Rep. Diana DeGette: #MeToo

Rep. Diana DeGette (D).

The Denver Post’s Mark Matthews reports on Rep. Diana DeGette of Denver’s revelations yesterday that she was sexually harassed by ex-Rep. Bob Filner, the San Diego Democrat whose career imploded after leaving Congress under allegations of serial sexual misconduct:

U.S. Rep. Diana DeGette said Monday that she is among the many women who have been sexually harassed while serving in Congress — telling MSNBC that former U.S. Rep. Bob Filner of California groped her while the two Democrats were in an elevator.

“Some years ago, I was in an elevator and then-Congressman Bob Filner tried to pin me to the door of the elevator and kiss me and I pushed him away,” said the Denver lawmaker in an on-air interview…

“When these advances happen, they’re brushed under the rug,” DeGette said. “This is one reason why I think it’s so important that we update our House employment rules.”

A DeGette aide said the Colorado lawmaker did not file a complaint or take official action in either incident she mentioned.

The straightforward reason why Rep. DeGette would not have reported this incident is the fact that Rep. Filner was a much higher-ranking member than herself. In an environment where such incidents were routinely swept under the rug, the controversy caused by reporting the offense could well have had its own negative impact on her career. That’s an explanation reporters have gotten from women in Colorado who have been subjected to sexual harassment in the General Assembly as well. In the end, the negative consequences of standing up for one’s self over sexual harassment are perceived to outweigh the offense.

All we can say to that is it should never, ever be that way. And hopefully one outcome of the present upheaval over sexual harassment across all levels of society is that survivors will never have to weigh the repercussions of seeking justice against their right to seek justice ever again.

Cynthia Coffman’s Gubernatorial Campaign is a Disaster

Republican Cynthia Coffman might be better off waving a white flag when it comes to her gubernatorial campaign.

Colorado Attorney General Cynthia Coffman announced two weeks ago that she would seek the Republican gubernatorial nomination rather than running for re-election in 2018. We weren’t alone in wondering why it took Coffman more than a year to make a decision on what race to run in 2018, and the long delay apparently wasn’t because she was taking extra time to prepare for a run for Governor.

As Joey Bunch writes in two separate stories for the publication formerly known as the Colorado Statesman, Coffman’s gubernatorial campaign is an absolute mess. In an early preview of a longer story for “Colorado Politics” magazine, Bunch wrote on Friday that it is not clear who, if anyone, is even running the Coffman campaign:

When Coffman officially announced her candidacy for governor on Nov. 8, the Denver Post reported, “To run her campaign, Coffman hired Clinton Soffer, the former regional political director for the National Republican Senate Committee, where he worked for Colorado U.S. Sen. Cory Gardner, whom he helped elect in 2014.”

After I got a well-sourced tip Thursday that Soffer was no longer running the campaign, I reached out to Coffman’s campaign fundraiser Caroline Wren, who also is fielding calls to Coffman from the media this week.

“Clinton Soffer is a part of Team Cynthia, but he is not campaign manager and was never announced by our campaign as such,” said Wren.

Bunch says that Coffman’s campaign never responded to questions about how or why Soffer was misidentified in the Denver Post story, though Coffman “spokesperson” Caroline Wren did eventually tell Bunch that Coffman would only respond to written questions submitted in advance via e-mail…which is a completely absurd thing to stipulate for someone seeking the top office in Colorado.

Coffman did apparently participate in a brief telephone interview with Bunch at some point, which left many more unanswered questions. Here’s an excerpt from Bunch’s full story for “Colorado Politics” magazine (click for PDF version):

Platform, money and momentum are not on her side, according to my very round circle of Republican sources…

…In a way-too-short scheduled phone interview, Coffman assured me my Republican sources are in the minority of her party, but she would have to get back to me on explaining why when she had more time.

