Phil Wieser

Our Democracy is at Stake

I am running to be Colorado’s Attorney General because our democracy is at risk.

For 230 years, the United States of America has provided an example of democratic governance in action.  During that time, our nation has worked hard to meet the ambitions of our Constitution’s preamble, to “form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity.”

In 2018, we must work hard to defend this tradition.  Our democracy is now at risk from the Trump administration’s ongoing attempts to undermine our constitution freedoms, discredit our independent judiciary and the rule of law, and threaten the independent press.  The threat to our democracy is grave, with a recent best-seller by two scholars of government warning that it may even die.

As Colorado’s next Attorney General, I will defend our constitutional tradition and our Colorado way of life, working hard to strengthen our democracy and your faith in it.

Defending our Democracy

I am inspired by all those who are resisting the erosion of our constitutional freedoms and democratic institutions.  Traveling across our state, I have heard from so many of you, my fellow Coloradans, about how you are defending our democracy, the Constitution, and the rule of law.

In 2018, engaged citizens can join this fight by supporting candidates who are committed to these institutions and who aren’t complicit with overreaches by the Trump Administration. Senator Jeff Flake explained that we “no longer can we turn a blind eye” to “assaults on our institutions,” adding that “a Congress that fails to act as a check on the President adds to that danger.”

One tradition we must defend is the freedom of the press.  We must, for example, call out and condemn Trump’s efforts to demonize the press as the “enemy of the people.” As Senator John McCain put it:

Journalists play a major role in the promotion and protection of democracy and our unalienable rights, and they must be able to do their jobs freely.  Only truth and transparency can guarantee freedom.

Learning from History

Challenges to our democracy and constitutional tradition are not new.  In the early 1970s, our institutions were tested by a President who threatened the rule of law and our core freedoms.  Consider, for example, the Pentagon Papers case, where the Supreme Court defended the First Amendment’s protection of the freedom of the press against the Nixon Administration.  As captured in the recent film, The Post, Justice Black’s opinion stated:

In the First Amendment, the Founding Fathers gave the free press the protection it must have to fulfill its essential role in our democracy.  The press was to serve the governed, not the governors. The Government's power to censor the press was abolished so that the press would remain forever free to censure the Government.  The press was protected so that it could bare the secrets of government and inform the people.  Only a free and unrestrained press can effectively expose deception in government.

The rule of law was tested by President Nixon.  Nixon claimed that, as the President, he was above the rule of law and could not be held accountable for criminal activity.  The Supreme Court rejected that argument, ruling unanimously in U.S. v. Nixon that the President was subject to the rule of law and must respond to a subpoena by a special prosecutor.  Today, the rule of law may be tested again, with the question being whether President Trump will approach special prosecutor Robert Muller’s investigation, as John McCain put it, “through the warped lens of politics and manufacturing partisan sideshows.”  The consequences of elevating politics over institutions will be dire; as Senator McCain sums it up, if “we continue to undermine our own rule of law, we are doing Putin’s job for him.”

In the Watergate era, our nation passed an important test and proceeded to elect leaders in 1974 who defended, reformed, and renewed our institutions, including reforming our campaign finance laws, which are once again a threat to our democracy.  That year, Coloradans elected JD MacFarlane as our Attorney General and Tim Wirth to Congress (and later to the Senate), both members of, as Tim Wirth put it, “a new generation of leaders to help repair and reform our democracy.”  (Both MacFarlane and Wirth have endorsed me as the right person to be Colorado’s next Attorney General.)

Believe in Yourself

At the close of his presidency, President Obama made one final ask of the American people—“To believe. Not in my ability to bring about change — but in yours.” 

Over the last year, I continue to be inspired by the large numbers of people standing up for our core values, resisting discrimination and white supremacy, resisting attacks on the freedom of the press, resisting efforts to compromise an independent judiciary, and resisting voter suppression and gerrymandering that erode democratic representation.

In 2018, we have the opportunity to defend our democracy and core values.  Our next election presents the opportunity to defend our democracy, stand up for our constitutional ideals, and fight for equal justice under law.  By speaking out and by electing candidates who support these ideals, we can preserve the greatest democratic republic the world has ever known.  And by demanding leadership that is not complicit in the face of threats to our core freedoms and the rule of law, we will defend our democracy and our Colorado way of life.

I am running to be Colorado’s next Attorney General because I believe in these ideals and want to protect them.  Thanks so much for helping me do just that in this campaign.

Colorado Flag

The New Separation of Powers - for Presidents' Day

The dysfunction in today’s political system would be painful for our Founders.  Under our Constitution, Article I governs the legislative branch, which is charged with passing the laws and ensuring that the executive branch (set up under Article II) follows the rule of law and respects our Constitution.

Over the course of our nation’s history, our practice has largely followed the model our Founders had in mind.  In the 1990s, for example, Congressional leaders like Colorado’s David Skaggs stood up to a President of his own party to defend our Constitution and the rule of law.  Today, as President Trump undermines the Affordable Care Act and threatens to leave many Coloradans without health care insurance, it’s a different story.  As one commentator explained, as long as the Affordable Care Act is the law of the land, President Trump does “not have the right to undermine it through the use of executive power.”  Unfortunately, Congress is unable or unwilling to do its job in today’s polarized and dysfunctional environment to ensure that the President follows the Constitution’s requirement that the laws be faithfully executed.  Thankfully, State Attorney Generals are stepping up to defend our Constitution and the rule of law.

I am running to be Colorado’s next Attorney General because our constitutional freedoms and our nation’s commitment to the rule of law requires active citizens and responsible leaders.  Our current Attorney General has remained on the sidelines or has cheered on repeated challenges to our Constitution and the rule of law.  Notably, while other State Attorneys General have stepped up to challenge the unconstitutional travel ban, the ending of the DACA program, and the undermining of the Affordable Care Act, Colorado’s State AG has refused to act.  In some of these cases, she has forced our Governor to hire private counsel to represent our State.  And instead of working collaboratively in Colorado to solve problems and address challenges, such as managing oil and gas development responsibly, she has played political games, like suing Boulder County when it was working on an ordinance on this issue.  We deserve better.

