Gessler suggests people influence journalists by, among things, blogging 20 minutes a week

(But don’t comment to “ColoradoPols bloggers!” – promoted by Colorado Pols)

Colorado Secretary of State Scott Gessler said last month that he thinks  ”a lot of the mainstream media” get upset when Republicans “make waves,” but these hostile feelings toward the media didn’t stop him Monday from suggesting people can influence newspaper editors by writing letters to the editor and online comments.

“So, sign up for our e-newsletters, sign up for our notifications, write an email, write an email to us so you know what’s going on,” he said. “Come to our rulemaking hearings. Once every two months, write a letter-to-the-editor. Twenty minutes a week, do a blog. I won’t ask anyone to contribute money to a campaign. And serve as an election judge. Those are the things you can do. [BigMedia emphasis]

“When they write a story, and they see a large number of comments one way or the other, that means something,” said Gessler. “We do a terrible job on our ideological side of the fence. We do a terrible job of this.“[BigMedia emphasis]

Gessler’s comments came in response to a question from the audience at his lecture Monday evening at Colorado Christian University’s Centennial Institute.

The unidentified questioner asked speakers Gessler and Colorado State Treasurer Walker Stapleton what ordinary citizens can do.

In addition to writing letters-to-the-editor and blogging, Gessler suggested people volunteer as election judges, sign up to receive e-mails from his office, and attend rulemaking hearings or submit comments on proposed rules.

Gessler said testifying during the rulemaking process is important but did not have an impact in the recent challenge of his rule to increase the amount of money a group of people can raise for an political issue before their group is subject to campaign finance laws.

“Now, this particular court [in the issue-committee-threshold case] didn’t read any of that [citizen testimony], so he [the judge] wasn’t quite prepared, which he admitted, which is unfortunate, but I’m sure the Court of Appeals will be far more prepared than he was, and those comments are just critical for helping me out,” said Gessler.

Here’s an excerpt of Gessler’s comments on this topic:

Look, if you can spend time, two or three hours, once every two months, to write a letter-to-the editor, that makes a difference. Writing a letter-to-the-editor once every two months really makes a difference.  It only takes three or four hours, about as much time as you’ll spend driving here, listening, and driving home. That makes a difference.

It doesn’t just have to be The Denver Post.; particularly local papers as well helps. When you see something in a local paper online, I’m assuming most people go online., instead of merely raging at the machine, I love raging at the machine, don’t get me wrong, instead of merely raging at the machine, write a post to that story. Because let me tell you something, newspaper editors pay attention to that stuff. And actually a lot of readers pay attention to that stuff too. When they write a story and they see a large number of comments one way or the other, that means something. We do a terrible job on our ideological side of the fence. We do a terrible job of this. I’ll go online, and my wife is watching, and she’ll say, ‘Don’t read those. Don’t read ‘em.’ And I’ll read them nonetheless. And look, people on our side don’t take the time to do that. You don’t have to put your name. You can be anonymous. You have sign up and register with your real name, but it can be absolutely anonymous.  I would challenge everyone to do this, 20 minutes, once a week. That’s what I would challenge you to do for 20 minutes, maybe 30 minutes once a week.

The other thing is, come to my website…and sign up for our e-newsletters….

So my office engages in rulemaking a lot. I just said, I’m re-doing all the campaign finance rules to make them clear. Okay. What helps me a lot, is when you come in to my office during rulemaking. You can come in person, is the best and testify. You can write us an email and that becomes part of our record. You can write us a regular letter and that becomes part of our record. The reason this is so important is, if I say, for example, I want to raise the threshold, and I did this. I held a rulemaking hearing, saying I want to raise the threshold to $5,000.  Well, what happened is people came in, and I see Matt Arnold with his hand up the entire time, and he’s one of the people who came in. I’m teasing Matt. And he said look, and other people did, this is why it’s so hard, this is the burden we face. And when I get that evidence and testimony, and I can take that evidence and testimony and use it in court to defend myself. So if you can bring your personal experiences in, that’s just so critical. Now, this particular court didn’t read any of that, so he wasn’t quite prepared, which he admitted, which is unfortunate, but I’m sure the Court of Appeals will be far more prepared than he was, and those comments are just critical for helping me out.

So, sign up for our e-newsletters, sign up for our notifications, write an email, write an email to us so you know what’s going on. Come to our rulemaking hearings. Once every two months, write a letter-to-the-editor. Twenty minutes a week, do a blog. I won’t ask anyone to contribute money to a campaign. And serve as an election judge. Those are the things you can do.

And let me tell you. If everyone in this room did those things on a consistent basis, it would make a huge impact here in the state of Colorado. It would have an impact people rarely ever see. Just the people in this room, if everyone did that on a consistent basis.

Perry Who? Colorado GOP Brass Backs Romney

Tim Hoover of the Denver paper reports that GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney, recently challenged for his status as frontrunning Republican presidential candidate in this state by the surging Gov. Rick Perry of Texas, will appear in Denver next week in downtown Denver at a $500-a-plate fundraiser for his campaign.

Perry may have shaken Romney’s heretofore lead in Colorado in the most recent polling, but it’s worth noting (as Hoover does) the long list of Colorado GOP luminaries co-hosting Romney’s fundraiser next week–including Bill Owens, Hank Brown, Wayne Allard, and all three statewide Republican officeholders: Treasurer Walker Stapleton, Secretary of State Scott Gessler, and Attorney General John Suthers.

Lead or no lead, it’s a bit more impressive a roster than Marc Holtzman and Scott McInnis.

Cary Kennedy Gets Denver CFO Position

A happy ending (and campaign olive branch profferred) in the case of the able former state Treasurer Cary Kennedy, reports FOX 31′s Eli Stokols:

Mayor-elect Michael Hancock is expected to name former Colorado Treasurer Cary Kennedy as the city’s Chief Financial Officer on Wednesday, FOX 31 Denver has learned.

Kennedy, who was an outspoken supporter of Hancock’s runoff opponent, Chris Romer, this spring, was widely considered a rising star in Colorado Democratic circles until her defeat last year at the hands of Republican Walker Stapleton.