Bunch writes that he could not clarify Coffman’s position on the issue of abortion, which has stirred commentary from right-wing radio pundits (Coffman’s spokesperson says that she will discuss her position on abortion “when the time’s right,” whatever that means). In response to a question about how Coffman will address the “Coffmangate” scandal from 2015, Bunch writes the following:

“Frankly, I’m not going to spend time on it,” Coffman told me when I asked about it, then she deflected other questions and reminded me that my time was running out.

It isn’t just questions about prior scandals that Coffman is ducking. This paragraph near the end of Bunch’s magazine story is particularly strange:

On the issues, Coffman didn’t have a plan to fund transportation, potentially a huge issue for the next governor, but she’s working on it. She asked me, jokingly, if I wanted to join the campaign to help figure it out.

Whaaaaa???

At the height of the “Coffmangate” scandal in June 2015, we wrote in this space that Coffman’s political career was all but over; we speculated, in part, that Coffman would have trouble running another statewide campaign because she would have a difficult time finding a competent staff that wasn’t scared away by her awkward backstabbing.

Perhaps Coffman will ultimately figure out how to be a viable candidate for Governor. Perhaps she will eventually be able to hire campaign staff that have some idea of what they are doing.

Or, perhaps, Cynthia Coffman’s gubernatorial bid is a complete fool’s errand.

Trump Opens Door For Moore: Joke’s on You, Cory Gardner!

Roy Moore, Cory Gardner.

From today’s White House press conference–so much for the Republican Party’s attempt to put daylight between itself and embattled U.S. Senate candidate Roy Moore, as CNN reports:

White House press secretary Sarah Sanders said President Trump continues to believe that the people of Alabama should decide Roy Moore’s fate in the Senate race, but reiterated that Trump wants elected officials who “support his agenda” in Congress.

“Obviously the president wants people both in the House and the Senate that support his agenda,” Sanders said Monday in the White House press briefing.

“The president feels that it’s up to the people of Alabama to make that determination of who their representative will be,” Sanders said.

Cory Gardner can say what he want. Moore just got greenlighted by the highest Republican in the land.

And if Moore wins, the odds of a vote to expel just dwindled.

Get More Smarter on Monday (November 20)

Be thankful that you won’t have to watch the Denver Broncos on Thursday. 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…

The Tax Turducken that is winding its way through Republicans in Congress may be stopped short in the Senate because it’s just too unwieldy. As the Washington Post explains:

As the tax debate heads into a one-week, Thanksgiving-imposed timeout, the project hangs by a thread in the Senate. A handful of Senate Republicans will determine its fate. The challenge for Republican leaders is that those swing votes have conflicting priorities.

On one side are senators demanding changes adding to the cost of the bill; on the other, deficit hawks are raising alarms about the price tag of a measure that arguably has burst its seams.

Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine) objects to the last-minute decision by Republican tax writers to include a repeal of Obamacare’s individual mandate — a critical source of revenue for the bill. And Sen. Ron Johnson (R-Wis.) wants more generous treatment for pass-through businesses. Meanwhile, Sens. Bob Corker (R-Tenn.) and Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.), among others, have said the bill’s deficit impact could cost their support.

In a Sunday appearance on ABC’s “This Week,” Collins said the move to scrap the individual mandate will cause insurance premiums to spike, wiping out whatever middle-class benefit the bill might otherwise deliver. She stopped short of declaring herself opposed to the Senate bill, because she expects it to change, but she called the mandate repeal the “biggest mistake.”

 

► The Keystone XL pipeline cleared an key regulatory hurdle today, as NBC News reports:

The Keystone XL pipeline cleared a major hurdle on Monday after a Nebraska regulator approved an alternate route for the $8 billion project.

The Nebraska Public Service Commission voted to approve TransCanada Corp.’s Keystone XL pipeline in a 3-2 decision that cleared a regulatory hurdle for the proposed 1,179-mile pipeline that would link Canada’s Alberta oil sands to U.S. refineries.

Nebraska was the only state that had yet to approve the pipeline’s route, and Monday’s decision appeared to pass that final regulatory challenge. But the move could still be challenged in court.

Last week, the Keystone Pipeline spilled more than 200,000 gallons of oil in South Dakota — more evidence to back up critics who believe the pipeline is fundamentally unsafe for local communities.

