Will Tracy Kraft-Tharp Condemn Effort to Turn Horrific Murder into a Political Stunt?

October 13 Update: Although I still have not personally heard from Kraft-Tharp, 9News reports that she stated, “I publicly denounce this ad” (see below for details). Christine Ridgeway, Jessica’s grandmother, told 9News, “I am just totally disgusted by this [set of ads]. When I first saw this I was speechless for like four hours. I was just so angry and so upset that I just couldn’t speak.” Good for Kraft-Tharp for condemning the political mailers in question. However, I’d still like to know her answers to my questions regarding the Fourth Amendment. –AA

Tracy Kraft-Tharp
Tracy Kraft-Tharp

I’ve seen nasty political ads, as have we all. But a recent set of mailers in my Colorado state house district are beyond nasty; they are reprehensible. An independent expenditure committee, Priorities for Colorado (“Jim Alexee, registered agent”) has turned the horrific murder of a little girl into a political stunt.

The ads target Susan Kochevar, the Republican candidate running against Tracy Kraft-Tharp, state representative for District 29. One ad states, “Susan Kochevar refused to cooperate with the FBI in the Jessica Ridgeway case.” The relevant fact, as Kochevar confirmed via email, is that the FBI requested to search her home on three different occasions, without a warrant, and she declined the warrantless searches—as is the Fourth Amendment right of every American. But the smear campaign treats her sensible actions as somehow sinister, asking, “What kind of person refuses to cooperate when a 10 year old girl goes missing?”

But the appropriate question is, what kind of person turns the horrific murder of a little girl into a political stunt? The answer is Jim Alexee and Julie Wells do. They are the “registered agent” and “designated filing agent” for Priorities for Colorado IE Committee. (I will email copies of the ads on request.)

What Kochevar did precisely is follow the advice of the ACLU:

If the police or immigration agents come to your home, you do not have to let them in unless they have certain kinds of warrants.

Ask the officer to slip the warrant under the door or hold it up to the window so you can inspect it. A search warrant allows police to enter the address listed on the warrant, but officers can only search the areas and for the items listed. An arrest warrant allows police to enter the home of the person listed on the warrant if they believe the person is inside. . . .

If an FBI agent comes to your home or workplace, you do not have to answer any questions. Tell the agent you want to speak to a lawyer first. If you are asked to meet with FBI agents for an interview, you have the right to say you do not want to be interviewed. If you agree to an interview, have a lawyer present.

Apparently Alexee and Wells need a refresher on the text and significance of the Fourth Amendment. We’ll start with the language itself:

The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.

Quite simply, the Fourth Amendment is our basic protection against living in a police state.

This is a very personal story for me. I live within a few minutes’ walk of Ketner reservoir, where the murderer in question once (before he killed) attempted to abduct a woman who was out for a jog. My wife and I walk the very trails where this murderer walked; the woman he attempted to abduct might as easily have been my wife or someone I know in the neighborhood. My theory is that, after the murderer failed to abduct an adult woman, he turned his sights to a younger, smaller victim in the neighborhood. Before I heard about the girl’s disappearance, I saw crews of people sweeping a local field, so I knew something was up. It was as though a black cloud descended on the entire neighborhood, as first we waited and hoped, then we wept in sorrow and outrage. It was a horrible time, and obviously unspeakably horrific for the friends and family of the victim.

Everyone in the neighborhood was relieved when the perp was caught, and I’m very glad the FBI participated in the investigation. However, despite the fact that the FBI did some great work, the FBI also arguably violated people’s rights in my neighborhood by harassing them if they did not consent to warrantless searches or warrantless collections of DNA. (See my write-up.) In my view, the FBI did these things, not primarily to collect evidence, but to “sweat” people and see what might crack open. Looking at this from the perspective of law enforcement, I kind of understand the tactic. When you’ve got little to go on, and there’s a brutal child killer on the loose, I’m sure it can be very tempting to cut some constitutional corners.

However, nothing about the story justifies American citizens consenting to warrantless fishing-expedition searches. We do not live in a police state. Law enforcement ought not go door to door searching houses without cause, and certainly FBI agents, who have sworn to uphold the Constitution, ought not harass citizens for invoking their Fourth Amendment rights.

We already know where Jim Alexee and Julie Wells stand. They are perfectly happy to turn a vicious murder into a sick political game.

What I want to know is, where does Tracy Kraft-Tharp, my representative in the legislature, stand on these issues? Does she stand with the ACLU in support of the Fourth Amendment, or does she believe that people ought to submit to warrantless, fishing-expendition searches and DNA collections? In short, does Kraft-Tharp support the Bill of Rights, or not?

