Phil Weiser and female volunteers

Equal Pay for Equal Work

During Donald Trump’s first year in office, he has worked to set back the clock on achieving equal rights for women, from rescinding the requirement that employers provide contraception coverage to overturning a rule designed to close the gender pay gap.

In 2018, we will have the opportunity to defend important civil rights protections that are under attack and make new progress towards achieving equal rights for women.  I started my career working for Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, whose lifelong battle for equal rights is an enduring inspiration to me.  I am running for Attorney General in Colorado in 2018 to continue this fight. 

In one of her most impassioned arguments for equal rights for women, Justice Ginsburg’s dissent in the Ledbetter case challenged the injustice of a rule that denied recovery for women who did not know they were paid less than men for the same work.  Ultimately, Ginsburg’s moral clarity won out:  in 2009, Congress passed the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act, which provided for protection against pay discrimination and was the first bill Obama signed into law.

I am running for Attorney General to protect equal rights for all, to fight for equal pay for equal work, and to fight against sexual harassment and other forms of discrimination against women.  I will not only protect those rights through law enforcement, I will make the Attorney General’s office a model in recruiting, supporting, and promoting women and people of color.  

Over my time as the Dean of the University of Colorado Law School, I made such efforts a top priority, working with the Colorado Women's Bar Association, among other organizations, to advance women in the profession.   I will similarly prioritize such efforts as Colorado’s next Attorney General.  Please take a look at and share with others my plan for doing that, which includes establishing a leader on inclusive excellence in the office.

Please join me on this journey and help make sure that we make 2018 a year we advance equal rights and equal justice for all.


Phil Weiser

Bringing Institutional Reform and Innovation Into Government

We are living in an era of declining faith and trust in our institutions. This problem, experienced acutely by our younger generations, raises important challenges for government.  Innovation is key to both reimagining and reforming how our institutions can become more trustworthy and effective. Over my career, I’ve worked in depth on issues related to innovation, entrepreneurship, technological change, and the law.  

As our next Attorney General, I’m committed to a new vision of how our Attorney General serves the people of Colorado, defends our freedoms, fights for opportunities for all, and protects our land, air, and water.

Technological change is not a choice.  It’s a reality we must embrace. The iPhone, only ten years old, has transformed commerce, is giving rise to new industries, and disrupting established ones (think: how we travel, communicate, and buy products and services).  Citizens rightfully expect that our government will get smarter and be more nimble too.

All too often, government fails to embrace the digital age.  For example, when people file a complaint with the Attorney General’s office here in Colorado, explaining that they were ripped off, they often don’t hear back for several weeks.  If you file a complaint with Amazon.com, by contrast, your complaint is acknowledged immediately and brought to the attention of a real person who can evaluate how to respond. We need to develop the same sorts of programs at the Attorney General’s office to best serve Colorado’s consumers.  To create such systems, and drive innovation in the AG’s Office more generally, I will create our State AG’s first Chief Innovation Officer position. By doing so, we will make Colorado a national model for using data analytics, engaging our citizens, and enforcing our laws effectively, creatively, and efficiently.

When I am Colorado’s next Attorney General, I will evaluate how the office can develop and support new solutions to address a range of issues facing our state—from protecting our land, air, and water to standing up for consumers to safeguarding public safety and addressing the opioid crisis.  The AG’s office can be a driver and a partner for innovation, either directly or by supporting innovative private sector or non-profit initiatives. Consider, for example, the Safe2Tell program, which allows children to report anonymous tips ranging from suicide threats to possible school attacks.  This innovative initiative began as a standalone program in 2004 and was eventually incorporated into the AG’s Office.  By supporting programs like Safe2Tell and working with innovative non-profit programs like Crime Stoppers, which provides community education outreach related to crime prevention, the AG’s Office can advance its mission in creative ways and effectively engage the community.

