Teacher Files Lawsuit Addressing Public Pension Underfunding.

Courier Journal, November 11, 2014:

"A Louisville teacher filed a lawsuit Monday demanding that the Kentucky Teachers Retirement System do more to seek funding from the state and better communicate its financial woes with members."

"Randy Wieck, a U.S. history teacher at DuPont Manual High School who is behind the suit, alleges that KTRS has failed in its fiduciary duty by not aggressively pursuing the state money it needs to remain solvent." "He wants KTRS to support legal action against the Kentucky General Assembly if full funding for teacher pensions is not provided within a year."

(My comment: The Colorado approach to public pension underfunding has been breach of pension contract. Specifically, in 2010, Colorado PERA public pension officials supported legislation to take accrued public pension benefits to reduce pension system underfunding. These Colorado PERA officials argued that the contract for the Colorado PERA COLA benefit indeed existed, but that a one-time breach of the PERA COLA contractual obligation was "actuarially necessary." As litigation of the pension benefit taking progressed, Colorado PERA's lawyers abandoned their initial legal strategy ["actuarial necessity"] and suggested to the Colorado Supreme Court that [after having admitted to the existence of the contractual obligation] the contractual obligation did not exist. Apparently, the “justices” appointed to the Colorado Supreme Court [the five who participated in the case] were willing to don the blinders and grant any political favor requested by their political allies in the Colorado Legislative Branch. Thus, the Colorado Supreme Court ignored "stare decisis," disregarded 60-year old Colorado case law, failed to conduct a "contract analysis," ignored evidence of Colorado PERA's attorneys stating that the pension benefit was indeed a Colorado PERA contractual obligation, ignored the bill (SB10-001) sponsor's testimony that the pension benefit was in fact a Colorado PERA contractual obligation, ignored recorded legislative history of the contractual nature of the public pension benefit, failed to engage in the "heightened scrutiny" of the abandonment of state financial obligations required under federal case law (US Trust) and finally, the court embraced a discredited Denver District Court decision that, conveniently, did not bother to mention Colorado's on-point public pension case law. No trial, no discovery, evidence ignored, state government forgiving state government debt, billions of dollars seized, pensions inflated away. Grand Theft Pension.)

Courier Journal:

"The suit, filed in Jefferson Circuit Court, also demands that KTRS fully communicate its 'severe state of underfunding' to members and amend its protocol with new ethics and investment requirements."

"'The purpose of this is to urge the KTRS to take up this cause,' Wieck said."

"Wieck is seeking class-action status for more than 140,000 active and retired members who participate in teacher retirement plans through the system. Chris Tobe, a former trustee of Kentucky Retirement Systems and author of 'Kentucky Fried Pensions: A Culture of Cover-up and Corruption,' is among his advisers in the suit."

"But Robert Barnes, KTRS general counsel and deputy executive secretary of operations, said Monday that Wieck's argument lacks merit."

"'KTRS has been talking about this funding issue for some time with membership, and it has been requesting that the full funding be provided to the retirement system,' he said. 'It does that every budget request.'"

"According to the 2013 valuation of KTRS, the system faces more than $13.8 billion in unfunded liabilities and has only 52 percent of the money it needs to pay out pension benefits in coming decades."

"Officials say KTRS needs around $400 million a year in additional money from the state to shore up investments and meet its obligations."

"Barnes said the system is working with lawmakers to develop a financing plan that involves low-interest bonds — paid for with existing revenue streams."

"House Speaker Greg Stumbo, D-Prestonsburg, indicated last week that the Democratic-controlled House is interested in considering bonds as a funding option, but Senate President Robert Stivers, R-Manchester, has reserved judgment."

"Wieck also warned that he might file additional lawsuits against the legislature and the governor depending on what happens in the 2015 General Assembly."

"He said shoring up the system is critical considering that teachers do not receive Social Security benefits."

See the article at the Courier Journal here:

http://www.courier-journal.com/story/news/politics/ky-legislature/2014/11/10/jcps-teacher-sues-pension-system/18806717/

Discover the true nature of government in Colorado at saveperacola.com.

Disconcerting

The Senate narrowly defeated a bill calling on the President to approve the construction of the Keystone XL pipeline.  While the bill was introduced by Democratic Senator, Mary Landrieu, it got the vote of all the Senate Republicans and only a couple of Democrats.  But one of them was none other than our own, Michael Bennet.  Is this website going to even mention that fact?  Are you going to take a position on Sen. Bennet's vote.  I anxiously await your response.

No War on Christmas at The Post, Despite Right-Wing Allegation

(The war on Christmas starts earlier every year – Promoted by Colorado Pols)

war_on_xmas

In its annual "Friend or Foe of Christmas" campaign, the Liberty Counsel, a right-wing Florida-based organization, is targeting The Denver Post for allegedly banning newspaper carriers from writing "Merry Christmas" on holiday cards that they give to newspaper subscribers.

Liberty Counsel claimed that The Post, in a memo to staff, threatened to fire employees who use a Merry-Christmas card or any card other than the holiday card issued by The Post.

"Federal regulations state that employers must make reasonable efforts to accommodate the sincerely held religious beliefs of their employees," states the Liberty Counsel email, parts of which were reproduced in a news release here. "It is ludicrous to threaten termination for wishing someone a 'Merry Christmas,' a federal holiday."

