Archive for February, 2014

Media Omission: Gessler “pretty confident” Beauprez will enter gov race

Friday, February 28th, 2014

Radio host Jimmy Sengenberger broke news on his Velocity Radio show yesterday, when his guest Scott Gessler said he’s “pretty confident” Bob Beauprez will enter the gubernatorial race, and Gessler pointed out that Beauprez ran a “pretty disastrous” campaign in 2006.

Gessler (@1 hour 21 min): “I’ve heard the same thing. I’m actually pretty confident Bob Beauprez is goig to be getting into the race. Probably next week is what I’ve heard.”

Just prior to talking with Gessler, Sengenberger, whose internet show airs weekdays from 8 a.m. to 10 a.m., conversed with Denver Post reporter Lynn Bartels about the possibility of Bob Beauprez entering the gubernatorial race.

Sengenberger: Will that change the race in your mind from a two-man race to possibly a three-man race? Gessler: Maybe. We’ll see how much traction he gets. You know, Bob is well-known. He’s well respected. On the other hand, he ran a pretty disastrous campaign back in 2006, where he lost by about 17 points. Sengenberger: …It was a tough year for Republicans. Gessler: Well, yes and no. John Suthers won his state-wide race. Mike Coffman won his state-wide race. Mark Hillman lost his state-wide race, but just by a little. And Bob lost by 17 points.

Media omission: KOA quotes Tancredo saying Beauprez will run, and Tancredo won’t bow out

Thursday, February 27th, 2014

In a scoop that deserves more media attention, KOA’s morning drive show, Colorado Morning News, broke news this morning when Tom Tancredo told co-hosts April Zesbaugh and Steffan Tubbs that Bob Beauprez told Tancredo during a conversation Saturday that Beauprez will be running for governor.

Tancredo told KOA that he will not be stepping out of the gubernatorial race, even if Beauprez enters.

Tancredo: Yes, I think he is stepping into the governor’s race, or at least that was the conversation I had with him on Saturday. No I will not bow out. And that was not part of the conversation we had. I had called him because I, like everyone else who’s involved politically here, had heard that he was thinking about it very seriously again. And so I called him on Saturday, and I said, ‘Listen buddy, get in! The water’s fine. It will be fun. He’s a great guy and a good friend. And he would add to the whole mix….No, I’m not getting out. There’s certainly no reason to. From my point of view, I’m ahead of everyone I’m running against right now by about 2 to 1. We’ve raised more money, again by about 2 to 1, than anyone else. So I don’t see why I’d be thinking about such a thing. And I’m not. I’m certainly going to pursue it. And do my very best. The addition of another person like Bob Beauprez to this race certainly does not harm my position. It only enhances the debate that will go on, and I think that is a good thing. I think he’s a great guy. I really like him. He’s been a good friend.”

Tancredo praised Beauprez for being the first Republican to support him in 2010 when Tancredo ran as the Constitution Party candidate.

“He had absolutely nothing to gain from doing it,” Tancredo told KOA. “Every Republican and their brother was upset with me…He was the guy that broke the dam.”

Asked by Tubbs who’s “calling the shots” for Republican Party, Tancredo said:

Great question. I haven’t the foggiest idea…It beats me buddy. But, all I can say is they don’t call me and ask about these things.”

Media Omission: Mike Norton calls on Suthers to challenge bill allowing joint tax filings

Wednesday, February 26th, 2014

A bill cleared the General Assembly Friday allowing same-sex couples to file joint state tax returns, if they pay federal taxes jointly.

Hick is expected to sign it, presumably because he agrees with backers, like The Denver Post, who point out that the current tax rules make no sense, given that state taxes are based on the federal filings.

But the religious right, as represented below by former U.S. Attorney Mike Norton, is pissed. Norton got his back slapped blindly by KNUS’  Dan Caplis recently for saying the bill is a violation of Colorado’s ban on gay marriage:

Norton: You know, [we] have a constitutional amendment that was passed by the people of the state of Colorado in 2006, that really didn’t state anything new. It simply reaffirmed what has been the historic position of the people of Colorado, [and] the people of this nation, in fact, the western world, that marriage of a man and a woman is a foundational social relationship that is important for the survival of any society.

