On KNUS 710 AM's Backbone Radio, GOP strategist Dick Wadhams -- who is seeking to become chairman of the Colorado Republican Party -- and host John Andrews delivered numerous falsehoods about Democratic politicians. For instance, Wadhams baselessly claimed that Democrats have "no fundamental idea of what they want to do" about public policy and Andrews falsely asserted that state Senate President Joan Fitz-Gerald wants to "back off on the securing of our borders."
During the January 21 broadcast of KNUS 710 AM's Backbone Radio, Republican strategist Dick Wadhams and host John Andrews, who is former Republican Colorado Senate president, spread a number of falsehoods about Democrats. The misinformation included Wadhams' claim that Democrats have "no fundamental idea of what they want to do"; Andrews' suggestion that state Senate President Joan Fitz-Gerald (D-Coal Creek Canyon) wrote the Mexican consulate in Denver to ask "for direction from them about how to back off on the securing of our borders"; and Wadhams' accusation that, during the gubernatorial campaign, Gov. Bill Ritter misrepresented his stance about restoring funding to Planned Parenthood.
As Colorado Media Matters noted (here and here), Wadhams -- who is running for chairman of the Colorado Republican Party -- has become notorious for using negative campaign strategies to achieve some of his notable successes. A January 8 Denver Post online article described Wadhams as being "politically brutal enough to be considered a Republican hitman and smart enough to be recently dubbed 'Rove 2.0.' "
Wadhams provided examples of how he uses misinformation during his appearance on Backbone Radio:
Democrats have "no fundamental idea of what they want to do"
Referring to Democratic gains in November's midterm elections, Wadhams stated that "Republicans lost their way" and "Democrats did not do anything but kind of stand there and benefit from it." Wadhams also asserted that Democrats "did not have anything close to the Contract with America," a reference to the Republicans' legislative agenda issued before the 1994 midterm elections.
Wadhams, however, ignored the Democrats' "Six for '06" agenda that an August 4, 2006, Boston Globe article described as "a series of easily digestible policy proposals that party leaders hope will help them shed their reputation for diluting their positions with maddening complexity and nuance." The Globe further reported, "Taking inspiration from the Republicans' 1994 'Contract With America,' Democrats have reduced their policy proposals to a series of short, pithy promises that challengers can offer as the party's vision in an election they want to be determined by national trend lines and issues."
Contrary to Wadhams' assertion that the Democrats have "no fundamental idea of what they want to do," Democrats in the U.S. House of Representatives passed their legislative agenda during the first 100 Hours of the 110th Congress. As The New York Times reported on January 19, "House Democrats met the goals of their 100-hour legislative offensive with plenty of time to spare." The Times further noted:
But the easy approval of the half-dozen measures in the 100-hour agenda -- dealing with the minimum wage, embryonic stem cell research, health care, national security, education and energy -- was celebrated by the new majority as a validation of the blitz, an idea born on the campaign trail that blossomed into a central House Democratic theme.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi's (D-CA) website notes that the new Democratic majority passed bills specified in the 100 Hours agenda on ethics reform, homeland security, raising the minimum wage, prescription drugs, stem cell research, cutting student loan interest rates, and repealing subsidies for oil companies "[a]fter only 42 Hours and 25 minutes."
State Senate President Fitz-Gerald wants to water down immigration reform bill
In response to Wadhams' comment about "Senate President, Fitz-Gerald, talking about, or asking a foreign government to tell us which laws we're allegedly overzealously enforcing," Andrews said, "Wasn't that just breathtaking, Dick, that -- that Senate President Joan Fitz-Gerald would write the Mexican consulate here in Denver and ask for direction from them about how to back off on the securing of our borders ... ?" Wadhams replied that there was one story "buried ... in the Rocky Mountain News" and that "[630 KHOW-AM host] Peter Boyles picked up on it for two or three days, but by and large, she [Fitz-Gerald] got away with it." Wadhams also stated that once he is "elected by the Colorado state central committee, if they so honor me," he "want[s] to make sure that those things don't get overlooked and pushed aside."
But as Colorado Media Matters noted, the allegation that Fitz-Gerald wants to soften immigration reform legislation, enacted by the state legislature via special session last summer, was baseless.
The December 8 News article that Wadhams referred to reported that Fitz-Gerald had "asked the Mexican Consulate for a list of government agencies that it charges may be violating the intent and spirit of the state's new anti-immigration law." The article further reported that Fitz-Gerald had expressed "a growing concern that illegal immigrants and legal Colorado residents are being denied public benefits for which they are entitled since the passage of House Bill 1023."