Kennedy served one term as treasurer from 2007-2011 and was lauded, at least by Democrats, for her conservative approach to managing state revenues amidst the recession. A nonpartisan audit released Tuesday also praised Kennedy for her work.

Posted from Denver Pols

Credit Where Credit is Due

(Between this and Stapleton’s PERA concern trolling, he set the bar pretty high for his own performance–will they sing Stapleton’s praises come audit time like they did Cary Kennedy? – promoted by Colorado Pols)

Just sayin’…

From veteran political reporter Ed Sealover at the Denver Business Journal:

The audit that has set off a conversation about whether Colorado Treasurer Walker Stapleton should invest in foreign currency also had high praise for Stapleton’s predecessor, Cary Kennedy.

During Kennedy’s four years as treasurer from 2007 through 2010, her office’s return on its investments met or exceeded every benchmark against which it was compared in a difficult market, wrote Buck Global Investment Advisors, which performed the audit for the state.

While investment returns were below national benchmarks during the first few quarters that Kennedy was in office, they exceeded them, sometimes by eight times the percentage of return, at the end of her term, the audit showed.

Cary Kennedy said no to risky investments.  The kind of investments that landed countless government funds across the country in hot water.

After receiving the audit, the one-time real estate company executive was complimentary of his predecessor and the state’s investment officers, who he inherited in his administration.

“It’s a reflection of the admirable job that the staff of the treasurer’s office has done, which includes her,” Stapleton said. “I give her credit for doing a good job and maintaining state investments in a volatile market.”

Walker Stapleton–Just a Crappy Investor?

As the Pueblo Chieftain’s Patrick Malone reports, what are we to conclude from the continuous running down of the Public Employees’ Retirement Association (PERA) by Colorado Treasurer Walker Stapleton? Makes you wonder, especially when:

In the calendar year 2010, PERA realized a 14 percent return on its investments, according to Meredith Williams, CEO of PERA. As of last week, PERA had earned 5 percent on its investments.

“I give the PERA investment team credit this year,” Stapleton said. “They did a great job. But we’re not talking about investments in a one-year or a 10-year time frame; we’re talking about a 30-year time frame.”

Stapleton said he objects to the target of an 8 percent annual yield because it fosters risky investments in order to hit such a high mark…

Yes, well:

Over the past 25 years, PERA has averaged a 9.3 percent return on its investments. The rate of return during the past decade has been about half as much thanks to drastic economic downturns in 2002 and 2008…

Looking at investment returns from other states during the same 25-year span, the average annual rate was 8.7 percent, according to [Tom] Cavanaugh [of Cavanaugh Macdonald Consulting].

What this boils down to is a clash between conservatives and public employees over recent PERA reforms–2010′s Senate Bill 1 stabilized the pension fund in the wake of the major economic crises of the last ten years, largely by hiking employee contributions and tightening eligibility for benefits. Based on that, public employees say they have made enough sacrifice. Walker Stapleton, however, clearly isn’t so sure, having testified before Congress about the “unsustainable” nature of PERA’s investments even after reform.

So, you know, maybe he’s right, but the long-term historical and present performance of these investments doesn’t indicate that; as this audit by an independent consultancy shows pretty clearly. And if Stapleton’s PERA investment naysaying continues to underestimate their performance–meaning PERA’s investments simply track their historical average–people might start asking if Stapleton’s just not very good at picking winners in the market.

A harsh indictment for Colorado’s Treasurer and the CEO of SonomaWest Holdings

Sen. Heath launches initiative to support schools

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Yesterday, Senator Rollie Heath announced that he was going forward with Initiative #25. Heath said it was going to be a 5-year timeout to education cuts.

Denver’s finest Eli Stokols reports:

“For too long we have been near the bottom in funding our schools, and the budget cuts we’ve made the last two years have made a bad situation worse,” Heath said. “We can’t tolerate that anymore.

“Doing nothing is just not an option.”

It raises about $530 million annually for education for 5 years by raising the state sales and income tax back up to 1999 levels before the legislature cut them. That is, sales tax goes from 2.9% to 3.0% and state income tax goes from 4.63% to 5.0%. That will equate an average of about $550 per student for all K-12 and higher ed students.

Heath’s initiative has been flying under the radar now; people seemed to have forgotten about it. He says he has the support of several groups, like Great Ed, ARC of Colorado, Colorado Fiscal Policy Institute, and local teachers’ unions, among others.

He certainly has a long road to collect the 86,000 necessary signatures, especially if it actually is a grassroots campaign like he claims. I was at an event last week and somebody asked me to sign the petition, so he has at least started some organization.

Poll follows:


Also, apparently, Treasurer Walker Stalpeton thoughts were important, as he was quoted as well. He did have this gem of a quote:

Republican state Treasurer Walker Stapleton said the fact that Heath is going to the ballot proves he has no support at the Legislature, which concluded the 2011 session last week.

“I think he chose to have it on the Monday after the legislative session ended because he knows there’s no support for this initiative in the state,” Stapleton said.

What? First off, TABOR demands that any sort of tax increase must go to the ballot, and cannot be passed just by the legislature. Secondly, does that mean that anything that can’t get through the legislature has “no support in the state?” This logic must mean that the Republicans (and Democrats, for that matter) have terribly unpopular platforms! There is no support for civil unions, pay day lenders, pro-immigration reform, anti-immigration reform, etc etc you get the point.

Obviously, any sort of legislation to increase state revenue wasn’t going anywhere in the Republican controlled House. If Heath really wanted to raise money to support education, which he seemingly does, he had to go the initiative route.  

What say you pollsters, would you support Heath's Initiative #25?

