Post's Clausing highlighted Wadhams' strategy against Democrats but omitted GOP legislative agenda

››› ››› MEDIA MATTERS STAFF

In a February 11 column, The Denver Post's Jeri Clausing reported on the Colorado Republican Party's strategy of portraying the Democratic majority's legislative agenda as "out of the mainstream" and listed Democratic-backed bills that she described as "ammunition." However, Clausing did not mention controversial Republican-sponsored measures, including a ban on almost all abortions and a "religious bill of rights" for public schools.

In a February 11 column about Gov. Bill Ritter's (D) veto of a contentious labor bill, Denver Post Capitol Bureau chief Jeri Clausing advanced a Colorado GOP tactic of portraying proposed Democratic legislation as "out of the mainstream" by listing several bills that might fit that description while failing to note Republican-sponsored measures -- such as a bill to ban nearly all abortions in Colorado -- that could also be considered "out of the mainstream."

Clausing quoted incoming Colorado Republican Party chairman Dick Wadhams, who said the labor bill passed by the General Assembly on February 8 was "so out of the mainstream even the Democratic governor [Ritter] had to veto it." Contrary to Wadhams' characterization of Ritter's motive, Clausing had noted earlier in the column that the governor, in his February 9 message accompanying his veto of House Bill 1072, "said he vetoed the bill because of process, not the bill's substance."

But after quoting Wadhams' criticism of Ritter and the Democrats, Clausing then listed several other Democratic-sponsored bills that she characterized as "an arsenal of ammunition for Republicans trying to get the Democrats on the record as often and as publicly as possible."

From Jeri Clausing's February 11 Denver Post column, "U-turn moment for GOP in 'Both Ways Bill' tactic":

Last Tuesday, Gov. Bill Ritter stood before the House Democratic caucus and told lawmakers he was pleased with the legislation they've begun sending him.

Three days later, he vetoed one of their high-profile proposals, a bill to eliminate one of two votes necessary under Colorado labor law to negotiate for all-union shops.

Republicans declared victory, then immediately drubbed Ritter for backing down on a campaign promise to unions to endorse such a change to the Labor Peace Act.

"As laudable as this is, he's coming across as 'Both Ways Bill,' " said incoming Colorado Republican Party chair Dick Wadhams.

Ritter said he vetoed the bill because of process, not the bill's substance.

[...]

"This is a huge victory for the Republican minority and the people of Colorado," Wadhams said.

"The Democratic majority in both houses absolutely fell in line when labor asked them to and they passed a bill so out of the mainstream even the Democratic governor had to veto it," he said.

And this bill was just the first round in what promises to be an arsenal of ammunition for Republicans trying to get the Democrats on the record as often and as publicly as possible.

Also moving through the legislature are bills that would allow gay workers to sue for employment discrimination, abolish the death penalty, and raise the caps on awards on wrongful-death lawsuits.

So while Ritter is trying to bridge partisan divides, Wadhams expects to see a lot more public battles like those that sunk the union-shop bill.

The strategy, he said, is to "illuminate the fundamental public policy difference between Republicans and Democrats."

While Clausing may have "illuminat[ed]" examples of the upcoming Democratic legislative agenda, she failed to note some of the more controversial bills introduced by Republican legislators.

For example, Sen. Scott Renfroe (R-Greeley) and Rep. Kent Lambert (R-Colorado Springs) have introduced SB 143, which would ban nearly all abortions in Colorado and make performing an abortion a class 3 felony. As Colorado Media Matters has noted, recent polls show a majority of Colorado voters would oppose, rather than support, a ban on abortion.

Additionally, SB 138, introduced by Sen. Dave Schultheis (R-Colorado Springs) and Rep. Kevin Lundberg (R-Berthoud), would permit students to opt out of classes that conflict with their religious beliefs and would subject individual school board members to personal liability in potential lawsuits arising out of a school board's failure to comply with the law.

The Democratic bills Clausing referenced appear to be SB 25, introduced by Sen. Jennifer Veiga (D-Denver) and Rep. Alice Madden (D-Boulder), which would add sexual orientation to employment nondiscrimination protections; HB 1094, introduced by Rep. Paul Weissmann (D-Louisville), which would abolish the death penalty and establish a "cold-case" murder unit at the Colorado Bureau of Investigation; and SB 129, introduced by Sen. Peter Groff (D-Denver) and Rep. Terrance Carroll (D-Denver), which would index caps on damages awarded in liability lawsuits -- including wrongful death -- to inflation.

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