Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Update: Writers in Gazette have history of political consulting

Posted By on Tue, Mar 21, 2017 at 6:10 PM

Update: This blog was revised at 8:35 p.m. Tuesday night to remove some material.

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There's been some buzz lately about Gazette editorial page editor Wayne Laugesen's wife being involved with the city election, so let's take a look.

Laugesen's wife, Dede, owns Windhover Creative Partners LLC, which she formed with Wayne and another person, Scott Weiser, in 2003. Windhover is working on behalf of Colorado Citizens Protecting our Constitution, a 527 organization that doesn't have to disclose donor names. CCPOC is backing many of the same candidates that developers and business people have endorsed for the Colorado Springs City Council.

But Wayne Laugesen tells us he left Windhover in 2008 just before taking the Gazette job and is no longer associated with it. Weiser also left.

Wayne Laugesen didn't participate in voting for the Gazette's endorsements, according to a disclaimer that appeared recently in the daily newspaper. But some are under the impression that Laugesen is exerting influence in other ways, such as turning away letters to the editor on behalf of candidates not endorsed by the Gazette.

Here's his emailed explanation: "The Gazette publishes most letters that meet basic guidelines. I seldom involve myself in daily selection or editing of letters. Another member of the editorial board typically removes comments in letters that sound like candidate endorsements or negative campaigning."

Except that, it's worth noting that after the Gazette blasted incumbent District 5 Councilor Jill Gaebler for voting to fund pickleball courts with Lodgers and Automobile Rentals Tax money, but against using LART funds for the Olympic Museum, the pickleball group countered with a letter to the editor. (The Gazette has endorsed Gaebler's opponent.)

Pikes Peak Pickleball Association president Jeff Norton wrote the letter to the editor, but part of it was left out. Here's the section that contains the deletion (which we have put in bold) prior to publication:

From 2012 to 2015, the City spent on average $32,000 yearly to repair the 93 year old “pot holed” asphalt courts at MVP to make them safe for public use. In partnership, PPPA and Parks & Rec developed a more cost-effective approach. Parks & Rec put $100,000 in the 2016 City Budget for the concrete upgrade of the asphalt courts. In parallel, PPPA competed for and was awarded $25,000 in LART funding for the court upgrade. This $125,000 in “local tax funding” referred to in the Editorial was matched by PPPA who raised an additional $81,000 from donations and tournament proceeds and $115,000 in grants. Our public-private partnership pooled these funds to build a public-use world-class “50-year” low-maintenance Pickleball facility at MVP.
In summary, the LART Committee, Don Knight, Jill Gaebler and the rest of City Council who supported the 2016 City Budget for this needed upgrade were not serving some “special interest” but rather supporting a smart, cost-effective, long-term fix of the near Century old high-maintenance asphalt courts at MVP. They should all be commended, not impugned, for such excellent foresight and effective shepherding of taxpayer funds.
PPPA is part of a large and ever-growing Sport that is providing significant health and economic benefits to our City. Our nonprofit organization proudly fits the very definition of LART funding quoted in your article: “to attract visitors to the City and the Pikes Peak Region, provide economic and cultural benefit, enhance the quality of life in the City, engage the community and encourage tourist activity.
Norton then wrote to Council noting this:
In case you did not see how the Gazette "selectively edited" our Pikes Peak Pickleball Association's response to the previous Sunday's Gazette Editorial Board fact-limited opinion piece, here's the original PPPA submission to the Editor including what was cut out of this morning's "Your Viewpoint" op/ed section of the Gazette.

It appears our Association's complete "viewpoint" does not count when it comes to giving City Council, Parks & Rec, and the LART Committee appropriate credit for doing the right thing with taxpayer funding.
Nevertheless, we certainly appreciate your support of our nonprofit's mission to serve and benefit our local community.

So that's that.

Then we learn that another writer whose work appears in the Gazette, Dan Njegomir, has earned his bread and butter via his political firm, NewsSpeak Media LLC.

This outfit has worked for various political causes, including opposing oil and gas regulations in 2014. (Note: this article originally incorrectly stated the group was involved in a cigarette tax issue.) NewsSpeak was paid $20,000 for that. More recently, NewsSpeak was paid more than $20,000 by Colorado Pioneer Action, a politically active organization run by former gubernatorial candidate Bob Beauprez, according to Matt Arnold, who runs Campaign Integrity Watchdog website.

Arnold, who combs through campaign finance reports and files complaints when he finds even the tiniest of infractions, isn't liked much in certain political quarters, you might say. Detested might be a more appropriate word.

Here's a column Njegomir posted Tuesday about Arnold and his complaint against Colorado Pioneer Action for acting like a political committee but not filing any campaign finance reports. That case goes to trial March 29-30.

An earlier version of this blog contained more allegations from Arnold, but the Indy decided to retract them.

We asked Njegomir whether he's disclosed his former involvement in NewsSpeak after his work started to appear in the Gazette last year (he previously was an editorial writer there some years ago) and, if so, under what circumstances does he find it appropriate to disclose.

He responded Tuesday by writing:

Since joining Colorado Politics (it's distinct from The Gazette), I haven't written on any former client until today. So, there has been nothing to disclose. In fact, I only learned of Matt Arnold's complaint against Pioneer — and then decided to write about it — after he made a vague reference to it in response to my request for a comment for a previous blog post on him and his tactics.

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