Colorado Confidential: Our First Year in Pictures

Today marks the first anniversary of Colorado Confidential and what a year it’s been. Thanks to all of you for your readership, thought-provoking comments, and encouragement of us to seek the truth and report it.

Some of our proudest moments:

  • More than 2,300 stories
  • 800,000 page views and 430,000 unique visitors
  • 7 Mark of Excellence Awards from the Society of Professional Journalists, Colorado Pro Chapter
  • 2 awards from the Association of Capitol Beat Reporters
  • Associate membership in the Colorado Press Association
  • Citizen advocacy inspired by our original and investigative news stories resulting in watchdog lawsuits, state and federal complaints for campaign finance violations, petitions, and grassroots action.

We hope you enjoy our audio slide show that underscores some of the past year’s highlights. Examples of our work advancing hard-hitting investigations, poignant personal stories, and news from all four corners of Colorado featured in the slide show can be viewed below:

Coulter Reception Netted $0 for Beauprez
by Larry Borowsky, July 11, 2006

You’re a Republican running for governor, it’s the last week of the 1st quarter of election year, and a famous right-wing pundit’s in town — gotta milk that for all it’s worth, right?

If the pundit’s Ann Coulter, maybe not.

Trailhead to Nowhere
by Jason Bane with Cara DeGette, Wendy Norris, and Nancy Watzman, September 15, 2006

As this high-stakes political season enters its final weeks, one of the biggest and most influential political committees at work in Colorado appears to be playing fast and loose with the campaign finance rules. Are they cheating? An exclusive Colorado Confidential investigation of the Trailhead Group reveals questionable financial transactions that literally don’t add up.

Colorado Women Need a Plan A for Plan B
by Wendy Norris with Cara DeGette, Wendy Norris, Kerri Rebresh, Leslie Robinson, and Erin Rosa, November 20, 2006

Reproductive health groups scored a hard-fought victory last week when over-the-counter emergency contraception – more commonly known as Plan B – arrived in pharmacies last week.

Following a contentious six year fight by anti-choice and religious groups to dissuade the Federal Drug Administration (FDA) from approving Plan B, it is now available to women age 18 and over without a prescription as an emergency preventive measure against unexpected pregnancy.

Or is it?

Three Strikes and You’re Still in the Ball Game
by Leslie Robinson, April 18, 2007

The Republican Party may use the elephant as a logo, but it sure isn’t because it represents long memories, especially for the Republican Senate Caucus here in Colorado. Records dating back to 2001 have shown that the Republican legislators have “forgotten” how to use the official State Seal properly not once, or twice, but at least three times on their independent Web sites, which were not affiliated with the state government.

Flamed Out GOP Star Arrested For Child Sex Assault
by Cara DeGette, September 29, 2006

Randal D. “Randy” Ankeney, the convicted sex offender who just a few short years ago was a rising GOP star in Colorado, is being held on a $1 million bond in Larimer County.

Ankeney, 35, who was arrested Wednesday, is facing five counts of sexual assault on a child, three counts of sexual enticement of a child and one count of sexual exploitation of a child. The felonies, if he is convicted, could send him to prison for life.

The charges come less than 15 months after the former attorney, head of Gov. Bill Owens’ economic development office in Colorado Springs and graduate of the Republican Leadership Program, was released from prison after serving a two-year sentence for attempted sexual assault on a child.

Election Protection: Problems Voting? Report It Here
by Wendy Norris and the Colorado Confidential team, November 07, 2006

UPDATED 5:50 PM MST: FairVote Colorado is reporting the five polling locations are down, ibnlcuding the Botanic Gardens and the Webb Building.

UPDATED 4:41 PM MST: Reports are coming in about long lines in places as far apart as Douglas County and Custer County.

UPDATED 3:41 PM MST: Reports coming in from CD-4 that Latino voters are receiving robo calls that they will be arrested if they turn out to vote and will be required to provide three forms of ID. More at Roll Call.

UPDATED: GOP State Legislator Takes Legally-Questionable Gift from Oil & Gas Group
by Wendy Norris, October 05, 2006

Colorado Confidential has learned that State Rep. Bill Berens (R-Broomfield) accepted $20,000 from the Colorado Oil and Gas Association in an apparent violation of a new law prohibiting legislators from taking cash contributions.

Oddly, Berens ratted himself out by reporting the contribution in a gift and honoraria disclosure form filed with the Secretary of State on September 14.

Pastor Ted Fired
by Cara DeGette, November 04, 2006

The following is a letter sent out today by New Life Church:

Dear New Lifers and friends of New Life Church,

This is the press release from the Board of Overseers that will be released to the media this afternoon. We want you to know first what the actions of the overseers are going to be.