Brian Trujillo, The Post's Circulation Director, told me The Post did not issue a threatening memo on this topic to anyone, as alleged by Liberty Counsel.

(more…)

Rosen implied Denver Post had agenda to elect Romanoff but, oops, the newspaper endorsed Coffman

("Liberal media" strikes again! - Promoted by Colorado Pols)

Mike Coffman.

Mike Coffman.

This has been sitting on my shelf for a while, but I thought I'd post it today because I love it so much when Denver radio-host Mike Rosen whines about how The Denver Post practices "agenda journalism" in favor of liberals.

Rosen was sure The Post was in the pocket of Andrew Romanoff. His proof? A news story by Post reporter Mark Matthews.

Discussing the Coffman-Romanoff race in the excerpt below, which aired on his KOA 850-AM radio show Oct. 16 before the Post endorsed Coffman, Rosen implied that The Post was about to back Romanoff.

But The Post endorsed Coffman instead.

It's conservative media criticism at its worst, replete with unsupported assumptions and anger that hurts journalism and, you'd think, Rosen himself. It looks particularly absurd coming from Rosen, who has a platform as a Post columnist.

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Election Night Lesson: Conservation Universal Value in Colorado

[Promoted by Colorado Pols]

 

From our Executive Director Pete Maysmith: 

 

Have you ever seen a politician stand up and say, “I have an inconsistent voting record, get all kinds of funding from special interest groups and don’t truly have my constituents’ best interests at heart”?

 

Of course not; part of politics is spin.

We certainly learned a great deal about spin this fall. The lesson from Colorado’s statewide midterm elections?  This state cares about the environment and will not tolerate candidates who openly endanger it.

In the governor’s race, Bob Beauprez learned the hard way that being openly anti-environment will not go well in Colorado.  Publicly endorsing public land seizure, promising to repeal renewable energy standards and supporting costly water diversion projects, Beauprez was clearly a threat to some of Colorado’s most dearly held priorities.  These issues alone may not have cost him the election, but they were certainly a factor. Especially considering the fact that his opponent, incumbent Gov. Hickenlooper, faced strong headwinds after some unpopular decisions while in office.  Despite these setbacks, Hickenlooper beat Beauprez by over 3%.  It was not a photo finish but a clear, unequivocal victory.

 

On the other hand, Cory Gardner nabbed his Senate seat in no small part because of an effort to appear pro-environment.  Appearing in a now-infamous ad in front of a wind farm, he declared himself “a new kind of Republican” and labeled himself a pioneer of Colorado’s green energy economy.  His voting record would suggest otherwise (Gardner’s time in the House earned him a 9% lifetime score from the League of Conservation Voters), but his smoke and mirror tricks ultimately paid off.  

 

The optimistic environmentalist would hope that Senator-elect Gardner is in fact committed to keeping Colorado clean, and we share that hope.  But based on his voting record, consistent support of the Keystone XL pipeline, and tendency to minimize the impact of environmental concerns, we’re skeptical.  At the very least, we are certain we’ll miss our friend Mark Udall, who was a consistent champion for wilderness and the environment for Colorado in the US Senate.  

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The Big Line 2016 is Up

BigLineFlag16PNG

The 2014 election cycle is about 10 days old, which means it's a perfect time to start talking about…2016!

We've updated The Big Line 2016 for your reading and complaining pleasure. A few notes to get you started:

► We are sticking with the percentages rather than returning to fractional betting odds. This is just easier for everyone, all the way around.

► Remember that the percentages reflect our suggested odds for winning a General Election matchup. For example, the Republican candidates for U.S. Senate will likely all have longer odds at winning in 2016 until the Primary field shakes out more completely (after all, you have to win a Primary before you can win a General).

► Because it is a Presidential Election Cycle, we are including the candidates for President — but only to the extent of projecting their chances at winning Colorado in 2016. You know, because this is Colorado Pols and all.

On to The Big Line 2016!

 

Will Colorado Union Leaders Relinquish Remaining Colorado PERA Pension Contractual Rights?

The Colorado Legislature has underfunded the Colorado PERA pension system for more than a decade, but from Colorado public sector union leaders we hear not a peep (one might expect them to defend their members' financial interests.)

Today (November 13, 2014), a letter was published which illuminates Colorado government's historical mismanagement of the state's public pension system, Colorado PERA. Below, I provide some excerpts from the letter (by Dinah McKay):

"Colorado needs public employee pension protection laws."

"In Colorado, conservative think tanks (backed by Wall Street firms that stand to financially gain) are spreading anti-public-worker propaganda claiming that PERA (Public Employees’ Retirement Association) employees and retirees are greedy parasites and their exorbitant benefits are going to bankrupt the state. They cite billions of dollars of unfunded pension liabilities as debt that taxpayers will have to pay off. Their tactics are to manufacture the perception of a public pension crisis and their only solution to 'save PERA' is to drastically cut benefits and privatize the pension plan. They would like to strip PERA employees and retirees of their rights to their earned pension benefits and allow Wall Street hedge fund managers to raid PERA assets."