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“Transparency” For Thee, Not For Me, Says Walker Stapleton

As the Colorado Independent’s John Tomasic reports:

Progressive politics coalition Campaign for a Strong Colorado says state Treasurer Walker Stapleton should follow the advice he provided to the U.S. House Ways and Means committee this week when he argued in favor of the Public Employee Pension Transparency Act. “Greater transparency and better information is important for the fiscal health of our states and for our taxpayers,” he said. Strong Colorado agreed and urged Stapleton to bring his point home to the taxpayers he serves by opening up his full current employment records so the Colorado public can see how he’s earning his money and spending his time…

Stapleton came under fire almost the same week he took office in January when a Politics Daily report based on public Securities and Exchange Commission documents detailed how Stapleton had signed a lucrative consulting contract with SonomaWest Holdings, the Northern California real-estate firm he headed for years as CEO. Stapleton arranged to consult with Sonoma for up to 250 hours per year for $150,000 while acting as Colorado’s treasurer.

The arrangement drew the attention of government watchdogs, who took comfort from the fact that the records filed publicly with the SEC would continue to provide some level of transparency into the deal. Coloardo Ethics Watch called it a “back-door form of transparency” and said full or front-door transparency was warranted because the deal as revealed “could potentially take up a huge portion of the state Treasurer’s time.” Toro said there was also no real way to verify Stapleton’s claim that there was “no potential for conflict of interest between the state and SonomaWest.”

As the Colorado Independent reported in March, the question of transparency gained new urgency when Stapleton’s family business, Denver-based Stapleton Acquisitions Company, announced it intended to buy out SonomaWest shareholders and take the company private, putting an end to SEC filings…

All of which makes Colorado Treasurer Walker Stapleton’s testimony before the House Ways and Means Committee late this week in favor of public employee pension “transparency”–well, it’s not perfectly apples-to-apples hypocrisy, but it’s certainly close enough to invite the question. What’s good for Stapleton is not so much for pensions: a lack of “transparency.”

“The Public Employee Pension Transparency Act makes a lot of sense,” he said before the Ways and Means Committee. To Coloradans with an eye on national politics, however, the fact that Stapleton, a Bush family scion, is staking ground on the especially charged partisan topic of public-sector workers and that he traveled to Washington in support of the Republican-backed bill authored by GOP budget leader Paul Ryan, suggests there may be more at work in all of this than just good sense.

Some suspect Stapleton is adding his voice and the resources of his office to the national movement to undercut public workers, a movement on display most prominently these days in Wisconsin. Indeed, Stapleton’s congressional testimony is sure to fuel those suspicions.

Tomasic concludes with a brief explanation of last year’s Senate Bill 1 reform of the Public Employees’ Retirement Association of Colorado, a bipartisan reform bill that (along with several other bills) substantially increased employee contributions and tightened payout eligibility–and, supporters say, will fully fund the system based on defensible estimated rates of return. If that’s right, “transparency” shouldn’t be an issue. But right back at you, Walker Stapleton!

At some point along the way, anyway, people will inevitably begin to consider the source.

Stapleton Moonlighting Going Underground?

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The strange story of Colorado’s moonlighting executive-level elected officials continues. Treasurer Walker Stapleton, as we discussed back in January, has continued to perform work for–and draw a salary considerably larger than his pay from the state–from California-based SonomaWest Holdings, a real estate company. Stapleton’s side job didn’t raise eyebrows to the extent that Secretary of State Scott Gessler’s aborted plan to keep working for his election-related law firm did, mostly because SonomaWest was a public company with reporting requirements, uninvolved in anything political, and had no business in the state of Colorado.

The biggest problem with Gessler’s arrangement was a lack of accountability, or any way for the public to verify what he would have been doing in this side job. But as the Colorado Independent’s John Tomasic reported yesterday, at least some of the transparency that made Stapleton’s deal less controversial may be about to disappear:

Weeks after Colorado Treasurer Walker Stapleton took office this past January he drew a flurry of questions about a lucrative consulting contract he made with SonomaWest Holdings, the Northern California real-estate firm he headed for years as CEO. Stapleton arranged to work for up to 250 hours per year with Sonoma for $150,000 while acting as Colorado’s treasurer. Colorado AOL reporter Sandra Fish discovered the arrangement by looking at paperwork SonomaWest had to file as a public company, and government watchdogs took comfort from the fact that those public records filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission or SEC would continue to provide some level of transparency. Now Stapleton’s family finance business, Denver-based Stapleton Acquisitions Company, is proposing to buy out shareholders of SonomaWest (pdf) and take the company private. That would mean no more filing with the SEC. It would mean no more public records from which to monitor Stapleton’s moonlighting as a consultant.

“There are a lot of [business] reasons to take a company private,” University of Denver Finance Professor Mac Clouse told the Colorado Independent. “For one thing, you gain 100 percent control. You can take the company in the direction you want to go without having to wrestle with a single cantankerous board member. You would no longer have to appoint the kind of board that government regulations insist upon. The other main reason is that you no longer have to do all the public reporting. You don’t have to pay the high accounting costs that come with preparing statements.”

…Colorado Ethics Watch Director Luis Toro said his group is very interested in the proposed deal. He said state financial disclosure forms only ask officeholders to list their “sources” of income, along with assets, real estate, debts, board positions and lobbying income. Toro said that some office holders might volunteer more information, like the amount of hours they’re working outside the office, but that kind of detail is presently not required.

“The only way the public found out about Stapleton’s moonlighting was that it was disclosed by SonomaWest to the SEC as required by federal securities law,” Toro told the Independent. “If the business is taken private, even this back-door form of transparency will be gone. That’s a concern because the proposed consulting agreement that was disclosed could potentially take up a huge portion of the state Treasurer’s time.”

A poll follows–without legislation to place this recent “moonlighting” fad under oversight, the only question we can really ask is, does this make you trust Stapleton more, or less?

Would Stapleton's side-job company going private make you trust him less?

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Stapleton not seeking formal AG opinion on moonlighting

( – promoted by Colorado Pols)

One of the things I try to do as a media critic is keep track of what officials tell journalists they’re going to do. And if promises made aren’t reported on, I ask about them.

For example, there’s the dangling promise Scott McInnis made to The Denver Post about clearing up his name months ago, but tempting as it is, that’s not what I’m returning to now.