Please continue to pray for Pastor Ted and his family and let’s all continue to stand strong together for the kingdom of God. We will get through this together. Remember, New Life Church has never been a man, or a building or anything else–we are a family.

Pastor Ross (Parsley)

Pass/Fail: Colorado State Legislators’ Final Report Card
A team report by Kerri Rebresh, Sandra Fish and Wendy Norris, June 11, 2007

It’s the perpetual political question: “Does Lawmaker Johnny play well with others?”

This week, Colorado Confidential reviews the effectiveness of state Senate and House members in passing the 642 bills introduced in the 2007 legislative session:

Who’s getting things done and who should be wearing a dunce cap?

Which Democrats and Republicans do you want on your team as a co-sponsor?

How did the 33 freshmen lawmakers fare?

Who are the classic over-achievers and who responded to the wake up call from our mid-term scorecard?

Colorado Publishers Ante Up for Candidates
by Sandra Fish, June 26, 2007

Most newsrooms — print and broadcast — prohibit donations to political causes in their ethics policies.

Last week, MSNBC investigative reporter Bill Dedman lit things up for more than 100 journalists around the country who’ve donated to federal politicians or political causes. Most of them donated to Democrats and liberal causes, reinforcing the stereotype of the “liberal media.” No Coloradans show up on Dedman’s list.

Court Authorizes Mercy For Juveniles
by Andrew Oh-Willeke, February 26, 2007

Colorado’s Supreme Court narrowly construed the power of a prosecutor to insist upon adult punishments for certain juvenile crimes today in a unanimous 6-0 opinion.  (Justice Eid could not participate due to her previous involvement in the case while in the attorney-general’s office).

While the decision does not eliminate the authority of judges to impose adult sentences for crimes committed by juveniles, it does give judges more freedom to impose juvenile sentences when a jury finds that the more serious charges were not supported by the facts.  It was not previously clear that the judge had this authority under the highly technical sentencing laws involved.

Immigration: Working In Denver
by Erin Rosa, December 11, 2006

White-collar employees might be buying lattes at 17th and Stout, but five blocks away there are men standing on street corners hoping to get jobs. So goes the stark contrast that is currently downtown Denver.

It’s described as an “Ellis Island” by residents. A few overpriced condos have managed to creep into the area, but the Stout and Park Ave. intersection is still surrounded by dilapidated buildings and buses from the El Paso-Los Angeles Limousine Express.

Some workers stand in groups and wait for an employer. They get into cars driven by strangers and travel to work sites they’ve never been to. There is always a possibility that they won’t be paid, and if the employer has made no considerations for safety they could also get hurt.

This is a place where immigrants come to work in Denver, and it can certainly be a risky business.

St. Paddy’s Parade Turns Ugly In Colorado Springs
by Cara DeGette, March 18, 2007

An update to this continuing story is posted at Springs Police Launch St. Paddy’s Parade Investigation.

On St. Patrick’s Day, Eric Verlo’s children watched as their father, along with 65-year old Elizabeth Fineron, were yanked by police out of his bookmobile in the middle of a parade and thrown to the ground.

Photos show Fineron, who ordinarily walks with the assistance of a cane, subsequently being dragged across the street. Verlo, a Colorado Springs businessman and chairman of the Pikes Peak Justice and Peace Commission, was pushed face down on the street, and handcuffed. Police seized control of his bookmobile, at least temporarily, and drove it away from the parade.

Bill Durland, who was part of a group of about 45 marching with the Bookman bookmobile, says he watched as Colorado Springs police, some wearing riot helmets, descended into the crowd.

One cop kneed a woman in the groin as she lay on the ground. Another broke a wooden peace sign that one of the participants had been carrying. One photo shows a cop with his arm around the neck of a retired priest, Frank Cordaro, in an apparent chokehold. In another shot a cop hoists a Taser.

Whoops! Retract. Retract. Retract.
by Wendy Norris, May 31, 2007

It’s a press guy’s worst nightmare – sending out a draft news release with some choice personal comments in the body.

Now, a staffer in Sen. Wayne Allard’s office is wearing some serious egg on his face after dissing first responders in a release that was supposed to ballyhoo his boss’s resolution to declare a national day of recognition for police, firefighters, and rescue personnel.

200 Protestors Greet the President in Greeley
by Wendy Norris, November 05, 2006

A raucous but peaceful crowd of 200 area residents protested a Republican rally with President Bush at the entrance of Island Grove Event Center in Greeley on a gloomy Saturday morning.

