Phil's Family

A Nation of Immigrants (with video)

We often refer to our country as “a nation of immigrants.”  For me, this concept is personal—my mom came to the United States in 1951 as a refugee, after being born in a Nazi concentration camp at the end of World War II.  My grandparents and my mom came here because of America’s commitment to freedom and opportunity for all.  Unfortunately, President Trump’s approach to immigration—including his termination of the DACA program that protected the DREAMers—threatens the foundation of what makes our nation great.  To protect our immigrants and develop a sound immigration policy at this time in our history, we need engaged citizens and responsible leaders to step forward.  I’m running for Attorney General to be one of those leaders.

During Barack Obama’s Presidency, Congress failed to pass the sort of comprehensive and sensible immigration reform that our country desperately needs and that our Senator Michael Bennet spearheaded with the bipartisan Gang of Eight.  In the wake of that failed effort, President Obama used his executive authority—and his discretion on how to enforce our laws—to make a commitment to eligible children of undocumented immigrants: they could continue to be productive members of our society and not have to live in the shadows.  These are kids who were brought here by their parents, and many cannot recall living anywhere other than in the United States. This program, the “Deferred Action on Childhood Arrivals,” or DACA, enjoys wide support and makes powerful economic sense

President Trump’s decision to end DACA threatens the livelihood of hard-working individuals who have only known life here in the United States. It threatens to force them back into the shadows.  It also hurts our nation by breaking a commitment to immigrants who trusted our government to keep its word, creating a self-inflicted economic wound and causing fear and disruption for hundreds of thousands of young people in jobs, in the military, or in school.  Unfortunately, our dysfunctional Congress has failed to act in the wake of President Trump’s ending of the program.

Even with a dysfunctional Congress and a President all too willing to play political football with the DREAMers, we cannot lose hope.  Notably, a number of State Attorneys General—but not ours—have thus far had success in their challenges against  the Trump Administration’s ending of the DACA program. To date, their lawsuit and the injunction against the Trump Administration provides critical protections to the DREAMers at this time.  Here in Colorado, we need an Attorney General committed to supporting the DREAMers and working with our institutions, including our colleges and schools, to ensure that they are treated fairly.

The Trump Administration is now seeking to enlist states and cities in its effort to deport law-abiding members of our communities.  In a display of responsible leadership, Denver is refusing to cooperate with the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) in targeting undocumented individuals when they, for example, appear in court to testify about crimes. Unfortunately, President Trump is pushing an inhumane policy that threatens to make us less safe by intimidating potential witnesses in our criminal justice system.

As our next Attorney General, I will defend decisions by our state, our cities, and our counties to refuse to cooperate with DHS in deporting law-abiding members of our communities. I will also join other State Attorneys General to challenge the Trump Administration’s unconstitutional discrimination against Muslims seeking to immigrate to the United States.  So far, our federal courts have stopped the Trump travel ban from taking full effect.  Our Attorney General, unfortunately, has refused to join with other State Attorneys General to protect our nation’s tradition of welcoming immigrants regardless of their country of origin, religion, race, or economic background.

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Our nation’s greatness owes a lot to our welcoming attitude toward immigrants from around the world who come here to share their talent and hard work and to benefit from our freedoms and economic opportunity.  My family has lived this experience.  As Attorney General, I will fight for the humane and welcoming treatment of our immigrants, including DACA recipients and undocumented individuals living here productively.  And I will be one of the State Attorneys General standing up against religious discrimination of those seeking to immigrate here.


Economic Growth

Protecting Colorado’s Workers

Colorado’s economy is booming, and our unemployment rate has plummeted to one of the lowest in the nation. But the benefits of that economic growth aren’t shared by everyone. Many Coloradans still have trouble meeting mounting financial pressures from mortgages, student loans, medical bills, and other expenses.

The Problems of Wage Theft, Anticompetitive Agreements, and Cutting Corners

Too many workers aren’t paid their lawful wages—some employers deduct fees off their workers’ paychecks, misclassify workers as independent contractors, or refuse to pay their workers at all. According to recent estimates, “wage theft” costs Colorado workers around $750 million per year. And that figure doesn’t even take into account anticompetitive and coercive tactics that some employers use to suppress wages—like forcing workers to enter into non-compete agreements or agreeing with their competitors to cap salaries and not hire each other’s workers.  

