Republican gubernatorial candidate attacks likely opponent for “politicizing” PERA

(Dracula declares war on Kennebunkport! – Promoted by Colorado Pols)

Walker Stapleton.

In an unusual development on the gubernatorial campaign trail last week, a Republican candidate has criticized a likely opponent for “politicizing” Colorado’s public pension program.

“You know, one of my opponents claims [PERA is] a major crisis. I don’t believe it’s a major crisis,” Republican gubernatorial candidate Victor Mitchell told Jimmy Lakey, who’s the morning host on KCOL 690-AM Friday.

“I don’t believe we should be politicizing it,” Mitchell continued. “Certainly, it has been a broken system from a standpoint that the benefits are too generous and the incentives are perverse. But I don’t believe it’s in a state of crisis.”

Colorado Treasurer Walker Stapleton, who’s expected to join the growing list of GOP gubernatorial candidates, has been highly critical of Colorado’s Public Employees Retirement Association (PERA) for years, saying, among other things, that the program’s growth forecasts are unrealistic thereby subject the state to a potentially catastrophic unfunded liability.

In terms of news media coverage over many years, Stapleton is defined by his criticism of PERA.

Often casting himself as a rare voice of reason in a sea of nonchalance about PERA, Stapleton has even said neither the PERA board nor state judges cannot make fair decisions about PERA because they are part of the state retirement program.

Analysts point out that Stapleton’s attachment to the PERA issue could be a political liability, simply because a large majority of people have no idea what PERA is, and many of those who do want it built up, not torn down, because public employees rely on it, not Social Security, for their retirement.

On the substantive PERA issues, in contrast to Stapleton’s drumbeat of crisis, Mitchell argued on air that PERA should be reformed, but there’s not a lot to worry about anytime soon.

MITCHELL: “It’s certainly a problem. I mean, we have — in the big picture, the fund has about $40 billion of assets. It’s paying out about two-and-a-half billion dollars a year in benefits. So, it’s fully funded for the next 30 years even with a 0% return. Obviously, it has never returned anywhere near that. But the benefits are, bottom-line, simply just too generous. We’re paying people 75 percent of their last three years’ average wages. And that should be changed to a 10 year average instead of a three year average. In addition, we have got to create incentives where people leave the state workforce, that it doesn’t create a burden on PERA.”

PERA backers say the fund is stable and will be able to provide benefits to all its members.

A coalition called the Colorado Coalition for Retirement Security has crunched numbers showing how PERA’s stability has improved over the past decade.

Listen to Mitchell here:

 

 

Gardner Says Words About Healthcare Legislation

Cory Gardner’s teeth.

Today’s Denver Post features a long story about Sen. Cory Gardner (R-Yuma) and his utterances on healthcare reform legislation in the Senate. The story, written by the Post’s Washington Bureau reporter, Mark Matthews, is basically just a vessel for Gardner to recite worthless platitudes — some more nonsensical than others – while generally treating the Yuma Senator with kid gloves. Let’s take a look.

Early in the story, Gardner fires off a bunch of nonsense about finding “something that can pass” and the need to “find a solution…that reduces the cost of care and increases the quality of care.” Of course, the House healthcare bill that passed earlier this month does absolutely none of these things; if Gardner has an explanation for these policy disparities, it isn’t included in the story.

The goal of Republican lawmakers is to shift patients, such as those added to Medicaid, to health insurance covered by the private sector. But Gardner said he wants to provide as much time as possible for these Medicaid patients to find new insurance — though he wouldn’t commit to a specific deadline when asked whether the 2020 date in the House bill was appropriate.

“We need to have a glide path that works for the states,” Gardner said.

Uh…what? Gardner supported gutting Medicaid when he was in the House of Representatives, but earlier this year he signed onto a letter with a handful of other Republican Senators in which he expressed concern that Trumpcare does not effectively protect the Medicaid expansion population (Mark Matthews even wrote a story about it for the Post). But instead of probing this question further, the Post just goes with a quote about a “glide path.”

…Gardner has said he likes how the Affordable Care Act allows children to remain on their parents’ insurance until they turn 26 and also protections for patients with pre-existing conditions; a shield the House bill would lower by allowing states to get a waiver from that requirement for the individual market.