(My comment: For the record, it should be noted that Colorado union leaders supported legislation in 2010 [SB10-001] that ultimately resulted in the elimination of their union member's contractual rights to the Colorado PERA statutorily specified "annual benefit increase" [ABI.] Will Colorado unions defend unionists' remaining contractual public pension rights?  Or, will the unions also choose to relinquish the remaining Colorado PERA contractual rights to the benefit of corporate interests, i.e., lower future corporate tax burdens? Too soon to tell.)

"They don’t mention that the Colorado State Legislature has been underfunding its employers’ obligations to PERA for 12 years and that state employers’ unfunded liabilities have accrued into billions of dollars. (Note: These are state employers’ unfunded liabilities. New GASB accounting rules now require state employers to report their unfunded actuarially accrued liabilities owed to PERA in their annual financial statements)."

"Prior to 2003, the Colorado State Legislature had always met its employers’ actuarially required contributions (ARC) to PERA at 100 percent and since PERA began in 1931, it has weathered every recession. Beginning in 2003 (under Governor Owens) to the present, the state legislature has decided not to fund what actuaries have determined is the state employers’ percentage of payroll (ARC) required to keep the PERA trust fund sound. (PERA employees have always met their required employee contributions to PERA from their monthly paychecks without fail)."

"According to statistics from the Center for Retirement Research at Boston College Public Plans database, the ARC percentages the Colorado State Legislature paid to its employers’ State division were: 2003 = 69 percent, 2004 = 51 percent, 2005 = 48 percent, 2006 = 58 percent, 2007 = 56 percent, 2008 = 63 percent, 2009 = 61 percent. From 2003 to 2009, the Colorado State Legislature created a 42 percent funding shortfall in its State division."

"PERA’s underfunding can be directly traced to the Colorado State Legislature’s failure to make its employers’ actuarially required contributions."

"If you ask your state legislator why the state is not meeting its employers’ annual required contributions to PERA, they may not even be aware that the state legislature is underfunding PERA, or even know what an ARC is. They will likely say, 'Oh, PERA was fixed in 2010 with SB 1,' but they won’t answer your question. If you keep asking, some legislators may not want to talk with you because they do know. They know the money is being diverted and they know retirees got fleeced with SB 1."

"In 2010, the Colorado State Legislature passed Senate Bill 10-001 with pension reforms that broke its contractual obligations with 50,000 PERA retirees. SB 1 primarily targeted this elderly group with the burden of making up billions of dollars, or 90 percent of the state’s unfunded employers’ contribution shortfall to the PERA fund since 2003. SB 1 was not a 'shared sacrifice' as PERA administrators purported in order to sell the deal to employees."

"Political alliances between corporate lobbyists, legislators and PERA administrators forged this bait and switch deal that was precut outside normal legislative processes. Primarily retirees (not taxpayers) will make up for the billions of dollars of state employers’ contributions diverted from the PERA trust fund that the state legislature has used instead to fund multimillion-dollar corporate handouts and business tax breaks, subsidies and other popular discretionary programs without raising taxes. It’s immoral and corrupt to take elderly middle-class retirees’ earned pension benefits (deferred wages) by stealthy means and shift their wealth to subsidize very very wealthy corporate and business interests. (Google: David Sirota’s report, “The Plot Against Pensions — The Pew-Arnold campaign to undermine America’s retirement security — and leave taxpayers with the bill.” and Matt Taibbi’s article, “Looting the Pension Funds.”) There is also a double standard in Colorado law (SB12-149) that protects county government retirees’ pensions while PERA retirees’ benefits can be abrogated."

"Since enacting SB 10-001, the Colorado State Legislature has continued to underfund its employers’ contributions to the PERA trust fund, even with a $512 million-dollar budget surplus. The 2013 Colorado PERA Comprehensive Annual Financial Report, page 34, states: 'In 2013, the actual contributions, as set in statute, were $278.0 million less than the ARC as calculated by the actuaries.'”

"For 12 years, why have PERA trustees not taken action on behalf of public employees to compel the state legislature to fully fund their employers’ contributions to PERA instead of conspiring with corporate lobbyists in 2010 to break the contracts of 50,000 retirees to make up the debt. Every year, the state legislature can always find plenty of money to hand out more and more corporate tax breaks and subsidies, yet the State of Colorado continues to be a deadbeat employer."

"A subsidy tracker report published by Good Jobs First, 'Subsidizing the Corporate One Percent,' found that three-quarters of all the economic development dollars awarded by state and local governments in the name of job creation have gone to just 965 large corporations by tracing parent company to subsidiary ties. The New York Times’ report, 'United States of Subsidies,' found Colorado spends at least $995 million per year on incentive programs. CU News Corps’ four part series, 'House of Subsidies,' analyzed this year’s Colorado legislative session and the key corporate tax-credit incentive bills lawmakers passed and found that they don’t always work as lawmakers intend and their effectiveness is being challenged by a variety of experts whose candid remarks are worth the read. CU News Corps reporter, Lars Gesing states, 'According to the latest Enterprise Zone Annual Report, 7,212 jobs have been created through Enterprise Zone program incentives in fiscal year 2013. At the same time, businesses claimed tax credits for $3.89 billion worth of investments, or more than $530,000 per job.' The Denver Post in 2011 ran an investigative series on the Enterprise Zone program and found that Colorado companies claimed more than $75 million worth of tax credits in 2010, but those companies only created a net 564 jobs."