When some businesses cut corners, it harms the economy by putting responsible businesses at an unfair disadvantage.  It becomes very hard, for example, for a law-abiding construction company to win contracts when its competitors misclassify their low-wage construction employees as independent contractors and pocket the savings. Moreover, small businesses suffer from wage theft and wage stagnation when working families have less money to spend at the grocery store or local restaurant.   

Consumers are also put at risk when businesses cut corners and treat workers unfairly.  Consider the case of home health care workers. When providers cheat home health care professionals out of wages and overtime premiums, workers are more likely to leave, creating potential risks for the seniors when they lose continuity of care and end up with lower quality of care.

My Plan to Protect Colorado Workers

As your next Attorney General, I will stand up for Colorado’s workers.  I will protect our workers and hold irresponsible companies accountable when they mistreat their employees.

I will also reward responsible businesses that do right by their workers.  One way to do so is to develop voluntary certification programs for employers who follow the rules and pay a living wage. These programs would benefit “high-road employers” and the customers and contractors who want to do business them. These certifications could be provided to subcontractors who properly classify their employees, pay them overtime, and obtain workers’ compensation insurance—as opposed to hiring shady labor brokers who do none of these things.

Certifications would signal to developers and general contractors that they have reason to trust those companies to provide reliable and high-quality labor, thereby reducing their risk of ending up on the hook for unpaid wages.

In other states, Attorneys General are taking action and calling out predatory employers.  Whether it’s fighting against wage theft or encouraging companies to follow best practices in treating workers fairly, I will protect hard-working Coloradans and ensure they are treated fairly.  One critical element of my plan is to protect workers who are threatened by employers to keep silent in the face of illegal activity. These workers are often told they’ll lose their jobs or be turned over to immigration authorities if they confront abusive practices.  As our next Attorney General, I will take action to protect workers from such practices.

Another important enforcement effort is to ensure that workers can benefit from competition for their services.  When I served as Deputy Assistant Attorney General at the Justice Department, we investigated abusive “no poach” agreements where companies agree not to recruit or hire each other’s employees.  Ultimately, the Obama Administration set an important precedent in this area, establishing that workers are entitled to have employers compete for their skills.

As Attorney General, I will target these “no hire” agreements and investigate employers that violate state-level protections against abusive non-compete agreements. Currently, nearly one in five U.S. workers is harmed by such agreements, according to the U.S. Treasury Department.  Attorneys General in other states have already begun to target these abuses for enforcement action.

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We need to fight to make sure that Colorado remains a leader in economic growth and innovation and to ensure that everyone has a fair shot to benefit from our success. To do that, everyone must be treated fairly. Employers who steal wages or abuse their positions of power should be punished, and the high-road employers who make our economy tick should be rewarded for their choices.  

Colorado’s innovative spirit—and our commitment to look out for one another—makes us unique.  Please join my campaign so I can be an Attorney General who leads our state under just this approach.


Phil Weiser

Our Attorney General Needs to Lead on Gun Safety

The murder of 14 students and three staff members at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida using an AR-15 semi-automatic weapon was tragic—and avoidable.  From its shadow, teenagers are using their voices and rejecting complacency, insisting that we can do better. Last Saturday, March 24th, I was proud to join young people from across our state at the March for Our Lives to call for common sense measures on gun safety and to insist on protecting our classrooms from weapons of war.

Colorado’s Laws Are Under Attack

In 2013, after the Aurora and Sandy Hook massacres, Colorado took action on gun safety, limiting magazine capacity, requiring background checks for anyone wishing to purchase a gun, and closing the gun show loophole.  Today, our common sense laws are under attack, with the National Rifle Association (NRA) arguing that these protections violate the Second Amendment.   In 2018, we will either elect an Attorney General committed to defending our gun safety laws—or one who will follow the lead of the NRA.