Listen to Norton here.

Even Amendment 23 isn’t that extreme, and it’s out there. But why not extremify extremism if no one, like Caplis, is going to call you on it?

In any case, the legislation is about tax law, not marriage. But Norton, who’s married to failed GOP Senate candidate Jane Norton, doesn’t get it:

Norton: “And I mean, everyone is in favor of marriage equality, but we have to pretty much know what a marriage is, before we can define whether it is equality. And by tradition, and throughout history, marriage is defined as a union of a man and a woman, and it exists for a single purpose, and that is to bear and raise children. There is no question that children do better when they are with a man – a husband and a wife, a father and a mother. Moms and dads are different. And children need both moms and they need dads, as well.”

Asked what he could do if the bill becomes law, Norton pointed out that Attorney General John Suthers joined a lawsuit challenging a court decision striking down Utah’s gay-marriage ban.

Norton: “So, I’m hopeful that John Suthers will look at…this law as an assault on Colorado’s marriage amendment and take steps. I think that’s a possibility.”

Where’s the evidence for radio host’s accusation that Hill backers paid for Hill’s Tea Party Express endorsement?

Tuesday, February 25th, 2014

Colorado Springs radio host Jeff Crank thinks the Tea Party Express, which claims to be “the most aggressive and influential national Tea Party group in the political arena,” endorsed senatorial candidate Owen Hill in exchange for big donations from Hill’s Colorado backers.

On his KVOR radio show Feb. 15, Crank said:

Crank: “Here’s what I think happened.  I’m just going to throw it out there, okay?  I think a big pile of money wound its way out to the Tea Party Express from Colorado, from a donor or two, who are supportive of Owen Hill, and somehow that endorsement just happened to go to Owen Hill.”

Crank, who used to work for Americans for Prosperity, went on to say that the Tea Party Express is “running the ads with that money” in support of Hill. Click here to see a Tea Party Express ad touting its endorsement of Hill.

“So, in other words, you just buy an endorsement from a group,” Crank said on air. “Rent-a-group.”

“You know, far too often this kind of stuff happens in politics, and people get away with it because nobody calls them on it,”  Crank continued. “And we have to call them on it.”

If you listen to Crank’s show, you know that, indeed, he regularly calls out fellow conservatives on their bad behavior. I admire him for it.

But these latest salvos are of such a serious nature that even though he’s just a talk-radio host, as opposed to a real journalist, Crank should have provided concrete evidence of his accusations before leveling them.

Via twitter, I asked Crank for his proof that cash donations led to Hill’s Tea Party Express endorsement and for the names of the Hill donors he had in mind. I’ll update this post if he responds. See Crank’s extended comments on the topic, along with audio, here.

Crank, who twice ran for Congress as a Republican, apparently made the allegation based, in part, on his personal knowledge of the people involved.

“The folks that [Hill has] surrounded himself with are notorious for going out and trying to hijack a movement,” Crank said on air.

Crank: : “Yeah, look, there’s a history of this, both, I think, in the consultants that are working for Owen Hill. There’s been a consistent effort over the years to do this – to kind of create groups and kind of hijack names, if you will. I mean, certainly, they did it in my race by kind of hijacking the name of the Christian Coalition, when I ran for Congress. But they’ve done it several other times. They did it last year in Colorado. They formed a group called the ‘Colorado Tea Party.’ And they were about ready to send out a bunch of mailers endorsing candidates, and again, it’s just hijacking the name of the Tea Party. We saw it about three weeks ago, when the same candidate and his consultants sent out a press release saying that the movement – the recall organizers, the people that organized the recalls, were supporting a petition effort to get Owen Hill and Tom Tancredo on the ballot. Well, you know, I talked to a couple of the real organizers of the recall effort, and they said, ‘We’re not involved in that! We’re not supporting either of them.'”