 

► President Trump has decided to put North Korea back on a list of state sponsors of terrorism. Former President George W. Bush removed North Korea from the list in 2008.

 

Get even more smarter after the jump…

(more…)

Lobbyists Questionably Leap To Sen. Jack Tate’s Defense

MONDAY UPDATE #2: In a thoughtful Facebook post, Rep. Jonathan Singer calls the story in question “media-enabled gaslighting.”

We can do better.

This might come as a shock to some people. Of all the elected officials that have allegations against them, I’ve been friends with … pretty much all of them. And that shouldn’t matter to the media.

It turns out that people who do bad things can be very nice people. That’s how they can continue to bad things. It’s also one reason why survivors choose not to come forward. If there are more victims, do you think they’re more or less likely to step forward now?

We have to take every allegation seriously and I think it’s absolutely appropriate for someone to refute an allegation if they were direct witness to it. I also think it’s alright if people don’t want to rush to judge their peers. Let our process (that could improve) play out first. I don’t think any of the people in the article were intending to discredit the victim or stop new reports. But those just might be the consequences.

—–

MONDAY UPDATE: Conservative blog Colorado Peak Politics’ lede today says a mouthful:

That’s how the boys explain these things, yes! Unfortunately the victims tend to see it differently.

And yes, this is yet another shining example of the problem.

—–

UPDATE #2: More from today’s post from Morgan Carroll, as Statesman reporter Ernest Luning responds–Carroll lays out the problem brilliantly:

Morgan Carroll: Just to be clear. You wrote the story in question. You miss the point. I think it looks like a lineup of lobbyists (who have professional and financial ties to Tate) [Pols emphasis] defending an elected official overall suggesting that if women lobbyists think Sen. Tate is a nice guy that the he couldn’t have harassed or been inappropriate with an intern.

Exactly.

—–

UPDATE: In a testy Facebook exchange with Colorado Democratic Party chair Morgan Carroll, longtime Capitol lobbyist Wendy Aiello appears to confirm that she is “working with” Sen. Jack Tate to respond to the allegations against him:

This detail is significant because Megan Dubray, who is extensively quoted in today’s story from the Colorado Statesman’s Ernest Luning (below), is listed as “of counsel” for Aiello Public Relations. None of these relationships are disclosed in Luning’s story.

Which is, of course, a big problem.

—–

Sen. Jack Tate.

A new story from Ernest Luning of the former Colorado Statesman this morning is stoking fresh controversy in the growing scandal over widespread sexual harassment in the Colorado Capitol. The story consists of several lobbyists defending Sen. Jack Tate from allegations of misconduct leveled in a story by KUNC’s Bente Birkeland late last week.

Luning’s story is problematic on several levels–for Sen. Tate, and also the lobbyists attempting to jump on this grenade on Tate’s behalf:

“I was surprised by the story,” lobbyist Adeline Hodge told Colorado Politics. “I was definitely surprised to hear Jack Tate’s name thrown into the ring. I think we can all acknowledge there are things at the Capitol that need improvement, but I think we need to focus on the true problem areas.”

Said lobbyist Cindy Sovine-Miller: “I’ve worked very closely with Sen. Tate, and I’ve never experienced anything like that. He’s very respectful of his wife and his daughter and the women around him. I’m not trying to say sexual harassment isn’t happening at the Capitol, but you guys are pointing the finger at the wrong guy.”

The most stout–and questionable–defense of Tate came from Meg Dubray, a (nominally) Democratic lobbyist:

“What we saw in the paper didn’t show some sort of deviant pattern of behavior. The whole thing — a politician’s job is kissing babies and shaking hands. He’s a friendly guy, he’s from the South and has that sort of congenial nature to him. But it’s never been toward me or anyone I’ve seen in a less than completely respectful way,” [Dubray] said.

After repeating one of the story’s allegations — that Tate had supposedly told the anonymous intern he “really liked that skirt” she was wearing while on an elevator with her — Dubray said she doubted it happened that way but, even if it had, it was an example of Tate’s southern manners and nothing to get alarmed about.

