Phil Weiser - Denver Announcement Tour 3

Announcement Tour Reflections

Over the last week, I had the pleasure of traveling across our beautiful state for my announcement tour for Attorney General for Colorado. A highlight was that former students joined me at every stop. My daughter Aviva concluded after one event, “Daddy, you helped so many people over the years, and now they want to help you.”

The support for my candidacy is energizing. As I announced at the Denver Launch Party, we exceeded more than 1,000 likes on our Facebook site and raised $100,000 in two weeks.

The campaign road is long. During my travels, the energy of this announcement tour will continue to inspire me in the months ahead. I welcome and appreciate your engagement and support as I discuss with Coloradans how to defend our freedoms, fight for opportunities for all, and protect our land, water, and air.

I am pleased to share with you some of my discussions and experiences from this first campaign tour across Colorado. I look forward to keeping up this dialogue, and hope to see you on the road soon.

Over the Luna in Pueblo

Our Announcement Tour kicked off in Pueblo, Colorado, at the old Pueblo County Courthouse. Jeff Chostner, the very impressive Pueblo County DA, joined us for the event. Jeff’s innovative problem-solving attitude exemplifies how Colorado leaders can approach challenging issues, ranging from economic development to the opioid epidemic. Jeff and I met when I worked with the Colorado District Attorney’s Council to develop a rural DA fellowship program, which provides valuable support to rural offices and meaningful work opportunities for recent law school graduates. Jeff currently has a fellow working with him in his office.

After the Courthouse speech, we joined the graduation party for Josh Luna, Colorado Law Class of 2017. The celebration captured the American Dream I am fighting for—Josh and his sister Tonya were raised by amazing parents and are off to great starts in their legal careers. More than their academic and professional success, Josh and Tonya’s concern for others reflects Colorado Law at its best. Adding a special touch to the celebration, Josh and Tonya’s grandmother, Stella, who served as Otero County’s clerk for over 20 years, was able to join the celebration.

Principled and Innovative Leadership

Our Colorado Springs visit featured a couple of highlights. First, my son Sammy asked a question from the crowd—totally unprompted—on how would I approach a proposed law like Texas’s “Religious Refusal” measure, which restricts adoption rights based on religion. Such a law, I explained to Sammy, violates our Constitution’s commitment to freedom of religion and I would fight to protect that freedom from any threat. Another highlight was the discussion on how to improve our criminal justice system with Representative Pete Lee, the Chair of the Judiciary Committee and a leader on this issue, and Cassady Adams (Colorado Law Class of 2016 and now a DA in the 11th Judicial District). In particular, we considered the best strategies for ensuring that bail decisions are set appropriately based on risk, and that individuals who do not pose a flight risk are eligible for bail even if they are not able to afford a bail bond.

Fighting for Opportunity for All Coloradans

At my talk in Glenwood Springs, I noted the statistic highlighted by my friend Ryan Heckman that more than half of Front Range residents are pleased with their job opportunities compared to only 35 percent of individuals living in the Western Slope. For Colorado, with its tradition of community and a can-do attitude, this presents a call to action. It means that we must work to ensure that the ingredients of a strong economy are in place for all Coloradans, including first-class infrastructure (including broadband Internet access), effective educational opportunities, and the fair treatment of consumers. And to fulfill our potential, we must protect our land, water, and air vigilantly. The Glenwood Post Independent article on my talk captured these priorities clearly.

The local leaders who joined us in Glenwood Springs, including those in the Pitkin and Garfield County Democratic Party, underscored the importance of connecting with all parts of Colorado during our campaign. This message also came through during a subsequent happy hour in Eagle County and my talk at the Mountain Connect Conference, which focuses on enabling robust broadband Internet access in all parts of Colorado. And my commitment to Ken Salazar’s brand of leadership, which emphasizes this statewide engagement, is a part of why he has endorsed me in this race.