Today I’m writing about State Treasurer Walker Stapleton’s promise to 7News in January that he’d seek an opinion from Attorney General John Suthers about whether it’s ok for him to moonlight for his former company.

You recall Stapleton’s moonlighting job would add as much as a quarter-time-plus job to his life and bring in, at $250 per hour, up to a nifty $150,000 on the side, making The Denver Post wonder about a “conflict of time.”

I asked 7News content producer/presenter Marshall Zelinger whether Suthers had produced an opinion on Stapleton’s moonlighting. Zelinger emailed me that Stapleton spokesman Brett Johnson told him that Stapleton never asked for an official opinion from Suthers’ office.

Zelinger told me that he understood from Stapleton, during his Jan. interview with him, that he was going to seek an official opinion, and that’s why Zelinger stated in his piece that Stapleton had “asked the attorney general’s office to make sure it’s OK to moonlight afterhours.”

Zelinger contacted Suthers’ office and confirmed that Stapleton never sought an opinion.

However, in January, Politics Daily reported that Stapleton had talked about the issue with Suthers but did not ask for a formal ruling.

John Suthers, Walker Stapleton back Ryan Call for CO GOP chair

Ryan Call is picking up some of the most important endorsements possible in his run for chair of the Colorado Republican party, according to this news release:

Attorney General Suthers and State Treasurer Stapleton join Legislators and Party Leaders from Across the State in Endorsing Ryan Call for State GOP Chairman

Denver – Ryan Call is pleased to announce his first list of campaign supporters.

“I am truly honored for the support of these Republican leaders from all over Colorado,” said Call. “From fellow county party activists to statewide elected officials, the range of experience these supporters possess underscores my intent to work with both local and elected leaders to gain large Republican victories in 2012.”

The following are supporters of Ryan Call for Colorado Republican State Party Chairman:

Attorney General John Suthers

State Treasurer Walker Stapleton

CU Regent Sue Sharkey

State Senator Nancy Spence

State Senator Ellen Roberts

State Senator Jean White

State Representative/Assistant Majority Leader Mark Waller

State Representative Bob Gardner

State Representative Spencer Swalm

District Attorney Mark Hurlbert

District Attorney Russ Wasley

Congressional District 1 Chairman Gabriel Schwartz

Congressional District 2 Chairman/Summit County Chairman Debra Irvine

Congressional District 3 Chairman Ralph Walchle

Former Arapahoe County Chairman/Bonus Member Dave Kerber

Arapahoe County Clerk and Recorder/Bonus Member Nancy Doty

Jefferson County Clerk and Recorder Pam Anderson

El Paso County Treasurer/Former Clerk and Recorder/Bonus Member Bob Balink

Former El Paso County Chairman Wayne Williams

Former Adams County Chairman Clark Bolser

Former Arapahoe County Chairman Nathan Chambers

Former State Republican Party Chairman Don Bain

Former State Republican Party Chairman Bob Martinez

State Republican Party Treasurer/Former State Solicitor General Richard Westfall


Post should call on moonlighters like Stapleton to follow Hick’s lead

( – promoted by Colorado Pols)

Kenny Be summed up Scott Gessler’s moonlighting problem nicely in Westword last month, depicting Colorado’s Secretary of State with a phone on each ear.

If you’re The Denver Post, the two phones in the cartoon would have caught your eye, because the newspaper waged a multi-faceted campaign to get Bill Ritter to turn over his personal cell-phone records for public review-with his personal calls excised.

Ritter refused to do this, even though he apparently conducted state business on his personal cell phone, because he said it was an invasion of privacy.

The Post got pretty upset at Ritter, as was its custom at the time. There weren’t any front-page editorials on this issue, but it hopped up and down on the editorial page, calling for the release of his cell-phone records, and even filed a lawsuit that drags on to this day. (Two decisions have gone against The Post, and the daily has appealed to the Colorado Supreme Court.)

Ritter has come and gone and, unfortunately, we never reviewed the state calls he made on his personal cell-phone.

But The Post’s campaign paid off.

John Hickenlooper  told a conservative journalist that he’ll use two cell phones, one for conducting the people’s business and another for personal and campaign work.

He’ll make records of calls on his “government cell phone” available for public review. And he plans to have a neutral party review the records from his private phone to make sure he’s not hiding state biz there.

Former Post Editorial Board member and current Post reporter Chuck Plunkett discussed Hick’s cell phone policies on Jon Caldara’s “Devil’s Advocate” TV show on KBDI. (The name of the show should actually be “The Devil,” dropping the “Advocate” part, but who am I?)

Caldara and Plunkett couldn’t say enough good things about Hick’s cell-phone policies. And a Post editorial patted the new gov on the back.

Recent news cycles have illuminated other state officials whom The Post should now call on to follow Hick’s lead.

I’m thinking of Colorado’s proliferating crop of moonlighting public officials. Among other things, we need to be sure that their moonlighting doesn’t blend their two jobs together on their personal cell phones.

So that means these guys: GOP Attorney General John Suthers, who’s teaching law classes; Secretary of State Scott Gessler, if he starts down the moonlighting path again; and Dwayne Romero, whom Hick appointed to lead the Colorado Office of Economic Development and International Trade.

Of most concern, when it comes to transparency, is Colorado Treasurer Walker Stapleton. He’ll be raking in to $150,000 per year, at $250 per hour, working for his old real estate firm.

This works out to 600 hours or over 11 hours per week. That’s over quarter time, based on a 40-hour work week. Of course, Stapleton’s weeks will likely be longer, but it’s a lot of time.

I mean, with 600 hours of out-of-state business to conduct, Stapleton will have to be on the phone so frequently that some state matters could slip onto his personal phone, despite his best intentions. He might just get mixed up about whose clock, I mean, phone he should be on, as he makes quick calls for his own business and then the people’s.

I asked Stapleton’s Communications Director Michael Fortney whether his boss would be following Hick’s example on the cell phone issue.

He said he’ll have one cell phone for personal use and another for matters relating to his state work.