“We need to make sure the people with pre-existing conditions continue to have coverage and continue to have access to affordable coverage,” Gardner said…

…But make no mistake. Gardner wants to repeal the 2010 health care law — including its fines on citizens who don’t buy insurance and penalties on large businesses that don’t provide coverage.

Gardner says here that he wants to protect pre-existing conditions and preserve the idea that children can remain on their parents’ health insurance until the age of 26. If those benefits sound familiar, it’s because they already exist under Obamacare. “But make no mistake,” Gardner wants to repeal the Affordable Care Act!

Let’s move on…

How the Senate address health care could have long-range political repercussions for Gardner, who faces voters again in 2020.

For months, Gardner has been the target of liberal activists in Colorado who are angry about his push to repeal the Affordable Care Act. There’s been a steady presence of protesters at Gardner’s office in Denver, and health care was a major sticking point for activists who gathered earlier this year at a pseudo town hall meeting — complete with a cutout of the Colorado lawmaker.

Here the Post makes it a point to remind readers that outside groups staged a town-hall event with a cardboard cutout of Gardner – yet provides zero context as to why this would have occurred. There is literally no mention here of the fact that Gardner hasn’t held a town hall meeting with constituents in more than a year. That seems relevant, no?

The House was criticized for voting on its plan before getting a price tag from the Congressional Budget Office; Gardner said it was important but didn’t commit entirely to getting a CBO score before a vote.

“Obviously we want to turn it around quickly, and there are going to be other scores out there that will show us what the bill will do and it’s important to not just look at the CBO score. There will be other experts out there and other analysts out there will show their opinions as well,” he said.

This is one of the stranger parts of today’s story. Gardner apparently “won’t commit entirely to getting a CBO score before a vote,” but barring parliamentary rule changes, this isn’t a point of argument. As the Washington Post explained on May 4:

…members of the House voted on their bill before they received a score from the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office, which measures how much the legislation would cost and how many people stand to lose coverage under it. Senate budget rules require a CBO score that proves the legislation will not increase the deficit after 10 years. The Senate parliamentarian can’t even start reviewing the AHCA without a score from the CBO, which is expected to take several weeks. [Pols emphasis]

Gardner obviously doesn’t think much of the CBO, which is a position he’s elaborated on in the past. The CBO is expected to present an analysis of Trumpcare 2.0 on Wednesday, and if the Senate is going to base its health care legislation on the House version, a CBO score is required by rule. This would be another good place in the story to elaborate on a conflicting statement from Gardner. Instead, we get this:

No matter what happens, however, health care is likely to remain at the forefront of issues for Gardner and his constituents.

Wow. People sure are interested in health care policy!

Senator Cory Gardner is going to play a significant role in crafting health care legislation in the U.S. Senate, but he doesn’t talk to his constituents and generally tries to avoid talking about the issue publicly – all of which calls for reporters to seek out serious answers. Instead, we get this worthless interview from the Post in which Gardner just talks in vague generalities.

Look, the point of this blog post isn’t to trash the Post or a specific reporter/editor. What we’re saying, really, is that this kind of story has no point. You’re not wrong to expect more from Colorado’s newspaper of record.

FOX News Just Makes Stuff Up About Durango, Colorado

FOX News reporter Joseph Kolb.

Locals in the picturesque southwest Colorado town of Durango wondered what “Durango” FOX News was talking about, as the Herald’s Shane Benjamin reports:

The story, headlined “Legalized marijuana turns Colorado resort town into homeless magnet,” was the most-read U.S. story Wednesday on www.FoxNews.com.

It was written by Joseph J. Kolb, a Fox contributor who was in town for a soccer shootout last weekend, according to those he interviewed. For his 850-word piece, Kolb quoted five sources: a man holding a cardboard sign; a gift shop manager; an anonymous hotel clerk; Durango Police Chief Kamran Afzal; and Tim Walsworth, executive director of Durango Business Improvement District,

In an interview Wednesday, Walsworth took exception with Kolb and his story, saying the reporter barely identified himself, omitted comments that didn’t fit his angle and based the article on a few opinions. The result was a superficial glance at an issue in a community the writer was passing through, those who talked to him said.

“I question the credibility of the reporter,” Walsworth said.