I asked Kochevar and Kraft-Tharp about their views on the Fourth Amendment; so far, I have heard from Kochevar, but not Kraft-Tharp (I emailed her and left her two voice messages). Here are my questions and Kochevar’s answers:

1. Do you believe the government has a moral or legal right to search people’s homes or collect their DNA without a warrant or probable cause?

No, the government must show probable cause to a judge and a warrant must be granted.

2. Do you believe that citizens have a moral and legal right to refuse the request of a government agent to conduct a search or to collect DNA, when such agent has neither a warrant nor probable cause?

Yes, citizens do have a moral and legal right to decline a search or the collection of DNA without a warrant.

3. Do you believe that government officials properly are bound by the Bill of Rights?

Yes, I do believe government officials are bound by the Bill of Rights. Government officials swear an oath to the Constitution.

4. In your opinion, what is the significance of the Fourth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution?

The Fourth Amendment is a limitation on the government to protect the people from unreasonable searches and seizures.

I asked Kraft-Tharp an additional question via email: “Do you condemn the effort by an independent expenditure committee to smear Susan Kochevar by turning the horrific murder of a little girl in my neighborhood into a political stunt?”

Regarding the Bill of Rights, if Kraft-Tharp cannot plainly state that she supports the Fourth Amendment to the United States Constitution, then she has no business serving in government at any level.

Regarding the smear campaign, Kraft-Tharp’s answer—or, if I do not hear from her, her lack thereof—will say a great deal about her character.

Why I Cannot Vote for “Personhood” Supporter Laura Woods

I confess that I tried not to look too closely at the Republican candidate for my Colorado senate district (number 19), Laura Woods, because I was afraid of what I might find. After gleefully witnessing the fall of Evie Hudack following her reckless, Bloomberg-inspired campaign against peaceable gun owners (after which Democrats replaced her with Rachel Zenzinger, now the Democratic candidate), I really wanted the seat to turn Republican.

After the fiascos of ObamaCare (implications of which played out in the state legislature), the Democrats’ persecution of gun owners, the Democrats’ war on energy producers and consumers, and other matters, this would have been an excellent year for the GOP to punish the Democrats and win back some seats. But, Republicans being Republicans (aka “The Stupid Party”), Republicans in my district nominated a candidate I cannot possible vote for.

Thus, just a couple of weeks after announcing I planned to vote a straight-Republican ticket, I now have to make an exception and declare that I cannot and will not vote for Laura Woods. The basic problem is that Woods enthusiastically endorses total abortion bans, including the insane and horrific “personhood” measure on the ballot this year.

(I won’t vote for Zenzinger either. I’ll probably just blank that vote, unless I can figure out how to write in “Turd Sandwich.”)

So congratulations to Mainstream Colorado, “Ashley Stevens, registered agent,” for prompting me to take a closer look at Woods and to thereby change my vote. (This is the first time I can recall in which a political ad has actually had any influence whatsoever on my voting.)

I’ll begin by reviewing a couple of campaign mailers I received from Mainstream. One ad cleverly borrows the language of the right by touting, “Freedom. Responsibility. Hard Work. These are the values Coloradans have cherished for generations.” The ad continues (in part), “Rachel Zenzinger believes women have the right to make their own health care decisions [but not their own self-defense decisions] with their family, their doctor and their faith—without government or bosses getting in the way.” Of course, the bit about “bosses” is a reference to the ObamaCare requirement forcing insurers to cover birth control. Although I don’t agree with Zenzinger on that issue, I definitely agree with her that women have a right to get an abortion.

Then comes the ad’s attack on Woods:

woodsa4

Laura Woods would take away a woman’s freedom to make her own health care decisions. . . . Laura Woods doesn’t think women are responsible enough to make their own decisions [except regarding their self-defense]. Woods supports an extreme plan that would ban all abortions, including in cases of rape, incest or when the life of the mother is in danger. The plan would criminalize doctors who treat women and allow law enforcement to investigate women who suffer miscarriage. She even supports a constitutional amendment that could ban common forms of birth control.

Although some of that language is imprecise and incomplete, it is essentially correct.

A second ad from the outfit makes the same basic claims.

woodsb2

So what are the facts behind the claims in question? Colorado Campaign for Life claims, “Laura Woods answered her Colorado Campaign for Life Survey 100 pro-life (sic).” (The organization also likens Woods’s opponent, Lang Sias, to the baby murderer Kermit Gosnell.) And Colorado Right to Life, which asks candidates if they “oppose all abortion,” affirms that Woods “has rigorously affirmed she is pro-life (sic).” As CBS Denver reports, Woods is a “staunch supporter of the Personhood ballot issue.”

As for why women have a right to get an abortion (and to use the birth control and in vitro fertility treatments of their choice),  and for why the “personhood” measure is not about personhood and is indeed anti-life rather than “pro-life,” see the detailed paper on the matter by Diana Hsieh and me.