“He’s going to do his state business either on his land line or state-issued cell phone,” Fortney told me. “He won’t do state business on the personal.”

Fortney has not yet discussed with Stapleton whether he will let a neutral party review records for his personal cell phone, as Hick says he’ll do, and weed out anything that should be made public.

The Post, which has waged the good fight on the cell phone issue, should stay the course, with a focus mostly on Stapleton, but all the moonlighters should be urged to follow Hick’s lead.

Here’s video of Plunkett discussing the issue with Caldara and Todd Shepherd.

Walker Stapleton’s Moonlighting, Too!

Sandra Fish writes for Politics Daily:

Republican State Treasurer Walker Stapleton, elected this fall, is the second Colorado elected official to continue consulting with a former employer…

“As state treasurer, they’re supposed to be investing for the state of Colorado. What if there are state funds that are invested in this company?” asked Luis Toro, director of Colorado Ethics Watch. “There are different sets of laws for different officials and we’re still wading through all of that.”

Stapleton’s office issued a response saying his outside consulting with his previous firm — SonomaWest — isn’t a problem.

“There is no conflict of interest with respect to his duties as Colorado’s Treasurer,” wrote Deputy Treasurer Brett Johnson in an e-mail. “SonomaWest does not operate within the realm of public finance. While Treasurer Stapleton has discussed this matter with the AG’s office, he has not asked for a formal ruling on this matter because the relationship with SonomaWest does not represent any conflict of interest in any shape or form.”

We’ll start by agreeing that Treasurer Walker Stapleton’s circumstances are different than the much clearer-cut conflict of interest posed by Secretary of State Scott Gessler’s moonlighting for his election-specialty law firm. Stapleton’s California firm Sonoma West doesn’t appear to have any presence in Colorado, or any dealings in public finance at all as Brett Johnson says. Stapleton was explicit with reporter Tim Hoover that Sonoma West “does not currently have any business in the state of Colorado,” which actually throws Gessler under the bus a little.

But we can’t help but wonder, if there is really no conflict of interest, why Stapleton doesn’t just ask Suthers and put this to bed once and for all. Johnson’s arrogant response aside — “[Stapleton] has not asked for a formal ruling on this matter because the relationship with SonomaWest does not represent any conflict of interest in any shape or form” — we’re pretty sure that Stapleton isn’t an attorney.

But Gessler’s much splashier moonlighting controversy doesn’t make Stapleton’s arrangement look good, for sure, and where Gessler says his would only be a fractional supplement to his income, Stapleton will reportedly earn much more than his pay as Treasurer from Sonoma West. With that in mind, all the questions posed to Gessler about distraction from his elected responsibility, or even split loyalty in whatever circumstances might force a choice, would certainly apply to Stapleton as well–even if it might not provoke the same full-throated outrage Gessler has.

Heck, maybe it’s charming that nothing can come between a Bush family scion and his bling.

Dan Maes and race

Edited by NoCo_Indy for clarity’s sake.

I’m on the e-mail list of Dan Maes, and one he sent today leaves me saying “wow” at several points. Some were good “wows” and others were ones of being shocked.

Here’s one that made me post:

I had not heard much about race in the campaigns up until that point.  I had certainly benefited from some Latinos warming up to me as a result of their affinity to the last name Maes.  Many recognized the name as Latino in Colorado and whether I was or not did not seem to matter to them.  That was enough for some.  But it all changed when the third party candidate got closer to jumping into the race.  I started to get phone calls (this was still when I was answering my own phone), from people asking about my ethnicity.  Hostile voices accused me of being Mexican, as if that were a crime in itself.  A couple of my supporters who were past supporters of the third party candidate specifically asked me what my ethnicity was before they tentatively supported me only to leave me when the new arrival came to the race.

There’s some interesting inside baseball here that I think is pertinent to the future of the Republican Party.

There’s so much here that I can hardly find where to start.

Here’s the full text of an e-mail I received tonight, because I was on the campaign e-mail list of Dan Maes.

“Race” In the Governor’s Race

Dear ,

I was sickened when I was leaving the state assembly last May when someone from the Hassan campaign, I do not remember if it was Ali himself or not, advised us that the word “Muslim” was written on the back of some of their yard signs placed outside.  

This came up as part of the conversation we were having as we exited the Budweiser Arena in the context of how much of a blow out the Treasurer’s race had been between Ali and JJ Amment (Walker Stapleton had skipped the assembly and won the primary and general election).  The large spread of high seventy’s by JJ to Ali’s low 20′s shocked the hall.  Ali had worked too hard to get that low of a vote.  Race had to play a part.

I had not heard much about race in the campaigns up until that point.  I had certainly benefited from some Latinos warming up to me as a result of their affinity to the last name Maes.  Many recognized the name as Latino in Colorado and whether I was or not did not seem to matter to them.  That was enough for some.  But it all changed when the third party candidate got closer to jumping into the race.  I started to get phone calls (this was still when I was answering my own phone), from people asking about my ethnicity.  Hostile voices accused me of being Mexican, as if that were a crime in itself.  A couple of my supporters who were past supporters of the third party candidate specifically asked me what my ethnicity was before they tentatively supported me only to leave me when the new arrival came to the race.  Racism had landed on the Maes campaign doorstep.  I often challenged the callers with it being a non-issue what my race was but most often informed them it was German/Dutch and that I had been raised in the upper Midwest.  On the other side of the coin were Latinos who contributed to my campaign specifically because they did not want the third party candidate anywhere near the governor’s office.  They had felt the sting of racism even though they were native Coloradans.  

As with many subjects, we had to decide if we were going to make it an issue.  We chose not to.  Racism has become a label used by progressives against us if we even look sideways at the President or whisper about illegal immigrants.  Like many over used adjectives it has almost lost its significance.  We can’t let that happen.  

