On KNUS, Caldara repeated falsehood about Owens' paycheck order

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During the November 11 broadcast of KNUS 710 AM's Backbone Radio, while discussing his think tank's "Ask First" political campaign to limit the ability of governments to make payroll deductions for public employees, Independence Institute president Jon Caldara misleadingly stated, "Governor Bill Owens eight years ago put together an executive order that said that unions in Colorado will have to ask their members directly and that the state payroll system will not be sucking money out of their workers' paychecks for them." But Owens' controversial 2001 order, which had the effect that is the goal of "Ask First," made no specific reference to unions or dues.

Independence Institute president Jon Caldara appeared on the November 11 broadcast of KNUS 710 AM's Backbone Radio to discuss the "Ask First" campaign that his organization has sponsored to block local government entities from making automatic payroll deductions for public employees. To host John Andrews, he made the false claim that "Governor Bill Owens eight years ago put together an executive order that said that unions in Colorado will have to ask their members directly and that the state payroll system will not be sucking money out of their workers' paychecks for them." As Colorado Media Matters has noted, although Owens' May 2001 executive order had the effect of implementing the kind of so-called "paycheck protection" that is the goal of "Ask First," the order made no specific reference to unions or dues, and does not even contain either word.

Andrews had asked Caldara about the future of the Independence Institute campaign following November 6 elections in which voters rejected "Ask First" ballot measures in Greeley and Englewood, but passed one in Centennial.

From the November 11 broadcast of KNUS 710 AM's Backbone Radio:

ANDREWS: I've been to your Ask First Colorado website, Jon, about next year. So you do envision something statewide in 2008?

CALDARA: I certainly hope something statewide happens. I think this might be a very good part of background for folks to understand. Governor Bill Owens eight years ago put together an executive order that said that unions in Colorado will have to ask their members directly and that the state payroll system will not be sucking money out of their workers' paychecks for them. And interestingly, it was [Democratic Gov.] Bill Ritter who very quickly reversed that very popular executive order when he got in. I think it's time to bring that Bill Owens executive order back statewide and make sure that special interests have to go get their own money and don't use the power of government-owned payroll systems to do it.

Caldara's misleading reference to Owens' executive order echoed an exchange the two had when Caldara appeared as guest host of Newsradio 850 KOA's The Mike Rosen Show on November 6. On that broadcast, Caldara and Owens criticized Ritter for having announced an executive order allowing state employee partnerships on a Friday afternoon (November 2). In purported contrast with Ritter's supposed secretiveness, Caldara falsely declared to Owens, "You had a very simple executive order that said unions in Colorado need to go directly to their state employee and ask for the money directly," to which Owens replied, "Absolutely." Owens added, regarding Executive Order D 007 01, "I issued an executive order -- which I was very proud of -- which said, we're not going to collect union dues for the unions."

Contrary to Caldara's statements on the two broadcasts, Owens' order in fact did not specifically mention unions or dues. Moreover, his executive order, issued Friday, May 25, 2001, was not covered* by either The Denver Post or the Rocky Mountain News until June 29, 2001, when the News (accessed through the Nexis database) reported that unions and other opponents had decried it "as an end run to enact a so-called 'Paycheck Protection' plan to make it more difficult to automatically withhold funds from paychecks for political purposes."

The News article also reported that spokesmen for Owens asserted that claims that the order was aimed at labor unions were "off-based and certainly premature. All Owens did when he signed the order on May 25 was comply with a 1996 law reforming the personnel season and repealing the automatic approval of all written requests for deductions in state payroll checks, they said."

(*Nexis search on the string "Owens or payroll or executive w/1 order or union or dues")

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