By Arthur Kane | Watchdog.org
DENVER — The campaign spokesman for Gov. John Hickenlooper threatened this reporter with arrest and called police when the reporter attempted to get the candidate’s tax returns, which were distributed to other Colorado media weeks ago.
Campaign spokesman Eddie Stern led me out of an office building that houses a number of different offices, including the Hickenlooper campaign, at 2525 16th St. in Denver and asked me to leave.
“Do you mind if we step outside,” Stern said, leading me out of the office complex to the sidewalk and parking lot.
“This is a private office, and I have to ask you to leave,” he said. “Will you not record me?”
“No I will not, not record you,” I responded.
“It’s a private office. I’m being recorded without my consent,” he said.
“We’re standing in a public parking lot, a public sidewalk, probably paid for by taxpayers. So anyway are you going to give me the tax returns or not?” I asked.
Stern then led me into the lobby of the building.
“I’ve been asking you for a month and half for the tax returns,” I said.
“Again, this is a private office. We’re asking you to leave or I’m going to have to call police,” Stern said.
“You’re going to call police on a reporter?” I asked. “You haven’t been able to answer my phone calls, you haven’t been able to provide me with documents I asked for. Just answer the question and I’ll leave. Are you going to give me the tax returns or not?”
The week of Sept. 15, I called the office and emailed asking for the governor’s tax returns. Stern did not respond to that and at least four other calls and a visit to the office this week.
The one time he did come to the phone, I asked him for the address of the office to pick up the returns and he refused to disclose it.
“We’ll look at your inquiry and the outlet you’re with and bounce it off the team and get back to you,” Stern said Sept. 25.
I told him if he didn’t call me back in a week I would come to the office, which I found through a public records database, to pick up the returns.
He finally called police from the lobby of that building.
“You’re really going to call police,” I said as he dialed 911. “OK. I’ll record that and I’ll leave.”
“This is a private office,” he said.
“No, it’s not,” I responded, walking out. “Anyone can walk in during business hours. Are you going to give me the returns or not, Eddie?”
Media attorney Steve Zansberg said that while a tenant can ask someone to leave an office, entering the lobby of an unlocked building with a number of offices, including the Democratic Party office, is not trespassing.
“They cannot bar you from entering, cannot exclude you from a lobby of a building and not threaten you with criminal trespass or anything else improper,” he said.
Zansberg also said that while Hickenlooper’s private tax returns are not public documents under Colorado Open Records Act, once he releases them to one media organization, he should release them to all who request the records.
Earlier in the day, this reporter attended a news conference and asked the governor why the returns have not been provided to Watchdog.org.
“I think what we’ve done is release them to every legitimate media operation that we know of,” he said, refusing to respond to questions about whether he thinks Watchdog.org is not a legitimate media outlet.
When he finished the news conference, I tried to ask him about the returns and other issues, but flanked by his taxpayer-funded public relations staff, he just walked to his vehicle.
“I’m just trying to get some answers,” I said.
“You’re just interested in attacking,” said Hickenlooper senior media adviser Maximillian Potter.
Potter then repeated at least five times his new slogan: “You’re interested in attacks, not facts.”
“That’s all I have to say to you,” said Potter, who last year was paid $130,000 by taxpayers, getting into his vehicle. “You’re interested in attacks, not facts.”
Hickenlooper’s Republican opponent, Bob Beauprez, released his returns to Watchdog.org, and Watchdog.org is planning a story on both returns — or lack there of — next week.