It’s Easier To Believe

When I talk to people or watch the news, it’s easy to sense the despair and anxiety.  Many call it a “panic,” but it’s really a mixture of so many emotions. Seeing landmarks empty or experiencing isolation at home can fill us with fear and sadness.  But I want to challenge us all to look at things from a different perspective. 

As you probably know, my Bubby was an inspiration for my campaign to serve as our Attorney General.  After giving birth to my mother in a Nazi concentration camp, she taught my mom--and later me--the importance of hope in dark times. When I asked her how she survived such unimaginable hardship, she told me simply, “It’s easier to believe.” 

That belief and hope is what we need right now. 

We are living in a time of hardship, but those empty landmarks are demonstrations of people trying to help their neighbors.  Your time social distancing might save someone else’s grandmother. This epidemic especially targets the elderly, so all those empty schools show our youngest generation helping to save their elders. 

Seen in this light, deserted landmarks are a thing of beauty because they represent us looking out for each other. 

We cannot deny the hardship and fear of these times. For those who work in food service and rely on tips to put meals on their own family tables. For those who deal with depression. For those whose age or preexisting condition makes them afraid for their lives. 

That’s why I’m so grateful that Governor Polis took quick and decisive action on testing and protective measures, and why it’s so meaningful to see many leaders in government, nonprofit, and business put Colorado’s spirit of community problem solving to work. In the Attorney General’s office, we have created a Coronavirus Task Force to confront this crisis. You can read more about our work here.

In our times of hardship, I am inspired by these words from Scripture: “You are not obligated to complete the work, but neither are you free to desist from it.”  All Coloradans will need to do what they can to limit the spread of this virus and support one another. It is challenging, and my heart is with every mother and father who is worried about paying the bills and every person who fears for their safety and the safety of their family. But I pray that we can stay positive and remember that “it’s easier to believe.” We can get through this together--even if we are keeping our social distance (staying six feet apart from one another). 

I will close with some lines from a poem that has been making the rounds online. Written by a monk in Ireland, it ends with thoughts on people in Italy who have chosen to sing across their balconies as they stay indoors for the greater good: 

Open the windows of your soul

And though you may not be able

to touch across the empty square,

Sing.”

Thank you for your engagement and for supporting me in serving the people of Colorado. And thank you for all the sacrifices you are making so that we can believe in—and protect—a better future. 

Phil

https://www.colorado.gov/cdphe

https://www.cdc.gov/

 


Community During the Time of Coronavirus

In Colorado, we are committed to leading the way in responding to this crisis by developing data-driven, thoughtful, creative, and responsible measures to confront an array of new challenges.  At the Attorney General’s Office, we set up a special Coronavirus Task Force in February to coordinate our response efforts. AG’s Office team members, and public servants statewide, have been working day and night—and weekends—and under new conditions (namely, working remotely) to serve the people of Colorado during this crisis.  I am more proud than ever of their service.

Our Consumer Protection team is working vigilantly to protect Coloradans from those who would spread misinformation and take advantage of others during this crisis.  Last week, we put out our first ever Consumer Alert advisory, encouraging Coloradans to be careful of scammers and to get information about the crisis from reputable sources, including the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environmentthe Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, or the World Health Organization websites.  And when you hear of scams—whether fake cures, fraudulent charities, or phishing attempts to gain access to your personal information—please report them to Stop Fraud Colorado at 800-222-4444 or www.StopFraudColorado.gov so we can protect Coloradans from scammers and hold bad actors accountable.

This pandemic is a new challenge that will require a strong commitment from all of us to mitigate and manage the impacts of the virus.  All of our actions—in how we care for each other—will have a direct and powerful effect on how the virus plays out. While social distancing is essential for containing the virus, we must also stay more connected as a community than ever before. Take the extra few minutes to call, text, or email a friend or neighbor to let them know you are thinking about them. As Coloradans, where collaborative problem solving is core to who we are, we will get through this challenging time together.