The Constitutional Plan and Today’s Reality          

Under our Constitution, the founders expected Congress to exercise oversight of the executive and to check executive branch overreach.  In Federalist 51, James Madison praised the Constitution for creating a system that gave to “those who administer each department, the constitutional means, and personal motives, to resist encroachments of the others.”  As one commenter explained, “a system of checks and balance between the legislative and executive branches would use each branch’s ‘ambition’ to check the ambition of the other.”  Or, as Madison famously put it, “ambition must be made to counteract ambition.”

The Madisonian innovation of separation of powers has served our nation very well.  At important times during our nation’s history—the Vietnam War and Watergate, for example—Congress has stepped up to oversee illegal actions by the executive branch.  Today, however, the level of polarization and party discipline in Congress (and fear of primaries) has led to an environment where Presidential action remains unchecked.  In the absence of Congress doing its oversight job and functioning properly, the executive branch has a greater ability to exercise its discretion on how to implement and, in President Trump’s case, whether to implement the law.

Federalism and the New Separation of Powers

In today’s environment, where Congress is refusing or is unable to act to ensure that the President “faithfully executes” the laws, State Attorneys General are playing an increasingly important role.   In the mid-2000s, when the Bush Administration refused to recognize that greenhouse gases were threatening our environment, a number of State Attorneys General stepped forward to challenge the Administration’s failure to follow the Clean Air Act.  In the landmark Massachusetts v. EPA decision, the Supreme Court recognized the role of State AGs in overseeing executive branch inaction and called on the EPA to begin regulating greenhouse gases.  Based on this precedent, State AGs now regularly oversee and take action to enforce the executive branch’s obligation to faithfully execute the laws.

I am running to be our next Attorney General here in Colorado because our freedoms and Colorado way of life depend on a willingness to stand up to the federal government.  As David Skaggs explained in endorsing my candidacy, the threats we face from the federal government, including expanded use of civil forfeiture without following due process, must be addressed by our State Attorney General.  With Congress unable to work effectively and to oversee the executive branch, our state governments play an increasingly significant role and our State Attorneys General are a principal line of defense.

In Colorado, we pride ourselves on collaborative and innovative problem solving.  On a range of issues where our federal government’s dysfunction is undermining progress, such as providing affordable and quality health care, addressing the opioid epidemic, protecting our land, air, and water and fighting climate change, and treating immigrants fairly, our state government is a model for the nation.  Unfortunately, our Attorney General here in Colorado is not working with our state leaders on these issues and is not standing up to the failings of Washington.  In 2018, we can address this by electing a new State Attorney General who stands up for us and works with leaders in our State to make progress in important areas.  Please join my campaign to help me do just that.

Phil Weiser

“You Have a Republic, As Long As You Can Keep It”

I often repeat a line that Ben Franklin reportedly said as he left the Constitutional Convention:  “You have a republic, as long as you can keep it.”  I believe that is still the case.  Today, our constitutional project of self-governance is under threat.

As Colorado’s next Attorney General, I will fight for our constitutional democracy.  This means taking on the challenge of reforming campaign finance spending, with particular respect to the role that “dark money”—that is, undisclosed campaign expenditures—plays in our politics in the wake of the horrendous Citizens United decision.  And as a candidate, I will call on any group spending money on my behalf to disclose their donors so Colorado voters know who is seeking to influence them.

In the last election for Colorado Attorney General, the Republican nominee raised and spent around $500,000 from individuals who disclosed their occupation and employer.  But this spending paled in comparison to the approximately $2.5 million spent by the Republican Attorney General’s Association (RAGA), a group that takes in large amounts of “dark money” (from undisclosed donors).  The lack of transparency, the support from a range of corporate interests, and the unfair attacks used by such groups are threatening the foundation of our constitutional democracy.  This problem goes back to the Citizens United case, which was the height of conservative judicial activism and may well be the worst Supreme Court decision of my lifetime.

To appreciate the damage that dark money can do to our elections and public discourse, consider the recent election campaign of Rachel Zenzinger, a State Senator from Arvada.  When she ran for Senate, an outside group sent out a mailing stating that she took a taxpayer-funded trip to China.  This claim flew in face of the facts.  The facts are that, while she was “on the Arvada City Council in 2013, Zenzinger made--and then voted for--a successful motion explicitly prohibiting use of taxpayer funds for a proposed sister-city delegation to China.”  Moreover, she never actually went on the trip, as the funds were not raised.  Nonetheless, a group with an innocuous sounding name, Colorado Citizens for Accountable Government, promoted this lie.  And this group, which is technically required to report its donors, took advantage of a loophole in Colorado law by strategically raising its funds late in the election cycle so it could engage in this behavior without having to disclose who was behind this effort until after the election.  It also declined to state on flyers it circulated what group even paid for it.

There are important steps we can take in Colorado to address the efforts of “dark money” groups to influence elections and remain hidden from view.  First off, we need an Attorney General committed to doing everything we can to push for a reversal of the Citizen’s United decision.  This campaign won’t be easy, but the battle must be waged and we must prepare for the day when this decision—like other grave mistakes in constitutional law—is overruled.  Justice Stevens’ dissent in that case prophetically explained that Citizens United “threatens to undermine the integrity of elected institutions across the Nation.”  It is now the job of State Attorneys General to demonstrate just how this is happening and make the case against this decision.  Colorado needs an AG able to lead this fight.

Second, we need to effectively enforce our existing campaign finance laws.  In 2016, former Congressman Bob Beauprez was fined a record-breaking sum for setting up a complex corporate structure that shielded the identities of his donors who supported his so-called “charity” that he used to influence state legislative races. Such cases are rare, however, because it is up to private citizens to bankroll investigations and file civil complaints.  We need our Attorney General’s office to help support and pursue such investigations and complaints.  As AG, I would push for legislation authorizing the AG’s office to pursue such actions.

