Exclusives, Featured, Michael Sandoval, Original Report, Peter Blake

2014 — A year to remember at Complete Colorado!


Thanks for joining us today, and for all the other days in 2014 for which you stopped by CompleteColorado.com. If you’re like us, you’ve probably seen a hundred or so “year in review” stories or story rankings, so you might be sick of them.

But I ask you to spend just a few more minutes with us so that we can walk you through what was, I believe, the best year in CompleteColorado.com’s six year history. Furthermore, I believe this year in review will prove that – pound for pound, dollar for dollar – no other Colorado political blog or nonprofit news outlet provides a greater impact than this website.

So let’s go!  Here are my top five stories from CompleteColorado.com for the year.

1) Mark Udall and the DOI emails

We broke this story on January 9. On January 10, this story was the above-the-fold headline on the Denver Post, even though there was competing coverage of Governor Hickenlooper’s “State of the State” speech.

CompleteColorado.com uncovered emails that showed Udall’s Deputy Chief of Staff, Joe Britton, had put significant pressure on the state Division of Insurance (DOI) over the DOI’s tally of cancelled health plans in 2013.

Sen Udall says our numbers were wrong,” the email from DOI’s Jo Donlin said. “They are not wrong. Cancellation notices affected 249,199 people. They want to trash our numbers. I’m holding strong while we get more details. Many have already done early renewals. Regardless, they received cancellation notices.”


2) Governor Hickenlooper talks about “full clemency” for Nathan Dunlap

As Colorado Independent and former Denver Post and Rocky Mountain News columnist Mike Littwin said, “The death penalty story is back. John Hickenlooper and Complete Colorado joined forces – sort of – to once again put the issue front and center in the governor’s race.”

Complete Colorado obtained a full, unedited recording of an roughly 45-minute long interview Governor Hickenlooper gave to CNN on the death penalty, and Nathan Dunlap. One of the CNN interviewers posed the following hypothetical question: If Tom Tancredo (in the race at the time of the interview) were to make Dunlap’s execution the central feature of his campaign – and then win – then, “Doesn’t that feel kind of like a lynch mob? I mean in some, in some sense?”

Well we won’t let that happen, I mean, that’s obviously, that is — does, feel that way.” Hickenlooper interrupts.  ”And, you know, if that becomes a political issue, in that context within a campaign, um, obviously there’s a period of time between the election and, and the end of the year where individuals can make decisions, such as a governor can.”

We broke the story in conjunction with 710’s Craig Silverman, who then wrote in these pages a finely-tuned questioning of the Governor’s actions and thoughts on this topic.

As with the Udall story above, the story became an unshakable thread in the campaign, and was mentioned in other news stories far and wide.

3) Hickenlooper and Bloomberg – So call me, maybe?

This really goes back to a story broken by CompleteColorado.com in 2013 showing that Governor Hickenlooper and former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg spoke twice on the phone during the infamous gun control bill debates of 2013.


We can’t say this with enough emphasis: Since June of 2013, we had already published phone logs from the governor’s office showing two calls, one of twelve minutes, and another call of five minutes, between the two men.

So imagine our surprise, then, when we listened to audio of Governor Hickenlooper telling a group of Colorado Sheriffs, “Well, lets, let’s stick to the facts. I never talked to Mayor Bloomberg. I…Again, that’s been out in the press and all this stuff. Just for the record. You know, I met Mayor Bloomberg when I was a Mayor, and I know him, uh, I think he’s a pretty good Mayor.”

Ultimately, the story grew much larger than this one point, thanks to a full-length video taken by our friends at Revealing Politics. But the contradiction did force Hickenlooper to walk back his remarks in a hand-picked interview with KDVR reporter Eli Stokols.

“I talked to Bloomberg, but it was after we already made the decision,” Hickenlooper told Stokols. “He didn’t call and lobby me or have any influence on the decision I made about the bill. That’s what I was trying to get across.”

4) DOI allows non-compliant Obamacare policies to be sold

Although this story wasn’t an exclusive, I’m very proud of what this story does.  I feel this collection of facts and originally-sourced documents shows conclusively that the Division of Insurance knew they were more than likely breaking the law when they decided in May to allow non-ACA compliant health insurance plans to be sold.  (The story was originally broken by reporter Art Kane in a special report for the Denver Post.  Kane now writes for Watchdog.org.)