Colorado’s gun safety laws provide important protections, but they are not perfect.  Future legislation should provide for a ban on bump stock devices (like the one used in October’s shooting in Las Vegas) and raise the minimum age for purchasing to 21.  In the wake of the recent shooting in Parkland, and the leadership of the students who demanded action at their State Capitol, Florida passed a law with both of these restrictions.  Colorado should follow this example.

Our Attorney General Should Fight for Gun Safety

A fundamental responsibility of our Attorney General is to keep Coloradans safe.  That means we need our Attorney General to defend, enforce, and build on our existing gun safety rules.  In Colorado, the requirement that those purchasing a weapon undergo a background check has kept weapons out of the hands of those who should not have them.  

It has, as Governor Hickenlooper put it, “stopped hundreds of people -- convicted felons and others who can’t legally own guns -- from purchasing them.”   More than 200 people who tried to buy guns had warrants out for their arrest—and were arrested attempting to buy a weapon. To ensure that our law is enforced effectively, I will work with our state’s dedicated law enforcement community to ensure that background checks are conducted on every firearm purchase in accordance with Colorado law.

We need to ban bump stock devices and fight for greater restrictions on access to military-grade weapons and devices that serve no legitimate purpose in civilian life. We also need to advocate at the national level because if weapons of war are available in neighboring states, our laws won’t be fully effective in addressing gun violence. And here in Colorado, we can implement other common sense reforms, such as adopting a “red flag” warning (also called a “gun violence restraining order”), allowing courts to require individuals who pose a credible danger to temporarily surrender their weapons.  In one study evaluating this approach, researchers estimated that a life was saved for every 10-20 such orders.

To push for a national solution, I will join forces with other Attorneys General to call on Congress to enact common-sense gun safety measures and support efforts by the relevant agencies to conduct research into gun violence to ensure effective prevention going forward.

Our Attorney General Should Develop Creative Partnerships to Protect Youth

Although the homicides tend to receive the most press attention, we also need to address the risk that guns will be used to commit suicide.  In 2016, 56 Coloradans younger than 19 years of age died from firearm injuries. The majority of those cases were suicides, with most of the guns taken from their parents. From 2006 to 2016, 449 youth in Colorado died because of gun deaths, with 56% of them classified as suicide, 36% as homicides, and 7% as “unintentional” or “undetermined” causes, (according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Fatal Injury Data).  

To protect youth from the risk of accidents and suicides, we need to work together—gun owners and non-gun owners—to recognize the risks of suicide and ensure the safe storage of guns.  This requires effective intervention programs, like Safe2Tell, that identify those who are the victims of bullying and at risk of behaving dangerously.  As Attorney General, I will develop new creative partnerships that sponsor educational programs focused on suicide prevention and sensible gun storage practices.  

Consider, for example, the national model “Safe Storage Saves Lives Campaign” developed by Washington State as part of its comprehensive gun violence prevention plan. As Colorado’s next Attorney General, and as part of my general commitment to innovative problem-solving, I will support such a program in Colorado.  This model emerged from a bipartisan effort in Washington State and its collaborative implementation underscores the promise of this approach.  Similarly, Colorado can learn from other innovative efforts to support pilot programs and experiments designed to address the complex problem of gun violence.

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The students in Parkland and those at the March for Our Lives last week have catalyzed a national discussion on gun safety that focuses on a single message:  We cannot give up hope and cannot be complacent.  I’ve heard the same message in my discussion with high school students here in Colorado.  I’m inspired by their courage and tenacity. I promise to never stop fighting alongside them and for them once I am Colorado’s next Attorney General.


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."


Brad Feld

Entrepreneurship, and Brad Feld: "Why I am supporting Phil Weiser for Colorado AG"

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 had 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


Phil Weiser, Candidate for Colorado Attorney General

Promoting Competition and Entrepreneurship

When powered by competition, the US economy is at its best, providing innovative products at low prices for consumers and opportunities for entrepreneurs to create new and exciting businesses and high-paying jobs.  At its worst, monopolies or oligopolies gouge consumers and stifle innovation and opportunities for entrepreneurs.

In our economy, consumers get better choices and prices when companies battle it out in the marketplace to win over customers.  By contrast, when companies merge so that they can raise prices or fix prices rather than compete, consumers lose.  The antitrust laws protect consumers and protect workers by preventing mergers that limit competition, destroy jobs, and raise prices.  The antitrust laws also ensure that entrepreneurs have an opportunity to enter new markets and are not excluded by dominant firms who use predatory practices to protect their position in the market.

