A website run by conservative activist Brad Jones purports to "provide a one-stop-shop for political news affecting Coloradans." A Colorado Media Matters review of FaceTheState.com has identified numerous instances of falsehoods, misleading information, and attacks on Democrats.
FaceTheState.com, the website launched by conservative activist Brad Jones on March 26, declares that it "was created to provide a one-stop-shop for political news affecting Coloradans." Jones said it is intended to be a news-aggregation service ... backed up by original investigative reporting and editorials," according to an April 12 Westword article, which quoted Jones as saying, "I think if you look at the landscape of independent political reporting in Colorado, there's a need for journalistic standards." However, a Colorado Media Matters review of Face the State's postings through April 12 found falsehoods, misleading information, and attacks on Democrats -- calling into question Jones' putative regard for "journalistic standards."
As Colorado Media Matters has noted, Jones has been a frequent contractor for conservative Republican political candidates. In 2005 and 2006 Jones received at least $10,000 while working as a contractor for Republican candidates, as records from the Colorado Secretary of State's website indicate. He also is listed as the creator of the website for 1310 KFKA's The Amy Oliver Show -- hosted by Amy Oliver, director of operations for the conservative Independence Institute. Jones has appeared as a guest host for Oliver on several occasions. Colorado Media Matters also has noted that Jones worked as a research associate at the Independence Institute under the direction of Jessica Peck Corry, whom state Sen. Sue Windels (D-Arvada) defeated in the 2004 state Senate District 19 race.
Furthermore, as the Rocky Mountain News reported, Colorado Senate Republicans removed Jones' name as "Host" of their website, ColoradoSenateNews.com, amid controversy over Face the State's March 29 publication of an inflammatory email in which state Rep. Mike Merrifield (D-Manitou Springs) wrote to Windels that proponents of charter schools deserve "a special place in hell."
On the March 30 broadcast of Newsradio 850 KOA's The Mike Rosen Show, Jones described Face the State as engaging in both "original reporting" and "news aggregation, kind of in the spirit of a Drudge Report," the website run by Internet gossip Matt Drudge. Indeed, Face the State -- like the Drudge Report -- has offered misleading coverage of political news. Following are examples of Face the State's reporting on Colorado politics.
1. "NO DICE: Liberal Sites Fall Short on Attack"
One of Face the State's distortions involves reporting on the question of whether the website and its founder inappropriately coordinated with the Republican Party to produce its March 29 article about the Merrifield email. Under the heading "NO DICE: Liberal Sites Fall Short on Attack," Face the State's front page on April 6 featured links to April 5 Rocky Mountain News and Denver Post articles about Jones' relationship with the Republican Party:
NO DICE: Liberal Sites Fall Short on Attack
The News article ran under the headline "Dems ask if state resources used to expose 'place in hell' e-mail." The Post article was headlined "Blogger says no conspiracy was aimed at Rep. Merrifield." Face the State's wording for each link misleadingly suggests that the newspapers had dismissed concerns over whether Senate Republicans had conspired with Face the State to attack Merrifield. In fact, the quotes in each link are not the words of the News or the Post, but rather are paraphrases of quotes from Jones himself and from state Senate Minority Leader Andy McElhany (R-Colorado Springs), respectively.
From the article "Dems ask if state resources used to expose 'place in hell' e-mail," in the April 5 edition of the Rocky Mountain News:
"If the liberal blogs want to spin their wheels looking for conspiracies that don't exist, they're free to do so," said Jones, who has worked for a variety of Republican campaigns, including gubernatorial bids by Marc Holtzman and Bob Beauprez.
From the article "Blogger says no conspiracy was aimed at Rep. Merrifield," in the April 5 edition of The Denver Post:
Senate Minority Leader Andy McElhany, R-Colorado Springs, said there is no connection between Senate Republicans and the open-records request Jones filed to get Merrifield's e-mail.
"Nobody in this office knew anything about it until after it happened," he said. But, McElhany added, it wouldn't matter if they did.
2. "Democrat" used as an adjective instead of "Democratic"
As Colorado Media Matters has noted, Republican Party officials, politicians, and their allies in the media frequently use "Democrat" instead of "Democratic" as a pejorative reference to things or people of, or relating to, the Democratic Party.
Newsradio 850 KOA host Mike Rosen, an avowed Republican, explained during his July 18, 2006, broadcast that "[t]he reason why some Republicans -- myself included -- sometimes refer to it as the 'Democrat' Party ... is several-fold." Rosen said that one reason is "just to annoy Democrats, 'cause they hate when we do that." Rosen said that another reason is to ensure "that readers won't be confused into thinking that this is the party that's democratic and the other party is anti-democratic."