"Colorado PERA employees and retirees deserve a pension plan that is adequately funded on an annual basis. Colorado should pass laws similar those recently passed in Tennessee. On May 28, 2014, Republican Governor Bill Haslam of Tennessee signed into law a bill called Public Employee Defined Benefit Financial Security Act of 2014 that requires all local government entities that operate pension plans in Tennessee to pay the payments recommended by their actuaries each year in order to protect the financial stability of local governments and to protect workers’ pensions. (http://www.tn.gov/sos/ acts/108/pub/pc.0990.pdf ) Dinah McKay/Boulder.)

The complete letter by Dinah McKay can be read here:

http://www.boulderweekly.com/article-13611-letters-week-of-november-13.html

In their propaganda supporting the 2010 breach of pension contracts in our state, Colorado PERA administrators have tried to justify (in part) the abrogation of state and local pension contracts by noting the support of public sector unions for the "COLA-taking" bill, SB10-001. 

As we read on the Colorado PERA website:

“In Colorado, Senate Bill 1 passed with the support of the Colorado Coalition for Retirement Security, which brought together Friends of PERA (which includes PERA members and retirees), the Colorado Education Association, the Colorado School and Public Employees Retirement Association, AFSCME Colorado, the American Federation of Teachers Colorado, the Association of Colorado State Patrol Professionals, the Colorado Association of School Executives, and Colorado WINS.”

http://www.copera.org/pera/about/ask.htm

In a recent article AFSCME (International) writes:

"The very Wall Street-backed politicians who raided and underfunded the pension systems in the first place are now 'using scare tactics and lavishly funded PR campaigns to cast teachers, firefighters and cops – not bankers – as the budget-devouring boogeymen responsible for the mounting fiscal problems of America's states and cities,' he writes."

http://www.afscme.org/blog/lawmakers-loot-public-pension-funds-then-blame-retirees-for-underfunding

Here was my response to the AFSCME article:

"AFSCME, if you really believe this post, why did you allow your affiliate, AFSCME Colorado, to support the breach of Colorado PERA pension contracts in 2010, after the Colorado Legislature had underfunded the pension for a decade?  The Colorado Legislature failed to pay its pension bills for a decade, essentially borrowing from the pension fund, now they seek to shift their debt onto the backs of retired public sector workers.  It's sick, but your own people supported this in 2010.  Visit saveperacola.com."

I received a response from a former AFSCME Colorado official:

"Actually Al, that isn't what happened: The rank and file members of Colorado State Employees AFSCME Local 821 had their local dissolved by a unilateral decision of AFSCME International and the Executive Board of Colorado AFSCME Council 76, prior to the sellout, as they were to be 'incorporated' into the Colorado WINS 'partnership' created with Ritter: without their consent or even being given the right to vote on the matter.  The AFSCME 'representatives' who endorsed the PERA plan (i.e. Vivian Stovall and company) weren't even state employees: they were members of Denver City employees AFSCME Local 158, who aren't even covered by PERA. The Colorado State AFSCME retirees (Phyliss Zamaripa, Kathy Bacino, and Guy Santo) opposed the PERA plan put forth by Ritter, Schaffer, and Penry at the public hearing where proponents were allowed to testify first, and at length while opponents had their testimony relegated to the end of the hearing, and had their testimony time truncated. So please don't give the impression that the rank and file members of Colorado State AFSCME Local 821 had anything to do with this sellout, because we didn't. Give the credit to where it is due: Give it to Colorado WINS, and the SEIU."

My response:

"Thanks for this new information. I have noted that Colorado AFSCME supported the PERA pension contract breach since Colorado PERA has made this claim in its propaganda. Al"

And another reply from the former AFSCME official:

"The entire AFSCME endorsement of screwing public employees out of their pension COLA's in Colorado is unfortunately quite true, however, it should be remembered that AFSCME no longer represents Colorado State Employees, and it hasn't for about 7 years now. It was decided 7 years ago in a backroom deal in Washington that the three state employee unions would become Colorado WINS. The rank and file members of AFSCME Locals in Colorado were not given the right to vote on this, nor were the members of CAPE or the CFPE. The people who espouse 'democratic labor trade unionism' in America, wouldn't allow it to take place in Colorado. Ritter and company granted an exclusive franchise to Colorado WINS (which is a subsidiary of SEIU) and Colorado State employees do not have the right to belong to any other union, as both Change To Win and the AFL-CIO have prevented other unions (such as the CWA, which has had a consistent record of fighting for public employees' pensions) from organizing. Thanks to their betrayal of Colorado State employees, Colorado AFSCME Council 76 is now a bankrupt shell of an organization that represents some county employees in Pueblo, city employees in Aurora, the remnants of Denver City employees Local 535 and 158 and the maintenance staff at DU. They have one 'assistant Executive Director' and two clerical workers for a staff. All they are is a paper tiger, shell organization that is used as a conduit to 'move money' in state elections."

My response:

"That seems rather disingenuous on the part of Colorado PERA to attempt to rationalize the COLA-taking by citing the support of AFSCME Colorado, if AFSCME Colorado does not actually represent any employees in PERA."

"Have you ever heard any sort of an explanation from Colorado WINS for breaking PERA contracts? I have always assumed it was to minimize future contributions that might be needed from active Colorado WINS members. To the extent that money can be taken from PERA retirees, the needed pension support from current workers is diminished, not a very good reason to trash the Colorado Constitution."