And he wasn’t the only one:

“Just this year there has been a major influx of people between 20 to 30 who are just hanging out on the streets,” [gift shop owner Caleb] Preston was quoted as saying. “The problem is while many are pretty mellow, there are many more who are violent.”

Preston said he didn’t say those exact words, and his comments centered around the idea that panhandling has risen to the forefront of public discourse; not that the problem has become worse. [Pols emphasis]

The consensus seems to be that FOX News reporter Joseph Kolb was determined to write a story about how legal marijuana had turned Durango into a “haven for recreational pot users” regardless of what local sources actually told him. And sure enough, Kolb’s portrayal of Durango is nothing any of us who have been there would recognize:

The picturesque town near the New Mexico border, once a vibrant, upscale community dotted with luxury hotels, is being overrun by panhandlers – thanks, in part, to the legalization of marijuana.

The town suddenly became a haven for recreational pot users, drawing in transients, panhandlers and a large number of homeless drug addicts, according to officials and business owners. Many are coming from New Mexico, Arizona and even New York.

So folks, let us reassure from personal experience that Durango is very much still a “vibrant, upscale community,” and the luxury hotels are busy in all four seasons. We recommend the historic Strater Hotel downtown, though it’s far from the only choice. There is absolutely no appearance along Durango’s Main Avenue that the place is being “overrun” by homeless folks in town for pot or anything else.

In short, the entire story is textbook FOX News cockamamie bullshit. We sincerely hope this misinformation doesn’t do anything to harm Durango’s tourism economy–and to help make sure it doesn’t, we’re booking a weekend at the Strater. We encourage you all to do the same.

Get More Smarter on Monday (May 22)

Happy Victoria Day! It’s time to Get More Smarter! If you think we missed something important, please include the link in the comments below (here’s a good example). If you are more of a visual learner, check out The Get More Smarter Show.

TOP OF MIND TODAY…

► President Trump is in the midst of his first major overseas trip since he took office (or as Trump calls it, “my big foreign trip“). Trump is in Israel today after spending the weekend in Saudi Arabia, where he put his hands on a glowing orb and generally enjoyed not talking about scandals involving Russia.

But then, Trump being Trump, he made sure to bring up “that Russia thing” in a news conference with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. As Chris Cillizza explains for CNN:

“Just so you understand, I never mentioned the word or the name ‘Israel’,'” Trump told reporters in Jerusalem. “Never mentioned it during that conversation. They were all saying I did. So you had another story wrong. Never mentioned the word ‘Israel’.”

The story Trump was reacting to was this one, which ran a week ago in the Washington Post. And the thing about that story is that, well, the word “Israel” is never mentioned. Not one time…

Trump is the denying an allegation that, literally, no news organization made. He’s also implicitly confirming that, yes, he did talk to the Russians about classified information. [Pols emphasis] While the president has total freedom to de-classify material, the White House has urged media organizations — including CNN — not to report on the specific information Trump passed along due to how highly sensitive it is.

In a separate story, Cillizza also notes that Trump is regularly contradicting himself on foreign policy. The Washington Post notes the same phenomenon.

 

► Former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn is expected to invoke his fifth amendment right to not incriminate himself in response to queries from the Senate Intelligence Committee regarding his interactions with Russian officials. From the Associated Press:

Attorneys for Michael Flynn say that a daily “escalating public frenzy against him” and the Justice Department’s appointment of a special counsel have created a legally dangerous environment for him to cooperate with a Senate investigation.

That’s according to a letter obtained by The Associated Press that was written on behalf of the former national security adviser under President Donald Trump. The letter, sent Monday by Flynn’s legal team to the Senate Intelligence committee, lays out the case for Flynn to invoke his Fifth Amendment protection against self-incrimination and his decision not to produce documents in response to a congressional subpoena.

The letter says that the current context of the Senate’s investigation into Russia’s meddling in the 2016 election threatens that “any testimony he provides could be used against him.”

 

► The Supreme Court has ruled that Republicans in North Carolina illegally disenfranchised African-American voters in the state’s last round of redistricting. From the Washington Post:

The Supreme Court ruled Monday that North Carolina’s Republican-controlled legislature unlawfully relied on race when drawing two of the state’s congressional districts.

