In reporting on a proposed ballot issue that would "block unions from deducting dues from state workers' paychecks" and that is being promoted by Independence Institute president Jon Caldara, the Rocky Mountain News failed to mention that the think tank was the primary sponsor of the "Ask First" campaign, which pushed for similar paycheck-deduction restrictions at the local level in previous elections but failed in two of the three cities where it was on the November 6 ballot.
A November 29 Rocky Mountain News article about a proposed ballot issue being promoted by Independence Institute president Jon Caldara that would "block unions from deducting dues from state workers' paychecks" failed to note that the Independence Institute was the primary sponsor of the "Ask First" campaign, which attempted to impose the same restriction at the city and county level in past elections. As Colorado Media Matters has noted, Ask First helped promote and place similar measures blocking payroll deductions on the November 6 ballot in Greeley and Englewood, where voters defeated them, and in Centennial, where it passed.
The News article by April M. Washington reported that "Caldara and Sen. Nancy Spence, R-Centennial, filed a ballot proposal with the state Wednesday that would ban private organizations and special interests from using the state's payroll system to collect dues." The article further reported:
The move comes weeks after Gov. Bill Ritter signed an executive order giving unions the right to organize state workers.
"Now that Ritter is bringing unions to state government, it merely says the people's payroll system won't be used to funnel money to special interest," said Caldara, president of the Independence Institute, a Colorado free market think tank.
The proposed measure will continue to allow the state to deduct tax withholding, charitable donations and child support from paychecks.
Ritter's spokesman Evan Dreyer said Caldara was attempting to amend the state Constitution to halt a standard payroll practice in both the private and public sectors.
The state for years had collected union dues through payroll deductions until former Gov. Bill Owens halted the practice.
Ritter rescinded Owens' executive order when he became governor in January.
The News, however, did not mention that Caldara's "free market think tank" was the primary sponsor of similar payroll-deduction measures at the local level or that Ask First ballot initiatives failed in Greeley and Englewood on November 6. As Colorado Media Matters documented, during a November 6 broadcast on Newsradio 850 KOA, Caldara raised the "possibility" that the Ask First campaign could "go statewide," but for the second straight day failed to disclose that his organization launched and sponsored the campaign.
Despite omitting the think tank's sponsorship of Ask First campaigns at the city and county level in its November 29 article, the News in a September 20 editorial noted the Independence Institute's role and stated that it was "encourag[ed]" by opposition to "the automatic deduction of union dues from paychecks." The editorial further noted that Ask First "has chalked up some victories. Commissioners in Arapahoe, El Paso, Jefferson, Mesa and Weld counties have passed paycheck protection policies covering county workers." It continued:
Voters in Centennial, Englewood and Greeley will decide in this fall's election whether those automatic deductions would end for unionized workers employed by those cities.
By the end of the year, the free-market Independence Institute, which launched Ask First, says it's possible that paycheck protection provisions might cover cities and counties where more than half of Coloradans reside.