Former AFSCME official:

"Yes, doesn't it? But then again, let us not forget the first piece of legislation that Colorado WINS supported was the bill written by Democratic Senator Dan Gibbs to do away with state employees having the right to strike or engage in labor stoppages. The 'S' in AFSCME is supposed to stand for 'State' but the International of AFSCME basically gave up on Colorado when Wellington Webb failed to deliver his campaign promise to give Denver City employees collective bargaining. The grand plan was 'First we'll get collective bargaining for Denver, then we'll repeal 8-73-104 (C) of the Colorado Labor Peace Act, and get all public employee's collective bargaining rights.' After they realized that wasn't going to happen, Gerry McEntee, Paul Booth, and Larry Scanlon decided to cut their losses, and 'traded' the Colorado State Employee locals to the SEIU which had acquired CAPE (that had gone into virtual bankruptcy when Bill Owens prohibited employees having their dues deducted from their paychecks.) All in all, it was a rather tawdry affair, and for AFSCME Council 76 to come out in favor of screwing public employees out of their pensions by having members of Local 158 of who were hacks from the Denver Democratic Party and Ritter supporters is just reflective of the fact that AFSCME has always placed the interests of the union and the Democratic Party above that of rank and file employees they profess to represent."

My response:

"As I recall, Miller Hudson, formerly of CAPE also supported SB10-001. This is ironic since Bill Owens eviscerated CAPE financially. Bill Owens is very culpable in the decline of PERA's funded ratio (selling PERA service credit cheap to encourage the departure of the more 'expensive' older employees, i.e., shifting labor costs from Colorado governments to PERA.) Why would Miller Hudson go along with pushing the PERA debt burden onto Colorado PERA retirees when the problem was caused by Bill Owens, and Bill Owens actions harmed CAPE? It doesn't make sense."

Former AFSCME official:

"You'd have to ask Miller about that one. Now as far as Colorado WINS goes, well, you have to understand the way union organizers think: Why should they be concerned about the pensions of state employees who were not members of their union? What WINS wants is current state employees, and most of them who have been hired since 2005 don't have the same pension plan as older state employees, and that is not what they are concerned about: By concentrating on health care costs, and doing away with the inequitable 'pay for performance' plan proposed by Penn Pfifner and signed into law by Romer, Colorado WINS needs to play nice with the legislature and the executive branch so that they can market themselves with a 'victory,' to the majority of state employees who don't belong to their organization, or care about somebody else's pension. So why play the heavy and alienate the incumbent politicians in somebody else's fight?  If you win, well, good. They'll get up there and say they were with you all the way……"

Discover the true nature of government in Colorado at saveperacola.com.

What the Lame Duck Session Means to our Federal Courts

After the 2014 Midterm elections in early November, the Senate will return to work for what is commonly called a “lame duck” session. While a “lame duck” session sounds…well…lame, this winter, it must not be an excuse for inaction. Among other pieces of business, there are many judicial nominees that must get confirmed to fill vacancies on our nation’s federal courts and keep the wheels of justice moving. 

The Senate has a constitutional duty to advise and consent on the President’s nominees to serve as judges on our Nation’s federal courts. Going into the 2014 lame duck period, there are 64 current judicial vacancies and 34 nominees pending in the Senate. It is vital for the Senate to stay in session until every judicial nominee on the floor gets a yes-or-no vote. If these judges are not confirmed, our federal courts will not be able handle the issues – from marriage equality to voting rights to health care to immigration – that affect all of us.

Click here to tell our Colorado Senators to make judicial nominations a priority during the lame duck session.

Although Senators may want to get home for the holidays, Senators from both parties should stay in DC and put aside political differences to confirm needed judges. There is a historical precedent for this: In 2010 and 2012 lame duck sessions, a total of 32 judicial nominees were confirmed. Senators should apply a similar focus this session. In the 2002 lame duck session, Democrats controlled the Senate. In a spirit of bipartisanship, even though they were the opposition party, they nonetheless confirmed 20 of President Bush’s judicial nominees. Republicans today should put aside politics and get to work to get nominees waiting for a vote confirmed. 

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Journalists express frustration during discussion of election news coverage

(Interesting stuff - Promoted by Colorado Pols)

The Columbia Journalism Review's Rocky Mountain Correspondent, Corey Hutchins, has posted highlights of a panel discussion Tuesday, moderated by Compass Colorado's Kelly Maher and me, on local news coverage of the 2014 election.

Here are three of Hutchins' eight highlights:

Bored on the Bus

KDVR’s Eli Stokols on covering the modern professional campaign:

"Unfortunately there were very few days where I sat there and I said, ‘Absolutely have to shoot this today,’ because it was so rare that these candidates were actually available, putting out public schedules, doing public events… I rode on the Udall bus, I went up to Fort Collins and Greeley a couple times to find Cory [Gardner] when he was speaking to Republicans there, and you know, you would get the same rehearsed, trite lines from all of them. And when you sat them down in an interview you got the same rehearsed, trite lines from both. And so maybe it is incumbent on us to be better, to push them out of their comfort zone a little bit … I think that’s the tough part of the modern campaign. Campaigns with money are so not reliant anymore on mainstream media to get their message out, especially in a market like this [in Colorado] where there is not such a critical mass of media."