 

 

 


The Supreme Court Will Hear Our Case

Protecting the votes of Coloradans is fundamental to preserving our democracy. When Coloradans cast their ballots for President, they are voting for a specific candidate, not an unknown elector. That’s why when one of the 2016 Hillary Clinton electors refused to vote for Clinton in the Electoral College—as required by Colorado law—our Secretary of State removed him and oversaw the selection of an alternate elector who followed state law.

The removed elector, Michael Baca, decided to make a federal case out of his removal. And now the dispute is heading all the way up to the Supreme Court, after the Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals here in Denver decided that the Constitution affords electors the right to vote for anyone they choose, disregarding the will of the voters and overriding any state law limits to the contrary. Colorado, like the majority of states, has a law that addresses the concern of “faithless electors.” In our case, Baca v. Colorado Department of State, the Supreme Court will now decide whether states have the power under the Constitution to make sure that the will of the voters is respected.

The Constitution gives states the right to select their presidential electors through elections, which is what Colorado has done for decades. The thought of a Presidential election being decided by “rogue electors,” including ones willing to auction off their vote, is terrifying. And if elections are not decided on Election Day, but instead by free agent electors, we can expect havoc, chaos, and confusion in our election system. This is why we will be defending the Constitution and the integrity of our Presidential election system, arguing that the Constitution clearly provides to the states the power to have their electors follow state law.

The good news is that the U.S. Supreme Court is now positioned to resolve this critical question about the foundation of our democracy before the 2020 election, preventing the need for litigation on this issue in the wake of the election.

The opportunity to defend Colorado’s law and protect the will of our voters is an awesome responsibility. Every day, I am honored to serve as your Attorney General, leading our Department and contributing to our mission—“Together, we serve Colorado and its people, advancing the rule of law, protecting our democracy, and promoting justice for all.” This case is one important example of that work.

Thank you for giving me the opportunity to serve our state.


The Rule of Law and The Case for Impeachment

The rule of law is fundamental to our nation’s core values. If the American people lose confidence in the durability of the rule of law - the principle that all persons are treated fairly and equally - then we will lose our ability to govern ourselves.  This principle was tested during Watergate. Our nation passed that test, with the U.S. Supreme Court sending a clear and lasting message in the Nixon tapes case – no person, not even a President, is above the law.  

Impeachment is a tool that is not to be used lightly.  In the wake of a complaint filed by a federal employee that President Trump used his office to pressure Ukraine to investigate a political rival, there are now powerful constitutional and moral grounds to consider impeachment.  Such an act constitutes a blatant and illegal abuse of power—conducting foreign relations not with the interests of the United States in mind, but with a focus on a President’s own political and personal interests.

As Colorado’s Attorney General, I am committed to protecting and defending the rule of law.  I have spent my professional life at the U.S. Department of Justice, educating future lawyers, and advancing the rule of law.  When this principle is being tested, I cannot remain silent.  

Impeachment proceedings are the proper next step to defend our Constitution.  The Constitution calls for impeachment in the face of “high crimes and misdemeanors.”  As Alexander Hamilton defined the standard for impeachment (in Federalist 65), it is the appropriate remedy for an “abuse or violation of some public trust.”  Given the severity of President Trump’s alleged actions, impeachment proceedings are the proper and necessary next step by Congress.

We are living in a time when distrust in our institutions and our elected leaders is on the rise.  In the face of shocking reports about our President’s conduct, Congress now has an important job to do.  Acting with care, rigor, and integrity, it is up to the House of Representatives to consider articles of impeachment.  In the event that such articles are adopted, it goes to the Senate to conduct a trial. By following this constitutional procedure, and defending the principle that the law must apply to everyone, our nation sends an example to the world and to future generations that the rule of law is a bedrock principle that protects our constitutional democracy.

 


All Truth is Partial

We are facing a profound challenge to our nation’s tradition of respectful and engaged discourse.  For us to live up to our Founders’ vision of self-governance and a constitutional democracy that is “of the people, by the people, and for the people,” we have some important work to do.  And that work starts with appreciating what former Colorado Governor Roy Romer often said: “all truth is partial.”