Face the State has embraced this conservative tactic and substituted "Democrat" for "Democratic" numerous times in its first 18 days, including in the headline of its March 29 article about Merrifield's email:
Face the State used the "Democrat" label in a March 26 article about legislation introduced by Sen. Windels:
DENVER -- A Democrat lawmaker's proposal goes too far in regulating cyberschools, says the co-chair of a government panel that recently completed a review of online education.
In early March, Sen. Sue Windels, D-Arvada, introduced legislation that could curb the growth of Internet-based public education, a non-traditional alternative geared toward helping children who might otherwise achieve under a more conventional public school format. After hours of testimony and debate, Senate Bill 215 moved through the House Education Committee on March 22. Legislators now will try to determine the cost of Windels' proposal.
Face the State also used "Democrat" instead of "Democratic" in a March 26 article about an executive order Gov. Bill Ritter (D) issued to allow state government agencies to make payroll deductions for membership dues to state employee unions:
The Governor's action rescinded a 2001 order by his predecessor Bill Owens that allowed the state payroll system only to perform transactions for state-sponsored charities, direct reimbursements, tax withholdings, employee benefits, or other uses mandated by law. The 2001 order prevented the Colorado Association of Public Employees from collecting dues through public payroll. CAPE members since have been able to use private banking or other means to transmit dues payments. Within the first month of Owens' order taking effect, two-thirds of members opted to stop paying.
To stem the tide of its declining membership, CAPE negotiated a deal to affiliate with the national Service Employees International Union (SEIU). SEIU made $1 million in reported political contributions during Colorado's 2006 election, virtually all benefiting the majority Democrat Party. The union directly contributed $10,000 to Ritter's campaign, the maximum allowed under state election law. CAPE-SEIU would be the primary beneficiary of the Governor's order.
As Media Matters for America has noted, the ungrammatical conversion of the noun "Democrat" to an adjective was the brainchild of Republican partisans, presumably an attempt to deny the opposing party the claim to being "democratic" -- or in the words of New Yorker magazine senior editor Hendrik Hertzberg, "to deny the enemy the positive connotations of its chosen appellation."
In an August 7, 2006, article, Hertzberg pointed out that the word "Democrat" is a noun, and using it as an adjective defies the rules of English grammar:
The American Heritage College Dictionary, for example, defines the noun "Democratic Party" as "One of the two major US political parties, owing its origin to a split in the Democratic-Republican Party under Andrew Jackson in 1828." (It defines "Democrat n" as "A Democratic Party member" and "Democratic adj" as "Of, relating to, or characteristic of the Democratic Party," but gives no definition for -- indeed, makes no mention of -- "Democrat Party n" or "Democrat adj".) Other dictionaries, and reference works generally, appear to be unanimous on these points.
Hertzberg reported that Republicans' widespread use of the noun "Democrat" as an adjective was part of a deliberate strategy disseminated by former House Speaker Newt Gingrich (R-GA) and Republican pollster Frank Luntz. Hertzberg stated that Republicans "as far back as the Harding Administration" have referred to the "Democrat Party," including the late Sen. Joseph McCarthy (R-WI), who "made it a regular part of his arsenal of insults," and former Sen. Bob Dole (R-KS), who "denounced 'Democrat wars' ... in his  Vice-Presidential debate with [former Sen.] Walter Mondale [D-MN]."
3. "One-third of [state Rep. Jim] Riesberg's campaign contributions came from unions" in 2004
An April 4 Face the State original article, "Unions Fill Riesberg's Campaign Coffers," misrepresented the share of campaign contributions that state Rep. Jim Riesberg (D-Greeley) received from labor in his initial 2004 race for the state legislature as "one-third":
GREELEY -- In an era when union membership is declining nationally and statewide, State Rep. Jim Riesberg, D-Greeley, is seeing more campaign contributions from union chiefs than ever before.
The numbers signified a sharp rise from Riesberg's 2004 bid for House District 50. In that race to represent Greeley and Evans in northern Colorado, one-third of Riesberg's campaign contributions came from unions. According to FollowtheMoney.com, more than $8700 the total of more than $47,000 in Riesberg's coffers that year came from labor unions, and just 18 percent of contributions came from voters within the district.
While the reported dollar amounts of campaign contributions that Riesberg received in 2004 match those indicated by FollowtheMoney.org (not FollowtheMoney.com, as Face the State reported), labor's contribution of $8,750 is actually only 18.5 percent of the $47,218 total that Riesberg received that year, not one-third (or 33.3 percent).