The decision continued a trend at the court, where justices have found that racial considerations improperly predominated in redistricting decisions by Republican-led legislatures in Virginia, Alabama and North Carolina. Some involved congressional districts, others legislative districts…

…In the split decision, Justice Clarence Thomas joined the liberal justices in saying race improperly predominated the drawing of the district. New Justice Neil M. Gorsuch was not on the court when the case was heard, and took no part in the decision.

 

Get even more smarter after the jump…

“Blowhard Brauchler” Out Over His Skis Once Again

George Brauchler.

On Friday, Gov. John Hickenlooper pardoned Rene Lima-Marin, a Cuban immigrant who had endured a terrible legal ordeal after being released mistakenly, re-incarcerated years later, ordered released again, then picked up by federal immigration agents for deportation as a legal immigrant who committed a felony. Hickenlooper’s pardon removes the underlying basis for Lima-Marin’s deportation, but it remains an open question whether the Trump administration will honor the pardon and halt his removal from the country.

In response to Hickenlooper’s pardon, GOP gubernatorial candidate George Brauchler launched into a Twitter tirade attacking the decision, later issuing a press statement asserting that Hickenlooper’s pardon was not legal–despite the fact that Republicans and Democrats in the General Assembly had asked for it.

That’s where the Denver Post’s Danika Worthington picks up the story:

Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper responded Saturday to criticism from District Attorney George Brauchler of his pardoning of Rene Lima-Marin, rejecting claims that he had acted improperly and broken the law in his haste to act.

The governor’s office said it had given proper notice to the 18th Judicial District Attorney’s office, even receiving a lengthy letter in reply. Additionally, the office said it was within the governor’s authority to skip the standard seven-year waiting period typically required for pardons.

But Brauchler responded later in the day to counter Hickenlooper’s claims — another war of words between two frequent rivals, especially now that the district attorney is campaigning for the Republican nomination for governor in 2018.

Brauchler said his office received a clemency application for Lima-Marin, not one for a pardon, as required by law… [Pols emphasis]

The Colorado Statesman’s Ernest Luning goes down the process rabbit hole with Brauchler…and comes up empty:

Brauchler acknowledged Lima-Marin had filed an application for a commutation of his sentence, and his office had provided input on that to the governor’s office earlier this week.

“But a commutation of sentence is very different from a pardon,” he said. “We never had the victims consulted about a pardon. We never had input with the governor about a pardon. I was caught completely unaware the governor was considering a pardon…”

State Sen. Owen Hill, a Colorado Springs Republican who sponsored legislation last month calling on Hickenlooper to grant clemency to Lima-Marin — the Legislature approved the resolution unanimously — dismissed Brauchler’s complaints. [Pols emphasis]

“Reuniting Rene with his family is the right thing to do for him, his wife and his children,” Hill told The Statesman Friday night.

And the truly absurd part? Brauchler says he supports the hoped-for outcome of Hickenlooper’s pardon. Post:

Brauchler was careful to clarify that he believes Lima-Marin should be released and he opposes the move to deport him to Cuba — even as he objected to the pardon decision. [Pols emphasis]

Again, the reason Hickenlooper had to move quickly is Lima-Marin is by all accounts on a fast track for deportation. Without the pardon, his deportation is more or less automatic as long as the host nation of Cuba is willing and able to receive him–and they say they are. Recent changes to immigration policy toward Cuba and the general warming of relations between the two nations ironically makes it more likely that people in Lima-Marin’s situation, having come to America as children and knowing no other home, will be kicked out.

As for Brauchler, this is just shallow grandstanding. The governor’s constitutional authority to grant pardons supersedes Brauchler’s objections, and Brauchler concedes the moral high ground to Hickenlooper by agreeing that Lima-Marin should be freed. Brauchler clearly wants this to be a political fight over crime and immigration, not process questions–but he’s hiding behind the latter in an attempt to have it both ways.

And except for a few haters who need no encouraging to vilify immigrants, this isn’t going to help Brauchler become governor.

Caption This Photo: Trump and Saudi King Plot Global Domination

If this photo doesn’t set off every conspiracy theory alarm bell in Alex Jones’ head, we don’t know what will! Taken blissfully out of context from President Donald Trump’s trip to Saudi Arabia this weekend, because as you know context is for wussies.

UPDATE: Such big manly hands though.