To tap into Colorado’s spirit of entrepreneurial leadership, I founded the Governmental Entrepreneurial Leadership Accelerator program to transform governmental approaches to problem solving.  Over the last two years, this program has worked with the State of Colorado and the City of Denver to identify challenging issues and to pioneer new solutions presented to State and City officials.  During that time, it has developed innovative solutions to addressing the opioid epidemic, transportation for homeless individuals, and getting broadband access to low-income school children.   In addition to developing innovative solutions, the teams of governmental professionals and students in this program receive valuable training and mentorship. This inspires them to innovate in their work and accelerates their professional development.  For a recent report on this program, see this article.

As our next Attorney General, I will also work with private sector and non-profit groups to provide consumers with guidance on what products and services they can trust.  One critical role government can play to ensure that claims made by companies can be certified.  After all, in industries where consumers cannot trust what some companies promise, as is the case in for-profit education, the entire industry suffers.  For certification programs—like the LEED building standard or the Energy Star program—to work, they need a watchdog on the case to look out for consumers.  As our next Attorney General, I will ensure that such certification programs work effectively, making sure that consumers get what they pay for and enabling such innovative public-private partnerships.  

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We in Colorado have a great opportunity to draw on our pioneering and innovative spirit by electing leaders who are committed to an entrepreneurial approach to government.  My track record of such leadership, inside and outside of government, goes back two decades, through my work with leaders here in Colorado to start new programs and solve problems to my work in the Obama Administration.  The Governmental Entrepreneurial Leadership Accelerator program is just one of many examples.  With your help, I can bring that spirit to our Attorney General’s office.

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Bernie Buescher, Former Deputy Attorney General, Secretary of State, State Representative from Grand Junction, and a lawyer in private practice and an entrepreneur

Aneesh Chopra, Former Chief Technology Officer and Assistant to President Barack Obama


Phil Weiser and Family

The Imperative of Protecting Our Land, Air, and Water in the Twenty First Century

Our next Attorney General needs to be a leader in protecting our land, air, and water.  Over the last several years, our current Attorney General has undermined Colorado’s leadership in this area, seeking to undo the methane rule pioneered here in Colorado, providing bad legal advice to the Colorado Oil and Gas Commission, and threatening our state’s leadership in addressing climate change.

We need and deserve an Attorney General who is committed to protecting the public health for our children and grandchildren. I’m running to be Colorado’s next Attorney General to represent our next generation and take on this challenge. From talking to my kids, I know that they worry about whether they will be able to enjoy Colorado when they have kids of their own.  They expect today’s leaders to protect our land, air, and water.

Colorado’s Leadership on Methane Emissions

In Colorado, we have our own way of doing things. We are innovative, collaborative, and we care deeply about our land, water, and air.  With regard to climate change, we are leaders in protecting our planet for future generations.  Guided by our Governor John Hickenlooper and the hard work from responsible leaders here in Colorado, we developed the framework that the Obama Administration adopted for regulating the methane emissions that come from oil and gas development.

Our current Attorney General is not one of these leaders. She has sided with former EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt and acted against Colorado’s interests.  First, she challenged the EPA methane rule after President Obama adopted it; more recently, when Scott Pruitt sought to scrap this federal framework, jeopardizing the quality of our land, air, and water, she refused to represent Colorado.  Consequently, our Governor had to hire private counsel to represent our State.  We deserve an Attorney General who will stand up to Scott Pruitt and protect our air quality.

Undermining Protections Against Unsafe Oil and Gas Development

In a recent case (called “the Martinez case”), the Colorado Oil and Gas Commission considered whether oil and gas development in Colorado should be “regulated subject to the protection of public health, safety, and welfare, including protection of the environment and wildlife resources.”  In that case, our Attorney General mistakenly instructed the Commission that it lacked the authority to evaluate whether the petition should be granted, setting the stage for an unnecessary and wasteful legal fight.  The Court of Appeals told our Attorney General that she was wrong on the law and our Governor urged her to allow the Colorado Oil and Gas Commission to do its work under the proper legal standard.  Our Attorney General rejected that call and has doubled down on her bad legal advice, creating legal confusion and delays by appealing the case to the Colorado Supreme Court.