Finally, Colorado should pass a Disclose Act, modeled on a law passed in Montana, that would directly restrict the ability of firms to spend money in Colorado elections without disclosing their donors.  Montana passed such a law, on a bipartisan basis, after press accounts of how prior “dark money” campaigns in Montana (and Colorado) had sought to influence elections and coordinate with candidates (in violation of the law).  Colorado should also tighten up its campaign finance laws, fixing the loophole that allowed the group that falsely attacked Zenzinger to disclose its donors only after the damage was done.  In a move to stop this sort of abuse, Denver recently adopted an ordinance designed to address the fear that “a proliferation of anonymous attack ads and mailers that try to puff up one candidate or cut down another without disclosing who’s behind them” will influence our local elections.  Notably, the Denver law introduces three important fixes to campaign finance: (1) Groups would be required to identify themselves on advertisements; (2) donors (of $25 or more) to any group spending money to influence elections would have to be identified; and (3) spending of more than $1,000 on electioneering would require disclosure within two days.

Our constitutional democracy is under threat from a number of challenges, including how campaigns are financed.  I believe voters need to know who is seeking to influence them and that the continued growth of dark money is leading to more attack ads and more cynicism.  We in Colorado need to do our part to protect our democracy.  As our next Attorney General, I will make this a top priority.

Phil and Steve in GJ

Broadband Internet: Protecting the Future of Colorado’s Rural Communities

For Colorado to thrive in the 21st century, we want to grow our own Einsteins of the future.  Today, only 77% of those living in rural areas (11% of Colorado’s population) have high-speed—or broadband—Internet connections. Being stuck in the internet slow lane costs these Coloradans job opportunities, hurts businesses, and deprives our communities of education and health care.

As I’ve travelled our state, I’ve heard from leaders and citizens in communities like Sterling, Craig, and Telluride.  One message has come through clearly during these conversations:  slow internet service undermines local job opportunities and it hurts families. No candidate is better prepared to address this issue than I am. I fought to improve internet for rural and poor communities as a Senior Advisor for Technology and Innovation at the National Economic Council for President. As Colorado’s next Attorney General, I will work with communities around our state to address this important issue.

The Electricity of the Twenty-First Century

Students who lack access to broadband at home are at an extreme disadvantage, forced to do homework someplace else, sometimes even being forced to sit in the cold outside of a closed library.  The reason broadband is called the electricity of the twenty-first century is that access to high-speed Internet connections is crucial to everyday life in today’s information age.  As the Denver Post put it, “the lack of high-speed connections can hamper how efficiently and effectively schools, hospitals, and technology-driven businesses operate.  Reliable broadband can mean the difference between residents staying or leaving.”

Across Colorado, communities (such as Rio Blanco County) are taking matters into their own hands by developing broadband networks where the market does not attract private providers.  I visited Rio Blanco and studied its network--it is a great example of public sector leadership.  Similarly, a number of localities are looking at public-private partnerships, such as those proposed by Centurylink.

Bringing fast internet to the entire state is the sort of effort that can unite and benefit all Coloradans, regardless of party.  Failing to bring every Coloradan into the information age will widen the gap between our urban and rural areas and will prevent families and small business owners in many parts of our state from having an opportunity to succeed (as captured well here).  Supporting rural broadband also benefits urban communities because better rural connectivity translates into economic activity for urban businesses that can sell to new markets (as explained in this report).  While satellite internet broadband can help for some uses, it is not sufficient for many uses (such as schools and hospitals) and thus cannot replace the need for wired connections.

The Attorney General’s Office Can Facilitate Broadband Deployment

When I worked in the Obama administration we developed a bipartisan movement to spur broadband deployment across the United States. I want to bring that valuable experience to Colorado.  As our next Attorney General, I will ensure that the office acts as a problem solver and enforcer to support broadband deployment for rural communities.

As our next Attorney General, I will work the State’s broadband coordinator and other officials to help develop a playbook for helping communities around our State.  When I visited Routt County and learned about the broadband network it is building, I asked County Commissioners whether the AG’s office was helping them.  The answer was no. At present, the AG’s office is only checking legal boxes (and slowly at that) rather than being creative and helping solve problems.  We can and must do more.

By bringing together community and business leaders to create plans for deploying broadband, the AG’s office can provide a playbook of best practices, rather than placing bureaucratic obstacles in the way.  It can also remove legal, administrative, and other barriers to broadband deployment. As our State’s Attorney General, I will provide support for broadband mapping, procurement, distance learning, tele-medicine, and community engagement initiatives.  When we encounter barriers such as a lack of access to rights-of-way for Wireless Internet Service Providers (and others), I will be firm but fair in my efforts to remove them.

There are many things I’d start addressing on day one. Take the red tape blocking communities that want to solve their own problems: Colorado law (SB 152) requires voters to approve action by governments to build broadband networks. This law slows down communities who want to help themselves after they’ve been ignored by the private sector.  The vote requirement is a waste of everyone’s time and energy given the fact that voters consistently approve such projects.  The vote requirement portion of the law should be repealed.  At the same time, the AG’s Office should protect full and fair competition, ensuring that governmental entities don’t use their authority to gain an unfair advantage in the marketplace.

Another change we need to make is to enable access to existing electrical easements.  Indiana recently dealt with this very issue in passing the “Facilitating Internet Broadband Rural Expansion (FIBRE) Act.”  This law makes it more economically viable for broadband to be extended to rural areas by limiting the liability of broadband providers to owners of overhead lines, which are crucial for connectivity to rural areas.  We need to pass such a law here in Colorado.

Colorado’s state budget is always tight, but we can do better in supporting broadband with the resources we have. Colorado has developed a state “universal service fund” that is similar to a federal fund designed to support broadband deployment in rural areas.  As Attorney General, I will work with the Legislature, the Public Utilities Commission, and the Federal Communications Commission to ensure that we use this money as creatively and efficiently as the law allows, including exploring possibilities like bonding against universal service funds.  In addition, the AG’s Office can and should ensure that companies that get public support dollars actually use those taxpayer dollars to get broadband services to rural Coloradans.  Finally, the AG’s office should help ensure access to federal programs, especially those subsidizing connections to schools and libraries, so that Colorado institutions and citizens are able to take full advantage of all available opportunities to make progress in this area.