Ken Buck: “It’s Just Very Difficult” to Spread News of “Good Things” Happening in Washington

(There are good things happening? — Promoted by Colorado Pols)

Rep. Ken Buck (R).

U.S. Rep. Ken Buck (R-CO) said on a Denver radio show Friday that it was “premature” for the Trump Administration to appoint a special counsel to investigate Russian interference in the last election–and that it’s “just very difficult” at his town halls to get his positive message out “about the good things that are going on” in Washington.

Asked by KDMT 690-AM host Jimmy Sengenberger if he thought it was a “smart move” for the deputy attorney general to appoint Robert Mueller as special counsel, Buck said:

“I think that it was premature,” Buck answered. “I don’t think it was warranted at this time. I can see politically whey they want to remove themselves, the Department of Justice, from this inquiry. And I understand politically why it was done. But as a prosecutor, you wait until you have probable cause before you start doing things like special prosecutions or grand jury or other criminal investigations. So I just felt it was premature.”

Buck is a former Weld County District Attorney.

Buck’s comments came on the day it was revealed that Trump told Russian officials that former FBI Director James Comey was a “nut job” and his firing by Trump alleviated pressure on Trump about his campaign’s Russian ties.

Earlier in the week, a recording emerged of former GOP House Majority leader, Kevin McCarthy, saying he thinks Russian leader Vladimir Putin paid Trump. McCarthy said he was joking, even though he said, “Swear to God” after he made the comment in the audio tape. Multiple Trump officials, including Trump’s Attorney General, James Sessions, have admitted talking to Russians during the campaign.

Buck said Congress and Trump are doing a lot of good work, but “when I go to town halls, trying to the get positive message out about the good things that are going on is just very difficult.”

Asked why, Buck said the media “is fundamentally unfair in this situation; it’s a left-leaning media,” and Trump has “not done us any favors.”

He added that “the left if very well organized and focused on a singular message.”

“I tell ya, Jimmy, I think there are great things happening in the country, and the stock market today is reflecting some of those great things,” Buck said on air. “We have consumer confidence that is outstanding right now. We have low unemployment. You know, I was driving to the airport the other day, from Greeley down to DIA, and I saw five different HELP WANTED signs, and I haven’t see that in years….”

“For some reason, this narrative continues that there’s some sort of collusion between the Trump Campaign and the Russians, and there’s just no hard evidence that leads to that conclusion,” said Buck.

Buck took over Colorado’s Fourth Congressional District when U.S. Sen. Cory Gardner (R-CO) was elected in 2014. Gardner defeated a Democrat, Betsy Markey, to win the seat in 2010.

Weekend Open Thread

“There’s nothing like a jolly good disaster to get people to start doing something.”

–Prince Charles

Hickenlooper Pardons Rene Lima-Marin While Brauchler Fumes

UPDATE: Bad news via 9NEWS’ Marshall Zelinger:

—–

Gov. John Hickenlooper.

The Denver Post’s Kevin Simpson reporting, Gov. John Hickenlooper took swift action this afternoon to prevent the deportation of Rene Lima-Marin, a Cuban immigrant whose criminal case became a cause célèbre for state legislators before they realized he was subject to deportation:

Gov. John Hickenlooper said Friday he has issued an extraordinary pardon for Rene Lima-Marin, who was mistakenly released early from a long prison sentence only to be sent back after he had forged a productive new life as a husband and father.

Lima-Marin was freed from his Colorado prison sentence earlier this week and then held by federal immigration authorities. State lawmakers, Lima-Marin’s family and others had urged the governor to act quickly to prevent what they feared would be imminent deportation to his native Cuba…

“We thought it through well,” Hickenlooper said, pointing to bipartisan unity in the state legislature resolution that called for clemency. He added that it would be a “terrible symbol” to snatch away Lima-Marin’s freedom once again.

Asked what he hopes happens to Lima-Marin now, the governor said: “I hope he doesn’t get deported.”

The governor added that with the pardon, he has done everything he can at this point to stop deportation.

We noted yesterday how at least one GOP lawmaker was still fighting for Lima-Marin’s freedom even after it came out that he was subject to deportation for the crime he originally committed–though we were waiting to hear from others to know if this was as unanimous as the original resolution calling for Lima-Marin’s release was.

