested in progressive [inaudible] because they know there’s an election coming up. So they can use this as a way to generate television ads and what not. I mean, that’s really what it’s about. So it’s very frustrating.

Sengenberger: [The left is saying you should have used funds from the travel budget, not the discretionary budget.]

Gessler: They are really sort of nonsensical. I mean, they’re saying I should have used a different fund rather than this fund to go. But it was ok, but if it wasn’t ok, then I shouldn’t have done it. It’s absolutely nonsensical. What it is is a talking point. A talking point. There’s no sense or coherence. Bottom line. Everybody who’s reviewed this, except of course the Ethics Commission, the Colorado Supreme Court, an outside auditor, the State Comptroller, said this was absolutely appropriate for me to do. That’s the bottom line. The left can jabber all they want, and, of course, the Ethics Commission is part of the left. I mean they are driven by my political adversaries.  I mean those are the people who judged me on this. They can jabber all they want. We now go before a real court, the district court and federal courts here. We’re going before a real court with real-world procedure. And this is just a stop on the way going forward, because, look, if you believe in this. You shouldn’t have a government agency that’s politically driven that chews people up. We’ve seen that at the IRS. We’ve seen that with the Ethics Commission. Look at it from that standpoint. I’m not going to stand for it.