It was my trip to Gettysburg this past week that drove home the incredible sacrifice our country went through to preserve the union and to rid it of slavery.  We can debate the cause of the Civil war but slavery and the treatment of one race as inferior to another can not be debated as a prime cause.  Illegal immigration is a modern day issue that is splitting our country and I for one still stand strong against it when perpetrated by any race or individual of any country.  Why race became an issue when the third party candidate entered the race is something I can not explain nor is an explanation necessary to my point.  

My first speech in front of 700 plus republicans was in March of 2010 when Michael Steele made his visit to Lone Tree.  I spoke of a new generation of republicans that will move the party forward to success.  That success will only come when race is not an issue but immigration is.  We seemed to have taken the life issue out of the spot light in 2010 without it losing its significance as an issue.  Except for one or two single issue life groups that cause more damage than good (a subject for another article) life was not in the spotlight this season at GOP events.   The sooner single issue illegal immigration fans learn the same lesson the better off the GOP will be.


There’s good nuggets in here, but when I read about the causes of the CIvil War not having to do with slavery, my mind starts to wander.  

2010′s Top Story: Inside a Broken Wave

Across the country, the 2010 election will be recorded as an historic defeat for the Democratic Party. From the sweeping wins in state legislatures we discussed earlier for the GOP to the biggest loss for Democrats in the U.S. House in many decades, these midterm elections saw the usual trend of a new President’s first midterm going badly for his party magnified, with a few notable exceptions, into a rout.

That the state of Colorado was one of those exceptions is the result of well over a year of hard work by highly dedicated Democratic campaign staff raising funds and chasing ballots, combined with key individual scandals that broke up the Republican ticket just enough for Democrats to pull out something they can call a victory here. That Democrats were able to win in the highest-profile statewide races, namely U.S. Senate and the governor’s race, but lose three other less prominent statewide contests, shows where Democrats were able to stave off through pugnacity and timely investment their “wave” backed opponents–and where they weren’t.

But above all, the GOP in Colorado blew the greatest opportunity for a sweeping victory that they had since they began losing elections here in 2004. For a host of reasons including the ongoing economic recovery, the fading of recent polarizing battles over economic recovery spending and health reform from memory, and an aging, in many cases already-beaten bench of contenders for high office, the Colorado GOP’s best opportunity to start undoing the long-term damage done to its prospects in recent years was this year; and they failed to take advantage.

Reacting desperately to their failure to thrive on the national “wave” that resulted in wipeouts for Democrats all around the nation, Colorado Republicans pushed every chip in the center of the table in 2010, and we believe it’s going to cost them at the polls in future elections. Republicans alienated Latinos, the fastest-growing bloc of voters in the United States, with Tom Tancredo, and women with Ken Buck. Internal strife, fault lines that trace back to the battle over 2005′s Referendum C and even before, racked the party from the earliest stages of the primaries.

Republicans bowed to the extremist “Tea Party” to win primaries and chase the myth of their influence, and they made insane claims and promises that they cannot possibly keep in the process–like Scott Tipton’s “plan” to cut the government in half, and Walker Stapleton’s blatherings about schools “competing with prisons” for funds. They elected some positively crazy new people in the legislature like Kathleen Conti; who are going to feed material to the Democrats for as long as they are in office, and who they may come to regret lending their brand.

2010 served as a powerful validator of the reasons we’ve been giving for years that success has eluded the GOP: in Colorado, Republicans could win; and have won in past elections by running moderate, trustworthy candidates who don’t seek office on a platform of tearing the civic institutions of this state to the ground. But instead, the GOP in this state has veered toward thoughtless ideologues and wedge-issue obsessed embarrassments in recent years, while Democrats have been able to present themselves as responsible (and restrained) leaders who are serious about governing–and protecting the basic things everybody values. Things that will make even the most fickle and impressionable voter stop and think.

Unless that changes–and it hasn’t since Democrats started winning elections in Colorado a little over six years ago, with the GOP only moving farther right in response–the result will not.

Live Blog: Journalism and the 2010 Election

( – promoted by Colorado Pols)

With the Rocky Mountain News gone and journalism in the midst of major changes, did Denver media outlets provide citizens with the information needed to make informed decisions during the 2010 election? What were the journalistic triumphs and lapses during the election cycle?

Join us for a live blog covering a panel of five Colorado journalists discussing how the news media covered the 2010 election. The forum gets under way at 2 p.m. in the 2nd floor Terrace Room at the Lawrence Street Center, 1380 Lawrence St., in downtown Denver.

The panelists are:

Charles Ashby, Political Reporter, Grand Junction Sentinel

Curtis Hubbard, Political Editor, The Denver Post

Adam Schrager, Political Reporter, 9News, Producer/Host YOUR SHOW

Eli Stokols, Political Reporter, KDVR Fox 31 and KWGN TV

Kristen Wyatt, Reporter, Associated Press

Colorado Statesman political reporter Ernest Luning will be live-blogging the discussion here at Colorado Pols starting at 2 p.m.

Paul Teske, Dean of UCD School of Public Affairs, one of the panel’s sponsors, will offer introductory remarks and Jason Salzman will moderate.The discussion will be driven by questions from the audience.

Your live-blogger will be able to pass on questions submitted below, so have at it!

1:57 p.m. - The crowd is gathering for the big discussion. Organizers might have been optimistic booking a room with about 150 seats — only 17 people are here so far, including panelists, UCD staff and technical crews — but the School of Public Affairs has done a great job setting things up.

2:02 p.m. - Another dozen or so audience members have arrived, including at least a couple reporters with notepads, laptops and smartphones out. Still plenty of seats in case anyone in the vicinity of 14th and Lawrence wants to stop by.

2:08 p.m. - Some statehouse Dems have shown up. Rep. Nancy Todd and House Majority Communications Director Katie Reinisch — who is departing her position soon to open a frozen yogurt shop — are here. Hickenlooper campaign spokesman George Merritt just walked in. So the discussion won’t just be journalists talking about journalism, there will be some politicos here too.

2:15 p.m. – The forum is getting started. Jason Salzman credits Media Matters for inspiring this discussion, based on post-election panels the media watchdog organization sponsored after the last election.