Post-pardon, GOP gubernatorial candidate George Brauchler is making it painfully clear he does not approve:

So…we assume there’s a big disagreement here between Brauchler and the entire Republican caucus in the Colorado General Assembly? That’s what we have to assume until we see some more statements from Republican lawmakers. It’s going to be difficult for Brauchler to make much political hay out of this unless a bunch of silent Republicans who were in support of Lima-Marin’s freedom come out with a different opinion now.

As for Gov. Hickenlooper, it’s true that he has now done everything he can. If President Trump wants to make a political martyr of a man who has already been through a bizarre and painful mistake in the criminal justice system, it’s his fire to play with.

And now, George Brauchler’s too.

The Daily D’oh: Trump Called Comey a “Nut Job”

There is so much breaking news lately on the ever-widening allegations about Russian ties to the Trump campaign that it can be difficult to keep track of everything. With that in mind, we’ve created what we’re calling “The Daily D’oh!” to help you stay up-to-date on President Trump and the rest of the White House staff as more news emerges about Russia, James ComeyRobert Mueller, special investigations and everything else related to this ongoing crisis…

 

♦ D’OH!
The New York Times reports on new information from that infamous Oval Office meeting between President Trump and his Russian pals:

President Trump told Russian officials in the Oval Office this month that firing the F.B.I. director, James B. Comey, had relieved “great pressure” on him, according to a document summarizing the meeting.

“I just fired the head of the F.B.I. He was crazy, a real nut job,” Mr. Trump said, according to the document, which was read to The New York Times by an American official. “I faced great pressure because of Russia. That’s taken off.” [Pols emphasis]

Mr. Trump added, “I’m not under investigation.”

The conversation, during a May 10 meeting — the day after he fired Mr. Comey — reinforces the notion that Mr. Trump dismissed him primarily because of the bureau’s investigation into possible collusion between his campaign and Russian operatives. Mr. Trump said as much in one televised interview, but the White House has offered changing justifications for the firing.


♦ D’OH!

Chris Cillizza of CNN offers more perspective on the “nut job” story:

There is no worse way to convince people that all of the Russia stuff is made up and a “total hoax,” in Trump’s words, than to share classified information with two top Russian officials and, in the same damn meeting, call your recently-fired FBI director a “nut job” and make clear you got rid of him because of the pressure on you regarding Russia’s influence in the election.

I dare you to come up with a scenario in which Trump could do more in a single meeting to undermine his case regarding the Russia investigation. [Pols emphasis] Short of saying “Hey guys, thanks for colluding with my campaign to hurt Hillary and get me elected,” and then releasing a video and a transcript of Trump saying exactly that, it’s hard to imagine.

The official White House response to the Times report is, in and of itself, stunning…

…The most important takeaway from that statement is that the White House is not denying the Times’ reporting on the meeting.  So, Trump did call Comey a “nut job” and did say that “great pressure” had been taken off of him in regards Russia as a result of firing Comey.


♦ D’OH!

As the Washington Post reports, the Russia probe is moving along swiftly. The investigation is coming up with specific names, including a senior White House official:

The law enforcement investigation into possible coordination between Russia and the Trump campaign has identified a current White House official as a significant person of interest, showing that the probe is reaching into the highest levels of government, according to people familiar with the matter. [Pols emphasis]

The senior White House adviser under scrutiny by investigators is someone close to the president, according to these people, who would not further identify the official.

The revelation comes as the investigation also appears to be entering a more overtly active phase, with investigators shifting from work that has remained largely hidden from the public to conducting interviews and using a grand jury to issue subpoenas. The intensity of the probe is expected to accelerate in the coming weeks, the people said.

 

♦ D’OH!
Florida Republican Rep. Carlos Curbelo is working very hard to make sure that people know he was the first Republican Member of Congress to call for impeachment hearings.

 

♦ D’OH!
Congressman Mike Coffman (R-Aurora) goes ballistic on Trump in a new interview.

 

♦ D’OH!
And then there’s this quote from a story in The Daily Beast:

“Every day he looks more and more like a complete moron,” said one senior administration official who also worked on Trump’s campaign. “I can’t see Trump resigning or even being impeached, but at this point I wish he’d grow a brain and be the man that he sold himself as on the campaign.”