“He always appreciates when men and women are dressed well,” Dubray said with a laugh. “But not in a creepy way, almost in a funny, goofy way.” [Pols emphasis]

That’s what they all say, isn’t it?

Of course it may be true that Tate has never harassed Dubray personally, or these other lobbyists personally, but that doesn’t rule out the possibility that he did so with others. And we’re sorry, but dismissing such behavior as “funny” or “goofy” has allowed way too many predators to continue with their predation.

Anyone who has followed the pitched battles in the legislature in recent years over legislation easing restrictions on subprime personal lenders is aware that Dubray is the lobbyist who worked with Sen. Tate on behalf of those lenders. In 2015, a last-minute bill that Dubray helped sneak through the House was vetoed by Gov. John Hickenlooper after an outcry from consumer advocates and in some cases hoodwinked Democrats.

The point? Meg Dubray has a gainful professional relationship with Sen. Tate. We haven’t looked into the other lobbyists’ disclosures, but it wouldn’t surprise us to learn the same.

Folks, how could this story be published without mentioning that? It’s irresponsible to leave that crucial fact out, even if it can be straightforwardly inferred. And it segues into the larger problem with these defenses of Tate: they seem to all be coming from lobbyists, and Jack Tate is the chairman of the Senate Business, Labor and Technology Committee.

If the conflict of interest here is not immediately evident to you, please go back and reread Ethics 101.

We Hold These Truths To Be Self Evident

I wrote the following to Senator Cory Gardner’s “Share Your Thoughts on Fixing our Tax Code and Growing Wages” page.  Since it requires fully identifying myself, I wanted to post it here as well under my name so that it wouldn’t disappear into the black hole of his email inbox.

Tax Relief for the wealthy is a waste of money and hurts our future

Republicans in Congress have been promoting this tax cut bill as aimed at the middle class, and not to benefit the already well-off among us. And yet the Congress’ own non-partisan analysts have proven that only the wealthy will have permanent tax cuts while the rest face rising taxes in a few years after all the gimmicks the GOP inserted into the bill expire. As any economist not named Laffer will gladly explain to you with hard evidence from both the Reagan and Bush years, trickle-down economics doesn’t work, and you are guaranteeing ballooning the deficit yet again which will grant you the excuse to cut not the bloated, never audited Pentagon budget, but rather the safety net that our elderly and infirm need and deserve. We have full employment and yet Republicans want to halt even legal immigration. Trump is doing everything he can to damage our economy by threatening world trade and our power to control our economic destiny. Can we build a better future for our children by making education a priority? Yes, but not with your bill that disincentivizes education and effectively relegates our young to dead-end jobs at little more than minimum wage.

The American people have given the GOP full control of Congress, the White House and even the Courts. In return, your party has pursued short-sighted, self-destructive, self-serving and backward looking policies that will set our country back for a generation, or more. We elect our representatives to lead, and to build a better future for all Americans. The world has looked to us for leadership for nearly a century, and all the GOP has to offer is ignorance, cowardice and venality — shirking your opportunity to lead, offering just a shriveled, inchoate message of bluster, failed policies and nonsensical reasoning.

The moral, ethical and intellectual bankruptcy of your party is in full display. Voters have started to realize the damage you have wrought, and will be voicing their opinion at the ballot box. Jamming this tax bill through with all the damage it will cause, just because you are desperate to notch a “win” merely illustrates how pathetic the set of values are that you hold so dear.

The depths of my disgust for the actions you and members of your party are taking knows no bounds. You should be ashamed, but your words and actions show you have no shame.  The knowledge that you are not even the worst among your party dismays me the most.

That is what makes me fear for all of our futures.

We can be happy this one isn’t running for governor of Colorado

Ohio Supreme Court Justice William O’Neill, a candidate for the Democratic nomination for governor, in one of the most bone headed political strategies of all-time, attempted to get ahead of his opponents by admitting his sexual indiscretion.

https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/politics/wp/2017/11/17/ohio-governor-candidate-boasts-of-sexual-history-with-approximately-50-very-attractive-females/?utm_term=.3a1681367578

Its safe to say this won’t work.