It’s a complicated story, but I’ll break it down simply like this:  In 2013, the General Assembly passed a law to align Colorado’s health care laws and regulations with Obamacare.  One of the provisions of that law said that after January 1, 2014, no health policy could be sold that was not compliant with all “essential benefits” required by the Affordable Care Act (ACA).  Then in May, the DOI mysteriously declared that non-ACA compliant plans could be sold for another year.

Emails and numerous documents obtained showed that DOI Commissioner Marguerite Salazar believed at one time that legislation would be necessary to allow non-ACA compliant plans to be sold.  However, the DOI just decided to allow these plans to be sold by their fiat, and eschewed making changes by legislation.  As term-limited Representative Bob Gardner told Kane,

I spent some political capital as a conservative to do this bill, but I felt we should comply with the (ACA) law,” said Rep. Bob Gardner, R-Colorado Springs. “What the Division of Insurance should have done was come to the legislature” if it wanted to change parts of HB 1266.

5) CU caps students’ university-offered work hours because of ObamaCare

Like story number 4, this wasn’t what you would call an exclusive, but we were first to report this nugget (by several days in fact), and it ended up being a story that reached national outlets.

On October 3, we published the fact that CU had established a new policy to limit the work hours provided to students via the University because of Obamacare.  When we published, the story was then picked up several days later by the Washington Times, Daily Caller, and Washington Free Beacon.  But the story really took on national impact when the Wall Street Journal picked up the story in an op-ed titled, “Udall’s Shorter Work Week.”  Prior to the WSJ editorial, no other local outlet had worked the story.

Those were the biggest stories from your author and Complete Colorado editor, Todd Shepherd.

The next focus belongs to a series of reports by Michael Sandoval.

Investigative Reporter Michael Sandoval

Beginning in April of this year, Sandoval authored numerous articles involving the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the Hickenlooper administration. Many of these stories dealt with emails that were potentially unrecoverable through the Colorado Open Records Act (CORA) because they occurred on the private email accounts of some of the government officials.

April 7 – Transparency Questions Arise Over Hickenlooper Administration’s Use of Private Emails

April 9 – Hickenlooper Administration Sought EPA Alibi on 2012 Water Bill

April 23 – ‘Confidential’ Email Exposes Eco-Left Rift in Colorado

June 11 – Martin Files Exposé: “What we want is expensive gas and a ban on coal fired power.”

For all of Sandoval’s articles, click here.

Sandoval is a go-to reporter for all things energy related, as his latest scoop involving one of the Governor’s picks for the “Oil and Gas Task Force” shows.

Now to run you through some of the other 2014 original reports from Complete Colorado that impacted the political debate.

August 13 – Andrew Romanoff chalks up the government offices of Representative Mike Coffman, but leaves “Dreamers” to do the cleanup.

March 24 – Q: They’re going to penalize me for keeping my Doctor? A: Yes. This was one of my personal favorites from this year. A Ft. Collins woman, shopping on the phone with the Colorado Health Exchange, had a remarkable moment with the sales representative. When Rebecca Ryan realized the only plans that allowed her to keep her doctor were all going to be more expensive than the plan she was on, the phone rep was brutally honest. You are being penalized for keeping your doctor. Listen to the audio embedded here.

June 4 – Are Dems Trying to Tilt Scales in GOP Primary?

June 9 – Audio gives new insight into Denver’s 911-for-Dignitaries debacle (re: Mayor Hancock).

August 28 – CompleteColorado.com’s Todd Shepherd files suit against the Division of Insurance seeking emails on ObamaCare decision (written by Jeff Roberts of the Colorado Freedom of Information Coalition on the CFOIC website).

December 17 – Mayor Hancock’s office fails to produce documents under open records request

December 19 – Colorado’s ‘Gruber Model’ Health Exchange Predictions Not Faring Well

We could continue but…

Peter Blake

…let’s also highlight some of the great opinion-reporting from Complete Colorado’s Peter Blake.

In 2014, Blake wrote in his inimitable style on such sundry topics as:

TIF financing, condo shortages, Frankenfood, the petition process, tolls for US Hwy 36, election of coroners, election of US Senators by random lottery, the ‘Amazon Tax‘, allowing competition in public transportation, Uber and Lyft regulation (here, here, here, and here), Jared Polis (here and here), what Eric Cantor’s loss reminds us about Colorado’s primary system, alcohol sales, and so much more. For all of Peter’s articles, click here.

For all of this, we say thanks to you, our loyal Complete Colorado readers. Your daily patronage sustains us. Thank you for a fantastic 2014, and here’s to 2015!

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