Negative campaign ads airing in Colorado should come with a stamp: "Made in Washington, D.C."
The newest negative ad is from the Congressional Leadership Fund, a Super PAC to keep Republicans in the majority in the House of Representatives. That means they support Rep. Mike Coffman, who represents the Sixth Congressional District that covers Aurora, Thornton, Brighton and the areas north, south and east of DIA.
The ad takes aim at Coffman's Democratic opponent, Jason Crow.
CLAIM: "Meet Jason Crow Another all talk, no action politician."
VERDICT: Depends on your definition of "politician."
Merriam-Webster defines politician as:
1. "A person experienced in the art or science of government; especially: one actively engaged in conducting the business of a government."
2. "A person engaged in party politics as a profession."
Crow has never run for or been elected to office. However, he has been appointed to the Colorado Board of Veterans Affairs, which the ad focuses on.
CLAIM: "Crow served on the Board of Veterans Affairs where it was his job to advocate for veterans. Crow failed."
VERDICT: The "Crow failed" part is opinion. It's true he served on the Board of Veterans Affairs, which does advocate for veterans.
There are seven members appointed to the board, and each are honorably discharged veterans of military service. Crow is an Army veteran.
The board has an advisory role, which makes recommendations, but has no legislative power. It can make recommendations regarding the operations and maintenance of veterans' community living centers. It also oversees the issuance of special license plates to veterans. It also advises any department that provides services to state veterans.
The board also manages the Veterans Trust Fund, which provides veterans with emergency assistance, rides to medical appointments and homeless prevention. The money can also be used for state veterans nursing homes and the State Veterans Cemetery.
On screen during this part of the ad, the sentence "Crow Was Supposed to Serve Our Veterans" appears with a citation showing "Aurora Sentinel 7/12/17."
In supporting information that the Congressional Leadership Fund provided to 9NEWS, the article is really from July 11, 2017, and is a story about Crow challenging Coffman.
The statement on the screen has no connection to the article referenced.
CLAIM: "While veterans suffered because of mismanagement at the VA, Jason Crow didn’t show up for work, skipping a third of the Board’s meetings, neglecting veterans."
VERDICT: There's a lot to unpack here. The claim about not showing up for work and missing a third of the Board's meetings is true. Connecting it to mismanagement of the VA or neglecting veterans is misleading because of the limited role of the Colorado Board of Veteran's Affairs.
In supporting information provided to 9NEWS, the Congressional Leadership Fund referenced an audit and a 2012 Congressional investigation into long delays for veterans to be seen at VA hospitals, including the Denver VA Medical Center. The supporting information also included links to articles about long wait lists and falsified record keeping.
Neither of these issues are controlled by the Colorado Board of Veterans Affairs. These were documented failures by the Department of Veterans Affairs in Washington, D.C., which has oversight by the president and in part, Congress.
The billion-dollar over-budget new VA Hospital in Aurora is also the responsibility of the Department of Veterans Affairs in Washington, D.C. and not the Colorado Board of Veterans Affairs.
When Crow was still a board member in 2013, the board produced an annual report, which acknowledged long wait times for veterans.
"The largest issue facing Colorado Veterans is the slow processing of claims by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (USDVA). The wait time from claim submission to adjudication now exceeds 8 months. If the veteran appeals the USDVA's decision, the wait time extends another 23 months. This is unacceptable…
"It is clear that there is a systemic problem and one that the Board and Colorado cannot solve, but we need to continue to pressure USDVA to tackle it and rethink the entire process.
"We are proud to say that Colorado has done a good job in trying to help these veterans by providing grant funds through the Veterans Trust Fund…"
CLAIM: "Jason Crow didn't show up for work, skipping a third of the Board's meetings, neglecting veterans."
VERDICT: As stated above, his attendance record is true. The part about neglecting veterans is an overreach.
Minutes from the Colorado Board of Veterans Affairs meetings from Crow's first meeting in September 2009 until his last in April 2014, show 51 total meetings. He attended 32 of those meetings. He missed 19. Of the 19 he missed, 14 were labeled "excused," two were marked "absent." Three others were marked "not present," and the current board president told 9NEWS that he could not say if that meant excused or unexcused since he was not a member of the board at that time.
Crow overlapped several other board members, but did not serve identical terms with other board members. A review of the board member attendance for those who served during most of Crow's appointment showed the following:
- One board member missed eight of 41 meetings (20 percent)
- Another missed five of 47 (10 percent)
- A third board member missed three of 42 meetings (Seven percent)
BOTTOM LINE: The ad correctly states Crow's attendance record, but overstates the board's responsibilities and role within the VA system. It's true that Jason Crow missed more than one-third of the Colorado Board of Veterans Affairs meetings during his nearly five years on the board. Of his absences, 14 of the 19 were excused, with three other marked "not present" which may mean excused or unexcused. The board had no role in the "mismanagement at the VA."
Oversight of the hospitals responsible for long wait times and lax oversight is the role of the Department of Veterans Affairs in Washington, D.C.
The role of the Colorado Board of Veterans Affairs is limited to advocacy and recommendations, as well as dispersing money from a Veterans Trust Fund to support local veterans getting to and from medical appointments, emergency assistance and homeless prevention.