Dodging stray rain drops and a steady stream of cars on the busy street, the protestors ranged in age from an infant snuggled into a car seat to an 80-year-old woman hoisting a homemade cardboard sign to frequent car horn approval.

50,000 Watts of Hate
by Wendy Norris, May 09, 2007

Our right wing radio watch is back with a furious indignation that should iron a new crease in Gunny Bob’s pointy little head.

Mike Rosen, Dan Caplis and the spittle-saturated crews at NewsRadio 850 KOA and 630 KHOW-AM continue to weigh in each day with their usual invective-laced, sophomoric, and fact-depleted rantings cynically designed to whip up Arbitron ratings. It’s tedious and, frankly, just not worth the effort to monitor most days.

However, today’s installment of the most profane, intellectually-stunted, and ludicrous statement made on Colorado talk radio cannot go unanswered.

Dear Mr. Governor…
by Wendy Norris, March 19, 2007

Under a special arrangement with The Aaron Harber Show and KBDI-TV Channel 12, Colorado Confidential readers are invited to submit questions to the Governor who is taping an Electronic Town Hall this week.

Participating in his first forum since taking office, Gov. Ritter will discuss the legislative session, his signature “Colorado Promise” strategic plan, and answer questions from citizens across the state.

UPDATE: Rocky Botches CD-5 Results
by Erin Rosa, August 09, 2006

A response from the Rocky Mountain News is detailed bellow.
It was primary night. Parties were being held, candidates were determining their fates, and the Rocky Mountain News was declaring the wrong winner in the 5th congressional district.

London Calling: ‘The Guardian’ Visits Denver
by Wendy Norris, November 03, 2006

Gary Younge and Dan Chung no doubt feel like strangers in a strange land. That’s even more evident as the two Brits travel across the U.S. documenting the run up to the 2006 election.

The pair, journalists from The Guardian, a London-based newspaper, began their journey last week in Illinois — the home of Speaker of the House Dennis Hastert. They will end the trip in Nancy Pelosi’s district to contrast the possible leadership change in the U.S. House.

Colorado Confidential met up with Younge and Chung at the Skylark Lounge in Denver to talk politics.

UPDATED: Rocky Offers Staff Buyouts
by Wendy Norris, March 21, 2007

Poynter Online posted a memo from John Temple, editor, publisher and president of the Rocky Mountain News, announcing 20 voluntary separation packages to  employees who meet tenure and age credentials, in addition to a newsroom restructuring plan.

A newsroom meeting was scheduled for 4:30 p.m. MDT on Wednesday.

Fractured Faith: An Ex-Ex-Gay Speaks Out, Part I
by Kerri Rebresh, June 25, 2007

Christine Bakke prayed. She prayed for the strength to live the life she believed God wanted for her. She prayed she could be a good Christian. She prayed she wouldn’t be gay.

Bakke, 36, grew up in a world unfamiliar even to most devout Christians. Her schools were tiny cocoons revolving around the Bible. Her parents sheltered her to the point that when she saw her first movie in the theater, she was shocked when the main character asked for Cocoa Puffs cereal.  Bakke was about 11 years old, and until that point she had not realized that movies and television shows could be set in present time.

As Bakke tries to emphasize how insulated her childhood was, it’s obvious she’s given these examples many times before: She didn’t know John Lennon had died until she was in college. She didn’t know there was such a thing as a lesbian until she was 17. It’s an explanation she’s often had to give to people in the gay community when they demand to know why she tried for so long to become “ex-gay.”

Anti-Gay Protesters Don’t Mar Mood of Parade
by Kerri Rebresh, June 25, 2007

Amid the elaborate floats, rainbow flags and marchers parading down Colfax Ave. Sunday,  about a dozen anti-gay protesters held signs saying things such as, “Repent, God will not be mocked.” But, the scores of revelers busy dancing and tossing candy hardly noticed the group standing along the parade route. The group is not affiliated with any organization or church, said a young woman holding a sign proclaiming, “Friends don’t let friends be homos.”

“We are just a group of like-minded people,” she said.

Some parade-goers verbally confronted the protesters, some of whom were shouting things such as, “You’re all going to hell.” But, there were no physical altercations, and several police officers watched the scene from the steps of a nearby church.

Live Q&A with M.E. Sprengelmeyer
by Wendy Norris, May 02, 2007

Intrepid political reporter M.E. Sprengelmeyer of the Rocky Mountain News takes your questions live from the cornfields of Iowa where he is covering the 2008 presidential race for the Rocky and Scripps Howard News Service.

Be sure to check out M.E.’s new blog – Back roads to the White House.