The Denver Post didn’t want to cover ‘scripted theater’

Post politics editor [Chuck] Plunkett said his paper didn’t want to fall into the trap of covering what he called the “scripted theater” of the campaigns. So in the early spring, he said, he gathered staff for multiple substantive discussions about issues they wanted to address this election season, so they weren’t just “having to chase the Twitter around, having to chase the horse race around.” Some of the issues they decided to focus on were immigration, the ground game, and money, and how candidates evolved on issues. Also, for the first time, the paper held its own recorded debates in its auditorium instead of partnering with a TV station….

Didn’t approve this ad

CBS4’s [Shaun Boyd] provided some levity when she spoke of how she’d recoiled at seeing her on-air reporting appear in a political ad on TV. To her dismay, her station ran the ad on its airwaves. But, she said, other TV stations in Denver didn’t air it because they didn’t want to highlight the reporting of a competitor.

In his post, Hutchins discusses the journalists' frustration with the scripted answers from the candidates. Riccardi, in particular, talked about how closely the professional candidates stay on their talking points, and he said he hoped to walk away from the campaign trail more often in the future and write about the election from an outside-the-box perspective.

That's a good idea, but I thought local journalists could have at least tried to break the campaign script more often during the last election on many issues. And even if they didn't break it completely, they could have spotlighted candidates' manipulative or repetitive talking points more clearly for voters, like Eli Stokols did in his interview with Senator-elect Cory Gardner.

(more…)

US Banking “Fraud” Underpins Colorado PERA Pension “Fraud.”

It is ironic that "criminal" US banking fraud contributed to the 2008/2009 market decline that was later used in Colorado as a "window of opportunity" for a $9 billion "fraudulent" government breach of the contracts of elderly Colorado residents.

In sanctioning the 2010 Colorado PERA public pension contract breach, the Colorado Supreme Court recently and conveniently found that Colorado state government is not required to pay accrued Colorado PERA pension debts. (That is, one branch of Colorado government conveniently found that another branch of Colorado government is not required to pay its accrued debts.)

In order to reach this conclusion, the Colorado Supreme Court ignored its own long-standing legal precedent, failed to conduct a "contract analysis," ignored evidence of Colorado PERA's attorneys stating that the pension benefit was indeed a Colorado PERA contractual obligation, ignored the bill (SB10-001) sponsor's testimony that the pension benefit was in fact a Colorado PERA contractual obligation, ignored recorded legislative history of the contractual nature of the public pension benefit, failed to engage in the "heightened scrutiny" of the abandonment of state financial obligations required under federal case law (US Trust) and embraced a discredited Denver District Court decision that did not even mention Colorado's on-point public pension case law. In the United States, political connections can be used to quash legal investigations of banking fraud, and political connections can be used to summarily erase billions of dollars of government debt.

Note that the Colorado PERA public pension taking has several features in common with the federal banking fraud that nearly collapsed the US economy; secret backroom deals; an existing paper trail ignored (more than 1,000 pages at saveperacola.com); evidence ignored; no trial; no discovery; no accountability; and billions of dollars seized.

http://saveperacola.com/

2009

Senator Josh Penry, in a videotaped discussion with Representative Mike May, (videocenter. denverpost.com) said ‘we can’t, can’t miss this window.’ And, . . . we have an opportunity to pass something that Republicans have long advocated, a significant increase in retirement age, which the PERA Board embraced, reigning in the cost of living increases . . .

“Penry went on to say, ‘I think it is important to pass something because if you lose actuarial necessity, as you know, it becomes extremely difficult to increase retirement age. You cannot change course and this year, when PERA’s investment numbers come out, their investment returns . . . numbers are going to be significant, like double, 15-16% investment return. So that could change the specter of actuarial necessity. We gotta’ do it this year or else these other structural changes won’t be possible.”

http://www.leg.state.co.us/Clics/clics2010a/commsumm.nsf/b4a3962433b52fa787256e5f00670a71/84960fa73d53e222872576c600712e80/$FILE/10HseFin0210AttachG.pdf

Senator Josh Penry, co-prime sponsor, SB10-001 appearing on Your Show, Channel 20 with Channel 9 News (KUSA-TV) host Adam Schrager on January 10, 2010 at 10:30 a.m.:

“What the courts have said with the case law and opinions have said is that you can’t, it is a contract unless there is actuarial necessity.”

Discover the true nature of Colorado government at saveperacola.com.

See this video regarding the recent US banking fraud:

http://www.democracynow.org/2014/11/7/matt_taibbi_and_bank_whistleblower_on

Told Ya So Part III: The Elephant in the Room

(Discuss - Promoted by Colorado Pols)

As Colorado Pols continues to scour the election results for positive data points from a mediocre result they continue to miss the larger issue from last Tuesday's electoral dysfunction: Democrats did not have a coherent message to run on nor candidates that could create one of their own.

Harry Truman, Truth Teller

The most glaring example of this and the latest victim of ignoring Harry Truman is Mark Udall:

What about Mark Udall in Colorado, another Democrat who lost in a purple state that Obama carried? Udall built his campaign narrative around a war on women by his opponent Rep. Cory Gardner. He, like Braley, ticked off a list of progressive issues — from minimum wage to pay equity to protecting Social Security — without providing any framing story to link them together. He left out who the villains are in the story.