Protecting Broadband Quality for All Consumers

As Colorado’s Attorney General, I will fight to ensure that Coloradoans get the quality access to the Internet services that they are paying for, including speed, reliability, and access to content.  For an example of such oversight, consider the New York Attorney General’s action against Time Warner when it failed to provide consumers with the broadband access service they paid for.  The attorney general sued Time Warner executives for, among other things, lying to customers about the speed of its internet service.  I will fight against such unacceptable conduct if it takes place here in Colorado.

Finally, as Attorney General, I will champion “network neutrality,” the principle that Internet Service Providers (ISPs) must treat content passing through the Internet equally, without favoring or blocking any of that content. As the Internet drives more and more of our lives, including our civic engagement, employment, commerce, and entertainment, we must protect competition in this space.  Indeed, the very term “network neutrality” was coined at a conference that I hosted.  Over the years, I have advocated for this principle, including during my work in the Obama Administration, and I will continue to do so as Colorado’s Attorney General, leading the charge against the Federal Communication Commission’s decision to end these important protections.

*   *   *

Coloradans are pioneers.  We value our independence and our self-sufficiency.  We ask for a fair shot to make it on our own.  For all Coloradans to thrive in the twenty-first century, access to high-speed Internet connections is as critical as electricity was many years ago.  This issue impacts all of us—families, farmers, businesses, police, firefighters, educators, and hospitals.  As your next Attorney General, I will fight for broadband for all Coloradans as a top priority.

*   *   *

Read Phil's op-ed in the Grand Junction Daily Sentinel. 

*   *   *

David St. John Larkin, IP Attorney

Phil Weiser in Pueblo

Our Next Attorney General Must Take Action to Address Colorado’s Opioid Epidemic

Across our state, the opioid epidemic is destroying lives and ripping families apart.  On average, another Coloradoan dies from an opioid overdose every 17 hours. In 2016, across the whole country, more people died of drug  overdoses--the vast majority of which were from opioids--than American casualties in the Vietnam and Iraq Wars combined.  More and more, Coloradans are becoming dependent on opioids and dying from overdoses.  And, in many cases, we are responding to this crisis by putting opioid users in jail.  We need to do better.

Today’s crisis has many causes, and calls for innovative and compassionate responses.  For starters, the pharmaceutical manufacturers and distributors who encouraged the use of opioids—even though they knew the risks they posed—must be held accountable.  In too many cases, an oversupply of these drugs found their way into the market—sold illegally by drug dealers and pill mills.  An initial response, which is important, but inadequate, is to hold these drug dealers accountable for their unlawful behavior.  Also, we must try to understand the impact of the availability of legal cannabis, which, according to a preliminary study, may be providing an alternative source of pain management and may be associated with a reduction in the number of opioid-related deaths by 6.5 percent since 2015.

Under the leadership of our Governor, Colorado has taken some key steps to reduce the likelihood of individuals becoming dependent on opioids.  Colorado has recently restricted access to opioids under its Medicaid program and has established locations where people can safely dispose of unused opioids.  We are also—and must continue to step up—training our first responders on how to use the overdose-reversing drug naloxone.

As our next Attorney General, I will address the opioid epidemic by approaching it as a public health crisis.  While punishing drug dealers is appropriate, the jailing of opioid users—now widespread in Colorado—is harsh and ineffective.  We need our leaders across state and local government to use a range of innovative strategies to support drug treatment options.  And we also need to work to decrease the likelihood that people become dependent on opioids in the first place.

Holding Pharmaceutical Companies Responsible

Over the last 20 years, the increased access to opioids was very profitable for many pharmaceutical companies (as explained in this article.)  In Colorado, we saw a 100 percent increase in the number of opioid prescriptions between 1999 and 2016.  And during that time, the number of overdoses also went up drastically: over 200 percent by 2014.

As the Washington Post reported, a number of distributors didn’t take the Drug Enforcement Agency’s efforts seriously. They went to Congress to override the DEA’s authority to regulate this dangerous behavior. Thankfully, a number of State Attorneys General’s offices have either opened investigations or brought actions against these companies for distributing opioids that they knew or should have known would end up creating dependencies and/or end up in the hands of drug dealers.  As Attorney General, I will take action to hold these companies accountable.  By winning such cases, Colorado will receive financial support that it can use to support drug treatment, which is an important part of addressing this crisis.

Addressing Illegal Drug Trafficking

For those engaging in illegal drug trafficking, we must hold them accountable.  From 2011-15, the amount of heroin seized annually in Colorado rose over 2,000% and the number of heroin-related deaths more than doubled. As Attorney General, I will investigate and prosecute bad actors in the prescription opioid supply chain, and collaborate with local, state, and federal law enforcement to punish those making money by selling such dangerous drugs.  The Attorney General’s Office can support the prosecution of drug dealers by assisting rural counties in investigating, prosecuting, and preventing the manufacturing, trafficking, and distribution of opioids.  Finally, we need to oversee the opioid supply chain, ensuring that excess amounts of opioids are not allowed to be diverted to illegal uses.

Moving to a Public Health Model

For those who are using and addicted to opioids, the essence of a public health mindset is to evaluate how to approach opioid users with an eye toward providing treatment opportunities, not a jail sentence.  Under the Governmental Entrepreneurial Leadership Accelerator program I founded, a team developed a model for reaching out to opioid users who congregate in the Denver Public Library.   This team, which had two law enforcement officials on it, developed a strategy for pairing a police officer with a mental health professional.  Similarly, the Longmont Department of Public Safety now supports the Police-Assisted Addiction Recovery Initiative, which connects low-level offenders with law enforcement officers specially trained to help them obtain treatment.

