Colorado Newspaper Acknowledges Flaws In Ethics Complaint It Previously Promoted

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ChieftainAfter facing criticism for uncritically reporting on an ethics complaint against a Colorado state senator who is facing a recall election after supporting stronger gun laws that an expert called "frivolous," The Pueblo Chieftain is now pointing out the flaws in those allegations.

Following Colorado's passage of legislation to expand background checks on gun sales and limit firearm magazine capacity to 15 rounds, State Senator Angela Giron, who supported that legislation, became subject to a recall election.  The recall is supported by the Chieftain, which has faced criticism following the revelations that three of the paper's executives signed petitions to recall Giron and that one executive allegedly threatened Giron with negative coverage if she were to support stronger gun laws.

According to a story in the August 3 edition of the Chieftain, "An Avondale man sent an ethics complaint in an email to the Colorado Secretary of State's office Friday" alleging that Giron "is using her state-provided email address and phone number on her campaign website." The story also quoted Becky Mizel, chairwoman of the Pueblo County Republican Party, who falsely claimed that "Angela Giron has chosen to use state resources and taxpayer money for her own political gain," and added that she was "disgusted" by Giron's actions.

In response to the Chieftain article, left-leaning political blog Colorado Pols noted that a number of Colorado state legislators -- both Republicans and Democrats -- feature state contact information on their campaign websites. In fact, a Media Matters review of Colorado's 100 General Assembly members' campaign websites found that 53 members listed a state phone number, e-mail address and/or mailing address.

Media Matters also contacted Luis Toro, director of the ethics watchdog group Colorado Ethics Watch, who called the allegations against Giron "extremely thin" and predicted that the complaint would "almost certainly [be] dismissed as frivolous." 

In an August 7 article following up on their original piece, the Chieftain pointed out these flaws in the complaint:

State Sen. Angela Giron's use of her state email and telephone number on her campaign website drew fire from her recall foes last week, but it's a practice followed by other state lawmakers.

[...]

Giron's campaign shot out a press statement Wednesday saying 53 Colorado lawmakers do it, citing a review by Media Matters, a Washington, D.C., group that scrutinizes press coverage of Democrats.

A quick check showed that Grantham and Baumgardner do.

"This is a thinly devised partisan attack -- both Republicans and Democrats use their state contact information on their websites," said Jennie Peek-Dunstone, manager of the Pueblo United for Angela Giron committee. "This is perfectly legal and gives constituents information on how to contact Angela."

She also said Giron deserved an apology from Pueblo County Republican Chairwoman Becky Mizel, who had called Giron's use of her state contact numbers "disgusting."

[...]

Wednesday, a spokesman for the state office said it would only investigate the Giron complaint if there were allegations of campaign finance violations.

The question of Giron or other lawmakers listing their state office contact information on their websites was not a question for that office, he said.

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