The article did not report that Fitz-Gerald asked for advice "about how to back off on the securing of our borders," as Andrews falsely claimed. Instead, the News reported that the Mexican consulate in Denver had "documented cases in which undocumented immigrants, as well as U.S. citizens, are being denied public benefits, police protection and other services they're entitled to."
Enacted August 1, 2006, HB 1023 "sets strict identification checks to prove lawful presence, and is meant to deny illegal immigrants most government services," according to the News.
Ritter is "not what he said he was during the campaign"
Calling Ritter an "allegedly pro-life governor," Wadhams complained that "one of his [Ritter's] first acts ... after he was sworn in as governor" was to reverse "an executive order that enforced the rule of the people from the 1980s banning the use of public funds for abortion." Wadhams then falsely claimed, "So for him [Ritter] to come right out of the box in reversing Governor Owens' executive order shows that he is not what he said he was during the election campaign."
In fact, it was widely reported during the 2006 gubernatorial race that Ritter pledged to reverse former Gov. Bill Owens' 1999 decision that banned state funding for Planned Parenthood, claiming it violated Colorado's Constitution. As a December 15, 2001, News article (accessed through the Nexis database) by John Sanko noted, "in 1999 ... Gov. Bill Owens' administration announced that no more state funds would be awarded to Planned Parenthood because of a constitutional ban on tax dollars for abortions." The News reported:
[I]n order to avoid the loss of state funds, Planned Parenthood formed two groups -- one of them, Planned Parenthood Services Corp., performs abortions.
That satisfied the state at the time, and it approved $320,000 in family-planning funds to provide low-income women with birth control and cancer-screening help across the state.
However, in 2001, a controversial "private audit led the Health Department to cut all of Planned Parenthood's funding because of its financial ties to abortions," according to a December 18, 2001, Post article (accessed through the Nexis database). The Post article noted that "officials from Planned Parenthood and other groups that support keeping abortion legal said they believe state Health Director Jane Norton [later lieutenant governor under Owens] and other top health officials hired their own auditor because state auditors may not have come to the same conclusions."
As the Post reported in a May 21, 2006, article about Ritter's nomination, Ritter "addressed abortion rights issues by promising to restore state funding to Planned Parenthood that was cut by Gov. Bill Owens and to support access to the so-called morning-after pill." Likewise, an August 12, 2006, News article (accessed through the Nexis database) covering a debate between Ritter and Republican Bob Beauprez noted, "Ritter stressed that his focus would be on preventing unintended pregnancies by reversing Owens' executive order baring (sic) funding of Planned Parenthood for family planning education and teen pregnancy prevention."
Wadhams also misleadingly asserted that "even most pro-choice folks agree that the public should not be used for abortion." However, Ritter's decision would reinstate funding to groups like Planned Parenthood explicitly for family planning services, not abortions, as Wadhams implied.
As the Post reported on January 16, "Ritter, a Catholic who describes himself as 'pro-life,' wants to lift an order by his predecessor, Republican Bill Owens, also a Catholic. The order restricted groups that perform abortions from getting state money for family planning and pregnancy prevention." The Post also reported that, according to Ritter spokesman Evan Dreyer, "Only family-planning groups that show they can segregate state funds from money spent on abortions would be eligible" for funding under Ritter's plan. In the article Dreyer also "emphasized Ritter is opposed to funding abortions" and stated that " '[t]he governor believes strongly it is good public policy to attempt to reduce unintended pregnancies, and that is his goal.' "
From the January 21 broadcast of KNUS 710 AM's Backbone Radio:
ANDREWS: He is coming home to be the next state Republican chairman -- it's Dick Wadhams. And part of the welcome back to Colorado for Dick Wadhams is to get his thoughts on what happened last year and how we make it a whole lot better this year. Next, as our guest right now, on Backbone Radio. Dick, as you re-acclimatize to Colorado's severe winter, I hope it doesn't make you miss the relatively mild climate of Washington, D.C., and Virginia, where you've been spending the last couple of years with Senator George Allen.
WADHAMS: Yeah, actually John, I think -- it feels like I'm back in South Dakota.
KRISTA KAFER: It is a little bit nippy here, but I tell you, come summer, you're going to be happy you're here.
