Archive for the 'Westword' Category

Seven state lawmakers sign the Fake News Pledge

Friday, July 14th, 2017

Scott Nov. 6 Wikileaks fake newsThe Fake News Pledge has now been signed by seven state lawmakers, all Democrats: State Representatives Mike Foote of Lafayette, Susan Lontine of Denver, Michael Merrifield of Colorado Springs, and Michael Weissman of Aurora as well as State Sen. Irene Aguilar of Denver, State Senate Minority Leader Lucia Guzman of Denver, and State Sen. Dominick Moreno of Commerce City.

The Pledge is a promise not to spread fake news on Facebook. It defines fake news as a story “deemed false or inaccurate by Snopes, Politifact,, or by a respected news outlet.” It also must be “packaged to look somehow like news.” Everyone who supports factual discourse, Dem or Republican, should support it.

Westword’s Michael Roberts’ post on this topic today shows why the Pledge isn’t an empty gesture: Colorado state lawmakers and candidates spread obvious fake news on their Facebook pages. Look at the Westword piece, take a step back for a moment, and you realize realize how unbelievably crazy it is for elected officials and candidates to post this kind of stuff.

As far as I know, this is the only tangible step by state lawmakers nationally to fight fake news.

So the signers deserve our thanks for having the guts to try to do something.

And please note those who wouldn’t sign: Sen. Kevin Lundberg (R-Berthoud) and Sen. Tim Neville (R-Littleton). Neville told me that “each individual has to be the arbiter of fake news. Lundberg said the term fake news “smacks of a new censorship.”

Overall, I’ve found six Colorado state legislators who posted fake news on their Facebook pages (See here and here). Two removed it (State Rep. Polly Lawrence and former State Rep. Kit Roupe). Two told me they would not remove it (former State Rep. Gordon Klingenschmitt and State Sen. Tim Neville). Neville posted this: “Earth Is Nearly in Its 21st Year Without Global Warming.” And two lawmakers did not respond to my request that it be deleted (State Rep. Ray Scott, and former State Sen. Laura Woods).

After launching the Pledge, I was accused of being a “fake reporter” by former State Sen. Greg Brophy. And other conservatives attacked me, as if my being progressive somehow undermines the pledge. I am progressive, and I’m paid by progressives. I don’t hide it. But I’m committed to being factual in my writing–and we all can expect the same from our state lawmakers of any political stripe. So I’m hoping more of them sign the Pledge.

Boyles, Calhoun, Tancredo, and Bartels plan “world domination over lunch”

Friday, December 18th, 2015

On KNUS-710 AM’s website today, you’ll find, from left to right, radio host Peter Boyles, Westword’s Patricia Calhoun, former Congressman Tom Tancredo, and fomer Denver Post reporter Lynn Bartels (seated). The photo is titled the “Takeover Crew,” with the subtitle, “Planning world domination over lunch.”

Reporters continue to overlook fact that Suthers not duty-bound to defend CO same-sex marriage ban

Thursday, September 4th, 2014

CORRECTION — A previous version of this post stated incorrectly that Cynthia Coffman is on record opposing same-sex marriage. In fact, there is no record of her position on this issue.


In a long question-and-answer story in Westword, Attorney General John Suthers once again lays out his case that he is duty-bound to defend Colorado’s same-sex marriage ban until the bitter end. Which isn’t bitter, actually, because everyone expects the U.S. Supreme Court to overturn such bans.

Sounding all above-the-fray and bipartisany, Suthers tells Westword about his high-minded commitment to defend Colorado’s laws, even when he disagrees with them.

It sounds like maybe a beautiful thing, if it were true. But it’s not.

Left out of the Westword interview (and other media coverage of Suthers’ position) is the fact that under Colorado law, our Attorney General doesn’t have to defend laws (and constitutional amendments) that he deems unconstitutional. In fact, he’s supposed to go after those laws.

As former Deputy Attorney General Don Quick, a Democratic candidate for Attorney General, wrote in The Colorado Springs Gazette in July:

Quick: First, the Colorado Supreme Court unanimously ruled in 2003 that it is the attorney general’s job to challenge a law when there are concerns about its constitutionality. I remember it well, as I was chief deputy to Attorney General Ken Salazar when the court ruled in our favor. Coffman knows this also, as her office did the same thing last year. The Legislature passed a law restricting the display of marijuana-related magazines, and the Attorney General’s Office refused to defend it because it believed it was unconstitutional.

Quick is referring Cynthia Coffman, a Republican who’s running against Quick to replace Suthers. Coffman, who works in Suthers’ office, has embraced the Attorney General’s view that he had no choice  but to defend Colorado’s ban on same-sex marriage.