On Maintaining Accessibility

Back in Denver, I spoke to a local House District meeting and at our campaign’s Announcement Launch Party. At the local meeting, Representative James Coleman asked whether I would remain accessible to Coloradans after I was elected. During my time in the White House under President Obama, as well as my time as Dean of the University of Colorado Law School, I explained, I made accessibility and responsiveness a fundamental commitment of my leadership. A couple of former students present at this event reinforced this message, explaining their own experiences with my engagement with them.

At the Denver Launch Party, nearly 150 people came to support my campaign. The amount of support has been nothing short of overwhelming and I feel great responsibility to honor the generous enthusiasm supporters have shown. To that end, I promise that I will take this journey very seriously, working hard to learn from Coloradans around the State and demonstrate my commitment to new leadership in our Attorney General’s office that can help make Colorado a model for the U.S. If you have suggestions for my future visits across the State, I welcome them at phil@philforcolorado.com.


Brad Feld

Guest Commentary: Brad Feld - Why I am supporting Phil Weiser for Colorado AG

Over the past fifteen years, Phil Weiser and I have worked together to make Colorado a stronger, more collaborative, and more innovative entrepreneurial community. Together, we co-chaired Governor Bill Ritter’s Innovation Council, worked to launch the Startup America Partnership (when Phil worked for Obama in the White House), started Startup Colorado, brought the Blackstone Entrepreneurs Network to Colorado, and helped CU become a first-class entrepreneurial university (which I discussed in a chapter in my book Startup Communities). Phil is a rare entrepreneur who can bring innovation to the government, which is just the sort of leadership we need now. I strongly encourage everyone to do what they can to help elect him as Colorado’s next Attorney General, including donating your time and money to his campaign.

Phil and I both share a background as Jews whose families came from Eastern Europe. That background, which involved a history of religious persecution, imprinted in each of us a deep appreciation for the constitutional rights and civil liberties that many Americans take for granted—the freedom of religion, the freedom of press, and a commitment to the due process of law (that is, people cannot just arbitrarily be rounded up). In Phil’s case, his mom was born in a concentration camp and came to the US when she was six. So protecting those freedoms at a time when we cannot take them for granted is a job that Phil will take seriously as Colorado’s next Attorney General, just like other State Attorneys General, who are already standing up to the Trump Administration to protect our constitutional rights.

Through hard work, his parents set up Phil for amazing opportunities, including the chance to serve as a law clerk for Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg and work for President Obama in the White House. In the spirit of paying it forward, Phil’s concern and caring for others is powerful and plain to see for all of those who worked with Phil during his time as the Dean of the CU Law School. During his time as Dean, he set up a range of innovative partnerships around the State, including a program that placed recent law grads as assistant district attorneys in rural areas. As our Attorney General, I know that he will be a leader for all Coloradans. I am personally excited to work with him in how to support entrepreneurial opportunities across our State, including in more rural parts of Colorado. While that might not sound like a traditional role of a state Attorney General, when it comes to fighting for access to broadband Internet technology and building partnerships that support economic success, Phil is unique. Consider, for example, his leadership as the founding Board Secretary of the CareerWise Colorado Initiative that supports apprenticeship-based learning across the State to create opportunities for skilled jobs for those without a college degree.

To have an Attorney General with an innovative mindset will mean that the Colorado AG’s office will become an engine of policy development and new thinking on a range of issues. Take, for example, criminal justice policy where some states around the country—often with leadership from the AG’s office—are taking a hard look at whether they are getting a good return on the social investment in our criminal justice system. Today, we put more people in jail than any nation in the world. Nonetheless, we are not aggressively enough addressing alternatives to incarceration that cut down on prison sentences. We are not investing enough yet in programs that make it less likely that inmates end up back in prison after they are released, such as Defy Ventures. We continue to make bail decisions in a way that keeps people in jail who are not flight risks just because they cannot afford to pay a bail bond. To ensure Colorado a leader in moving towards a criminal justice system that keeps us safe and is smarter, we need an AG like Phil.

