Ken Buck spokesman: Rape case stories smears that may scare women away from reporting

On Monday, we told you about Ken Buck's decision not to prosecute an alleged 2005 rape, which liberal organizations view as evidence that he lacks compassion for women.

Buck spokesman Owen Loftus sees something different -- an unfair assault on Buck's character that exploits the woman at the center of this particular incident even as it potentially makes other women less willing to step forward if they become victims.

The 2005 incident involved a University of Northern Colorado student who went public anonymously the following year after Buck, in his capacity as Weld County district attorney, decided not to prosecute what she said was an example of date rape. In a 2006 Greeley Tribune article, Buck explained that "a jury could very well conclude that this is a case of buyer's remorse" due to the facts of the case.

Previously, Buck laid out some of the obstacles to a successful prosecution amid a meeting with the victim. In the session, Buck told her, "You had consumed a lot of alcohol. You had a prior relationship. According to him, you were naked from the top up when he came into the bedroom."

She had also called to invite the man to come over -- but both she and the man confirmed that she said "no" to sex on multiple occasions.

During a September 21 news conference highlighting Buck's opposition to abortion in cases of rape and incest, Kjersten Forseth, executive director of the liberal organization ProgressNow Colorado, mentioned the "buyer's remorse" comment, but none of the media organizations followed up on it. However, the Colorado Independent's Scot Kersgaard, who hadn't been able to attend the press event, contacted ProgressNow after being sent a release and the Tribune article. He asked to speak to the victim, who Forseth had been in touch with for several months. After checking with the woman, Forseth says she put her and Kersgaard together.

The Monday Colorado Independent story that resulted featured a transcript of Buck's meeting with the victim, which had been recorded, while a Huffington Post piece published yesterday included an audio clip edited to obscure the woman's identity. The Michael Bennet campaign promoted the HuffPo item in a subsequent e-mail blast, leading to its mainstreaming in today's Denver Post.

Loftus's take on the brouhaha? "This is a coordinated attack by ProgressNow," he says. "They've been trying to push this story for months, but no news organization was picking it up. So they pushed it to their sister organization, the Colorado Independent."

Are ProgressNow and the Independent "sister organizations"? Not according to Forseth, who says she's not aware of any organizational connection between the two outfits, adding that she has to pitch stories to the Independent just as with any other news agency.

But that's not how Loftus sees it. He cites the book The Blueprint: How the Democrats Won Colorado (and Why Republicans Everywhere Should Care), co-authored by Rob Witwer and Adam Schrager, which contains the following passage that Loftus also brought to the attention of the National Review:

"ProgressNow and the Colorado Independent are both part of the Colorado Democracy Alliance network, and they have a history of coordinating their efforts to push negative information about Republican candidates. This looks like a carefully planned and well-executed effort by two related organizations who have done similar things in prior elections. For example, they worked together to push negative stories about Marilyn Musgrave in 2006 and 2008. Their strategy is to raise the volume enough that the mainstream media feels obligated to report the story."

That's precisely what happened this time around, Loftus believes, with the effect being what he considers to be a distortion of the facts.

After the meeting between Buck and the victim, Loftus says, "Ken said he would look into it further -- and that's why the Boulder DA's office looked into it, too. And he also had four different chief deputies in his office look at the case, including two women -- and two of those deputies are now judges. And none of them thought it could be successfully prosecuted.

"This is something every DA has to go through. You saw this in 2006 when Bill Ritter ran for governor, and it's happening now in New Mexico with Susana Martinez. Sometimes DAs can't prosecute certain case. Stan Garnett will tell you the same thing. In fact, I'd like to know why ProgressNow and [Colorado Democratic Party boss] Pat Waak aren't calling out Stan Garnett for not prosecuting certain cases."

Garnett, a Democrat running for Colorado Attorney General, didn't head the Boulder district attorney's office during the period when the decision about not prosecuting the 2005 case was made. He took over in early 2009.

In Loftus's opinion, ProgressNow, Waak and others are acting as if they're compassionate, "but they're really exploiting victims -- and that's the really unfortunate thing about this. Now, a victim might not want to report a case because they're afraid their story could end up on the front page of the Denver Post."

Of course, ProgressNow's Forseth drew similar conclusions from the tone Buck used during the aforementioned meeting with the victim; she feels he exhibited enormous insensitivity that retraumatized the woman. To that, Loftus says, "Going through these cases is trying. You have to give a lot of personal details. But Ken did what he had to do."

Meanwhile, Loftus agrees with Colorado Republican Party leader Dick Wadhams that focusing on such issues is an attempt to distract voters from issues that are more on their minds these days.

"You walk down the street and hear from people that the top issues they're concerned about are jobs and the economy," Loftus says. "Michael Bennet knows he can't win on that issue, because he's failed on it. The 9.6 percent unemployment rate is a direct result of his rubber-stamp votes. He talked about the price of health care going down because of his support of Obamacare, and we're seeing that's not the case, either. Michael Bennet can't run on his record, and Democrats and his allies at ProgressNow know that as well. That's why they're trying to smear Ken any way possible, and it's not working. People are looking at their records, and they understand this is just character assassination.

"They're taking things to such an extreme that it's going to end up backfiring on them."

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Michael Roberts has written for Westword since October 1990, serving stints as music editor and media columnist. He currently covers everything from breaking news and politics to sports and stories that defy categorization.
Contact: Michael Roberts