4. Vetoed bill would have "turn[ed] Colorado into a closed-shop union state"
In an April 9 editorial critical of Ritter's March 15 executive order permitting payroll deductions for state employee union membership dues, Face the State misleadingly characterized a labor bill Ritter vetoed on February 9 -- House Bill 1072 -- as "an effort to turn Colorado into a closed-shop union state":
Figuring out how to keep union leaders happy has become a full-time job for Gov. Bill Ritter. After vetoing an effort to turn Colorado into a closed-shop union state, he has struggled continuously to keep organized labor satisfied without alienating Colorado's mainstream voters and business leaders. Tired of facing the perception that he would bow to Big Labor's harmful economic agenda, the Democratic governor found a way to appease the giant while attracting little attention. Unfortunately, it came at the expense of good government.
Two weeks ago, Ritter signed an executive order allowing union leaders to tap into the state's payroll system in order collect money for union dues and political contributions. He put state government back in the business of providing free service to an organization that represents a political interest dedicated to bigger, not more efficient, government. Thus, Ritter has decided to give public employee unions carte blanche to take money from hardworking public employees. Meanwhile, taxpayers and many state employees are being left with the scraps.
The trouble started before the Governor had time to finish decorating his new office. House Bill 1072 fell into his lap. The legislation jeopardized the state's peaceful balance between business and labor, putting individual workers at greater risk of paying fees to a union against their will.
As Colorado Media Matters has noted, among other false or unsubstantiated claims about the bill, Republican politicians such as McElhany and conservative activists such as Independence Institute president Jon Caldara frequently asserted that HB 1072 would have facilitated the establishment of so-called "closed shops." In fact, closed shops, which require that all employees in a workplace be members of that workplace's union, are illegal under U.S. labor law.
HB 1072 would have revised the Colorado Labor Peace Act to strike provisions regarding procedures under which workers preparing to negotiate a union contract can obtain necessary authority to make the contract an all-union agreement. Such an agreement requires all workers covered under the contract -- whether they are union members or not -- to contribute money to the union, through dues or fees. The text of the bill states that it:
Eliminates the requirement that, in order to validly enter into an all-union agreement, the all-union agreement must be approved by the affirmative vote of at least a majority of all the employees eligible to vote or three-quarters or more of the employees who actually voted, whichever is greater. Makes conforming amendments.
An American Bar Association (ABA) overview of U.S. labor and employment law published by the Bureau of National Affairs noted that a "closed shop" is illegal under the National Labor Relations Act, as Colorado Media Matters pointed out. The ABA overview also made clear that a "union shop" agreement, which is allowed under the Colorado Labor Peace Act and under HB 1072, can compel a worker to pay dues and fees to a union, but not to become a full member.
5) Wording of link misrepresented Carman's Post column on oil industry tax
Face the State's front page of April 7 included a link to an April 7 column by the Post's Diane Carman. The wording of the link -- "Diane Carmen [sic]: Higher Taxes Don't Hamper Growth" -- misleadingly suggested that Carman made a broad argument about taxation and economic growth. In fact, Carman wrote about an effort led by Donnell-Kay Foundation executive director Tony Lewis to place an initiative on the November 2007 ballot that would raise Colorado's effective tax rate for oil and gas drillers to a level comparable to that in neighboring states:
On Thursday, a group led by Lewis took the first step toward putting an initiative on November's ballot that would address the failure of the state to provide a mechanism to fund capital construction for schools.
Lewis filed the papers, then he braced for the inevitable blowback from some of the state's most entrenched lobbyists.
With support from education organizations and children's advocates, Lewis is daring to suggest that oil and gas drillers in Colorado pay tax rates comparable to what they pay in neighboring states and that some of the revenue generated go to repair or replace dilapidated schools.
It's an audacious plan, I know, taxing enormously profitable industries to pay for schools. What will they think of next?
In Wyoming, where the effective tax rate on oil and gas drillers is 11.2 percent, the economy is rocking, and more than $1.4 billion in state money has been spent on school construction since 2002.
Taxes haven't hampered growth of the booming industry there.
They haven't in Oklahoma, either, where the tax rate is 9.4 percent.
In Colorado, the effective tax rate is 5.7 percent, and any talk of increasing it is met with dire warnings of soaring fuel prices and a looming economic disaster.
Yet prices for gasoline are lower in Farmington, N.M., where the effective tax rate is 9.4 percent, than they are across the border in La Plata County, Lewis said. And industry profits here and around the world have been nothing short of breathtaking.
Four versions of the initiative are under consideration.
Lewis said the group plans to work with the staff of legislative services to refine the measure, but the goals are straightforward: Roll back the tax credits that were designed to prop up the industry during the oil bust of the 1980s, eliminate the small-well tax-exemption loophole and bring severance-tax rates in line with those in other states.