On his Saturday show, the president of the Colorado Tea Party Patriots Regina Thompson told Crank that the Tea Party Express endorsement of Crank “certainly looks suspicious.”

And Loren Sheets, President of 285 Corridor Tea Party added that it’s “very likely” that money was involved in the Hill endorsement.

“You know,” Thompson continued on air, “Why else would this particular organization? I mean, they introduced him at their press conference as ‘the Tea-Party grassroots candidate.’ I mean, they said, ‘he is the grassroots candidate’ when in fact he’s not.”

So maybe if Crank doesn’t have evidence himself, he can get it elsewhere.

Denver Post correct on insurance cancellations, while KNUS and Gardner got it wrong

Monday, February 24th, 2014

On KNUS’ Kelley and Company a few weeks ago, Rep. Cory Gardner said:

Gardner: “I would gladly bring Barack Obama and take him around the state of Colorado, introduce him to the 335,000 Coloradans who lost their health insurance thanks to Barack Obama’s bill that Mark Udall passed.”

Gardner would have a tough time with these introductions because 335,000 such people do not exist. It’s not true that 335,000 Coloradans lost their health insurance thanks to Obamacare.

I wondered how Gardner could make this egregious mistake, because The Denver Post reported that the Department of Regulatory Agencies (DORA) wrote a letter specifically to Gardner, informing him that 335,000 Coloradans were sent letters stating that their health insurance policies were cancelled. They were advised of other health-insurance options, one of which, for 92 percent of these people, was to renew their existing policies or choose from other options.

I thought, maybe The Post got its facts wrong about the letter to Gardner. So I contacted DORA, and Communications Manager Vincent Plymell confirmed that DORA sent Gardner a letter stating that “92% [of 335,484] were offered the opportunity of early renewal and continue their plans into 2014.”

Just to make sure I wasn’t missing something in Gardner’s logic, I asked Plymell what “early renewal” meant:

Plymell: “‘Early renewal’ meant that instead of renewing their policies when the policies expired, they could renew early.  These would have been non-ACA compliant plans.”

Asked via email about the price for the renewals, Plymell wrote, “Some may have been at the same price, but as is common with renewals of policies in general (early or not), many would have been for higher premiums.” He added:

Plymell: Remember that for people receiving cancellation letters, they were required to be told by the carriers about all of their options – early renewal, if it was a possibility (and for 92% it was), other plans from that carrier, switching to another carrier, or Connect for Health Colorado.  If people didn’t like the renewal price, they had other options for coverage in 2014.  Also remember that prior to the plans for 2014, people with individual plans (as opposed to employer plans) did not tend to explore those options, because they did not want to have to apply again and go through underwriting, which could mean they could be denied or have their particular conditions excluded.  Going into 2014, they could realistically explore those options because they could not be denied for health reasons or have their pre-existing condition excluded from coverage.

So it looks like The Denver Post got it right, while KNUS and Gardner somehow missed the boat.

Gazette clarifies that anonymous Gessler critics don’t back Gessler opponents

Friday, February 21st, 2014

In a surprisingly sharp editorial yesterday arguing that Colorado Secretary of State Scott Gessler will be “crucified in the general election” if Republicans choose him to take on Hickenlooper, The Colorado Springs Gazette cited two anonymous sources:

“Democrats will have a field day with Gessler,” said a ranking Colorado Republican insider who spoke to The Gazette on background.

“I don’t think he’s electable.” Another ranking Republican, asked about Gessler as nominee, said only this: “train wreck.”

How can the Gazette offer up these anonymous sources without at least telling us that the people quoted don’t back State Sen. Greg Brophy or any of Geessler’s opponents?

So I asked Gazette Editorial Page Editor Wayne Laugesen if he’d tell me whether these sources are supporting one of the other GOP gubernatorial candidates. Or if they’re on the payroll of another candidate?