A number of communities in Colorado have developed drug courts, enabling those abusing opioids to get the help they need rather than face a prison sentence.  As Attorney General, I will work with leaders around the State—including our District Attorneys, County Sheriffs, public health officials, and mental health professionals to encourage diversion efforts to drug treatment as opposed to criminal sentences wherever possible.  I will also seek to bring drug treatment and mental health services to jails and prisons for those who present a threat to society or have committed serious crimes and need treatment.

Providing Support for Drug Treatment

As our next Attorney General, I will support drug treatment through a multi-faceted approach, in addition to obtaining money from successful suits against pharmaceutical companies. I will work to protect the Affordable Care Act, which provides some Medicaid-funded treatment options for people who are dependent on opioids.  I will also work to strengthen Medicaid, providing more support for those in drug treatment.  I will take steps to make sure that insurance companies support drug treatment, and I will ensure that they do not defy federal laws that require them to provide parity in access to life-saving substance abuse treatment.

* * *

Few issues involve the trauma and raw emotion of the opioid epidemic.  In many groups I speak with, a large number of those in the room are directly affected by this crisis, with family members’ dependent on opioids or a casualty of an overdose.  We need our next Attorney General to make this issue a top priority, collaborating with leaders across our state to hold the pharmaceutical companies accountable for their part in this crisis, working effectively to punish drug dealers, and treating those dependent on opioids with a public health mindset.  That’s why creating and supporting drug treatment opportunities will be a central goal of my leadership on this issue.

Garrison Ortiz, Pueblo County Commissioner


“When I met Phil Weiser, I was impressed by his sincere interest in understanding the issues facing Pueblo and how he could work with us on important issues.  His commitment to addressing the opioid crisis is a powerful reason why we need him as our next Attorney General.  Phil’s commitment to working together to solve this issue and other ones facing our community is unique and comes from the heart.  That’s why I am supporting him to be our next Attorney General.“

Pueblo Chieftain, Colorado faces crisis in opioid epidemic, Op-Ed by Phil Weiser

Women's March 2018

The Important Role of Our AG in Fighting for Equal Rights for Women - Women's March 2018

Our nation’s vision of equal opportunities for all is a core part of my life’s work. To translate that vision into reality, our country needs dedicated leadership committed to equality for all Americans. For me, a role model for such leadership is Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, whose work as a lawyer and as a Supreme Court Justice make her a leader in the battle against discrimination and for equality. Working with her when she wrote the opinion requiring the Virginia Military Institute to admit women remains a highlight of my life.

As Colorado’s next Attorney General, I will prioritize the battle for women’s rights and equality for all through the following measures:

  • The Colorado Attorney General’s office will work hard to ensure that women are treated equally in the workplace,
  • The AG’s office will be a leader in supporting women in the workplace.
  • The AG’s office will work with the legal and business community to drive best practices around diversity and inclusion.

To work with me on this core goal, I will create a new executive leadership position on Community Engagement, Workplace Culture, and Diversity: the AG Office Leader on Culture. This position, which will report directly to me, will oversee efforts to ensure diversity and inclusiveness in the office and lead our community in driving behavior toward best practices by using the power of the AG’s office to convene leaders in our legal and business communities. In short, the Attorney General’s office will not only effectively enforce the laws protecting women in the workplace; it will also lead by example and through the use of its moral authority. While the measures discussed in this post focus on the imperative of protecting women in the workplace, many of them also will address diversity and inclusiveness concerns related to race and ethnicity as well. A subsequent post will focus more directly on these issues.

Fighting for Equal Treatment in the Workplace

Lilly Ledbetter, who was a manager at Goodyear Tire & Rubber Company, discovered years into her job that she was paid considerably less than men in the same position. She brought a lawsuit to challenge this discrimination. The Supreme Court ultimately ruled against her claim, saying that she failed to bring the action—which she had no way to know about—until after the 180-day filing requirement. In a passionate dissent, Justice Ginsburg sharply criticized the majority’s ruling and urged Congress to fix the problem.

The Lilly Ledbetter story underscores the continuing challenge of equality for women. When women enter a profession historically dominated by men, equal treatment doesn’t immediately follow. Here’s how Ginsburg later described Lilly Ledbetter’s situation: “It’s the story of almost every working woman of her generation, which is close to mine. She is in a job that has been done by men until she comes along. She gets the job, and she’s encountering all kinds of flak. But she doesn’t want to rock the boat.”

Although Lilly Ledbetter’s case didn’t end well for her, Justice Ginsburg’s dissent was heard by Congress and President Obama. The first law President Obama signed was the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act of 2009. Unfortunately, even the guarantee of equal pay for women cannot be realized unless—like in Ledbetter’s case—women have access to the necessary data regarding salaries in their workplaces.

Equal pay for equal work is still not yet the norm in our country. According to one recent study, for example, the median annual pay for women working full-time year-round is $40,742, compared to $51,212 for men working full-time year-round. As Justice Ginsburg explained in her dissent in the Ledbetter case, if women cannot learn that their male colleagues with similar experience are getting paid more for the same work, they cannot claim their right to equal pay. Fortunately, in 2008, Colorado became the fourth state in the country (it’s now one of 13 states) to enact a law protecting workers who share pay information from discrimination and retaliation. But many employers and employees still don’t know about these protections. As Attorney General, I will vigorously enforce this law and the rights of workers to learn about potential pay disparities.

Gender Equity and Inclusiveness in the Legal Profession

When I interviewed Justice Ginsburg at the University of Colorado Law School, I asked her about the number of women on the Supreme Court. In answering my question, she remarked that the right number of women on the Supreme Court is nine. For a long time, she explained, all nine seats were occupied by men, so why not have nine female Justices? Thanks to President Obama, there are now three women on the Supreme Court. But there still is a ways to go before we achieve RBG’s vision for the Court.

When I graduated law school in 1994, there were an equal number of women in my class as men. My assumption was that, with the benefit of equal numbers of men and women graduating law school, we would soon overcome the historically underrepresented role of women in leadership positions, including on the Supreme Court. Unfortunately, 23 years later, women are still significantly underrepresented in the leadership ranks of nearly every sector of the legal profession: law firm partnerships, general counsel, judgeships, law school deans, etc.