 

Report: Ultra-conservative Wisconsin foundation takes aim at Colorado public education, labor unions

(Promoted by Colorado Pols)

Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker (R).

Recent reports have revealed that the Wisconsin-based Lynde and Harry Bradley Foundation has quietly descended on Colorado in an effort to undermine teachers unions and public education.

The information comes from documents that were swiped from the foundation’s servers by international hackers last year.

In Wisconsin, the Bradley Foundation has helped bolster Gov. Scott Walker’s conservative agenda, including dramatic cuts to public education and the passage of the state’s anti-union “Right to Work” law. Now, Bradley is apparently looking to expand that success in swing states, starting with Colorado and North Carolina.

Reports from the Center for Media and Democracy and the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel show that the Bradley Foundation has funneled $1.45 million to the Independence Institute, a conservative Denver think tank, in recent years. A chunk of the money was specifically allocated for “aggressive education reform,” which includes “neutralizing the power of Colorado’s teachers’ unions by defunding them at the local school district level,” according to a 2015 Independence Institute grant proposal record obtained by the Center for Media and Democracy.

With the help of Bradley’s contribution, the Independence Institute has assisted the Douglas County school board in enacting a series of measures to put an end to collective bargaining, teacher tenure, and automatic dues deductions for teachers unions. In 2016, the board attempted to implement a countywide school voucher program for private and religious schools, but the program was struck down in court.

The Independence Institute did not return a call for comment.

Sam Gilchrist, Executive Director of the pro-union Colorado AFL-CIO, said in a press release that “wealthy corporations and the organizations that serve them need to stop rigging our political system against hardworking people like the teachers who keep our public education system running,” and he called the Bradley Foundation’s efforts “disgusting.”

In addition to funding anti-union and school choice advocates, the Bradley Foundation gives financial support to conservative non-profits nationwide.

Beneficiaries include the Competitive Enterprise Institute, an adversary of environmental regulations, and the Ruth Institute, which, according to its website, seeks to “[help] young people avoid the poisonous personal consequences of the Sexual Revolution” and address “the crazy behaviors encouraged on campuses” and “young people’s unwillingness to get married.”

Coffman Goes Off On Trump — For All The Wrong Reasons

Rep. Mike Coffman (R).

Quite the interview from CNN posted a short while ago, letting an obvious exasperated Rep. Mike Coffman of Colorado go off on President Donald Trump this afternoon in Washington after the biggest week of crisis of Trump’s short time in office:

In an animated interview in the Speaker’s lobby Friday afternoon, Rep. Mike Coffman, a Republican from Colorado who will face a tough re-election in a swing district in 2018, described what he believed was “chaos” at the White House, saying the week had “started off horribly” and been “incredibly stressful.”

“It’s not a question of what the President can do. It’s a question of what the President can stop doing. He’s not been able to make the pivot. He’s not made the pivot between being a candidate and being the President,” Coffman said. “What he needs to do is be the President.”

“Stop this ridiculous tweeting,” he continued. “I’m a Marine Corps combat veteran on the House Armed Services Committee. We are nation at war, and what the men and women in uniform need to see is their commander and chief is focused on the fact that we are a nation at war and not in a Twitter war with Rosie O’Donnell.”

Coffman said that he feels some relief in the fact that a special counsel was appointed to handle the Russia investigation this week.

“If in fact this were left to the Congress, we couldn’t go on,” Coffman said alluding to the GOP trying to forge ahead with their agenda.

Coffman said that ultimately what the “American people need to see is a President that is not impulsive, a President that is not emotional, a President that is thoughtful and deliberative.”

Missing from Coffman’s pointed critique of President Trump’s behavior and responses to repeated crises is any criticism of the political agenda Trump has been trying to get accomplished–which would seem to be the result of Coffman’s expressed agreement with much of that agenda, confirming again today:

“I get it on the issues, [Pols emphasis] but that doesn’t mean he has to create such chaos in the White House and such confusion in the minds of the American people,” Coffman said.

So to be crystal clear about Coffman’s criticism of Trump: it’s not about the policy goals for Republicans, like repealing Obamacare or Trump’s stated next objective of tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans. The problem for Coffman seems to be that all this endless scandal, and Trump’s self-immolating style of public relations via Twitter, is making it impossible to focus on the agenda.