WADHAMS: No, no. It's wonderful. It's wonderful. Colorado's always been home, even when I was gone doing campaigns, so it's great to be back.
ANDREWS: And we need you to forget the unhappy Virginia experience and bring a little of that South Dakota lightning back to Colorado as we get ready for 2008.
WADHAMS: Yeah. I mean, it was a tough year, John, as certainly Colorado knew. But there wasn't a state in the nation that didn't feel the national political environment go south on Republicans. And so, everybody felt it. Some states felt it worse than others. My home state of Colorado and certainly Virginia did. But the great thing about politics, nationally and particularly in Colorado, every election cycle offers a new opportunity. And I think that we're already seeing the excesses of this new Democratic majority in the Colorado legislature, and we're seeing that Bill Ritter is being unmasked as a moderate, and Ken Salazar is looking more and more partisan over time. The thin veneer of his moderate face is being pulled off. So I'm looking forward to it.
ANDREWS: What -- what was the undoing of the party nationally, leaving aside the pounding that -- that your man, Senator Allen, took in that narrow loss to Jim Webb in Virginia? How, Dick -- how do you assess the main factors that took down Republican candidates all across the map, including here in Colorado?
WADHAMS: You know, John. There's just no way around it. The fact is, is that Republicans lost their way, and that's just kind of an aggregate reference to the party in general, but particularly in Congress. And, in terms of fiscal matters, the handling of the [former Rep. Mark] Foley -- the whole Foley case in September and how the leadership has handled that. The earmarks -- I mean, the brutal truth is that the revolution that Newt Gingrich ushered in in 1994 had run out of steam. And that I think that our party had decided to be more concerned about keeping power than doing the right thing. And so, I think we paid a price for it, particularly in view of the national environment that existed because of a lot of things. The Iraq situation did not help us as the headlines got worse and worse going into the fall. And so, it just -- the combination of all those things, just combined, that -- the interesting thing is that the Democrats did not do anything but kind of stand there and benefit from it. They did not have anything close to the Contract with America. They -- they really are a party that has no fundamental idea of what they want to do, other than their traditional time-honored --
ANDREWS: They won by not being Republicans, and now that they have to show their colors --
ANDREWS: -- whether it's Pelosi and [Senate Majority Leader Harry] Reid [D-NV] in Washington, D.C., in Congress, or as you said, Ritter and the legislative Democrats here in Colorado, there is that opportunity for Republicans to get back in the game.
WADHAMS: That's exactly right, and -- and we just need to get our act together again and present the basic mainstream conservative Republican messages; they have always worked for us. And we also need to become the party of ideas again. That's what we were all through the '80s and the '90s and, I think we lost a lot of that.
WADHAMS: The Senate President, Fitz-Gerald, talking about, or asking a foreign government to tell us which laws we're allegedly overzealously enforcing. What is the --
ANDREWS: Wasn't that just breathtaking, Dick, that -- that Senate President Joan Fitz-Gerald would write the Mexican consulate here in Denver and ask for direction from them about how to back off on the securing of our borders, which she had professed to support in last summer's legislative special session? But to go to a foreign government --
WADHAMS: Yeah, John, it was mind-boggling. And what was further mind-boggling is it got one buried story in the Rocky Mountain News. [630 KHOW-AM host] Peter Boyles picked up on it for two or three days, but by and large, she got away with it. And that's the kind of stuff that, that -- as soon as I'm elected by the Colorado state central committee, if they so honor me, that I want to make sure that those things don't get overlooked and pushed aside. In fact, I continue to talk about that wherever I go.
ANDREWS: Dick Wadhams, you mentioned earlier, and I want to give you an opportunity to be more specific, that the centrist or moderate pose of our new governor, Bill Ritter, that successfully rode him to a big election victory in November is already starting to be unmasked here in January. What are some of the specifics on Bill Ritter?
WADHAMS: You know, one of the key things that Governor Owens did in the early days of his administration was to issue an executive order that enforced the will of the people from the 1980s banning the use of public funds for abortion. And that executive order stood throughout Governor Owens' terms, and one of the first things that he did was, of course, reverse that. And Archbishop Chaput has criticized him, has criticized Governor Ritter for doing that. But that was one of his first acts, John, after he was sworn in as governor. This allegedly pro-life governor. Now, I got to tell you, even -- even most pro-choice folks agree the public should not be used for abortion. So for him to come right out of the box in reversing Governor Owens' executive order shows that he is not what he said he was during the election campaign.