During my time at the University of Colorado Law School, I prioritized diversity and inclusion, working with leaders in our community on a number of initiatives. I partnered with, for example, the Colorado Women’s Bar Association on programs that supported women in the profession and my efforts to support and mentor our Latino students earned recognition from the Colorado Hispanic Bar Association. As Attorney General, I will follow in the tradition of past Democratic Attorneys General, JD MacFarlane and Ken Salazar, by making diversity and inclusion a hallmark of my tenure.

The Attorney General’s office should and can be a proactive leader in supporting women in the workplace. Moreover, our Attorney General should be a leader in our community, encouraging law firms, in-house law departments, and companies to drive toward best practices. My newly created executive-level appointee, the AG’s Office Leader on Culture, will work with me to serve as a leader on community engagement, workplace culture, and diversity.

The AG’s Office Leader on Culture

The AG’s Office Leader on Culture will spearhead a range of activities in the office and in the community to promote diversity and inclusion:

  • First, the AG’s Office Leader on Culture will conduct bias training, identify situations where individuals are not able to participate effectively, and host bias workshops to encourage equal and fair treatment. For any workplace and particularly the AG’s office, it is important to support everyone and enable them to contribute effectively and to advance without barriers (including implicit biases).
  • Second, we need to create flexible and alternative structures that allow individuals to work effectively while taking care of children or elderly parents. At the University of Colorado Law School, I allowed for flexibility in the workplace so that professionals could thrive at home and at work; I will do the same at the AG’s office, working with the AG’s Office Leader on Culture to ensure that we have appropriate policies for all professionals to perform their work effectively.
  • During my time as Dean, I appreciated the need to mentor all of our faculty, staff, and students because I recognized that many individuals do not get the coaching, mentorship, sponsorship, and access to information they need when they are not a part of traditional networks. To ensure that the Attorney General’s office evaluates and supports individuals based on talent, the AG’s Office Leader on Culture will create and implement coaching, mentorship, and leadership development programs and ensure that they are afforded to everyone in the office.
  • Finally, I will work with the AG’s Office Leader on Culture to make clear that sexual and gender harassment will not be tolerated. Whether the harassment is a “come on” or a “put down,” it is unacceptable. Such insults have the effect of undermining women. If allowed to fester, gender-based comments can lead to lower productivity, higher job stress, lower psychological well-being, and increased turnover. To eradicate sexual and gender harassment, we will regularly survey and interview individuals working at the Attorney General’s office to assess their experiences and root out mistreatment of women.


Fighting for Equality Is a Team Effort

As Colorado’s next Attorney General, I will work with our community to make Colorado a model of fighting for diversity and inclusion. This means that we must address pay inequities and work to provide women with equal opportunities to advance and succeed. For the Attorney General’s office, and the legal and business communities, a more respectful and inclusive work environment is long overdue and will lead to a more productive and effective workplace. But it will not happen without dedicated leadership and a vigilant focus on achieving this important goal.

Under my leadership and the AG’s Office Leader on Culture, the Attorney General’s Office will not only enforce the laws requiring equal treatment of women in the workplace, we will lead the community by example. Moreover, the Attorney General has tremendous power to convene and to lead through the moral authority of the office. This means that successful programs developed at the Attorney General’s office—or elsewhere in our State—need to be celebrated and disseminated to other workplaces. As our next Attorney General, I will engage with employers across our state to develop and spread best practices in the treatment of employees and I will champion diversity and inclusion efforts.

250 Days

It's already been 250 days

I entered the race for Attorney General 250 days ago, and we’re approaching the halfway mark to the general election. We continue to build support and momentum each and every day across Colorado.  And today is also a milestone because it’s the first day we can collect petition signatures to ensure we are on the ballot. We have events across Colorado where you can sign a petition. I’d love your help!

Whether in a room of 200 people or talking one-on-one to a supporter at a local coffee shop, your support is powerful, and I can’t thank you enough for being on my team.

Our grassroots supporters, energize me and help drive me to work hard on this journey. Yes, the 748 iced teas are also giving me caffeine and fuel, but our supporters are the real secret sauce for this campaign. The more connected we are, the better chance our campaign has at winning.

I hope you’ll take a minute to like our Facebook page and share our content with your friends so that they too can stay connected with our campaign through content like this graphic with our updated stats (hey, no lost luggage this time!).

250 Days

Phil Weiser at MLK Jr. Marade

The Fight for Equal Justice for All

As the state’s top law enforcement officer, the Colorado Attorney General is sworn to uphold the United States and Colorado Constitutions. As your next Attorney General, it will be my job to advance the principles of justice, freedom, equality, and fairness for all. I take this commitment very seriously.

Our nation’s vision of equal opportunities for all is a core part of my life’s work. To translate that vision into reality, our country needs dedicated leadership committed to equality for all Americans. Across the nation, State Attorneys General have stood up for equal rights when our freedoms are under assault.  As your next Attorney General, I will defend the rights of Coloradans and stand up for civil rights against federal overreach.

When one of us is subject to illegal discrimination, we are all at risk. This commitment is why we must challenge the Trump Administration’s travel ban as well as its ban on transgender individuals serving in the military -- both of which violate our nation’s commitment to equal justice under law.  In both cases, our current Colorado Attorney General failed to challenge the Trump Administration’s actions.

As our next Attorney General, I will prioritize the battle for equal rights for all—regardless of race, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, gender identity, or religion. In particular, I will:

  • STAND UP against failures at the national level to provide equal justice for all.
  • CONFRONT hate crimes.
  • FIGHT to ensure that all individuals are treated equally in the workplace.
  • LEAD by example in supporting people of all races, ethnicities, identities, and religions in the workplace; and
  • PARTNER with the legal and business community to drive best practices around diversity and inclusion.
Fighting for Equality in the Workplace

Under my leadership, the Colorado Attorney General’s office will work to ensure that everyone is treated equally in the workplace. We will enforce the laws requiring equal opportunity for all in the workplace, and we will lead the community by example.