We deserve an Attorney General who is committed to protecting the health and safety of our people.  It is wrong to place drilling for oil and gas above any and all public health, safety, and welfare considerations.  As Attorney General, I will provide proper legal advice to the Colorado Oil and Gas Commission and work collaboratively with localities on this important issue—not sue them as a political stunt, which is what our current Attorney General has done by suing Boulder County.

Supporting a Clean Energy Economy

In Colorado, we are national leaders in developing the foundation for a clean energy economy.  As such, when President Obama acted to enforce the Clean Air Act and to protect our way of life, Colorado embraced the goals of his “Clean Power Plan.” Similarly, when the United States became the only nation in the top 20 in the world to turn its back on the Paris Climate Accords, our Governor stepped up to make sure that Colorado could meet its goals.  But our Attorney General has not represented us on this issue; instead, she has joined with Scott Pruitt, first by challenging the Clean Power Plan after President Obama adopted it and then by supporting Scott Pruitt’s destructive actions when he acted to rescind the Clean Power Plan as EPA Administrator.

We in Colorado have long recognized that a changing climate threatens our Colorado way of life.  Climate change threatens to increase the length and severity of droughts, reduce crop yields, reduce snowpack, and increase the risk of wildfires and flooding.  Our skiing industry, for example, is vigilant on this issue and is working hard to ensure that we have skiing in Colorado for future generations.  To prepare for a clean energy future, we have taken action here in Colorado to reduce carbon pollution in ways that are right for us.  Most notably, we were the first state to pass a Renewable Energy Standard by popular vote in 2004, and we’ve since undertaken innovative policies like the Clean Air Clean Jobs Act of 2010.

In the early 2000s, a number of State Attorneys General called on the EPA to act to address the rising threat of climate change.  In Massachusetts v. EPA, the Supreme Court ruled for those AGs, declaring that the EPA had a duty to regulate carbon emissions.  Acting in response to this ruling, President Obama adopted the Clean Power Plan, which provides flexibility to the states to develop pollution-reduction strategies that work for them.  Because Colorado is a national leader in preparing for a clean energy economy, we were particularly well positioned to meet both the interim and final goals of the Clean Power Plan, and welcomed this step forward.

Despite our nation’s pressing need to reduce our carbon pollution and prevent the disastrous impacts of climate change, the EPA is moving to rescind the Clean Power Plan. But a number of State Attorneys General, including some from states who brought the landmark Massachusetts v. EPA case, are not going to give up without a fight.  Our Attorney General, however, is not representing Colorado’s interest in moving toward a clean energy economy.  We deserve better.

Representing Our Next Generation

The future of our air, land, and water should not be negotiable.  We have a moral commitment to our next generation to protect their health, safety, and welfare.  If we don’t act now to protect our natural resources, ensure that oil and gas drilling is safe, and act to address climate change, our children will not forgive us—and we should not forgive ourselves.  We cannot afford an Attorney General who joins Scott Pruitt to undermine important protections.  We deserve an Attorney General who works with leaders across our state to continue making progress in addressing climate change and protecting our land, air, and water.  Please join my campaign and spread the word about why we need an Attorney General who will do just that.

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Supporters
Alice Madden, Former Majority Leader of the Colorado House of Representatives

"In 2018, Colorado has the opportunity to elect an Attorney General committed to protecting our land, air, and water. We can count on Phil Weiser to do just that.  Working for President Obama, he spearheaded the Administration's effort to encourage smart grids to help us be more energy efficient.  As Dean of the University of Colorado Law School, he continued CU's leadership in this area and supported students going into public service.  With a unique blend of legal and leadership experience, he will transform the AG's office and make it an engine for progress for Colorado."