Finally, when Phil talks about protecting our quality of life and our environment, he is someone we can count on. The whiplash from President Obama’s commitment to fighting climate change issues to today’s situation where we have Scott Pruitt, a climate change denier as the head of the EPA, is hard to take. Closer to home, our current Attorney General joined Scott Pruitt in challenging President Obama’s leadership in this area. As our next Attorney General, Phil will be a leader on environmental protection—like Governor Hickenlooper, who created a national model for rules restricting methane emissions by working collaboratively with the oil and gas industry and environmentalists. If we fail to elect officials like Phil who will stand up for our environment, future generations will ask us how we stood by and failed to act.

A core lesson I took from Trump’s election last fall is that we must be active in supporting candidates who we believe in. It’s not often that I have an opportunity to support a leader like Phil. So when I do have that opportunity, I feel the need to make the most of it. As a consequence of a SEC rule under Dodd-Frank, I am not allowed to donate to Phil’s campaign, but I am free to use my voice to encourage others to do so.

From my long relationship working with Phil, I can assure you that it will be a great investment in Colorado’s future and will help Colorado continue to be a model for the nation. So I strongly encourage you to donate your time and money to his campaign.

Republished with permission. Original post: http://www.feld.com/archives/2017/05/phil-weiser-colorado-attorney-general.html


Colorado Flag

What is the Martinez Case? Why Does It Matter for Colorado's Future?

For Colorado, the safe and responsible development of oil and gas is of paramount importance to our future. Fortunately, our state is led by Governor John Hickenlooper, who is committed to finding innovative solutions that promote responsible development while protecting important health and environmental concerns. Unfortunately, Governor Hickenlooper does not have a partner in the Attorney General’s office. The Attorney General’s appeal of the court of appeals’ decision in the Martinez case shows how Attorney General Coffman continually disregards Governor Hickenlooper’s call for pragmatic problem-solving, has refused to work collaboratively with others, and has failed to stand up for the interests of Coloradans. Indeed, this case would have never reached the Court of Appeals if the Attorney General had given the regulators proper legal advice in the first place.

The petition filed by the plaintiffs in the Martinez case asked the Colorado Oil & Gas Commission to stop issuing permits for oil and gas development until it found that such permits did not negatively impact the environment or contribute to climate change. Rather than considering the merits of the requested rule, the Commission, on the advice of the Attorney General, determined that it did not have the authority to consider the request. Attorney General Coffman’s advice was wrong and misread the statute. As a result of the Attorney General’s bad advice, she created an unnecessary legal issue and diverted the Commission from a thoughtful evaluation of the public concerns over the environmental impact of oil and gas development.

After considering the relevant legal issues, the Court of Appeals concluded that the Attorney General gave the Commission bad advice in the first place. In particular, it ruled that the Commission had the authority to consider the proposed rule because Colorado law “mandates that the development of oil and gas in Colorado be regulated subject to the protection of public health, safety, and welfare, including protection of the environment and wildlife resources.” As Governor Hickenlooper explained, the Court of Appeals’ ruling is aligned with the current practice of the Oil and Gas Commission. Therefore, the Governor was correct that there was no need to appeal the court’s ruling.

In the Martinez case, the court did not reach the issue of whether the approach suggested by the petitioner was an appropriate one. Consequently, that question remains within the Commission’s authority to consider. Consistent with the court’s opinion, the Commission should proceed to consider what rules are, and are not, appropriate to ensure responsible oil and gas development. With the benefit of the actual consideration of this issue, the courts could then evaluate whether the Commission’s actions follow the statutory standard. In this case, however, Attorney General Coffman mistakenly instructed the Commission that it lacked the authority to evaluate whether the petition should be granted and set the stage for an unnecessary and wasteful legal fight.

Unfortunately, this isn’t the first time that Attorney General Coffman provided incorrect advice, refused to work with the Governor on a key environmental issue, and acted to undermine the Governor’s environmental leadership. Attorney General Coffman previously undermined Colorado’s nationally praised rules for restricting methane emissions—which were reached through collaboration between the oil and gas industry and environmentalists—by suing the EPA when it was moving to adopt the Colorado model. Coffman also challenged President Obama’s Clean Power Plan initiative—over Governor Hickenlooper’s objection—even though Colorado’s clean energy policies positioned the state to comply with this plan. Finally, when Boulder County was in the final stages of adopting a new policy for allowing safe and appropriate oil and gas development, Attorney General Coffman chose to sue rather than work with the County to develop an appropriate policy.