Laugesen: “Members of The Gazette’s editorial board know who the two sources are. Among those board members is my immediate supervisor, the publisher of The Gazette. Neither source has decided on a candidate (or so we are told). Each has employment that would forbid obtaining compensation from a candidate.”

Laugesen might consider tossing his clarifying statement onto his editorial page, in the unlikely event that any of his readers miss this blog post.

So now it’s up to readers to decide if they trust the Gazette on this. I do.

Reduced Staff of Political Reporters at Denver Post Reflects Decline in Colorado Journalism

Wednesday, February 19th, 2014

You hear complaints about The Denver Post’s reduced coverage of politics, but the newspaper still has more political reporters than any other news outlet in Colorado. And it’s still the state’s leading source of political news.

So, to show what’s happened to political journalism in Colorado recently, I thought I’d compare the number of Post reporters covering elections and the legislature today to the numbers in recent decades.

The most shocking comparison is the Post’s staffing today versus 2010, when Colorado had senatorial and gubernatorial elections, like we do this year. This November, like 2010, Colorado also has state-wide races for state treasurer and secretary of state, plus state legislative elections and one of the most competitive congressional races in the country.

Just four years ago, The Post had double the number political reporters dedicated to elections and the state legislative session (four versus eight). The newspaper had about eleven in 1960s, 1970s, and mid-1980s.

“I would like to have more resources at my disposal when it comes to covering politics in swing state Colorado in an election year while the legislature is in session,” Denver Post Politics Editor Chuck Plunkett told me via email. “Presently I’m asking Kurtis [Lee] and Lynn [Bartels] to do double duty. Lynn’s tracking the governor’s race while Kurtis tracks the Senate race. For the much-anticipated 6th DC contest, Carlos Illescas, recently assigned to focus on Aurora, is following Coffman and Joey Bunch is following Romanoff. Joey also does a mix of other stories. Obviously, on the national races we lean on Allison Sherry to help out from Washington. [Note: Since I corresponded with Plunkett, Sherry has announced her departure.]

“This is our present configuration. As the races heat up, that configuration could change. Change, of course, has never been a stranger to newsrooms. Being adaptable is what we’ve always been about.”

Curtis Hubbard, who was The Post’s Politics editor in 2010, described the political reporting staff he oversaw.

“Best guess is that, at a similar moment in time [in 2010], I had at least 8 reporters available to cover the statehouse and state and federal elections (though that number increased the closer we got to Election Day),” Hubbard emailed.

“During the primary phase, Karen Crummy covered the governor’s race; Michael Booth and Allison Sherry were pulled from other jobs in the newsroom to cover the U.S. Senate race; Michael Riley covered the delegation and congressional races from our D.C. bureau; Lynn Bartels, Tim Hoover and Jessica Fender covered statehouse races, the state treasurer’s race and congressional races; and John Ingold covered the Attorney General’s race, the Secretary of State’s race and general issues pertaining to elections and turnout.

“In my time there, The Post’s leadership team always understood the important role the publication played in informing voters on the issues and never shied away from adding reporters to the politics team as warranted. Additionally, The Post continually sought out ways to help bring understanding of the issues to voters, whether that was through launching online Voter Guides, which proved to be among the most popular online offerings each election season, or on-camera interviews with candidates.

“Despite the ongoing ‘right-sizing’ that has depleted the ranks of reporters and editors at The Post in recent years, the organization continues to dedicate more people to politics than any other news outlet in the state.“

During the 1960s and 1970s, when former Denver Post reporter Fred Brown started covering the Colorado Legislature, the newspaper assigned six reporters to election campaigns, plus five to the legislature, according to Brown. Brown wrote that the numbers were slightly reduced in the mid-1980s, when he returned to the beat.