Elise Jones, Boulder County Commissioner

"Colorado needs an Attorney General who makes protecting our land, air, and water a top priority of the office. We can count on Phil Weiser to do that and be a partner with other leaders in our state. We need our next Attorney General to be a leader in addressing climate change, preventing unsafe or harmful oil and gas development, and protecting our public lands. With Phil at the helm, our Attorney General’s office will be an engine for progress on these and other important issues."

Tim Wirth, Former U.S. Colorado Senator

"Phil will be a leader in protecting Colorado’s land, air, and water. President Trump’s decision to withdraw the United States from the Paris climate accords is contrary to America’s international standing, economic, and security interests, and our legacy of leadership around the world. In the face of this shameful abdication of moral responsibility to future generations, it is incumbent upon states and localities to protect our planet and address climate change. Unfortunately, Colorado’s current AG, Cynthia Coffman, has sided with climate change deniers, the fossil fuel industry, and EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt to challenge the Obama Administration’s clean energy agenda and has undermined Governor John Hickenlooper’s leadership on restricting methane from oil and gas extraction. We deserve better leadership from our AG. Phil Weiser will provide it."


300 Days

300 days - Can You Believe It?!

We kicked off this campaign 300 days ago and we’ve accomplished so much together.

I want to focus on two stats that really illustrate the strength of our campaign: the number of volunteers and the number of counties I’ve visited.

So far we’ve recruited more than 800 volunteers and been to 48 counties. To me, that shows that we’re getting out and talking to Coloradans about our plans and hearing from them about what is on their minds.  And visits to the other 16 counties (and then some) are already set up and posted on my website; if you know people around the state, please encourage them to come meet me. This is how campaigns are won or lost.

I’ve said it a million times: this is a grassroots-powered campaign (with 952 iced teas splashed in) that would not be functioning -- let alone be this successful -- without your support. We have a big challenge ahead, building on our support at the caucuses last night and moving toward the state assembly -- only together will we be successful.

300 Days
Thank you for all that you have done and thank you for all that you will do,

Phil


Phil Weiser

Protecting Consumers and Fighting Predatory Debt to Enable Opportunity

Like many Coloradans, Joanie Bronson (not her real name) is working hard to build up her career.  On account of her considerable student loan debt, which is gobbling up her wages, she is placed under constant stress. Matters only got worse recently when she answered the call of one of the several purported student loan debt relief companies that constantly send her text messages. Looking for help, she authorized what looked like a legitimate company to deduct three payments of $800 from her checking account. The money vanished, but her debt remained unchanged. The company never provided her with anything, leaving her deeper in debt and more frustrated than ever.

Some politicians might tell Joanie that it’s time for her to pick herself up by her bootstraps, but as Scott Wasserman, President of Colorado’s Bell Policy Center explained, “you can’t pick yourself up by the bootstraps if your feet are chained to the floor.”  

I agree. I’m running for Attorney General to fight for people like Joanie.  We need to support Coloradans who work so hard to escape the burdens of predatory debt—whether from student loans, car loans, mortgages, or the high-cost short-term payday loans peddled by those that prey upon our economic insecurity.

The American Dream is personal to me—both my parents were the first in their families to go to college and were able to graduate without debt, thanks to scholarships, hard work, and public support for higher education. Those same support mechanisms should be available for everyone. That’s the American Dream and the Colorado promise. And it’s something I’ll fight for as your Attorney General.

We can’t rely on the federal government to do this important work for us. Today, debt, predatory scams, and a lack of opportunity have undermined many people’s faith that a better future lies ahead.  And with the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau eviscerated by President Trump, we must act together with other states to protect Coloradans from the forces that exploit the vulnerable every day.

Addressing the Challenges of Student Debt, Shady Servicing, and Collection Practices

As Attorney General, I will focus on student loan borrower debt. I know how stressful this debt can be. As the Dean of the University of Colorado Law School, I worked hard to lower student debt. In particular, I decreased average indebtedness of law school graduates by $16,000 through increased scholarships and by holding tuition constant.

