Dan Caplis on his return to the airwaves, 710 KNUS and his war on Amendment 64

As we've reported, attorney and conservative talk-show host Dan Caplis, whose KHOW show with fellow lawyer Craig Silverman ended in June 2012, returned to the airwaves this week at KNUS, an outlet that also provided a refuge for ex-KHOW mainstay Peter Boyles. And on his debut program, he immediately made a splash by announcing his plan to spearhead an attempt to repeal Amendment 64, which allows adults 21 and over to use and possess small amounts of marijuana. Caplis talks about this mission and more in a wide-ranging conversation below.

"It's just great to be back in the fray," Caplis says. And while he's been busy with his law practice (last October, we wrote about his representation of Las Vegas footballer Nathan Starks's successful bid to play for Cherry Creek High) and occasional fill-in gigs for Clear Channel Denver, KHOW's corporate overseer, he frankly admits that he's felt something missing since his program with Silverman was bounced.

"I'd done a show for twenty years before our last one ended, and I missed it a lot," he notes. "It's a privilege and a thrill to have a microphone, and a chance to impact the issues that really matter. So I'm absolutely ecstatic to be back on the air, and it works out very well with my law practice. My understanding with KNUS is the same as I had with Clear Channel: My family and my law practice come first. If I need to miss a show for family or the practice, I'll be allowed to."

Caplis with former partner Craig Silverman, left, during their KHOW days.
Caplis with former partner Craig Silverman, left, during their KHOW days.

After leaving KHOW, Caplis says he was approached by a handful of radio operators about future broadcasting opportunities, but nothing felt right until KNUS came calling. The station, owned by Salem Communications, which specializes in Christian programming, has gotten more aggressive about competing with Clear Channel Denver in the secular arena over recent years, hiring longtime KOA morning host Steve Kelley in 2011 and providing a landing spot for Boyles after he was fired last year following a physical altercation with his longtime producer, Greg Hollenback. Since starting at KNUS, Boyles's ratings have regularly topped those of his replacement at KHOW, Mandy Connell.

"KNUS has been doing great things with Pete," Caplis says, "and Pete and I talk -- and he understood that I was ready and willing to get back into it. This opportunity came together quickly and was kind of a no-brainer at that point. There are great people there, with Peter and Steve Kelley both doing live and local, so it was a perfect fit."

That was true from a theological standpoint, too. Caplis is a very active Catholic who regularly quotes Denver Archbishop Samuel Aquila: He references Aquila when saying, "If you want to change the world for the better, go into politics or the media." In his view, "my Catholic-Christian worldview meshes well with Salem's Christian ideology."

At the same time, he emphasizes that he'll be talking about a broad range of issues on the program, with Amendment 64 being first on the agenda.

"I want this show to be the home base for the Repeal 64 effort," he maintains. "There are a lot of good people out there who have done what they can individually and through their organizations in an attempt to stop and reverse this debacle, but I hope having a radio show that can be available to get the facts out there, to allow for the full discussion for the opposition point of view and serve as a rallying point for the forces of repeal can be a very valuable tool. I want the show to be a critical part of a smart, well-funded, winning repeal effort. And it's all about winning."

Given the launch of recreational pot sales on January 1, not to mention estimates of $5 million in sales over the first five days, isn't it too late to make such an effort? Not in Caplis's view.

Continue for more of our interview with Dan Caplis.   "We can reverse it," he says, "and we can do it in the voting booth. This is simply a matter of two things. One is the public recognizing that Amendment 64 was a mistake -- and it's not going to be hard to convince people of that. And number two, giving them a way to reverse it -- having a campaign to mobile the many forces across party lines who'll want to reverse it.

"This is not a partisan issue," he stresses. "If the governor had stepped up and done his job and really led a strong fight against Amendment 64, it never would have passed in the beginning. And there's absolutely nothing in the law or common sense or experience in Colorado that would suggest to us that because it won one election, it's here forever."

Caplis speaking at a State Capitol "pro-marriage rally" last year.
Caplis speaking at a State Capitol "pro-marriage rally" last year.
Photo by Charles Trowbridge

He feels similarly about the recent passage of civil unions in Colorado -- something he fought against at events such as a "pro-marriage rally" at the State Capitol in January 2013. But he isn't putting his focus on this subject quite yet.

"My own personal preference would be that we not have legalized gay marriage in this state," he acknowledges, "and the way civil unions are drawn in Colorado, they're gay marriage by a different name. So I'll be speaking out clearly and hopefully effectively on the ways traditional marriage matters and why we should not have gay marriage. But at this point, there's no ballot issues pending, and we're not going to be trying to put anything on the ballot on that issue at this point."

If this last statement sounds like a comment from a budding politician, it should. Caplis says "I'd love to run for office someday, and God willing, I expect to. My wife," former CBS4 anchor Aimee Sporer-Caplis, "and I just happen to believe that our first job is raising our children as well as we can. And even though I know that job never ends, as our children get older" -- his kids are sixteen and thirteen, respectively -- "there may be more opportunities. I'm never going to run just to run, but if there's the possibility of running and winning and doing something good with the office, I'd love to do that. I've been interested in doing that for a long, long time."

In the meantime, though, he's happy to be at KNUS, and he gives no hint of regretting that he'll be figuratively preaching to the choir when it comes to communicating with the station's overwhelmingly conservative listenership.

"There's no way in the world I'd be doing this show if I didn't think we'd be able to reach a lot of folks who haven't quite decided where they want to come down on key issues of the day and our lifetime," he allows. "One of the things I think I was successful with at Clear Channel was reaching a broader audience, and I have every intention of doing that here.

"But when you talk about preaching to the choir, I'm in it to win it. If we don't win elections, if we don't win on individual issues, it's all just talk -- and the ability to win has a lot to do with the ability to mobilize the base. And I want to give that base a home base -- a radio station that people can use to go out and have an impact on issues. So the choir is absolutely a vital part of winning, but I think it's important to keep growing that choir."

Along the way, Caplis hints that former partner Silverman is likely to turn up at 710 on the AM dial every now and again, when his schedule permits.

"In terms of the show Craig and I did, we recognized that it had plateaued," he says. "It had plateaued at a very high level compared to where it was when we took over, and we had some good ways to freshen it up. But management wanted to go a different way." Nonetheless, he goes on, "my motivation now is the same as it's always been: to do the best high-impact radio I can do every day, and to help do radio that changes the world."

One pot smoker at a time.

Send your story tips to the author, Michael Roberts.

More from our Media archive circa June 2012: "Update: Dan Caplis on end of KHOW's Caplis & Silverman show."

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