Oops! Rep. Dave Williams, Day Late, Dollar Short

UPDATE: From Rep. Faith Winter’s statement this week stoutly defending Speaker Crisanta Duran, which carries considerably more weight:

Speaker Duran has done everything correctly. In May of 2016 Speaker Hullinghorst and then-Majority Leader Duran took the allegation seriously, worked with legal services to provide me with legal options and most importantly respected my decisions as a survivor. It was my decision not to move forward with a formal complaint. I worked with leadership to come up with a resolution that I felt most comfortable with. I told him I would go public if I heard of anything else. We thought that the issue had been resolved with the steps that he agreed to, including getting therapy and quitting drinking, and I hadn’t heard of subsequent allegations until last week.

From when I first informed Speaker Duran about the incident to today when I informed her I would be filing a formal complaint she has been very supportive and has also followed all the guidelines as outlined in our workplace harassment policy.

I one hundred percent support the Speaker, and we need to focus on the only person to blame for Steve Lebsock’s actions – Steve himself.

—–

Rep. Dave Williams (R).

Moments ago, controversial freshman Rep. Dave Williams of Colorado Springs published an op-ed in the Denver Post addressing the recent sexual harassment scandal in the Colorado General Assembly. Williams takes a strident partisan line, affecting great outrage over the supposed failure of House Speaker Crisanta Duran to intervene in Rep. Steve Lebsock’s alleged serial harassment:

Another dark shadow has been cast over the Colorado General Assembly, giving citizens even more cause to “throw the bums out.” Recently, state Rep. Steve Lebsock has been accused of sexual harassment by multiple women, and I for one believe their stories. Because of his own actions, Lebsock has lost the trust of his colleagues and the public and it’s time for him to step down.

But the truth is we would never have arrived at this point if the state House Democratic leadership hadn’t covered up for Lebsock for well over a year. Their silence and mishandling of this issue put at risk other women, for which they must be held accountable.

Sturm und drang, indeed–but since Rep. Dave Williams wrote this opinion sometime before yesterday evening, something happened.

Longstanding allegations of harassment by Republicans in the Colorado Senate, alluded to since the first reports a week ago, were confirmed. In at least one case, Sen. Randy Baumgardner, the allegations were sufficiently common knowledge that it is impossible GOP Senate leadership were not aware of the situation.

With this in mind, we decided to have a little fun with Williams’ bombastic rhetoric search-and-replace style:

Another dark shadow has been cast over the Colorado General Assembly, giving citizens even more cause to “throw the bums out.” Recently, state Sen. Randy Baumgardner has been accused of sexual harassment by multiple women, and I for one believe their stories. Because of his own actions, Baumgardner has lost the trust of his colleagues and the public and it’s time for him to step down.

But the truth is we would never have arrived at this point if the state Senate Republican leadership hadn’t covered up for Baumgardner for well over a year. Their silence and mishandling of this issue put at risk other women, for which they must be held accountable…

Just like Hollywood covering up for Harvey Weinstein for so long, so too has the Colorado Republican Senate leadership indirectly caused abuse of additional victims.

As a state legislator, I realize that the people have given us a sacred trust. They expect us to conduct the people’s business in an ethical and upright manner. That trust has been violated, not only by Baumgardner but also by Kevin Grantham, Chris Holbert, and any other leaders who knew about this, yet did nothing to prevent future abuses…

The archaic days of covering up corrupt and immoral behavior because of political expedience must end, which is why Grantham, Holbert, and anyone else in leadership who knew but didn’t stop it need to resign. [Pols emphasis]

And that, dear reader, is why you wait until both shoes have dropped.

Colorado Week in Review: 11/17/17

As He Exits Gubernatorial Race, Brauchler Needles Coffman

(Promoted by Colorado Pols)

This guy to the rescue!