In 2018, Coloradans will have the chance to select a new Attorney General. I am running to make sure that our next Attorney General will work with Colorado communities, environmentalists, and the oil and gas industry to ensure we enable safe and environmentally sound approaches to oil and gas development. In short, I want Colorado to be a national leader in using innovative, principled, and practical problem solving to address important issues.

Attorney General Coffman’s handling of this case—both at the outset and in appealing the Martinez decision—fails to advance sound policy or correctly interpret Colorado law. Instead, it is yet another example of a misguided lawsuit that undermines Colorado’s problem-solving attitude and our commitment to our environment and public health. Unfortunately, whenever there is a choice between collaborative, innovative, and thoughtful leadership or confrontation, our current Attorney General chooses confrontation. To support innovative leadership for our environment, please join our campaign and help Colorado remain a national model of environmental protection and responsible oil and gas development.

On Thursday, May 18, 2017, Attorney General Cynthia Coffman challenged Governor John Hickenlooper’s leadership on oil and gas regulation and appealed a lower court’s ruling in Martinez v. Colorado Oil and Gas Commission that the Oil and Gas Commission should take full account of environmental and safety concerns in regulating oil and gas development. In so doing, she created an unnecessary and wasteful legal controversy, endorsed a limited view of the Commission’s authority, and went against sound legal and policy principles. In this blog post, Phil explains the importance of the issue and how he would approach it as our next Attorney General. Please note that this post was revised on May 21, 2017 to reflect that Attorney General Coffman erred not only in handling the appeal, but in providing mistaken legal advice at the outset of this matter.


Phil Weiser

Press Release: Phil Weiser Announces Run for Colorado Attorney General

Today, Phil Weiser announced that he is running to serve Colorado as its next Attorney General and has registered his candidacy with the Colorado Secretary of State’s Office.

“We are facing challenging times and a dysfunctional federal government,” Phil said. “We need strong, compassionate leadership from our next Attorney General to fight for opportunities for all Coloradans and to protect our freedoms. I am the child of a Holocaust survivor who came to this country at a young age. I personally benefited from this nation’s commitment to freedom and opportunity and I am committed to defending the American Dream for our next generation.”

To launch Phil’s campaign for Attorney General, he will deliver an announcement speech on Saturday, May 20 at 11:30 a.m. in Pueblo at the Pueblo County Courthouse. He will follow up that speech with appearances at the Pioneers Museum in Colorado Springs on Saturday, May 20 at 3:30 p.m., then at the Garfield County Courthouse in Glenwood Springs on Monday, May 22 at 11 a.m. He will then hold an announcement party and kickoff event at Backyard on Blake on Wednesday, May 24 at 4 pm. His website, PhilForColorado.com, sets out his agenda and offers Coloradans the opportunity to engage with his campaign.

Phil’s commitment to public service started with his first job after law school, when he came to Colorado in 1994 to serve as a law clerk to Judge David Ebel on the Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals. He then clerked for both Justice Byron White and Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg on the U.S. Supreme Court before joining the U.S. Department of Justice under President Clinton as counsel to the head of the Antitrust Division. He subsequently joined the University of Colorado Law School faculty in 1999. In 2009, President Obama appointed him as Deputy Assistant Attorney General at the Department of Justice’s Antitrust Division and in 2010 brought him into the White House as the Senior Advisor for Technology and Innovation where he spearheaded President Obama’s Wireless Initiative.

Phil’s leadership at the University of Colorado Law School included the founding of the successful Silicon Flatirons Center for Law, Technology, and Entrepreneurship and his service as Dean of the Law School. As Dean, Phil defied the challenging national environment for law schools, increasing admissions while they decreased nationwide, lowering average student indebtedness by holding tuition constant and doubling scholarships, coaching and advocating for students to increase their employment opportunities, and was named one of the most influential leaders in legal education. He also forged creative collaborations, including a rural District Attorney fellowship program (working with the Colorado District Attorney’s Council), diversity and inclusiveness efforts (earning recognition as the Corporate Partner of the year from the Colorado Hispanic Bar Association), and launching successful new programs at CU Law (including the Daniels Fund Program on Ethics and Professionalism, the Korey Wise Innocence Project, and the Bench and Bar Conference).