The Denver Post used to assign about half a dozen reporters, or more, to election campaigns,” Brown told me via email. “Senatorial and gubernatorial campaigns had a total of four: One for each major party’s candidate. The congressional candidates usually were covered by suburban or regional reporters. Sometimes suburban reporters covered more than one congressional district, but they always covered both major-party candidates. Other state offices, and the legislative races, typically were covered by the chief political writer (me or others who had that role before and after).

“The dwindling staffing of election coverage reflects what happened to legislative coverage. The first dozen or so years I was part of the legislative team, there were five reporters and one photographer regularly assigned to the session. Leonard Larsen, Tom Gavin and Charles Roos joined me (the regular statehouse reporter) and one other general assignment reporter (assigned ad hoc) on the legislative team during the session. Duane Howell’s full-time assignment as a photographer was to cover the legislature when it was in session.”

Although they’re a useful measure and symbol of the decline of Colorado journalism, The Post’s staffing numbers don’t tell the whole story, which is obviously much more complicated.

So-called “computer-assisted reporting” allows reporters to be more efficient in many ways than they used to be.

And the experience and skill of individual reporters can make a huge difference. One good political reporter, whether at The Post or a regional newspaper, radio station, or other competitor (some of which have good political journalists on staff), can do the work of many lesser journalists.

Also, the long competition between the Rocky Mountain News and The Post affected staff levels at the newspapers and the quality of Colorado political journalism until the Rocky closed in 2009. In an email, former Rocky Editor John Temple described, in broad terms, the Rocky’s approach to coverage in the early/mid 2000s:

“Typically, as I recall, we had a reporter for the House and a reporter for the Senate,” Temple wrote. “I also liked to have a free-floating reporter, but I can’t tell you with any confidence that we did that every session. In addition, Peter Blake spent most of his time at the Capitol. We then would send in beat reporters as required. In other words, we wanted the higher ed reporter to cover education issues and take them out of the Capitol and provide perspective, or the environment reporter. As for political races, typically it is difficult to cover them during the session. But what we did was assign reporters to the different races. So each race or group of races would have someone responsible for it. Typically one of our legislative reporters would be responsible for legislative races, as I recall. Burt Hubbard would cover money and help other reporters with that type of data journalism. Every reporter would be responsible for money in his or her race/races.”

Political reporting on local TV is not filling The Post’s gap. As has been the case for decades, we’re lucky if a Denver TV station has one dedicated political reporter, even though, for example, the stations earned a combined total of $67 million in political advertising dollars in 2012. Only Fox 31’s Eli Stokols offers day-to-day political coverage, like a newspaper reporter, but 9News and CBS4 both have political reporters and contribute quality political journalism.

And new technology allows for the contribution of progressive and conservative journalists. (See the Colorado Independent and the Colorado Observer.) Bloggers and trackers and everyday people with cameras are also part of “journalism” in the state.

I’m not saying that The Post’s staffing levels are the definitive measure of political journalism in Colorado, but they’re a serious indicator of the state’s journalistic health. And so it’s hard to be anything but depressed about the current situation.

KFTM omits discussion of the real relationship issues undermining immigration reform

Tuesday, February 18th, 2014

House Speaker John Boehner announced last week that Republicans probably won’t do anything on immigration reform, because “there’s widespread doubt about whether this administration can be trusted to enforce our laws.”

This prompted Sen. Charles Schumer to suggest that Congress pass an immigration bill this year, with the stipulation that it not go into effect until 2017, after Obama leaves office. It was a creative idea, but Boehner rejected it, leading to ridicule by Comedy Central’s John Stuart. See below.

On KFTM radio last week, Colorado’s own Rep. Cory Gardner sided with Boehner about being unable to trust the president to enforce U.S. law, but he added a new twist. It was a relationship issue.

Gardner: I think there is need for reform but the bottom line is the President has to show a willingness to make sure that the law is enforced and to be able to work with Congress. And really, it’s unfortunate that the fact, this president put no effort into building relationships with Congress over the past four years on either side of the aisle. It’s really starting to hurt his policy efforts now.