To work with me on the core goal of advancing equality, I will create a new executive leadership position on Community Engagement, Workplace Culture, and Diversity:  the AG Office Leader on Inclusive Excellence.  This position, which will report directly to me, will oversee efforts to ensure diversity and inclusiveness in our office. The AG Office Leader on Inclusive Excellence will also use the power and visibility of the AG’s office to convene leaders in our legal and business communities, thus helping to lead our community in identifying and implementing best practices for equal opportunity, diversity, and inclusiveness in all workplaces.  Moreover, I will not only work hard to recruit, hire, and promote diverse individuals at the Attorney Generals’ office, I will work to address the pipeline problem (of too few diverse attorneys) by partnering with organizations like Si Se Puede (Yes We Can)—an organization I worked with while Dean at CU Law School—to mentor college students from diverse backgrounds to encourage and support them in attending law school.

In short, the Attorney General’s office will effectively enforce the laws protecting all individuals in the workplace. I will also make sure that it leads by example and through the use of its moral authority.

Standing Up Against Hate

We in Colorado value the ethos of our nation’s motto:  E Pluribus Unum (out of many, one). In Colorado, we pull for one another to thrive and believe we all deserve a fair chance to succeed in life.  In one of our proudest moments, Colorado Governor Ralph Carr opposed the internment of Japanese-American citizens during World War II.

But unfortunately, hate crimes remain all too prevalent in the United States in general, and in Colorado in particular. In the last year, reported hate crimes in Colorado targeted African-Americans, transgender individuals, and Muslims, among others.  These hate crimes took place at homes, on the job, and at places of worship.

We must all call out evil when it emerges. To prevent and address hate crimes, we need leaders who are willing to take an active role. When leaders step forward and act swiftly in the wake of a hate crime, victims feel supported, community members feel safer, and action and dialogue can follow.  By contrast, leaders’ silence on these issues leaves victims feeling ignored and vulnerable, and may further encourage perpetrators.

To win the battle for equality, we must fight white supremacy and other forces for hate in our society.  As our next Attorney General, I will do just that.

I will fight to prevent hate crimes by working with the Colorado legislature to strengthen our hate crimes laws, by working with law enforcement to ensure and improve training on effective hate crimes investigations, and by supporting a broader public education campaign about the importance of standing up to hate.

As Attorney General, I will work with the state legislature to ensure that we have hate crime legislation allowing the Attorney General to pursue a broad spectrum of civil remedies, as is available in other states. Such legislation helps victims receive faster relief, as well as relief in cases where they are unable to secure private counsel themselves. Enabling the Attorney General to seek civil remedies also helps bring increased public attention and understanding to hate crimes issues through the state’s involvement.

My office will also work closely with law enforcement to ensure they have proper training to enable them to investigate possible hate crimes effectively, thoroughly, and with sensitivity towards victims.  The Attorney General’s office houses the Peace Officer Standards and Training (POST) program that trains Colorado law enforcement officials. This program can play an important role in helping law enforcement officers to ask the right questions and to be sensitive to the issues facing hate crime victims.  Under my leadership, it will also play an important role in training law enforcement officials to be aware of their own biases (particularly unconscious ones) and not unnecessarily escalate situations.

Fighting for Equal Justice for All

As Colorado’s top lawyer, I will fight hard for equal justice under law (meaning everyone is treated equally and fairly) and against governmental abuses of power.  Our nation’s commitment to equal protection for all, while adopted in our Fourteenth Amendment in 1868, remains a work in progress. As Martin Luther King Jr. famously noted: “The moral arc of the universe is long, but it bends towards justice.”  As our next Attorney General, I will work hard to ensure equal treatment in the workplace, address hate crimes, and stand up for equality.  Please join my campaign to ensure that I can help lead this effort.

Words from a Few Team Phil Members on His Commitment to Equal Opportunity
Maxine Burkett, former University of Colorado Law Professor mentored by Phil

"When Phil helped recruit me to Colorado Law and served as a mentor, he made the law school and law teaching a more welcoming opportunity.  That spirit of engagement and support is something Phil has offered me--and many others--throughout my career.  At this challenging time for our nation, we need leaders like Phil, who truly cares about treating people fairly, supporting everyone, and finding innovative solutions to important issues.  Colorado will be well served by having Phil as its next Attorney General."

Franz Hardy, former Chair of the Law Alumni Board and Partner at Gordon & Rees

"Colorado needs Phil Weiser as its next Attorney General. When Phil was the Dean at Colorado Law School, I worked with him to set up our first ever alumni diversity committee, focused on recruiting more diverse students, helping those students find employment opportunities, and recruiting more diverse faculty.  Phil took that work personally, going to bat for our diverse students and earning recognition from the Colorado Hispanic Bar Association, among other groups.  What comes through in Phil's work is that he truly cared about every student and worked tirelessly to ensure that they had a good experience.  I know that he will be similarly effective as our next Attorney General."

Glen “G” Matthews, former law student and attorney at Martinez Law Group
Lisa Neal Graves, Denver attorney, former law student, business executive, and Team Phil’s original Field Director
Read Phil's Op-Ed in the Denver Weekly News

January 11, 2018, 2017 #922 (Page 08)

What Does the Attorney General Do?

Lessons From Coach Phil: An Introduction

Whenever I began teaching a new class at the University of Colorado Law School, I told my students, “Please call me Phil or Professor Weiser, whatever you’re more comfortable with.”  And I would always add, “If you’re not comfortable with either, please call me Coach.”  Over the years, a significant number of students have taken me up on the third option, calling me “Coach Phil.”

As I take on this campaign to be Colorado’s next Attorney General, one of the core challenges I face is that most Coloradans don’t know that they have an Attorney General or they don’t know what the office does.  For me, this challenge is an opportunity to teach.