Michael Merrifield’s Liberal-Leaning Globe
by Cara DeGette, December 03, 2006

Here is a story that pretty much embodies state Rep. Michael Merrifield’s approach to politics. Two years ago, Merrifield’s conservative colleague Dave Schultheis announced he was forming a Bible Study at the state Capitol. Not to be outdone, Merrifield organized his own, four-week long bipartisan Bible study in another room at the Capitol.

LIVE BLOG — Waak v Wadhams: The Party Chairs Face Off
by Wendy Norris, April 27, 2007

Colorado partisan chiefs Pat Waak and Dick Wadhams are featured on tonight’s Aaron Harber Show on KBDI-Channel 12. Let’s see what they have to say.

The Heart Of Democracy
by Christine Tatum, April 30, 2007

In the public’s eyes, just about the only folks struggling with believability issues more than the Bush administration are journalists.

And journalists largely have themselves to thank for that.

Last week, newsrooms nationwide observed Ethics in Journalism Week, and they had a sorry state of affairs to consider.

How They Have Fun in Wyoming
by Dan Whipple, May 05, 2007

Hush, Hush & On The QT: Pay Up, Karl Rove!
by Leslie Robinson, November 28, 2006

Note: Kim Phillips is the Northwest coordinator for the Colorado Democratic Party. While at an Aspen event this past summer, she happened to run into President Bush’s close advisor, Karl Rove. Here is her story:

An Oil Shale Bust Survivor’s Story
by Leslie Robinson, May 02, 2007

“It’s been 25 years and we’re still here….”
Only a couple of dozen people still living in Rifle can make the claim they survived “Black Sunday,” the day Exxon pulled out of the oil shale business on May 2, 1982.

I am one of them.

Udall, Salazar Seek Roan Plateau Protection
by Leslie Robinson, May 15, 2007

Congressmen John Salazar and Mark Udall are working together to delay oil and gas development on the Roan Plateau, a unique area of wildlife and fauna west of Rifle. They have asked a congressional appropriations subcommittee to cut the funding for leasing expenses from the Bureau of Land Management budget that would prevent drilling activities for at least a year.

Paving Paradise
by Dan Whipple, May 03, 2007

What is so rare as a day in June? An acre without a road through it, at least on the Front Range.

Road density along the Front Range roughly doubled between 1937 and 1997, swallowing up the wide open spaces in their wakes, according to a paper published today in the journal Science.

The researchers, led by Raymond Watts of the U.S. Geological Survey in Ft. Collins, found that Colorado’s Front Range lost about half of its roadless volume between 1937 and 1997 “as a result of urban expansion, growth of small towns, and housing dissemination — all occurring on agricultural land.”

Graphics accompanying the paper (shown below) demonstrate how rapidly the Front Range is succumbing to asphalt.

WILDFIRE!
by Leslie Robinson, June 20, 2007

Colorado Confidential reporter, Leslie Robinson, lives near the wildfire featured in all the statewide newspapers and newscasts today. This is her personal account of the looming disaster.

A grey mushroom cloud appears on the eastern horizon late Monday afternoon from my Rifle home. It is an all too familiar sight up here on the Western Slope – it is surely a sign of a raging wildfire.

I am not joking: Garfield County has “natural disasters du jour.”

As part of a county disaster response team, I better start packing an overnight suitcase. No doubt, the sheriff will be designating an evacuation center and I may be called in to
help.

Science Sunday: Saturn, Chatter and Gay Hate Crimes
by Dan Whipple, July 08, 2007

Mooning Over Saturn
Hyperion is the eighth largest moon of the planet Saturn. It orbits the planet about every 21 days. Its unusual sponge-like appearance has been explained with the help of imaging from the Space Science Institute in Boulder.

The Cassini spacecraft had a close encounter — at about 300,000 kilometers — with Hyperion in September of 2005 that was specifically targeted at getting high resolution data on the unusual moon. The flyby allowed an accurate measurement of its mass and size. It is only slightly more than half as dense as water. And it has a radius of about 135 kilometers. Earth’s moon, in comparison, has a radius of about 1,700 kilometers.

Colorado’s most populous birds losing ground
by Dan Whipple, June 14, 2007 

Some of America’s most common birds — including many in Colorado — are experiencing dramatic population declines, mostly as a result of agricultural and development pressures, according to a report by the National Audubon Society.

The study notes that “these threats are now compounded by new and broader problems including the escalating effects of global warming. In concert, they paint a challenging picture for the future of many common species and send a serious warning about our increasing toll on local habitats and the
environment itself.”

Thanks to all of our Fellows, past and present, and most of all to you, our readers for a great year.

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