Phil’s leadership on entrepreneurship and innovation in the Colorado business community and on the CU campus has supported the development of new companies, successful careers, and a new appreciation for how lawyers can be entrepreneurial and innovative. In particular, he brought the Blackstone Entrepreneurs Network to Colorado (attracting a $3 million grant to Colorado), co-founded Startup Colorado (spearheading the successful Startup Summer program), and served as the founding Faculty Director for the CU Boulder Entrepreneurship and Innovation Initiative.

Phil lives in Denver with his wife, Dr. Heidi Wald, and his two children.


Phil Weiser

Protecting Freedom and Enabling Opportunity

Like many Coloradans, I am watching our government in Washington with outrage and with deep concern for the future of our country and our state.  Our constitutional and civic tradition of protecting freedom and enabling opportunity—and our Colorado way of life—is now at risk.  For my family, this American tradition is deeply personal; my mom and grandparents came to this country as refugees after my mom was born in a concentration camp in 1945.  My wife Heidi’s dad fled Germany on the last boat that made it to the United States—the one before the St. Louis, which was turned back.  Her parents, like mine, were the first in their families to go to college and, through hard work, both of our families have lived the American Dream.  As people who benefited from our country’s freedom and opportunity, we are inspired to fight for opportunities for all Coloradans and to protect our freedoms as our next Attorney General.

My life’s work is to help and support others.  Today, many Americans are worried that the American Dream is out of reach for them and that our government is responsible to the rich, the powerful, and the special interests.  To protect our democracy, we must end the corrupting force of dark money in politics (that is, unreported campaign spending), draw fair districts that promote competitive elections, and prevent voter suppression efforts.  

It is easy to be cynical or despair about the state of our politics.  But our constitutional democracy and economy has emerged from past challenges—and we can do so again, but only if we pull together.  With our changing economy, we need an Attorney General who cares deeply about protecting consumers, standing up against abuses, and making it easy for entrepreneurs to start businesses here.  Our entrepreneurial community is an incredible asset for our state and represents the Colorado ethic of working together, caring about each other, and innovating.  I am excited about taking those values into our state government.

I first came to Colorado in 1994 to begin my legal career here.  Like many of us adopted by this state, I fell in love with the great quality of life and natural environment here, but more importantly, I love how people here root for each other to succeed and are resourceful in finding ways to get things done.  As the Dean of the CU Law School, my deep concern for our students and commitment to innovation led me to raise the quality of the law school experience, advocate for employment opportunities, and decrease the level of average law school debt.  As a result, CU Law defied the national decline in law school applications (a 40% drop) and saw applications rise.  We succeeded by building successful partnerships with and earning recognition from leaders in the community, including the Colorado District Attorneys Association and the Colorado Hispanic Bar Association.  That same concern for others and innovative spirit guide my leadership in our entrepreneurial community, including my founding of Startup Colorado, the Blackstone Entrepreneurs’ Network, and the Silicon Flatirons Center for Law, Technology, and Entrepreneurship.  

Taking on a race for statewide office is a daunting task.  As I take this step, I am inspired by wonderful mentors, role models, and friends & family:

  • Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, whose strong commitment to civil rights and equality remains an inspiration;
  • President Barack Obama, whose commitment to enabling opportunity and embracing the future is a model for our state and nation;
  • The many students and professionals I have worked with in Colorado, whose collaborative, caring, and innovative approach to problem solving makes our State special; and  
  • Most of all, I am inspired by my family, starting with my mom and dad, who taught me the importance of hard work; my wife, Heidi, whose commitment to helping others in her work (as a doctor) and in mine makes this campaign possible; and my kids, Aviva and Sammy, whose future is at stake as we fight for our freedoms and opportunities for all Coloradans.