Colorado Pols gets a shout-out — a commentator on this site said this panel would be print and broadcast journalists kissing up and back-slapping. We’ll see.

Salzman says non-traditional political coverage will be discussed, but the panelists are unapologetically from traditional print and broadcast media. This was also in response to a remark made by a Colorado Pols contributor when news about this panel was posted here last week.

2:17 p.m. - Ashby says the Rocky closing has had an effect on coverage, but it’s an open question whether other media picked up the slack. (His wife worked at the Rocky.) Thinks people were well served getting information. Different perspectives on the same story around the state. “When you add bloggers and online coverage, you get more.”

Hubbard, the Post’s political editor, says he is the panelist who probably misses the Rocky the most. He used to start his day seeing what the competition had that he didn’t. Now he looks at a number of outlets. The Post didn’t change the way it covers elections because the Rocky is gone, takes charge seriously. Feels The Post did well providing coverage this season. Would the paper have benefitted from having the Rocky as a competitor? Yes. Fascinates Hubbard to be working with political reporter Lynn Bartels instead of working against her.

Hubbard continues: Scope changed this cycle — focused more on local coverage, so less on 5th and 3rd congressional districts than might have been seen in previous elections.

Schrager says whenever community loses a gatekeeper, it’s a challenge. There has been a proliferation of advocates who label themselves as media. Democracy is a participatory sport — no excuse for voters not to be educated. You want to know about votes, they’re easily at hand. Yet when a community loses an advocate for the community — not advocate for a party, platform or approach to issues — that’s depressing. We should all encourage journalism — it’s the only industry that’s referred to in the First Amendment.

Schrager continues: The goal is to make un-user-friendly institution (government) more user friendly. Asked questions of candidates, including those posed by viewers, and focused on political advertising. Doing all those ad checks gives reporters the opportunity to discuss issues TV news doesn’t usually address. For example, Senate race had the 17th Amendment as a topic — rare to discuss that on TV news.

Viewers need to be active and skeptical, Schrager adds. That means everyone has to ask questions. If you don’t get a good answer, follow up and seek out your own answer. Nontraditional media is a condemnation of old media, that it’s not delivering the news — but it ultimately rests on readers and viewers.

2:28 p.m. - Stokols says Channels 4 and 7 don’t commit to covering politics every day. Channel 7 will cover a story when it thinks it can get a big scoop and promote it. Reporters in town more about promoting themselves, others in town more about engaging and educating the public. There’s a wide audience that isn’t on Colorado Pols and reading blogs all day — one way to reach them is through TV. There’s a lot of information out there. For people actively looking for it, it’s easy to find, but if you’re not actively pursuing it, it’s harder to find. What might decide elections is TV commercials.

“Sadly,” Stokols says, a handful of journalists can’t match the messaging of unchecked millions of dollars in advertising. We saw that in this election “maybe writ larger than ever before,” cites Senate race as example.

You see this in how Senate candidates run campaigns — limit appearances, don’t make candidate available, count on only a couple reporters showing up at events. Then all voters have to go on is the constant TV advertising. Message in that race: Michael Bennet thinks Ken Buck might be crazy. That’s what a lot of voters had to go on.

Wyatt arrived in town just before the Rocky closed so doesn’t have a perspective on how things have changed since Denver was a two-daily town. No shortage of information. New media benefits campaigns — campaigns able to drive message through traditional media. More interest from her bosses not in substantive journalism but in the kinds of stories Politico and blogs have. Everyone’s after page views.

2:33 pm. - Kathleen Beatty from the UCD School of Public Affairs has the first question. In view of proliferation of blogs, ability to select TV journalism in line with your own point of view — to what extent are people losing info based on the sources they pick?

Ashby says when he started in journalism, newspapers were general circulation. Television built a single community many decades ago, but now everything is splitting up again. People are hearing what they want to hear, not what they need to hear. If all you’re interested in is quilting, you’re not going to get a slap in the face saying “hey you need to know what’s going on over here!” Some people need to know about things and are missing out. Vitriol proliferates because of this.

Hubbard says he “will echo that.” He gets calls from readers — this cycle he noticed first time, people would criticize them for not covering something when in fact the Post had. What happened was the Post broke the story long ago and then the reader’s favorite outlet would finally pick it up. Danger of being in echo chamber, only seeking information that confirms world view. “We try, believe it or not, to operate in that middle ground.”

Hubbard: Whether it’s talk radio, internet or niche publications, people can stay within their own zones quite easily. But the question is, where are the unaffiliated voters? They’re not watching Rachel Maddow or FoxNews — they’re in a different place and traditional media’s challenge is to engage them. It’s something the Post is giving some thought to.

Schrager says his dad says you’re happier if you hang out with people who speak in commas and question marks, not exclamation points. Now it’s not only louder but more selfish. KUSA, Post and UCD had a forum on health care reform — lots of people engaged in this. One person stood up and insisted on yelling, interrupting the event. “I was thoroughly depressed after the event,” Schrager says. “We found common ground” in the forum, but one individual spoiled it for Schrager. People have to compromise and find common ground with others, but politics seems to have become more selfish. This “vexes” him, he says, and becomes worse with every election.

Stokols says the polarized environment makes it tougher to do his job. He works for a station that has “FOX” in its name, so even though he’s not associated with the national FoxNews cable station, people presuppose otherwise. People expect coverage from Fox31 to echo coverage from the national cable channel and people are surprised when it doesn’t. People often don’t have questions, they’re looking for support for their positions.

Wyatt says it’s often people have the answers and are looking for support, but that might not be new.

2:46 p.m. - Matt Arnold, organizer of Clear the Bench, says he got more coverage for his campaign in the New York Times than he did in the Denver Post. Arnold says the issue didn’t hit broadcast news and barely hit print.

Ashby says it wasn’t the only issue in the state. Fewer journalists, more issues, less space — how much can we do? He says Clear the Bench was unique statewide, but wasn’t brand new, other efforts have been similar locally and in other states. Not trying to offer an excuse, but there are “things that are, frankly, bigger,” including governor’s race, tea party and other things. Would like to cover everything but do what we can.

