Afternoon Headlines July 14, 2017

Following news that a presidential task force set up by Donald Trump asked for personal information on all voters in Colorado, 3,394 of them across the state cancelled their voter registration.

The numbers are the first statewide tally since June 29, when news broke that Kris Kobach, vice chair of Trump’s Presidential Advisory Commission on Election Integrity, sent a letter asking Colorado Republican Secretary of State Wayne Williams for information on our state’s voters. “It’s my hope that folks who withdrew their registration will re-register, particularly once they realize that no confidential information will be provided and that the parties and presidential candidates already have the same publicly available information from the 2016 election cycle,” said Williams in a statement about the cancellation figures, which his office released on Thursday.

In Colorado, a voter’s name, address, birth year and party affiliation, along with when and where they voted, is a public record that can be obtained from the Secretary of State’s office by anyone who asks.

Following news that the Kobach commission asked Colorado for a data dump of state voter info, county elections officials in the state said voters were un-registering because they fear an administration they don’t trust. Others have turned to a different tactic: becoming what is called a “confidential voter” by filling out an affidavit saying they fear for their safety. Between June 29 and July 13, 182 voters in Colorado chose to seek confidential status, according to numbers from the Secretary of State.

Williams planned to send a data file to the feds by a July 14 deadline. But that hit a snag when a privacy group filed a court challenge to the commission. On July 10, the commission told Williams to hold off on sending anything until a judge ruled on a temporary restraining order in the case. So far, no one knows when Colorado will send the information. The Secretary of State’s office points out that those who withdrew their registration in recent weeks make up less than one tenth of 1 percent of the state’s 3.7 million voters.

As a powerful organization backed by some of the nation’s wealthiest conservative families prepares to meet in Denver next week, a nonpartisan watchdog group is drawing attention to the way that organization has influenced Colorado’s own General Assembly. The American Legislative Exchange Council, commonly called ALEC, will hold its annual conference July 19 through 21 at the Hyatt Regency in Denver.

The nonprofit, which calls itself a nonpartisan organization of state lawmakers “dedicated to the principles of limited government, free markets and federalism,” is supported by more than 300 corporations and foundations, including several tied to the Coors family and to Charles and David Koch, the Kansas billionaires who have funneled millions of dollars into conservative causes.

The oil and gas industry, as well as tobacco companies, also support ALEC, which is not required by law to report its sources of income. Common Cause, a nonprofit watchdog group that has been critical of ALEC and its “secretive corporate lobbying,” issued a report July 13 that points to several bills in the 2017 Colorado General Assembly that it says came from ALEC. Sometimes called a “bill mill,” ALEC drafts model legislation, crafted by lawmakers and business interests, and then gives those model bills to its legislative members in the states.

Those state bills, sometimes on a word-for-word basis, then become proposed laws that state legislators try to pass. ALEC’s model bills, according to the Common Cause report, “attempt to write benefits to its corporate donors into state law.” In Colorado, “although the bills cover a wide range of special interests, the underlying theme is their propensity to satisfy corporate needs. Corporate members of ALEC expect their interests to be advanced by state legislators who join the organization,” the report said.

Sinclair Broadcasting, a Chicago media company that already owns 173 local TV stations around the country, wants to buy The Tribune Media Company, which owns more than 40 local TV stations— including KDVR and KWGN in Denver. Since the announcement of the potential deal, scrutiny on Sinclair has sharpened as media watchers wonder what it could mean for the local news. HBO’s John Oliver recently devoted a major segment of his “Last Week Tonight” show to Sinclair’s right-leaning agenda and how it can seep into local newscasts and potentially beam into an average of 2.2 million households if the deal goes through. Sinclair, Oliver said, is “injecting Fox-worthy content into the mouths of your local news anchors,” the people who you know and “who you trust.”

Using what Sinclair calls “must runs,” the largest owner of local TV stations in the nation tells its local affiliates to air conservative content. And now, reports Politico, Sinclair’s must-run segments featuring a former Trump White House official named Boris Epshteyn are ramping up to nine times a week. Epshteyn has gone on TV and made the untrue claim that Barack Obama won North Carolina in 2008 “due to illegal voting.” In Denver, the two local TV stations that could wind up owned by Sinclair are keeping mum. Top brass at KDVR referred comments about how they’re handling the potential purchase to a corporate spokesman in Chicago. He declined to comment as federal regulators review the deal.

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