In today’s hyper-polarized environment, there is too little listening and too little collaborative problem-solving in our politics.  A virus that prevents collaboration—and creative problem solving—is that people are often more interested in winning an argument than solving a problem.  Or put differently, it is possible that two people can both be right—looking at different sides of an issue where both see part of the truth—and yet neither individual is able to see what the other is seeing.

To appreciate why “you don’t have to be wrong for me to be right,” as one author put it, consider a mathematical equation that recently went viral:  8 ÷ 2(2+2) = ?  Depending on how you approach this problem, the answer is either 16 or 1.  And both answers are correct, as explained in this article.

For many in our society, it is not common to hear a political leader acknowledging the truth in the argument of someone from an opposing party.  But politics should not be a world of religious views where rival tribes fight it out to the death. It should be a search for truth, for common ground, and for solutions that make the world a better place.

At its best, religion, too, recognizes that all truth is partial.  Many religious traditions are fond of noting that only the Creator sees all truth; humans can only grasp a glimpse of it.  That’s why in the Talmud, which captures hundreds of years of debate among leading rabbis, there is a common refrain of two rabbis arguing a point, only to settle the issue by concluding “they are both right.”

In the scientific world, the concept of two opposing truths is also a familiar one.  Most famously, the argument as to whether light travels in waves or particles was settled by concluding “it’s both.”  And as Niels Bohr famously concluded, “The opposite of a correct statement is a false statement. But the opposite of a profound truth may well be another profound truth.”  

It is not an accident that our politics are abandoning this awareness at the same time that our society is struggling with pluralism.  A politics that stokes fears of integration, that rallies against inclusion, and that insists one group is supreme is a threat to the American project of self-governance.  In a recent article, David Brooks defended inclusion and pluralism, explaining that:

"Pluralists believe that culture mixing has always been and should be the human condition. All cultures define and renew themselves through encounter. A pure culture is a dead culture while an amalgam culture is a creative culture. The very civilization the white separatists seek to preserve was itself a product of earlier immigration waves."

Finally, pluralism is the adventure of life. Pluralism is not just having diverse people coexist in one place. It’s going out and getting into each other’s lives. It’s a constant dialogue that has no end because there is no single answer to how we should live.

Our Founding motto is “E Pluribus Unum,” out of many, one.  This spirit captures why we have historically seen immigration—and new waves of people and viewpoints—as a strength.  The attacks on this spirit present an existential challenge to our society and to our democracy. I believe we shall overcome this challenge, as we did in earlier ones, such as the fight for civil rights and equal justice for all.  But that will only be true because engaged citizens elevate our politics and live our values at a challenging time for our nation. I will continue to do my part and believe Colorado will be a model for our nation.

 


Colorado Joins 43 Other States in Lawsuit Alleging Generic Drug Manufacturers Conspired to Inflate Prices

The Denver Post

Colorado is one of 44 states that filed a lawsuit Friday against generic drug manufacturers alleging they violated state and federal laws by conspiring to fix prices and stop competitors, resulting in generic drug costs rising significantly. People are struggling to pay for the medication they need, leading to the birth of services like Blink Health which offers a base online price for a number of prescription medications in an effort to make sure they're still accessible to people.

The lawsuit, filed in U.S. District Court in Connecticut, alleges that 20 pharmaceutical companies - including Teva Pharmaceutical, Sandoz, Mylan and Pfizer - "embarked on one of the most egregious and damaging price-fixing conspiracies in the history of the United States."

Teva and other companies raised prices between July 2013 and January 2015 on about 112 generic drugs - some with price increases of more than 1,000 percent, according to the complaint. The lawsuit called it an overarching conspiracy that attempted to thwart competition in the generic drug industry and resulted in inflated drug prices.

"This conduct has resulted in many billions of dollars of overcharges to the Plaintiff States and others, and has had a significant negative impact on our national health and economy," the lawsuit stated.

The state of Connecticut began investigating the skyrocketing drug prices, leading to the lawsuit and other states signing onto it.

The lawsuit asks for a stop to the alleged illegal practices, civil penalties and an unspecified amount in damages.