I have spent much of my legal career over the past twenty years fighting for competition, consumers, and entrepreneurs.  As our next Attorney General, I will continue that fight, and I will vigorously enforce the law to protect competition for Colorado’s consumers and entrepreneurs.

Fighting for Competition

In 1996, I joined the US Department of Justice’s Antitrust Division as the counsel to the Assistant Attorney General.  In that role, I participated in a ground-breaking investigation of the major credit card companies and spearheaded the Antitrust Division’s efforts to bring competition into telecommunications markets.  I rejoined the Division in 2009, when President Obama appointed me Deputy Assistant Attorney General.  There, I strengthened the rules barring anticompetitive mergers, fought for competition in agriculture so farmers could get a fair price for their crops, and worked with other federal agencies to promote competition across the economy. 

As Colorado’s next Attorney General, I will ensure that our antitrust laws are enforced effectively to protect Colorado consumers and entrepreneurs.  We need to stand up against the troubling wave of mergers and industry consolidation that have led to higher prices and lower quality offerings in many sectors—like those we have seen in the airline industry.  And I will take strong enforcement action when companies fix prices, as a number of State AGs have done against a price-fixing cartel for generic drugs, which led prices to rise from $20/bottle to almost $2,000/bottle.  That sort of price increase does not happen in a competitive marketplace, and we cannot let Colorado consumers suffer at the hands of such illegal behavior.

Supporting Net Neutrality

As our next Attorney General, I will be an advocate for competition, not only through effective antitrust law enforcement, but also by fighting for strong net neutrality protections.  The net neutrality rules ensure that the Internet remains open and that consumers can receive the content and services of their choosing.  Net neutrality also protects upstart entrepreneurs who could be relegated to a slow lane that would prevent them from offering innovations that challenge entrenched big businesses.  Recently, the Federal Communications Commissions ended the net neutrality protections I worked hard—as an Obama Administration official and as a law professor—to developAs our next Attorney General, I will fight to restore net neutrality and other pro-competitive rules to protect consumers and innovators from abuses.

Consumer Protection

Consumers deserve transparent prices, honest business practices, and fair terms of service.  And consumers must be protected when irresponsible companies fail to provide the products or services they promise.  Consider, for example, the case of Wells Fargo, which created millions of bogus bank accounts for customers that the customers didn’t ask for—and then fired the employees who attempted to blow the whistle.  This practice continued until the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) put an end to it and stood up for consumers.  But the CFPB is now lead by someone who does not believe it is important to protect consumers.  And that’s why we need a Colorado Attorney General who will stand up for consumers when they are deceived or ripped off by irresponsible businesses.

As our next Attorney General, I will be a strong advocate for consumers, workers, and entrepreneurs, fighting to ensure that everyone is treated fairly and not taken advantage of by irresponsible companies.  Without leadership from federal agencies like the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, we need our Attorney General here in Colorado to be on the front lines and standing up to irresponsible companies.

Supporting Entrepreneurs

In Colorado, we have an entrepreneurial spirit and recognize that new startups are critical to the future of our economy.  Today, however, we are seeing more and more mergers, less and less competition, and fewer startups (as captured by this report).  Throughout my career here in Colorado, I have led initiatives to help entrepreneurs, by founding and leading the Silicon Flatirons Center at the University of Colorado, by founding Startup Colorado (which supports entrepreneurs across the State), and by bringing the Blackstone Entrepreneurs Network to Colorado (to support scale-up companies here).

As Attorney General, I will fight for an economy and legal environment that supports entrepreneurs and eliminates barriers to entry for new businesses in our state. Colorado must be a leader in creating an environment that encourages investment and enables entrepreneurs to succeed.

Building an Economy That Works for Everyone

One result of the merger wave is that our economy works well for the few, but isn’t providing new jobs and low prices for the rest of us.  As Attorney General, I will strive to ensure that the legal system creates and protects opportunities for new and better jobs and businesses, so that all Coloradans have a chance to participate in the American Dream.