Hubbard says Clear the Bench was covered by judicial desk, not his political desk, but he thinks the Post covered it more than the New York Times did. It is a news judgment — looking for issues that resonate with readers. Voters in Larimer County educated themselves on judges involved in the Tim Masters case. We didn’t cover it to your liking, but we didn’t ignore it, Hubbard tells Arnold.

2:52 p.m. - Big issue covering the statehouse?

Budget cuts. Budget cuts.

Stokols says education reform, how new leadership in the House plays out, how Hickenlooper manages the split legislature. He adds to previous question — regrets he didn’t have a staff but also regrets having to cover “Is Dan Maes quitting today?” time after time, but that was a pressing story each day it came up. Regrets not covering 3rd district, treasurer’s race, attorney general’s race too.

Schrager says what people might not realize is he and Eli are “bureaus of one.” Streamed Clear the Bench debate — did 9News cover everything well enough? It’s a participatory sport, folks, people got a start.

2:55 p.m. - Question on McInnis story, how it came about — seemed like it came from routine background checks, is that what happened? And why did it take until July?

Hubbard says Karen Crummy was assigned to governor’s race at start of race. She was charged with doing her best “not to be distracted by the shiny object,” instead come up with stories on who these people are, what makes them tick. Crummy noticed $150,000 payment from Hasan Foundation — as Salzman pointed out later, total was $300,000 — and this raised eyebrows. Post started digging as soon as they got draft water articles from the McInnis campaign. Went through “countless” other floor speeches and op-eds McInnis had written, as well as for other candidates. Maes took history working undercover in Liberal, Kan., off his website and this turned into a story too.

Question — if Rocky had been around, would Post have done it faster, maybe early enough for Republicans to know in time to pick someone else?

Hubbard says they got word 7News had the story the afternoon they were putting it to bed “for tomorrow’s paper,” so put an abbreviated version online. Lesson: Can’t sit on news.

Instead of having a single reporter do it, might have had a “flood the zone” strategy if the Rocky had still been in competition.

Ashby says to get it first isn’t as important as getting it right. Sometimes the competition can make you do that.

3:01 p.m. - Question – What’s criteria for covering minor parties?

Hubbard says Tom Tncredo was covered. Generally threshold is 10 percent support. Paper has limited resources, can do a good job covering, say, the two major party Senate candidates, not all 11. Everyone learned more about American Constitution Party because Tancredo “hijacked” their spot on the ballot.

Ashby says libertarians get coverage some places because they do well.

3:04 p.m. – Question: Was national coverage of Colorado stories a resource or competition?

Hubbard says national coverage is not competition except for new media in D.C., Politico being the prime example. If national networks or Jon Stewart are covering something, it’s because it’s already known in Colorado.

Ashby says it was nice when Colorado Pols linked to his stories because of its beef with The Post, because it used to be his scoops would get swallowed up by coverage by bigger outlets.

Stokols says national media often bit on stories pushed by advocacy groups — using the Ken Buck “buyer’s remorse” story as an example — that local media would often pass by.

Hubbard says Post is “trying very hard to give credit where credit is due,” and adds that this is a sea change in the culture. If the Post is going to ask for credit when its work is picked up, it should extend the same credit.

3:09 p.m. – Question: What do you do poorly, what will you improve?

Wyatt says editors sometimes want stories to fit a narrative — is Ken Buck similar to Christine O’Donnell? — and this can skew things.

Schrager says media makes a multidimensional world two-dimensional. Questions submitted by readers are encouraging in their breadth, but in the end you can’t ask every question because of time and space limitations. He says local TV coverage was “hands down” better than it’s ever been, in part because everyone was checking ads.

Schrager says he was more disappointed with the political crowd this year. Rep. Betsy Markey was the first candidate in history to turn down a 9News debate, for instance. Covering politics at the expense of policy is frustrating to him.

Hubbard says involving the audience to a greater extent is crucial.

3:15 p.m. - Can old media and the blogs work together?

Ashby says political reporters are skeptics and get spun all the time. He says he never reads an article in a magazine until he knows the author, so when info comes in from unknown sources, he’s less apt to dive right in.

Stokols says he’ll look at Colorado Independent stories with more of a grain of salt, but if reporters know where they’re coming from, they’re valuable.

3:19 p.m. - State Rep.-elect Rhonda Fields wants to know why Post endorsed Ryan Frazier over Ed Perlmutter.

Hubbard says editorial page editor will invite candidates in for discussions and questions. Then editorial board decides who to endorse for whatever reason. Hubbard says he doesn’t participate in discussions so can’t say how they work, but perception of involvement of newsroom in the process led him to decline to sit in on interviews this year. He adds that, as a voter, he only uses endorsements for down-ticket races. “Raise your hand if the Denver Post endorsement swayed you on a major statewide race,” he says, skeptical it did for anyone here.

Ashby says endorsements don’t affect his coverage at all.

Stokols notes TV stations don’t endorse but points out without the Rocky, there’s no counter to the Post when it comes to big statewide endorsements. Question came up after Post reported on McInnis plagiarism and Maes “Serpico” incidents, and then the Post editorialized both should get out of the race. Maybe it’s because the Post is the last big paper standing.

3:25 p.m. - How do political stories make it onto the air or front page when there’s mayhem, sports and weather competing for space or time?

Stokols says there’s often a battle to get things on the air because some would rather see sports or weather.

Schrager points to the public file each broadcast station has. He encourages viewers who feel stations aren’t doing enough political coverage to file letters.

3:27 p.m. - It’s the last question of the panel discussion: What was the most fun story to cover?

Ashby says “very broadly” the governor’s race. It was tiring, because so much broke so fast.

Wyatt says covering medical marijuana was most fun because it was fascinating and strange to anyone out of state.

Hubbard says Walker Stapleton’s “doo-doo sandwich” remark was the most fun.

3:28 p.m. – And it’s a wrap. Attendance was good — maybe 40-50 people. Thanks for reading and feel free to discuss any of the topics raised during the forum.