I also worked hard to increase employment opportunities so students could pay back their debts.  One such initiative was to create a multi-million-dollar loan repayment program for students who took low-paying jobs in public service or in underserved parts of our state.

I recognize that many students don’t have such opportunities.  Too many are taken advantage of by predatory for-profit schools, student loan servicers that make it more difficult for borrowers to pay off their debt, shady debt collectors, and scammers that prey on those who want to do something to get out from under the debt—like the ones that took advantage of Joanie.

Our Attorney General must stand up for Coloradans facing shady student debt practices.  

We need our next AG to stand up for Coloradans harmed by the burdens of student loan debt. Part of the challenge is addressing the source of the debt. For example, under the Trump Administration, we are headed toward a resurgence of shady for-profit schools that have taken advantage of Coloradans (including veterans back from military service) by using high-pressure sales tactics and deceptive recruiting, while offering a low-quality degree. Indeed, one study found that some students made less money after attending certain for-profit colleges. Our AG needs to stand with other states in taking aggressive enforcement actions against these companies.

We also need to closely watch the companies that service these debts. Recently, for example, Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro took action against the student loan servicer Navient for misleading borrowers, including by putting borrowers in the wrong repayment plan and leading them to pay far more than they would have otherwise.

And we need to go after the companies like the one that harmed Joanie and takes advantage of graduates with student debt through abusive debt relief scams. The FTC recently targeted such efforts by working with a number of states.  They reported that such fraudulent efforts have cheated consumers like Joanie out of almost $100 million.  

The Colorado AG needs to pursue these companies while also cutting off the tools of their fraud.  This includes stopping the data brokers that sell information about debtors (like the cell phone number that scammers used to contact Joanie) and the banks and payment processors that facilitate fraud by allowing debt relief companies to drain consumers’ accounts.  

But it’s not enough to hold wrongdoers accountable.  We also need to present students, prospective students, and debtors with a path forward.

As our next Attorney General, I will work to develop and oversee certification and validation programs for educational programs, enable responsible companies to be trusted by Colorado consumers, and sanction irresponsible companies who deceive their customers.  For a description of how such programs can work, see my thoughts on this topic.

I’ll also convene stakeholders and Colorado attorneys to develop programs to provide access to justice to consumers seeking to discharge their student loan borrower debts in bankruptcy, just like Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey has done in her state.

Finally, I’ll continue fighting back against the Trump Administration to protect borrowers buried under federal student loans. Under President Obama, the Department of Education adopted rules to protect these consumers, including by putting responsibility for the loans on the backs of educational institutions that did not provide marketable skills.  But Betsy DeVos recently acted to undermine those protections.  Thankfully, a number of state AGs—but not Colorado’s—challenged her action, standing up for those borrowers taken advantage of by such institutions.

Reclaiming Opportunity for All

We need to make sure that Coloradans are not taken advantage of, saddled with predatory debt, and denied the opportunity to gain the skills they need to succeed.  As a professor and former dean, education is personal to me, and I have devoted my career to ensuring that students can gain real opportunities to thrive professionally.  Unfortunately, not all educators or educational institutions have this same ethic.  

As our next AG, I will also work with other public officials in Colorado to support an environment where everyone can get ahead.  Our State values opportunity for all, and we need to work hard to create real opportunities for all Coloradans in a changing economy.  To help drive this vision, please join our campaign and help us build a State where we are committed to economic opportunity for all.

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Endorser: Irene Griego, University of Colorado Regent

"As the Dean of the University of Colorado Law School, Phil Weiser demonstrated that he cares deeply about student indebtedness and making sure that students receive a valuable training from higher education. At Colorado Law, he lowered the average student indebtedness by $16,000 and vaulted Colorado Law's employment ranking into the top 20. As our next Attorney General, he will work hard to make sure our students are not being cheated or taken advantage of. And he will work tirelessly with leaders across our state to make sure people are getting the training they need for the 21st century economy."