Listen to Gardner discuss immigration KFTM 02 10 2014

Omitted was any consideration of the ideas that the relationship-management issues involved in immigration reform had more do to with the relationship between the Tea Party and establishment Republicans, not between Obama and Congress. Especially in light of the fact that the Senate already passed a bipartisan immigration-reform bill.

KFTM should bring Gardner back to find out which relationship strategies might have worked on him.

Herpin thanks Boyles for being “fair and balanced,” and then Boyles calls Stokols a “Butt Boy”

Thursday, February 13th, 2014

Minutes after State Sen. Bernie Herpin thanked KNUS talk-radio host Peter Boyles for being “fair and balanced,” Boyles called Fox 31 reporter Eli Stokols a “Butt Boy.”

Herpin and Boyles were angry over Fox 31 Denver coverage of Herpin’s statement that it was “maybe a good thing” that the Aurora m0vie-theater shooter had a 100-round magazine.

Asked by Boyles’ about Stokols’ coverage, Herpin said this morning, “As a media person you know it’s their job to sensationalize the news to attract readers and viewers and followers on their blogs.”

“Fortunately, we have people like you that stand up for us, that provide both sides of the story in a fair-and-balanced way,” Herpin told Boyles. “And I thank you for that.”

“Well, you’re kind,” responded Boyles, who really truly expressed his “love” Herpin earlier in the interview.

Listen to Herpin says Boyles is fair and balanced 02-13-14

After I tweeted Boyles’ conversation with Herpin, “Missing Pundit” responded with “Live from Kenya,” referring to Boyles’ birther obsessions.

Herpin stopped short of apologizing for his comment about the 100-round magazine, telling Boyles, “I certainly meant no disrespect to people.”

Boyles’ substantive criticism of Stokols’ reporting was that Stokols didn’t include the full context of Herpin’s quote until the lower portion of Stokols’ post. There, Stokols wrote: “Herpin was trying to say that larger magazines are less reliable, more prone to jamming up.” And then he provided Herpin’s full comment with video.

That doesn’t sound like reporting from a Butt Boy, whatever that means.

Denver Post Editor Greg Moore’s thoughts on the departure of veteran Post journalists

Thursday, February 13th, 2014

I’ve been chronicling the departure of journalists from The Denver Post, and Michael Roberts has done a much more thorough job of it on Westword’s Latest Word blog.

The list of keeps growing, the latest being The Post’s Washington DC chief Allison Sherry, who’s leaving to oversee the three-person DC office of the Minneapolis Star-Tribune.

Others who’ve left The Post include Kristin Arellano, Michael Booth, Tim Hoover, Curtis Hubbard,  Dave Krieger, Tom McKay, Dave Krause, Steve McMillan, Joan Niesen, Kevin Vaughan, and others.

I asked Denver Post editor Greg Moore to comment on the loss of so many respected journalists, most on their own volition, over the past few years. I told Moore it’s a sad situation, from my perspective.

Here’s Moore’s response, via email (You can read more of Moore’s thoughts here in a post by Roberts.):

Moore: “Movement has always been a part of industry and journalism is no different. We are happy for our colleagues who have found new challenges and we relish the opportunity to create new opportunities for those who remain at The Post. Many of the people who have left have been here for a long time and done terrific work. They left for better opportunities or a chance to do something else that would challenge them in new ways. The economy is getting better and so people are feeling confident about making a move. I am sure they bettered themselves financially. The news business has been downsizing, so if one is ready to move on their own terms, why wouldn’t they do it? I think it is absolutely great. I am not sure I understand why you think this is so sad. We are able to go out and hire new people with fresh perspectives and give them a chance to make their mark in the footsteps of some great journalists in a great news town. It would be sad if talented people left and we were not able to replace them or attract talent. But that is not the case. We are hiring new people, promoting others and rethinking ways to reallocate resources that further our mission as a digital operation. So no sad faces here. We will miss our former colleagues. But the challenges remain, great work is to be done and we intend to keep on doing it.”