20190801-Colwell-CoPo-climate-hearing-2AC8841.jpg

Gov. Jared Polis is pictured while testifying on the impact of climate change in Colorado during the first U.S. House of Representatives Select Committee on the Climate Crisis at CU Boulder on Thursday, Aug. 1, 2019, in Boulder.

The press office for Gov. Jared Polis asked two Colorado newspapers, the Kiowa County Press in Eads and The Chronicle-News in Trinidad, to remove a story about Polis' new Office of Future of Work.

Asked why, the governor's press office told Colorado Politics that it wasn't because of the story, but because of the news organization behind it.

RELATED: Gov. Jared Polis signs executive order creating Office of Future of Work

Formerly called Watchdog, the website has been tied to conservative donors, including the network of the billionaire Koch brothers. The website changed its name to The Center Square this past May.

“When we looked into this group and discovered that it was not an objective wire service, but instead a branded website funded by the Koch Brothers’ political organization, we were alarmed that it was being reprinted by reputable news outlets in the state," according to the statement provided to Colorado Politics by the governor's press office, which the office asked to be attributed to a spokesperson.

"The people of Colorado deserve quality, objective news they can trust so they can make their own informed decisions," the statement said. "Newspapers can publish whatever they want to, anywhere they want, at their own prerogative, but the public is served best when articles by partisan organizations are placed in the opinion section or branded accordingly.”

The Center Square's executive editor, Dan McCaleb, who wrote Wednesday's story, couldn't be reached for a response to the statement from Polis' office.

The news story in question, written by Derek Draplin, was originally produced by the The Center Square on Sept. 4.

It quoted a tweet from state Senate Republican caucus spokesman Sage Naumann, who noted that the Office of Future of Work  was the third new office established by the Polis administration since taking office this year.

“The Democrats’ insistence on creating a new layer of bureaucracy sure feels like a Monty Python skit," Naumann tweeted. "We may need an Office of Coffee because we’re getting tired of trying to keep up.” Naumann said. 

He added that the new office came "complete with undefined goals, broad powers, and a name straight from the brain of George Orwell.”

Naumann wrote a commentary about the new office that CoPo published Wednesday.

After the Kiowa County Press and The Chronicle-News posted the story, editors there were contacted by Polis spokesman Conor Cahill, telling them The Center Square "is not a reputable news source,” according to a follow-up story posted Wednesday on The Center Square website.

Cahill reportedly asked the papers to remove the story, without citing errors, according to his email to the newspapers obtained by The Center Square through an open-records request.

According to the Center Square report, the Chronicle-News declined to remove the story, while the County Press' publisher temporarily suspended the article from its website, then republished it since there was no claim of a factual error.

The Center Square wrote in its story Wednesday said that it had not been contacted by the governor's office about any errors in the Sept. 4 story.

"The Center Square made several attempts via email and telephone to reach Cahill and Polis Communications Director Maria De Cambra to ask questions about Cahill’s requests and criticism, but neither Polis official responded," The Center Square reported Wednesday.

Watchdog, the website's predecessor, was denied Capitol press credentials in 2016, after a committee of Capitol press corps members, which vets all such requests, provided a recommendation against it to House and Senate leadership, which denied the credential that grants access to the House and Senate floors. (Disclosure: this reporter served on that committee, then as a representative of The Denver Post.)

The Center Square came under new leadership in 2017 and maintains it is now non-partisan.

Publisher Chris Krug's former jobs included being publisher of the Chicago Pioneer Press newspaper chain, vice president for Shaw Suburban Media and a deputy editor at The Denver Post.

“The governor’s office is trying to use the power of the government to kill stories it doesn't like," Krug said on his website Wednesday. "And as part of that effort, the governor’s office is trying to taint the sterling reputations of journalists who dare to write stories it deems critical or negative."

Krug added, “The public has the right and deserves to make their own decisions about whether the happenings in state government are good or bad. It’s not up to a government official to police the news or try to withhold certain information from the public. The public also has the right to know why the governor’s office would overreach and ask editors to remove content it had published.”

Contact Joey Bunch at joey.bunch@coloradopolitics.com or follow him on Twitter @joeybunch.

Colorado Politics senior political reporter

Joey Bunch is the senior correspondent and deputy managing editor of Colorado Politics. His 32-year career includes the last 16 in Colorado. He was part of the Denver Post team that won the Pulitzer Prize in 2013 and he is a two-time finalist.

Load comments