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TRUTH TEST: Greed ad not always good

KUSA - Throughout the election season, 9NEWS will hold those who run political messages on our networks accountable for what they say. The following is a negative commercial called "Greed," being run by U.S. Senate candidate Andrew Romanoff (D-Colorado), attacking his primary opponent Sen. Michael Bennet (D-Colorado). The election is set for Aug. 10.

http://bennetforcolorado.com/about_Michael)Anschutz is known to give campaign donations to largely Republican candidates. Within the last year, he's given tens of thousands of dollars to the Colorado Republican Campaign Committee and the National Republican Senatorial and Congressional Committees as well as the maximum allowable amount to Republican candidates for Congress in Colorado. (Source: OpenSecrets.org: http://www.opensecrets.org/indivs/search.php?name=anschutzamp;state=COamp;zip=amp;employ=amp;cand=amp;c2010=Yamp;sort=Namp;capcode=qw68samp;submit=Submit)Whether the following part of the commercial describes a "corporate takeover" as the ad suggests or a "difficult turnaround" of "four distressed companies," as Bennet says is an opinion. QUOTE: They pushed companies into bankruptcy. TRUTH: This isn't rooted in economic realities. In the early part of last decade, a dozen top movie theatre companies filed for bankruptcy, overleveraged "by building too many megaplexes... when fewer moviegoers visited older theatres, which the companies were still locked into renting," according to the Associated Press (Jan., 30, 2002) and the Sarasota Herald Tribune (Feb. 10, 2002). Among those companies was Regal Cinemas whose debt was purchased by the Anschutz Investment Company, and who then became its owner when it emerged from Chapter 11 reorganization in 2002. He had already purchased the debt of the United Artists and Edwards Theater chains and steered them through bankruptcy. He merged the three companies under the Regal label to create the largest movie theater company in the country. (Source: Associated Press, Jan. 30, 2002 and Regal Entertainment Group Website: http://www.regmovies.com/corporate/aboutus.aspx)Anschutz would later take the company public as the Regal Entertainment Group (RGC). Looking at their bankruptcy/reorganization filings, these companies were already on shaky financial ground, "distressed assets," as Romanoff campaign official Berrick Abramson calls them. To say acknowledged "distressed assets" were pushed into bankruptcy by anything other than the economic realities of their industry is not realistic. QUOTE: And looted a billion dollars. TRUTH: This is the most serious charge in the commercial and there's no truth to it. Abramson says the word "looted" came from a lawsuit filed against Regal by the Teachers' Retirement System of Louisiana in relation to an unscheduled "extraordinary dividend" Regal gave to all shareholders in 2004. It was the second of two extraordinary dividends given out by the company totaling $1.4 billion combined. However, there are no quote marks in the commercial around the word "looted" and the article cited as backup for the allegation, from Forbes Magazine on May 24, 2004, critically discusses how Anschutz made hundreds of millions of dollars in the dividend pay out, but does not have the word "loot" in it nor does it intimate any criminal activity in the process. That's why the use of this word is so onerous. Despite Abramson and Romanoff campaign lawyers asserting that it's been used to describe corporate dealings in the past and that it's exactly what the Supreme Court defined as political "hyperbole," to the average person, the word "looted" clearly implies criminality. Descriptions in any dictionary find sentences using the word like, "To pillage; spoil; To take as spoils; steal; To engage in pillaging," (Source: http://www.thefreedictionary.com/loot) or in other words, to loot implies illegal behavior. "It's very clear that a word like 'loot' is like other colorful words like pillage and plunder," said Romanoff campaign attorney Kevin Paul. "It's intended to be strong and to directly state what someone did was wrong, but it's different from a word like 'rob," which is clearly criminal in its meaning." Anschutz was never investigated for impropriety in regard to this deal, let alone charged. Further, even if the word choice was only intended to denote wrongdoing and not criminal behavior, the lawsuit filed alleging the "looting" was thrown out by a judge in its only examination by a neutral third party. The judge wrote in his decision "there is absolutely no evidence, not a shred of evidence, that Mr. Anschutz or his affiliates have received anything from Regal to the exclusion of or detriment to the minority shareholders." (Source: Judge William T. Chandler Ruling, Delaware Chancery Court, Teachers' Retirement System of Louisiana vs. Regal Entertainment, 2004) The Truth Test has long enjoyed and celebrated First Amendment privileges to speech, but believes issues of criminality are Constitutionally-mandated to be decided in a court with judges and juries of peers rather in than the court of public opinion. QUOTE: Workers lost their jobs, Bennet made $11 million. TRUTH: This is true. In looking at Regal's Chapter 11 reorganization plan with a federal judge, consolidation among staff and closing of theatres is described. That's what traditionally happens when companies go bankrupt. Numerous Regal theatres around the country had been closed before the reorganization began but others were closed afterwards. Bennet will assert, and filings with the Securities and Exchange Commission will verify, Regal now has roughly 2,000 more employees than it did at the time of the bankruptcy. (Source: SEC: http://www.sec.gov/cgi-bin/browse-edgar?action=getcompanyamp;CIK=0000905035amp;owner=excludeamp;count=40) Further, he will say his company "saved" thousands more jobs as Regal and the other theatre companies would have been liquidated to appease creditors if Anschutz had not bought them. Romanoff's campaign says that's revisionist history. "To maximize profit," Abramson said, "to make more money, they cut jobs." For his work at Anschutz during the two-year reorganization period, Bennet made $11.8 million. (Source: Denver Post, July 30, 2010: www.denverpost.com)QUOTE: Workers and retirees get hurt... Bennet makes millions. TRUTH: This is a stretch and we've yet to see any proof that it's true. Both Romanoff and Bennet's campaigns agree that the original investor in Regal Cinemas, if they still held their shares, would have seen an average annual gain of 8.8 percent since the company reorganized and emerged by all accounts healthier than it was. Romanoff spokesman Abramson asserts that because Regal took on so much more debt to pay out the dividends to its shareholders, the company's earnings and profits would have even been higher. "It's similar to the Bush tax cuts," Abramson said in an interview with 9NEWS. "They formed a so-called healthy company by taking on $1.4 billion in debt. There's no economist who would say that's positive." Yet, even the Teachers' Retirement Fund of Louisiana, which sued against the company's second extraordinary dividend payout, made a 24.48 percent profit off its investment, according to court records. Despite their concerns, their retirees did not lose money on that investment. (Source: Regal Dividend Payout Documents, Stock performance records www.bloomberg.com)QUOTE: Wall Street greed wins again. TRUTH: This is an opinion. />

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