The companies coordinated with each other and systematically fixed prices, divided market shares and rigged bids for the drugs, according to the Colorado Attorney General's Office in a news release.

The inflated prices of the generic drugs encompassed various types of drugs used to treat numerous diseases, including basic infections, diabetes, cancer, epilepsy, multiple sclerosis, HIV, ADHD and others.

"The conspiracy was wide-ranging and well-orchestrated, characterized by a number of blatant acts to cover up the agreement to limit competition between direct competitors," the news release stated.

A representative for Teva Pharmaceutical USA Inc. did not immediately return a request for comment Sunday. A spokesman for Teva, a subsidiary of Israeli-based Teva Pharmaceutical Industries Ltd, told The Associated Press on Saturday that Teva refuted the allegations.

"The allegations in this new complaint, and in the litigation more generally, are just that - allegations," Kelley Dougherty, a Teva vice president, said in the statement to the AP. "The company delivers high-quality medicines to patients around the world and is committed to complying with all applicable laws and regulations in doing so."

Fifteen senior executives were also named in the lawsuit, which alleges that the executives knew what they were doing was unlawful - and tried to cover up communications - but continued to share pricing information and business plans, violating antitrust laws.

"Many Coloradans are struggling to pay for the prescription drugs they need to treat disease or maintain their health. This complaint presents strong and convincing evidence about how the generic drug industry created and enforced a culture of collusion to perpetrate a multi-billion dollar fraud on consumers," Weiser said in the release.

He added that the companies need to be held accountable for their actions, and he called the case "breath-taking both on account of its impact on consumers and the brazen conduct undertaken by the defendants."

The news release cites a 2017 Colorado Health Access survey that noted more than 500,000 Colorado residents didn't fill prescriptions that year because of costs. The inflated costs also affected Medicare and Medicaid, according to the release.

Another lawsuit filed in 2016 in U.S. District Court in the Eastern District of Pennsylvania is also pending, and two former executives entered into settlement agreements.

Read more on DenverPost.com


A Time to Mourn

PHOTO: HIGHLANDS RANCH, CO - MAY 15: Robots are set up along the pathway at Cherry Hills Community Church for a Celebration of Life service for Kendrick Castillo on May 15, 2019 in Highlands Ranch, Colorado. Two gunman stormed the STEM school last week where Castillo was a student. Castillo with the aid of two friends took one of the gunman down before being shot and killed. 8 other students were injured in the attack. (Photo by Helen H. Richardson/The Denver Post)

There is a time to talk about gun safety and mental health and all of the work that the AG's office is doing to try to save the lives of Colorado students. But today is the time to talk about Kendrick Castillo, the young man who lost his life to protect his classmates. Today is the time to talk about Brendan Bialy and Joshua Jones, who tackled one of the shooters in the school as they saved lives.

Today is the time to think of the little ones leaving classrooms with their hands above their heads in surrender. Their crying faces haunt us. We see our own children in them, and we experience fear and mourning that has, to our terror, become commonplace. Today is the time to think of teachers, who go to work knowing that their classrooms could become a scene of tragedy. Today is the time to think of our eighth graders, seniors, kindergartners, third graders, and every other grade and year from preschool to college and know that they finish their cereal, put on their backpacks, and step into that same reality every single day.

Today is the time to think of them because they asked us to. They want us think of the victims and to mourn with them.

So we mourn for Kendrick. We mourn for those injured. We mourn for the fear and trauma that will never completely heal.

We mourn for the loss of innocence in our own backyards.

Please know that we are working on policy and fighting for better legislation. We came prepared to fight that battle. But we were not ready, and we never will be, to lose more young lives to this violence.

They asked us to think of them. So today, carry their fears with you. Carry their hopes and dreams that will be forever shaken and altered. And know that 20 years from Columbine we have let down an entire generation. Think of them today and carry some of the burden in whatever way you can, so that, maybe, they don't have to bear it alone.

We can and must do better.