Udall also committed the ultimate narrative sin: delivering your opponent's story. Here's the closing line of a Udall ad: "I'm Mark Udall. No one — not government, not Washington — should have the power to take those rights and freedoms away." Voters who wanted the anti-government candidate chose the real thing!

Udall would have had a much broader audience for his "war on women" message if he framed it as part of a broader war on American families by the rich and powerful. It is easy to make opposition to pay equity or a woman's right to make her own decisions part of this broader story, which speaks to Americans' deep concerns about their families.

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For Veterans Day, Help Curb Loans That Harm Military Families

(Help win the war on payday lending, a battle close to our hearts – promoted by Colorado Pols)

bigstock-Neon-Sign-series-payday-loan-259047411-e1363870922652

Tomorrow is Veterans Day, so this is a good time to highlight ongoing action by the Department of Defense that is designed to protect active-duty service members and their families from abusive lending practices.

The DoD has proposed extending restrictions on predatory lending, which traps many service members and their dependents. The proposal would expand the number of lending products covered by the military’s 36 percent interest rate cap, and it would close loopholes that lenders have used to get around the current rate cap.
The proposed rule was published in the Federal Register on Sept. 30. A 60-day comment period ends Nov. 28. (See below how you can help support this rule.)

Colorado has implemented successful payday lending reforms, but the new rule would apply here as well. It would limit the interest and fees that military borrowers could be charged to 36 percent APR. Because loans here have a minimum six-month term, they are currently exempt from the DoD’s 36 percent rate cap. According to data from the attorney general’s office, in 2012, Colorado's payday loans had an average effective rate of 129 percent APR.

The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau strongly supports the DoD’s proposed rules, as do a wide range of consumer groups, including the Center for Responsible Lending, Consumer Federation of America and the National Consumer Law Center.

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It’s the Fucking Media’s Fault! Or is it?

(We always blame the media – promoted by Colorado Pols)

It’s easy to complain about journalism among friends. But what do you get out of it? Echoes or silence.

Here’s a chance to talk back to the media directly. On Tuesday, a panel of top local journalists will discuss the highs and lows of media coverage of the 2014 election—and take questions from the audience.

The panel features Shaun Boyd, Political Specialist, CBS4, Peter Marcus, Denver Correspondent, Durango Herald, Chuck Plunkett, Politics Editor, The Denver Post, Nicholas Riccardi, Western Political Reporter, Associated Press, and Eli Stokols, Political Reporter, Fox 31 Denver.

Any question about local news coverage of the election is fair game. Why so few stories about Bob Beauprez’s wild birther ideas? Were John Hickenlooper’s gaffes underplayed? Did reporters allow senatorial candidate Cory Gardner to bury his Tea Party past? What about Benghazi, ISIS, and Obama?

The panel will cover the spectrum of opinions in part because moderators come from the left and right on the political spectrum: Kelly Maher is director of the conservative Compass Colorado, and yours truly is a progressive blogger.

The event takes place Tuesday, Nov. 11, from 7:30-9 a.m. at 1380 Lawrence Street in the 2nd-floor Terrace Room.

It’s free, and even includes coffee and continental breakfast. Doors open at 7:30 a.m. and the discussion runs from 7:45 – 9 a.m. Please RSVP to tips @bigmedia.org. You can also email questions, if you don’t want to ask them yourself.

Paul Teske, Dean of University of Colorado Denver’s School of Public Affairs, will offer introductory remarks. UCD’s School of Public Affairs is sponsoring the event, along with BigMedia.org and Compass Colorado.

Unpacking “Abortion”: What White Men Don’t Get

Or, “Why Mark Udall and Amendment 67 Both Lost in 2014″

I was sitting in my living room a number of months ago, when a Udall commercial came on television and our wonderful Colorado senior U.S. Senator confidently and clearly articulated the word, “abortion”. “He’s going to lose”, I told my husband, “Mark’s going to lose”.

White men don’t get it — especially the kind of 30 year old, private school-educated, pea-coat-wearing frat boys who run market research firms and conduct polls and fly back and forth between DC and Denver — the kind who show up in every federal election, advising Senate and Congressional candidate campaigns on behalf of the DCCC or the DSCC. Out of touch and clueless about middle-aged or retired suburban women, or people of color of all ages in CO, they brought down Joe Miklosi’s congressional campaign in 2012, and they just brought down one of the best U.S. Senators we’ve ever had, Mark Udall. Udall’s team should have questioned their advice and trusted local grassroots, boots-on-the-ground opinions instead. They can’t say they weren’t warned.

Although the “frat boys” (as I like to call them) are confident in the answers they receive in their polls and surveys, they ask all the wrong questions. Any federal level candidates in CO who continue to run campaigns without having every important CO demographic represented on their strategy teams will lose in the future (are you listening, Senator Bennet?). If they want to understand suburban, middle class mothers or college-aged people of color, or seniors on fixed incomes, they better have them on their steering committees in similar proportions.