The 2003 Colorado Supreme Court ruling, to which Quick refers, involved the infamous effort by Colorado Republicans, challenged by Salazar at the time, to change Colorado’s congressional districts after they’d been established by court order subsequent to the 2000 Census. The decision delivered by Chief Justice Mullarkey stated that if the Attorney General has “grave doubts” about the constitutionality of a law (in this case an election-related law affecting an upcoming election) he or she must, “consistent with his ethical duties and his oath of office,” seek to “resolve those doubts,” meaning, in this narrow case, file a lawsuit (consolidated cases 03SA133 and 03SA147).

What’s more, attorneys general in at least six states, decided not to defend their states’ same-sex marriage bans. And U.S. Attorney General Eric holder has advised state attorneys general, like Suthers, that they are not obliged to defend state laws they see as discriminatory.

Against this backdrop, Suthers’ high-minded rhetoric about his duty to defend the constitution starts to look dark, even self-serving, especially when you hear he’s running for mayor of Colorado Springs, which is one of the few places where a crusade against gay marriage counts in your favor. That’s also essential context for any future stories on Suthers’ current defense of Colorado’s constitution.

Here’s what Suthers told Westword:

Westword: Colorado law requires the attorney general’s office to be responsible to federal constitutional law. How do you navigate loyalties between state and federal law?

Suthers: It’s quite simple: If a higher court tells us that our state law is unconstitutional under federal law and that’s the final decision, then that’s the deal. If the U.S. Supreme Court denies cert [request for judicial review] in the Tenth Circuit decision, [Colorado’s law banning same-sex marriage] is invalid and we accept that. But I think what you’re driving at is that some of my colleagues are saying that I’ve decided that this law’s unconstitutional under the federal constitution. I don’t think that’s my job.

Could you imagine if I selectively say: “You know, I think those gun laws passed by the legislature last year are unconstitutional. I agree with David Kopel [the attorney representing the plaintiffs in that case], so I’m not going to defend those laws.” Could you imagine the outrage in your newspaper if I did that? I frankly have a little bit of sympathy with this ma-and-pa baker out in Lakewood, who my office is prosecuting on behalf of the Colorado Civil Rights Commission for not selling a cake to a same-sex couple. I understand why he thinks this is real governmental intrusion on his life. That’s the law in Colorado. We passed a public-accommodations law that protects sexual orientation as well as gender and ethnicity and religion. It’s my job to defend that statute, despite the fact that I’m getting tons and tons of criticism from certain circles about that. If I saw my role as something other than being the best lawyer and started deciding and picking and choosing because I don’t think this law’s right, I think this law’s unfair, despite the fact that the court hasn’t told me that this law is unconstitutional, and I decided not to defend that, that is a very slippery slope.

Westword interview offers illuminating national perspective on abortion issues in state elections

Monday, September 23rd, 2013

In a Westword interview published today, NARAL President Ilyse Hogue says Virginia’s November gubernatorial race is “something of a test case” to find out if the anti-choice positions of a candidate prove to be his downfall, just as abortion issues tipped the electoral scales against 2010 Republican Senate candidate Ken Buck here in Colorado.

Westword’s Michael Roberts reports:

The Virginia governor’s race between abortion opponent Ken Cuccinelli and pro-choice hopeful Terry McAuliffe, which will come to a head in November 2013, a year before most of the other contests, is something of a test case, Hogue believes. Moreover, the strategy NARAL is employing there is the same one that helped elect Senator Bennet in Colorado — highlighting the anti-abortion positions of an opponent (in Bennet’s case, Ken Buck) whether or not they make them central to their campaign.

“Senator Bennet and politicians like him recognize that when the extreme positions of opponents are exposed and candidates are forced to speak to them and defend them in the public square, they lose,” Hogue maintains. “You hear politicians say, ‘I don’t want to talk about this. It’s a social issue, and people only want to hear about jobs and the economy.’ But that’s fundamentally untrue. Women’s economic livelihood is tied up with their ability to take charge of their family planning. That’s the real way Americans understand reproductive health and reproductive choice, and the extremists are very out of step with the common family experience in this country. We applaud Michael Bennet for his willingness to expose the extreme agenda of his opponent, and we think it’s a winning strategy we’d like to see replicated around the country.


“In Virginia, we’re seeing indications that voters who are otherwise on the fence or identify themselves as independents are being driven to not only go to the polls but vote for the pro-choice candidate when they see the extreme positions of the opponents extreme positions on choice — and Senator Bennet’s campaign provided great modeling on that,” she continues. “The protection of women to make personal decisions with their families and their doctors has not traditionally been a partisan issue. In Colorado, the laws were passed under a Republican governor [John Love, who signed a bill allowing abortion in the state circa 1967]. So, in these hyper-partisan times, we’re looking for states like Colorado to exemplify the fact that this is a family issue, not a Democratic or Republican issue, and that we expect our leaders to act accordingly.”

If you’ve been amazed at the starring role abortion issues have played on the political stage here is Colorado recently, you’ll enjoy the national perspective on the topic provided in Roberts’ piece today.