To the constituents who have been dogging Coffman’s every step over exactly that agenda, at least as much as Trump’s daily scandal cycle, this “criticism” is not going to have the desired effect.

Get More Smarter on Friday (May 19)

The sun will come out tomorrow, according to weather forecasters. It’s time to Get More Smarter! If you think we missed something important, please include the link in the comments below (here’s a good example). If you are more of a visual learner, check out The Get More Smarter Show.

TOP OF MIND TODAY…

► President Trump leaves the country today for his first big overseas trip as Commander in Chief. The Washington Post has a preview of Trump’s jaunt to the Middle East and Europe:

President Trump’s learning curve on matters of foreign policy and national security was steep even before the bombshell report this week that he had blurted secrets to Russian diplomats.

Trump’s first foreign trip as president, which begins in Saudi Arabia this weekend, is a test of the lessons he has learned about geopolitics as well as whether he can reset his chaotic administration…

…Trump will also visit the West Bank and is expected to again tout his efforts to restart negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians. Trump has backed away from a decades-old U.S. commitment to a sovereign Palestinian state, but held a warm meeting at the White House with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas.

From there Trump goes to Europe, for the NATO summit, a protocol-laden visit to see Pope Francis at the Vatican, and a gathering of the Group of Seven economic powers in Italy.

Meanwhile, longtime Washington D.C. observers can’t help but notice the historical parallels with a foreign trip taken by former President Richard Nixon in the midst of the Watergate scandal:

Those of us with long memories can’t forget President Richard Nixon making a similar trip to the Middle East in early June, 1974, at the very time the Watergate special prosecutor was in court seeking the actual White House tapes of presidential conversations and Congressional committees were looking into his possible impeachment.

Back then, ironically, Nixon visited leaders in Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Syria, and Israel in an unsuccessful attempt to strengthen the ceasefire agreement that halted fighting in the Yom Kippur, Arab-Israeli war.

Nixon returned home to challenge and lose his Supreme Court argument over the tapes that set him down the path to resigning the presidency.

 

► Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein made another visit to Capitol Hill on Friday to brief lawmakers on his decision to appoint Robert Mueller as a special counsel for investigating allegations of collusion between Russia and Donald Trump’s campaign for President. But as the Washington Post notes, Rosenstein has left many important questions unanswered:

Rosenstein had briefed senators on Thursday at an event that left several key questions unanswered, including what Trump said to Rosenstein when he told him Comey would be fired and to what degree congressional investigators will maintain access to witnesses and documents given the appointment of Robert S. Mueller III as special counsel.

These matters did not appear to be resolved on Friday.

Here at Colorado Pols, we’ve added a new feature to keep you updated on the latest news involving the Trump/Russia scandal: “The Daily D’oh!”

 

► Attorney General Cynthia Coffman again demonstrated her loyalty to the oil and gas industry in Colorado by ignoring Gov. John Hickenlooper’s order to NOT appeal a court ruling requiring protection of public safety, health and the environment by the state as a precondition before allowing oil and gas drilling.

 

Get even more smarter after the jump…

Can conservatives and progressives trust journalism for the sake of fighting “fake news?”

(Promoted by Colorado Pols)

To fight fake news in a bipartisan way, Republicans and Democrats need to find it in themselves to trust professional journalism, while reserving verification rights.

We need to agree that the role of journalists is to enforce truthfulness as a basic ground rule for civic discourse, while advocates reserve the right, of course, to disagree with the conclusions of journalists.

So it kills me that conservatives, like Colorado State Sen. Tim Neville (R-Littleton), won’t accept respected journalistic fact checkers as arbiters of fake news.

But maybe there’s a road to compromise in liberty advocate Ari Armstrong’s thoughtful definition of fake news that he articulated last month–much of which I agree with.

Armstrong and I diverge from the thinking of most journalists on the definition of fake news, because we both define fake news based on the content of the news story, not its source. In other words, we both agree that a fake news story could come from the Washington Post, Brietbart, BigMedia.org, PeakPolitics.com, or TheFreePatriot.org.

If you define fake this way, you allow conservatives, who might hate the Washington Post, and progressives, who might hate Breitbart, to agree on a starting point to discuss how to address the fake news problem. So I accept the idea that any outlet could produce fake news partly for sake of compromise with conservatives.

(more…)