Gov. Hickenlooper Spokesman Threatens Journalist with Arrest for Requesting Tax Documents

Sarah Jean Seman
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Posted: Oct 13, 2014 6:54 PM
Gov. Hickenlooper Spokesman Threatens Journalist with Arrest for Requesting Tax Documents

Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper’s (D) campaign spokesperson Eddie Stern allegedly escorted a reporter out of their building Friday and dialed 911 with the intent to have him arrested.

Watchdog journalist Arthur Kane had been pressing for Hickenlooper’s tax returns, a pursuit which he began Sept. 15 via phone call and email. The documents had already been distributed to several other media outlets such as The Denver Post when Kane made the request. Additionally, Watchdog had already obtained the tax returns of Hickenlooper’s Republican challenger Bob Beauprez.

Kane is a respected award-winning journalist who has previously worked as an investigative executive producer for Channel 7 and a writer The Denver Post. Here is his firsthand account:

“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.”

Politicians and reporters are rarely great friends, however, there is a certain level of expected cooperation. While tax documents are not open records under the Colorado Public Records Act, Kane was baffled that the Hickenlooper campaign denied his request as they had offered the information to several other media outlets. 

During a public event Friday, Hickenlooper reportedly told Kane:

“I think what we’ve done is release them to every legitimate media operation that we know of.”

Polls show Hickenlooper with a marginal lead in the race.