Caldara again promoted anti-union campaign on KOA without disclosing his organization's sponsorship

››› ››› MEDIA MATTERS STAFF

On the November 6 broadcast of Newsradio 850 KOA's The Mike Rosen Show, guest host and Independence Institute president Jon Caldara touted the Ask First campaign -- which promotes ballot issues that would limit the ability of local government entities to make payroll deductions for public employees -- by telling listeners, "[T]here is a possibility for what we call Ask First to go statewide." However, Caldara failed to disclose that the Independence Institute helped launch and sponsor Ask First in several cities across Colorado -- the second time in as many days he omitted his think tank's ties in on-air remarks promoting the campaign.

During a discussion about Gov. Bill Ritter's (D) Executive Order D 028 07 -- which "allow[s] employee organizations to establish partnership agreements with the state" -- on the November 6 broadcast of Newsradio 850 KOA's The Mike Rosen Show, guest host and Independence Institute president Jon Caldara raised the "possibility" that the Ask First campaign could "go statewide," but again failed to disclose that his organization launched and sponsored the campaign in several cities across Colorado. As Colorado Media Matters noted, Caldara similarly promoted Ask First -- which would limit the ability of local government entities to make payroll deductions for public employees -- as guest host on Rosen's show the previous day without mentioning the Independence Institute's role in the campaign.

Caldara was discussing Ritter's executive order with Denver Post editorial page editor Dan Haley.

From the November 6 broadcast of Newsradio 850 KOA's The Mike Rosen Show, with guest host Jon Caldara:

CALLER: The second question I had was, is there any recourse for the voters to come forward with a ballot initiative to override this, or undo it, or modify it?

HALEY: The legislature can undo this if they want to.

CALLER: What about the voters?

HALEY: That's a good question. I don't have an answer to that. Do you, Jon?

CALDARA: At 10 o'clock today, I believe, several Republican legislators will introduce a bill that undoes -- that undoes; that's great English -- to --

HALEY: That will undo.

CALDARA: That will undo, that undizifies, this executive order. Beyond that, we know that there is a possibility for what we call Ask First to go statewide. Several cities and counties have adopted, or are adopting, a policy that says you can go ahead and unionize, but our government payroll system -- the people's payroll system -- is not going to become a conduit for union money to go from workers' paychecks to the unions or to other special interests, whether it's the ACLU or the NRA. It's not what we do; you guys have to figure it out yourselves. That would take a lot. What unions want are these dues deductions because --

CALLER: Right.

CALDARA: -- it's like your withholdings. You don't know what they are; it just goes. And that's where they get their coin.

Similar to his previous broadcast, Caldara did not mention that the Independence Institute was the primary sponsor of the Ask First campaign, which helped put measures on the November 6 ballot in Greeley, Englewood, and Centennial. The measures were defeated in Greeley and Englewood, but the Centennial measure passed.

The Greeley Tribune reported on July 7 that the Independence Institute helped launch Ask First. Caldara told the paper the free-market think tank "gave money and manpower" to help place an Ask First measure -- Initiated Question 200 -- on the Greeley ballot. The Tribune described the measure as one that would "stop the city of Greeley from deducting union dues from city employees' paychecks."

Furthermore, Denver Post columnist and Independence Institute founder John Andrews wrote in a November 7 entry on the Post's "PoliticsWest" website that he was campaign chairman for the payroll deductions measure in Centennial and "worked with Jon Caldara of the Independence Institute to get a similar measure passed by our Arapahoe County commissioners."

The Independence Institute home page displays the Ask First logo and a link to the campaign's website. Additionally, the think tank's website references a September 20 Rocky Mountain News editorial that "agrees" with the Independence Institute's opposition to "the automatic deduction of union dues from paychecks" and notes its role in the Ask First campaign. According to the News editorial:

Attempts to end the automatic deduction of union dues from paychecks without the prior consent of individual employees have generally gone nowhere. Legislation has failed. So have proposed ballot initiatives. The only paycheck protection measure that had any impact on automatic dues deductions -- a 2001 executive order from Gov. Bill Owens that covered state employees -- was rescinded by Gov. Bill Ritter this year.

The latest foray, however, known as 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. 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.

As Colorado Media Matters noted, Independence Institute director of operations Amy Oliver similarly touted Ask First during her October 9 1310 KFKA show without mentioning the think tank's sponsorship of the campaign. Following an October 11 Colorado Media Matters item, Oliver on her October 22 broadcast told listeners about her involvement in the Ask First Greeley campaign.

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