The Colorado Springs Gazette, which owns the political news site formerly known as the Colorado Statesman and is owned and managed by the family of billionaire Phil Anschutz, has a long and growing track record for brazenly partisan bias in both their news and editorial coverage. This FOX News-like lack of objectivity has manifested itself in many ways, from undisclaimed attacks on critics of a political organization that had directly paid members of the Gazette’s staff and the wife of the paper’s editorial page editor Wayne Laugesen, to more recent examples of arguable bias in favor of Republican gubernatorial candidate Walker Stapleton against the entire rest of the field–most prominently helping shower Attorney General Cynthia Coffman in bad press ahead of the Republican caucuses.
With Stapleton’s campaign suddenly imperiled this week by admitted fraudulent petitions, moving Stapleton to commit to making the ballot via the state assembly coming up Saturday, the editorial board of the Gazette is shifting into overdrive to spin this disastrous situation into something resembling a positive:
Integrity has long defined Colorado State Treasurer Walker Stapleton…
His adherence to ethical and moral principles explains why he asked the Colorado secretary of state’s office Tuesday to disqualify all petitions the agency had approved to put him on the primary ballot.
Stapleton learned a Colorado Springs-based petition gathering firm he hired, Kennedy Enterprises, used a contract worker who was not a registered to vote in Colorado. By state law, only registered voters qualify to gather petitions. Stapleton says the firm previously assured him all petition workers qualified. Upon learning otherwise, he abandoned the petitions instead of preparing to defend them in a potential court challenge.
…We are not surprised Stapleton, a small business owner, made the quick executive decision to risk his candidacy and ditch questionable petitions. He cares about the people of Colorado. Win or lose, he wants a process that is fair for us all.
Integrity. Pass it on.
This over-the-top sycophantic editorial spins what happened beyond useful recognition. For one thing, they claim that Stapleton called his ad hoc press conference “shortly” after learning that he had submitted fraudulent petitions. The truth is that an opponent of Stapleton’s raised questions about Stapleton’s petitions almost two weeks ago–before Stapleton’s petitions were validated. These excuses about the back-and-forth between Stapleton’s campaign and his contractors are both unverifiable and irrelevant. What matters is that Stapleton submitted fraudulent petitions, and our Republican Secretary of State validated them.
And then it came out that the petitions were fraudulent.
The reason that Stapleton “came forward” Tuesday was simple: having recognized a serious problem, Stapleton wants to avoid the fate of 2016 U.S. Senate candidate Jon Keyser–who responded catastrophically to revelations of forged petitions among those he used to qualify for the GOP primary ballot. The ongoing investigation into Keyser’s forged petitions dominated the headlines for the remainder of the primary after the story broke, and Keyser placed 4th out of 5 candidates in the final vote.
Given the results of the related court case over petition signatures turned in by Doug Lamborn, in which Lamborn faced the court’s relatively lenient standard of “substantial compliance” and kept his spot on the ballot, there’s an argument that Stapleton mishandled his response here and created unnecessary uncertainty for his campaign. The fastest road out of this for Stapleton will be to dominate the assembly on Saturday, which would settle the question of his place on the June primary ballot.
But whatever happens this weekend, do not insult the intelligence of Colorado voters by suggesting that this was a display of “integrity.” The known and checkered history of petition gathering in Colorado in general and the contractors employed by Stapleton’s campaign in particular make it impossible for Stapleton to plausibly claim he was caught unawares by this scandal. And if he really was caught unawares, that invites its own competency questions.
Nobody gets a medal for this debacle, least of all Walker Stapleton.