Phil


Only Love Can Do That

Last night, I spoke at the Colorado Muslim Society for an Interfaith Vigil in Solidarity with New Zealand's Mosques. I wanted to share some of my remarks from the vigil with you as we stand together against hate:

In Colorado, we stand with our Muslim friends and neighbors.
In Colorado, we recognize that an attack on one of us is an attack on all of us.
In Colorado, we are united in addressing rising hate crimes and bigotry.

In America, we honor our national motto, E Pluribus Unum—from many, we are one.
In America, we work together to form a more perfect union.
In America, we believe that the moral arc of the universe is long, but it bends toward justice.
And in America, we welcome those fleeing religious persecution, as my family was welcomed after surviving the Holocaust.

We all must channel that essential American spirit, a nation founded on the principle of religious freedom and tolerance. That spirit is what Dr. Martin Luther King had in mind when we said, “Hate cannot drive out hate, only love can do that.”

Our love, compassion, and empathy for one another—which we must strengthen in the face of such attacks—is how we do the work of moving toward a more perfect union.


Colorado AG Wants To Crack Down On Robocalls: ‘Getting Worse And Worse’

DENVER (CBS4)

By Kelly Werthmann

March 11, 2019

- Do you get a lot of calls from unknown numbers? Are scammers blowing up your phone? You’re not alone.

“I get them all the time. It’s bogus!”

“I block the number and then another number gets me. It’s annoying.”

“I get nervous it’s my friend in trouble, but then it ends up being a scam.”

Various cellphone users told CBS4’s Kelly Werthmann they receive robocalls several times a week, if not multiple times a day. It’s a frustrating issue and one Colorado’s attorney general is trying to stop.

“The scammers are getting more and more sophisticated,” Phil Weiser said. “We need to stop the spoofing where they pretend to be calling from our neighborhoods.”

Weiser has joined a bipartisan coalition of more than 50 attorneys general in supporting the Telephone Robocall Abuse Criminal Enforcement and Deterrence (TRACED) Act. The TRACED Act requires phone carriers to implement technology to identify who’s behind the scam calls.

“It gives both the FCC and the federal and state law enforcement tools to crack down on the robocalls,” Weiser explained. “Right now the technology is not in place to figure out where the calls are coming from. We need help.”

Among other things, the TRACED Act prioritizes efforts to ensure phone carriers implement STIR/SHAKEN, a technology that would substantially assist consumers in filtering and blocking unwanted robocalls and other phone-based spam. The legislation also establishes an Interagency Working Group that would enable Colorado to coordinate more closely with federal regulators in combating this crisis.

Last year, Coloradans received an estimated 120 million robocalls—averaging out to more than 20 such calls per Colorado resident. Weiser said robocalls are the number one complaint to his office.

“It’s getting worse and worse,” he said. “In 2019, half of all phone calls are expected to be scam robocalls.”

In the middle of his interview with CBS4, Weiser received a call from an unknown number. He had a good feeling it was a scam and his conversation with the person on the other end seemed to prove him right.

“Hello, what is your name, sir, and phone number to look up your information?” the caller asked.

“You just called me,” Weiser replied.

“Yes, to verify please,” the woman responded.

“Why do you need my name?” Weiser questioned. “You just called me.”

“Um, to verify the information, sir,” she said.

“What are you selling,” Weiser asked.

“We’re not selling anything, sir,” the woman replied.

“Why did you call me?” he asked.

“Alright, thank you so much for your time. Bye bye,” the woman said before hanging up.

Weiser said he’s received several robocalls like that, including one that he said made him very angry.

“I’ve been called actually being threatened with jail, and I’m the attorney general,” he said. “I was so pissed off I wanted to basically get the person talking, but as soon as these people know who you are they hang up.”

All the more reason, Weiser added, the TRACED Act is necessary to help authorities trace back to the scammer. Supporters of the TRACED Act hope it will help the federal government and law enforcement agencies find the scammers and fraudsters and potentially prosecute them.

“That way the feds can say to us here in Colorado, ‘There’s a scammer located in Colorado, you can go after them and prosecute them with criminal fraud,’” Weiser said. “Right now I don’t have the tools to get that information.”

