Face the State misrepresented carbon-tax ballot initiative as a "Democrat proposal"

››› ››› MEDIA MATTERS STAFF

Continuing its pattern of publishing misleading headlines, the "news" website Face the State on its November 26 home page referred to a "Democrat proposal for ... you guessed it ... another new tax!" The headline linked to a November 24 Daily Sentinel of Grand Junction article that reported on a ballot proposal for a carbon tax submitted by a "Fort Collins resident and failed 2006 Democratic House candidate." The article further noted that Gov. Bill Ritter (D) did not include a carbon tax in his recently announced Climate Action Plan.

In a headline that linked to a November 24 Daily Sentinel of Grand Junction article, the "news" website Face the State misleadingly referred to a "Democrat proposal for ... you guessed it ... another new tax!" In fact, the article to which the headline linked reported not on the efforts of any Democratic officeholder but on a ballot proposal submitted by "Fort Collins resident and failed 2006 Democratic House candidate Sue Radford." Additionally, in a November 26 "Staff Report" Face the State repeatedly employed the well-established conservative tactic of using the noun "Democrat" as an adjective instead of the grammatically correct "Democratic" -- as it also did in its headline to the November 24 Daily Sentinel article.

As Colorado Media Matters has documented repeatedly, while it describes itself as "a one-stop-shop for political news affecting Coloradans," Face the State frequently publishes misleading headlines on its aggregated news articles, uses the noun "Democrat" ungrammatically as an adjective, and makes other distortions that advance conservative viewpoints and denigrate liberal positions and political figures.

Face the State's home page for November 26 featured the following misleading headline:

Democrat proposal for ... you guessed it ... another new tax!

The Daily Sentinel article to which the Face the State headline linked reported that Radford had submitted ballot language for a carbon tax to the Colorado Legislative Council the previous week:

A former state House candidate wants to impose a carbon tax on Coloradans and the state's businesses in an effort to combat global warming.

In ballot language submitted last week to the Colorado Legislative Council, Fort Collins resident and failed 2006 Democratic House candidate Sue Radford proposes charging energy companies an annual fee for every ton of carbon dioxide they produce. The fee, the ballot language states, would have to be passed along to consumers on their electrical bills.

Contrary to Face the State's suggestion that the Democratic Party or elected Democrats were behind Radford's proposal, the article reported that Radford chose to push the measure as a citizen initiative "because state lawmakers on either side of the aisle are often terrified of supporting tax increases and the black marks they leave on their records." Moreover, the Daily Sentinel reported that Democratic Gov. Bill Ritter's administration had decided against including a carbon tax in its Climate Action Plan announced November 5:

Under Radford's ballot question, sponsored by the Colorado Clean Energy Tax Shift, all carbon-tax revenue would be refunded to taxpayers through reductions in sales, business personal property and payroll taxes. A portion of the revenue also would be rebated to taxpayers.

"When you do that, the amount of revenue you collect becomes large, and you don't want to remove that kind of money from the economy or expand government that much," Radford said. "So the best thing to do, seeing that our climate is a shared resource ... is to refund the money."

Radford said she chose to introduce a constitutional ballot question because state lawmakers on either side of the aisle are often terrified of supporting tax increases and the black marks they leave on their records.

Gov. Bill Ritter's recently unveiled plan to combat the state's rising carbon emissions does not include a carbon tax.

Ritter spokesman Evan Dreyer said the governor avoided a carbon tax because of the problem of a single state acting alone and how it might not diminish demand for carbon-based energy.

"A carbon tax imposed by a single state would be very difficult to administer since many companies operate across state borders," Dreyer said in an e-mail. "Apportioning a Colorado percentage and then collecting the tax would require a large bureaucracy. This is the sort of thing that should be considered only on a national scale."

Dreyer said there is no guarantee the increased cost of energy will taper demand.

"If demand is strong enough, emissions will still rise despite the tax," Dreyer said. "There is no guaranteed cap on emissions."

Additionally, in the November 26 staff report about charter schools, Face the State used the noun "Democrat" to qualify the words "reign," "lawmakers," "majority," and a reference to Ritter. As Colorado Media Matters has noted repeatedly, 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.

From the Face the State article "One Year into Democrat Reign: Charter Schools Stalled":

Colorado's leading defender of public charter schools says opponents have toned down their attacks for the time being. But school choice supporters in the legislature are urging allies to be prepared for a possible resurgence of anti-charter activity.

According to Jim Griffin, president of the Colorado League of Charter Schools, voters can expect a Democrat-led 2008 legislative session that sees little action with regard to charter school efforts. "It's détente right now," Griffin said. "We don't have the ability to push anything through. However, I don't think they can push anything through to restrict the charter school law, either."

[...]

Yet state Sen. Mike Kopp, R-Littleton believes providing equitable dollars for charter school capital construction will again be difficult, after Democrats cut funding in 2007. "I'm certain that we will once again have to fight tooth and nail to keep their meager capital funding intact," he said.

Nevertheless, Griffin and Kopp agree the selection of new Senate president Peter Groff, D-Denver, may be a possible source for progress. "We're optimistic that he will work to set a pro-charter school tone in the legislature," Kopp said.

Groff led a small coalition of Democrat lawmakers in support of a 2007 Republican amendment that helped to stop the main attack on public charter schools.

Anti-Charter Forces Sharpened Knives

Charter schools are public schools of choice that operate independently of local boards of education. Though freed from many of the rules under which traditional schools must operate, charter schools remain accountable for student scores on state assessments, as well as other state regulations. Charter school teachers most often are not unionized.

The large coalition of Colorado's Democrat lawmakers whose campaigns are funded by teachers unions have opposed the expansion of charter school choice. Following Democrat Gov. Bill Ritter's 2006 election, Griffin says legislative Democrats felt emboldened to attempt roll backs to parent-friendly education reforms.

"We saw an all-Democrat lineup that started sharpening their knives, picking the time they could come and get rid of charter schools," he said.

During the 2007 legislative session, the Democrat majority in the State Capitol escalated attacks on charters and other forms of public school choice. [emphases added]

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