As he exited the gubernatorial race this week, Republican attorney general candidate George Brauchler criticized current AG Cynthia Coffman, telling KCOL radio host Jimmy Lakey that Coffman’s last-minute “decision to abandon her position as attorney general” put the AG’s office at risk of falling into Democratic hands–something he did not want to see happen. And this helped push him out of the gubernatorial race.

“The timing was so important to my decision,” said Brauchler, the district attorney who tried the Aurora theater shooter, on KCOL’s Nov. 14 show. “When she made the decision to abandon her position as attorney general less than a year before the general election, my phone just started going crazy, started blowing up with people who are saying, ‘What are we going to do to hold this seat?’ The idea of one of the progressive, extremist-type candidates on the other side taking that seat — in addition to possibly having the governorship — it would just put us, Jimmy, on a path where — I’m not even sure we’d be on the road to California. We would be California.  And I was convinced — and I believe — that the best role I can play right now for helping my home state is to defend that Attorney General’s position and to make sure it is held by a conservative and not someone who wants to legislate through litigation.”

Political operative and pundit Laura Carno, who served on Brauchler’s advisory committee, underscored the point on Lakey’s show the same day.

“I’m disappointed that a statewide official left an office where she was going to be running for reelection, and that really should be one of the offices that we don’t have to worry about — a popular incumbent running for reelection,” said Carno on Greeley’s KCOL, adding that she also agree with Brauchler that the “numbers” in the gubernatorial race, with new opponents, did not look good. “But now, with Cynthia Coffman moving over to the governor’s race, that puts at significant risk that attorney general spot. And if we’re going to — if we have the potential of having a Gov. Polis – God forbid– we have to have somebody with guts in that attorney general’s office. So, by the end of the conversation, although I started out saying, ‘I have got to talk George Brauchler out of this,’ there was just no other decision. And I appreciate that he moved over to protect that seat. So, that’s how I’m looking at it, and [I’m] disappointed that he was put in that position. But, I get it. I’m supportive. And I’m still a huge George Brauchler fan. I think he’s an eminently decent human being.”

In other statements, Brauchler acknowledged that the entrance of former Congressman Tom Tancredo into the gubernatorial race complicated his path to a primary victory, as did Coffman’s late decision to run.

“[Tancredo] also competes for some of the same votes that I’d compete for,” Brauchler told the Colorado Independent.

Unless Brauchler draws a primary opponent, he will likely face one of these Democrats vying for the their party’s nomination: Boulder prosecutor Michael Dougherty, attorney Brad Levin, Denver prosecutor Amy Padden, State Rep. Joe Salazar of Thornton, or former CU Law School dean Phil Weiser.

House Tax Bill is VERY GOOD to Donald Trump’s Family

President Trump says that the Republican tax proposals represent the largest tax cuts “in the history of our country.” This is not even close to being true, unless perhaps Trump is talking about the benefits to his own family.

As NBC News reports:

President Donald Trump has insisted, for months, that the Republican tax plan he supports won’t benefit him.

“It’s not good for me. Believe me,” he said at a Sept. 27 event in Indiana to sell the plan. “My plan is for the working people, and my plan is for jobs. I don’t benefit,” he also said that day.

And earlier this month, according to NBC News, Trump told a group of Democratic senators in a phone call, “My accountant called me and said ‘you’re going to get killed in this bill.’”

In fact, Trump and his heirs potentially could save more than $1 billion overall under the GOP tax proposal that the House of Representatives passed Thursday, with most of that amount coming from a repeal of the estate tax, according to an analysis NBC News commissioned of Trump’s one known 2005 tax return and his estimated net worth. [Pols emphasis]

The degree to which President Trump personally benefits from the Republican tax reform plan may be debatable, but Trump has been trying to sell the American public on the absurd idea that he doesn’t benefit at all from the proposals.

Is it any wonder that public opinion is decidedly opposed to the GOP tax plans? In a recent poll conducted by Quinnipiac University, 59% of American voters say the Republican tax proposals benefit the wealthy at the expense of the middle class.