Weiser said the TRACED Act is still in its introductory phase, so it will likely be some time before any kind of technology is in place to help consumers and authorities identify robocalls. In the meantime, Weiser warns everyone to be skeptical of unknown callers and to not answer any calls from numbers they don’t recognize.

Read more on CBS4 here


Colorado to Join 19 States in Lawsuit to Stop Federal Abortion “Gag Rule”

The Denver Post

Colorado is joining 19 states and the District of Columbia in filing a lawsuit to stop the so-called abortion “gag rule” changes to a federal grant program that provides reproductive health care services, including cancer screenings and contraception.

The lawsuit, which is being led by Oregon, is expected to be filed Tuesday in U.S. District Court in Eugene, Ore., according to a news release from Oregon Attorney General Ellen Rosenblum. A spokesperson for the Colorado Attorney General’s Office confirmed the state will join the suit.

The legal action seeks to stop rule changes being made to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’s Title X family planning program, which are expected to go into effect in 60 days.

Opponents are calling the changes a “gag rule” because health providers that receive Title X funding will no longer be able to refer patients for abortion services. The new policy also prohibits family planning services funded by the program from being housed in the same physical location as abortion providers.

“These restrictions threaten to undermine health care providers’ ability to serve their patients professionally,” Colorado Attorney General Phil Weiser said in a statement. “If these rules go into effect, Colorado will see an increase in teen births, unintended pregnancies and abortions.”

Other states joining the lawsuit include New Mexico, North Carolina, Virginia, Connecticut, Delaware and Maryland.

California filed its own lawsuit against the Title X rule on Monday, with that state’s attorney general calling it an “attack on women’s health.”

“The Trump-Pence Administration’s sabotage of Title X services that millions of women across our nation rely on is not only irresponsible, it is dangerous to women’s health,” California Attorney General Xavier Becerra said in a statement.

However, the rule change has drawn supporters. It “draws a bright line” between family planning services and abortion, said Tony Perkins, president of the Family Research Council, in a February statement.

“Planned Parenthood and other abortion centers will now have to choose between dropping their abortion services from any location that gets Title X dollars and moving those abortion operations offsite,” he said. ”Either way, this will loosen the group’s hold on tens of millions of tax dollars.”

Colorado’s health department on Monday “denounced” the new rule changes. The Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment receives about $3.8 million a year from the Title X program.

None of the money the department receives goes toward abortion services, but the agency said it contracts 29 organizations that provide family planning services in 76 clinics across Colorado. Under the new rule, physicians and other advanced providers at these facilities will not be able to refer patients for abortions.

Nurses, social workers and other counselors will also be prohibited from counseling women about abortions. Instead, that responsibility will fall on physicians and advanced providers, said Jody Camp, family planning section manager for the health department, in an interview.

The new rule could cut the number of providers in the Title X program and hinder “honest conversations and damage the strength of the provider-patient relationship,” the health department said in a news release.

“Our work is based on a commitment to ensuring all residents have access to care, and this rule eradicates the progress we’ve made,” said Jill Hunsaker Ryan, executive director of the state health department,in a statement. “It will result in more unintended pregnancies, more sexually transmitted infections and more early-stage cancers that will go undetected. The men and women of our state deserve better.”

There is only one Title X provider in the state that also offers abortion services.

Since it will be challenged in court, Boulder Valley Women’s Health Center has no plans to alter its services in response to the rule changes, said spokeswoman Lisa Radelet.

“We are going to keep providing the care we have always provided,” she said. “We were the first abortion clinic in the state.”

Boulder Valley Women’s Health Center opened in 1973, months after the U.S. Supreme Court’s Roe vs. Wade ruling legalized abortions nationwide.

The center’s Title X funding does not go toward abortions. Those services are paid for by patients and their insurance companies. And the center has a fund — supported via private donations — to help low-income patients who can’t afford the costs, Radelet said.

“What this new rule does upends the whole intent of the program by inserting abortion politics into this program,” she said.

 

Read More on DenverPost.com