Daily Camera reported Berens blamed his "poor showing" on "negative ads ... and media reports" but failed to note his complaint against student and local newspaper

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The Boulder Daily Camera reported that Republican state Rep. Bill Berens "blamed [his] poor showing" in the November 7 election on "negative ads" and "media reports focusing on his acceptance of a $20,000 ... golf prize." But the paper did not note that some of those reports stemmed from a complaint Berens himself filed against a student and the Daily Camera's sister paper, the Broomfield Enterprise.

A November 10 Boulder Daily Camera article by staff writer Jolie Breeden reported that Republican state Rep. Bill Berens of Broomfield -- who recently lost a re-election bid in state House District 33 to Democratic opponent Dianne Primavera (Broomfield) -- "blamed [his] poor showing" in the election "on a slew of negative ads from 527 organizations and media reports focusing on his acceptance of a $20,000 Colorado Oil and Gas Association golf prize." The Daily Camera also quoted Berens as saying, "I believe the people who didn't vote for me were affected by those smear campaigns." However, despite previous reporting, the Daily Camera failed to note that some of those media reports stemmed from a complaint Berens filed against a student and the Daily Camera's sister newspaper, the Broomfield Enterprise, over a letter to the editor critical of his acceptance of the $20,000.

As the Rocky Mountain News reported on November 1, Berens "filed a complaint with the Adams County District Attorney's office that a letter writer and a local newspaper may have violated a state law that prohibits false statements about a candidate." Furthermore, an October 31 Daily Camera editorial criticizing Berens for filing his complaint stated, "[H]e seems to suffer from an increasingly common misconception -- that election-related false statements should be criminal matters."

The Daily Camera reported on October 12 that Berens "has come under fire for accepting a $20,000 hole-in-one prize at an Aug. 6 golf tournament hosted by the Colorado Oil and Gas Association."

Rep. Bill Berens, in the midst of a campaign for his second term in the Statehouse, has become a test case for a new law aimed at keeping money from influencing lawmakers' actions.

The Broomfield Republican has come under fire for accepting a $20,000 hole-in-one prize at an Aug. 6 golf tournament hosted by the Colorado Oil and Gas Association.

Although he wasn't required to, Berens reported the prize in a disclosure filed with the Elections Division of the Secretary of State's Office.

The Daily Camera further noted that "[w]hile Berens said he was just trying 'keep in the spirit' of the requirements to report gifts and other benefits, critics point to the disclosure as proof he violated a recently enacted bill that bars lawmakers from accepting cash gifts." The article was referring to Senate Bill 51 -- enacted in June -- which prohibits "certain public officials from accepting monetary gifts."

Following news reports detailing Berens's acceptance of the prize money, Suguna Narayan, a University of Colorado student and Broomfield resident, wrote a letter to the editor criticizing Berens that was published October 25 in the Broomfield Enterprise. Narayan's letter, in part, stated that "Berens accepted a $20,000 cash prize from the Colorado Oil and Gas Association at the association's recently held golf tournament, violating Senate Bill 51, which prohibits legislators from accepting cash donations greater than $50." She added, "If Berens is so thoughtless of morality and our laws in such a clearly unethical affair, how can he be trusted to make judgments on statewide policy issues such as education or health care?"

Following the publication of Narayan's letter, Berens, according to the November 1 News article, "filed a complaint with the Adams County District Attorney's office that a letter writer and a local newspaper may have violated a state law that prohibits false statements about a candidate." The News further reported:

Berens did not return repeated calls Tuesday. But in a letter to the editor that was published in the Broomfield Enterprise on Oct. 27, he indicated his reasons for his action.

"Wednesday's Broomfield Enterprise printed a letter from a 19-year-old woman who stated I broke state laws," he wrote.

The woman criticized Berens for accepting a $20,000 golf prize this August.

"I haven't (broken laws)," Berens wrote. "I filed this criminal complaint with the DA's office stating that those responsible for writing and printing this statement broke Colorado criminal law CRS 1-13-109."

Under that law, it is a Class 2 misdemeanor for a person to "knowingly make, publish, broadcast, or circulate, or cause to make, publish, broadcast or circulate any letter, circular, advertisement or poster or any other communication, any false statement designed to affect the vote relating to any candidate for election for public office."

Similarly, the Daily Camera reported on October 27, "Rep. Bill Berens notified the 17th Judicial District Attorney's office Thursday that he plans to file a complaint against the Broomfield Enterprise for printing a letter to the editor that accused him of violating state law." The same article also noted that "Berens claimed the Enterprise, a sister paper of the Daily Camera, was in violation of a state law that prohibits the publication, broadcast or circulation of a false or reckless statement designed to affect the vote on any issue or candidate."

In its October 31 editorial criticizing Berens for filing his complaint against Narayan and the Broomfield Enterprise, the Daily Camera stated, "Bill Berens seems like a decent fellow, but he seems to suffer from an increasingly common misconception -- that election-related false statements should be criminal matters." The Daily Camera also noted that "Berens is the Republican incumbent in state House District 33 who recently accepted a $20,000 prize for hitting a hole-in-one during a golf tournament sponsored by the Colorado Oil and Gas Association. Accepting such a large prize from a lobbying group raises bright red flags. The prize equaled two-thirds of Berens' legislative salary." The Daily Camera editorial concluded:

The Broomfield Enterprise, which is owned by the Daily Camera, last week printed a letter to the editor arguing that Berens' prize violated a new law that caps gifts to legislators. Though many say accepting the prize was unethical, most observers don't believe it was a "gift" and was thus legal.

Berens plans to file a complaint seeking criminal prosecution of the Enterprise, the newspaper reported Friday. "I have not broken a state law," Berens said. "I have not been accused of violating a state law. I think it's serious and egregious."

Like many state politicians, Berens seeks redress from a relatively new law that criminalizes the knowing publication of a false statement designed to affect the vote on any issue or candidate. Democrats and Republicans have increasingly called for prosecution of false statements under this law.

Despite its previous reporting and its editorial, the Daily Camera's November 10 article reported that Berens blamed his "poor showing" in the November 7 election on "negative ads from 527 organizations and media reports focusing on his acceptance" of prize money, without noting Berens's complaint against Narayan and the Broomfield Enterprise.

From the November 10 Boulder Daily Camera article by Jolie Breeden:

State Rep. Bill Berens, R-Broomfield, said Thursday that he won't request a recount of the District 33 race that unofficial results showed he was losing by just 819 votes.

[...]

In spite of his loss, Berens carried Broomfield, which accounts for the largest portion of District 33, with 9,190 votes to Primavera's 8,878. But Boulder County voters helped negate that lead, and the representative continued to drop votes in Weld and Adams counties as well.

Berens blamed the poor showing on a slew of negative ads from 527 organizations and media reports focusing on his acceptance of a $20,000 Colorado Oil and Gas Association golf prize.

"The majority of citizens in Broomfield know Bill Berens and what I've done for this community," he said. "I believe the people who didn't vote for me were affected by those smear campaigns."

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