The abortion issue is a perfect example. Research shows the vast majority of women want abortion to be legal and safe (this is not a Democratic secret, folks). For some people (including young men), the battle cry “My body, my choice” resonates with an underlying libertarian “don’t tell me what to do” chord. For many women I have spoken with about this issue, either as a women’s leader, or as a former crisis center counselor, or as an activist/organizer who has knocked on thousands of CO doors over many years, abortion is not a black and white, intellectual issue – it is a personal, very private decision which is frequently not discussed in polite company. For some women, it is a painfully emotional subject associated with layers of spiritual, family and financial baggage. For many women, terminating a pregnancy is a tug-of-war with their heart, and certainly not a subject they are comfortable having bantered about ad nauseum on their living room televisions by a bunch of men who have no proverbial clue what it is like to be a woman. For many women, the entire conversation is off-limits, and the frankness of the political ads makes them feel very, very uncomfortable.

Not only are many women uncomfortable hearing abortion debated while they’re helping their eight year old with homework or collapsing into a chair after a long day at work, their motives to have had an abortion are not always what men assume them to be. For a lot of women, abortion is not about “my life” or “my body” or “my choice”. For many women I’ve talked to, choosing to end a pregnancy is motivated by selfless concern and love for the potential life they are considering bringing into the world. Women are motivated to have abortions for the same reasons they are motivated about organics, GMOs, fracking, education, climate change, gun restrictions and punishing pedophiles –- because they love children and want every child to be wanted, so they can have healthy, happy lives. For many women, termination is a decision made early in a pregnancy long before there is significant fetal growth or sensation, to protect a child from a life without adequate resources (parenting, food, clothing, health care, etc.) or because of quality of life issues related to fetal anomalies and genetic disorders. For many women, abortion is an emotionally painful but completely selfless decision, made with the best interests of another potential human being in mind – not something every frat boy understands easily.

If there is one thing women will fiercely protect more than their own bodies, or their own choices, or their own civil rights, its children — even other people’s children. Mike Coffman’s brilliant marketing team (let’s face it – he doesn’t get re-elected every two years because he is a good congressman) understood this well in 2012 when they watched Joe Miklosi take a stand for Choice, and then they socked him with an ad that associated Joe with pedophiles because he voted no on the straw-man “Jessica’s law”. I’ll never forget the women I spoke with at the doors while canvassing for Joe who said, “I can’t decide if I want to vote for the guy who hates women, or the one who hates children”. In the end, they voted against the man they were tricked into thinking “hated children” by Coffman’s brilliant, yet evil henchmen.

Amendment 67 failed because women want to keep politicians out of their doctor’s offices. Senator Udall lost his race because women want to keep politician’s talking about abortion out of their living rooms. If Senator Bennet wants to win re-election in 2016, he needs to listen to CO middle-class moms directly and include them on his steering committees — and skip any advice from frat boys about messaging — unless it is about messaging to other frat boys.

UPDATE: Told Ya So, Part II – more calls for Bennet’s resignation

UPDATE: Another call for Bennet's resignation at DailyKos.

There are other contributing factors, including bright Red districts, but Betsy Markey and John Salazar's short lives as One Term Congresscritters/Congressional Blue Dogs evidently taught Colorado's state-wide electeds nothing. 

Both Michael Bennet and Mark Udall went the Blue Dog route at the start of Obama's presidency, and by doing so aided and abetted Republican Obstructionism and put a choke hold any number of progressive policies that have since been thwarted. I bemoaned their actions in real time at S2. Here, Howie at Down with Tyranny gives a bloody post-mortem:

Of the 6 utterly worthless challengers the Blue Dogs endorsed, 2 were elected: Gwen Graham (FL) and Brad Ashford (NE). Their candidates were heavily supported by "ex"-Blue Dog Steve Israel, who pushed them on his colleagues and backed them at the DCCC. Below is a list of the 6, including how much the DCCC spent on them directly and what percentage of the vote each wound up with: 

• Gwen Graham (FL)- $3,572,524- 50.44%
• Patrick Henry Hays (AR)- $1,760,339- 43.62%
• Brad Ashford (NE)- $1,432,187- 48.64%
• Nick Casey (WV)- $792,432- 43.88%
• James Lee Witt (AR)- $81,804- 42.59%
• Jennifer Garrison (OH)- $39,310- 38.59

So if everything holds after recounts, etc, the Blue Dogs have gone from 19 to 12– if the two conservatives they helped elect, Graham and Ashford – join the caucus. 

That's the situation in the House, which Howie tracks like a bloodhound. Here's a summary:

Wall Street is howling that they will only accept New Dems Vice Chair Jim Himes as the next DCCC chair. Get ready for an explosion from grassroots activists if Pelosi goes for it. In winning his reelection, staunch progressive champion, Jeff Merkley (D-OR), issued this statement: 

In 2008, we won very narrowly in a great year for Democrats. In 2014, facing millions of dollars of Koch Brothers attack ads, against an opponent heralded by Republicans, and amidst a national tidal wave, things could have gone very wrong.

Instead, we won big… Our victory sends a powerful message: when you stand up for working Americans, when you fight for a fair shot for everyone– a chance to work a good job at a living wage and go to college and retire with dignity– working Americans stand up for you!

We took on the powerful special interests and we won. Because our values are Oregon values and American values.

Bad election for the Republican wing of the Democratic Party. Generally, not so bad for the Democratic wing.

 

Still waiting for Colorado's Dems to start acting the part and quit being afraid of their shadows. Still waiting for congressional Blue Dogs to go extinct while Colorado's Dems insist on giving them life support.

Part I. Yes, there will probably be a Part III for those of you dying to know the thoughts of Zappatero.