The Denver Post’s Ridiculously Biased Story on Bob Beauprez and IUDs

Image: Wikimedia Commons
Image: Wikimedia Commons

If there’s one thing that makes me more angry than politicians endorsing stupid policies, it’s journalists writing biased and fact-distorting “news” stories. Frankly I usually don’t expect any better from politicians. But I do expect better from journalists, who are supposed to be the defenders of truth, justice, and America’s constitutional republic.

John Frank’s recent article in the Denver Post, “Bob Beauprez’s IUD Remark in Debate Generates Controversy,” represents the worst kind of biased (and frankly partisan) “reporting.”

By way of background, it is no secret that I advocate a woman’s right to get an abortion and that I strongly oppose the so-called “personhood” ballot measure. Indeed, I’ve spent many hours researching and writing about the “personhood” efforts over the years (see the paper I coauthored with Diana Hsieh). In 2006, the last time Beauprez ran for governor, I endorsed Democrat Bill Ritter over Beauprez, largely over “Beauprez’s religious stand against abortion.” This year, I have (tentatively) endorsed Beauprez over incumbent John Hickenlooper, partly because Beauprez has substantially run away from his efforts to outlaw abortion, and largely because I’m sick of Hickenlooper’s antics.

But whatever my personal positions, and whatever Frank’s personal position may be, intellectually honest people can at least be open and candid about the facts. On that score Frank has failed, miserably.

Frank correctly notes that, in a recent debate, “Beauprez suggested that intrauterine devices, known as IUDs, cause abortion.” Specifically, he said, “IUD is an abortifacient.”

Then Frank writes,

Beauprez drew a rebuke from experts in the medical community who called his assertion false. . . . The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists and 10 other physician organizations, as well as the Federal Drug Administration, define IUDs as contraceptives that prevent a pregnancy. . . . Dr. Daniel Grossman, an ob/gyn who does reproductive research and who practices in San Francisco, said the definition of a pregnancy as the implantation of a fertilized egg is an established scientific standard. He said IUDs are not abortifacient.

But the relevant debate is not whether an IUD can kill a zygote once it has implanted in the uterus; rather, it is whether an IUD can kill a zygote before it implants in the uterus—and for Frank to ignore that issue is journalistic incompetence (or else intentional fraud). Basically, Frank is trying to trip up Beauprez on a definition, rather than address the substantive underlying issues.

So what are the facts? In 2012, Pam Belluck wrote for the New York Times:

By contrast [to hormonal birth control pills], scientists say, research suggests that the only other officially approved form of emergency contraception, the copper intrauterine device (also a daily birth control method), can work to prevent pregnancy after an egg has been fertilized.

A web site for Paragard, a brand of copper IUD, states, “The copper in Paragard . . . interferes with sperm movement and egg fertilization. Paragard may prevent implantation.” Implantation of what, you may ask? Obviously, of a zygote. And what happens if a zygote does not implant in the uterus? It dies. The FDA-approved prescription information for Paragard states, “Mechanism(s) by which copper enhances contraceptive efficacy include interference with sperm transport and fertilization of an egg, and possibly prevention of implantation.”

In other words, the copper IUD can work by preventing fertilization, and it can work by preventing the implantation of a (fertilized) zygote. If it works by the first means, it is a “contraceptive,” meaning that it prevents conception. But if it works by the second means, calling it a “contraceptive” is misleading, which is why the so-called “pro-life” crowd calls it “abortifacient.” But, by the definition of Frank’s “experts,” it’s not an abortion if it kills a zygote before it implants in the uterus. Well, they can define it that way if they want, but the definition used does not alter the underlying facts.

Let’s use another example to illustrate the point. I could define a “journalist” as a writer of news stories who gets his facts straight and who does not omit relevant facts. By that definition, John Frank is not a “journalist” (“hack” might be a better descriptive, at least in this case). But another common meaning of “journalist” is simply anyone who gets paid to write for a news organization. By that definition, Frank is a “journalist.” But real journalists (in the first sense of the term) do not play “gotcha” games with definitions as a way to obscure the relevant issues.

I believe the editors of the Denver Post do have integrity and do try to publish good, factually complete stories, so I call on them to issue a correction to Frank’s story.

Of course, as a matter of policy, it should matter not at all whether an IUD can act to prevent the implantation of a zygote. Women have a moral right to use the birth control methods of their choice and to seek an abortion if they wish to do so. A zygote is not a “person” and does not have rights. Frank does helpfully report that Beauprez said “in an interview after the debate” that “the use of IUDs [is] a ‘personal choice.'” Indeed it is—and it should continue to be.