So I’ve created a series of videos and blog posts to explain my plan to represent all Coloradans and lead the Attorney General’s office as a force for progress in our state.  The first video in this series is my Introduction to the Teaching Series.  The second one is What Does the AG’s Office Do?  Please watch them both and forward them to anyone you know who would like to learn more about our Attorney General’s office.

Read below for more information about the set of posts and videos to come (as well as some of those we’ve already shared).

Watch the Video Below:

A New Kind of Leadership

One reason so many Americans are cynical about government is that some public officials play political stunts or allow their offices to run on autopilot.  Under our current Attorney General, we see both problems in full view.

In the political stunt category, the lawsuit that our current Attorney General (AG) brought against Boulder County on its moratorium on oil and gas drilling is a case in point.  The fact that this lawsuit was brought without first reaching out to Boulder County to explore possible solutions underscores that there was very little interest on the part of our AG in solving a problem.  Rather, the goal of this case was to make a political punching bag out of Boulder County.  Indeed, as Boulder County did address the issue (announcing its oil and gas development ordinance shortly after the case was filed), the case was quickly dismissed and widely criticized as a ploy, leading to a bipartisan rebuke.  But for localities, the damage from this case was done.  Our AG had established that she would rather play political games than collaborate to ensure the legal and safe management of oil and gas development.

The challenge of inertia presents a very different threat than political stunts.  In the case of inertia, an agency continues to address an issue the way it has previously, never asking if there is a better way. The results of inertia can be devastating.  Consider the Obama Administration’s terrible rollout of the website, for example.  In the case of our AG’s office, consider a recent embarrassing loss where the judge sanctioned the office and called the lack of evidence behind the case “breathtaking and amateurish.”  These mistakes happen because people stop asking basic questions like “Is this the right way to solve this problem?” or “Is this case focused on a problem that needs to be solved?”

As our next Attorney General, I will bring principled and innovative leadership to the office.  This means that the office will always focus on problem solving and asking how we can make progress on a range of issues.  As I explain in my video on What Does the AG’s Office Do?, the AG’s Office has a range of tools at its disposal.  For me, it’s important that we keep them all in mind and take an innovative approach to problem solving by finding the best way to address issues—and not simply relying on the way they have been handled in the past.  I discuss the importance of an innovative mindset in this blog post and this video.

The Core Priorities of the Office

Since announcing my candidacy, I have emphasized that our Attorney General needs to defend our freedoms, fight for opportunity for all Coloradans, and protect our land, air, and water.   In the series of videos and posts to follow, I will offer more elaboration on these core commitments and how our Attorney General should advance these important goals.

Defending Our Freedoms and Fighting for Equality

I’m proud of our constitutional democracy, and I’m running for Attorney General because our country’s commitment to freedom is being tested.  Our Founders envisioned a world where Congress would be responsible for overseeing the executive branch.  Today, however, only one branch of government is functioning effectively—our independent federal courts.  As I explain in my New Separation of Powers’ blog post, State AGs across the country have stepped up to fight for our freedoms and to defend equality, providing a valuable check on executive branch overreaches, such as the decision to ban transgender individuals from serving in the military.  Our AG in Colorado has not stepped up, however, remaining complicit with actions that undermine equality, freedoms, and our democracy.

My vision for the Attorney General’s office is to serve as a force for protecting our freedoms and our democracy.  This is something I talk a lot about on the campaign trail.  As a first-generation American, I grew up with a love of this country.  And I am inspired by Ben Franklin’s observation and caution that he told Americans after the Constitution was drafted:  “you have a Republic, as long as you can keep it.”

I served as a law clerk for Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg when several historic Supreme Court cases about equality were decided, including the landmark Romer v. Evans case that protected the rights of gays and lesbians and US v. Virginia, which called for the admission of women into the Virginia Military Institute.  But continued progress toward equal justice for all cannot be taken for granted.  We as citizens cannot be complacent about these issues; we must be engaged, work with responsible leaders, and have moral courage to make progress.  As Attorney General, I will fight for equality for all and I will challenge discrimination in all its forms. Fighting for progress on the issues of race and ethnicity, sexual orientation and identity, and gender is part of my life’s work, and I will continue that work as your Attorney General.

Fighting for Opportunity for All

For many Coloradans, the deck feels stacked against them.  Whether they are suffering from predatory debt or a dependence on opioids, people who have been taken advantage of by irresponsible businesses need our Attorney General to defend them.  I will be that Attorney General.  But I also intend to do more:  I will work to support economic opportunity for all Coloradans, starting by ensuring that all Coloradans have broadband Internet access and can participate in the 21st century economy and protecting network neutrality.

Protecting Our Land, Air and Water

For our next generation, protecting our land, air, and water is a moral imperative.  If we don’t make progress on building a clean energy economy, we won’t address the challenge of climate change.  Our current Attorney General has joined former EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt in undermining protections for our land, air, and water.  We deserve better from our Attorney General.

Join My Team

Like any good teacher, I truly want your questions.  Please send them to me at, so I can answer them and we can work together for the future of our state.  And please send my posts and videos to others so they can learn about me and my campaign.  Similarly, when I post testimonials from former students about my commitment to supporting others, please share them so others can get to know what type of person I am and what type of Attorney General I will be.

For us to elect the Attorney General we deserve, we need to educate all Coloradans about what our Attorney General’s office does and why I’m the best person for the job.   Thanks so much for your help on my journey to serve our state and be “Coach Phil” for all Coloradans.

200 Days

We’ve been at this over 200 days

We kicked off this campaign over 200 days ago. Since day one, I’ve worked hard to earn your support.

Some of you were with us before we kicked off and many more have joined me on this journey more recently. As we are still in the early innings of this game, now is a great time to thank you for everything you’ve done and everything you will do to help us win in November.

I know you are waiting for this, so we won’t disappoint you. Here’s a fun graphic showing how our first 200 days is depicted in iced teas, podcast interviews, and other fun facts (don't forget to check us out on Facebook and share this email and other information about the campaign with your friends):

200 Days
200 Days

I really appreciate your continued support. Here’s to the next milestone and however many iced teas I’ll drink between now and day 300.