Colorado Republicans Dismayed by Early Gubernatorial Sparring

GOP gubernatorial candidates: Victor Mitchell, Mitt Romney’s Nephew, and George Brauchler

As Jesse Paul writes for the Denver Post, the race for the Republican nomination for Governor in 2018 is starting to get a tad prickly:

Victor Mitchell came out swinging this week in the Republican primary for Colorado governor, questioning the fundraising practices of one GOP rival and irking another by saying attorneys “shouldn’t be anywhere near the executive branch of government.”

It’s one of the first times that a candidate has gone negative in the fledgling fight for governor, and Mitchell, a millionaire businessman who served one term in the state legislature, said he doesn’t regret criticizing fellow Republicans Doug Robinson and George Brauchler.

“We have to be level with the citizens of Colorado,” Mitchell said. “The voters of Colorado deserve honest, straight-talking elected officials. We’ve got to stop pandering and start leading.”

But the barbs have touched a nerve among some Republican insiders, who said Mitchell’s early turn toward the negative does the party no favors.

Politicos regularly groan about the potential negative effects of trading barbs in a primary, while some contend that a heated debate only serves to strengthen the winning candidate heading into a General Election matchup.

What say you, Polsters?

Beauprez-Backed Organization Still Fighting Court Ruling

(Promoted by Colorado Pols)

It’s been three months since a Denver judge ordered Colorado Pioneer Action (CPA), a political committee run by former U.S. Rep. Bob Beauprez (R-CO), to pay a $17,735 fine for violating campaign finance laws and to register formally as political committee, requiring CPA to disclose its donors.

But Beauprez hasn’t produced the cash or the names of the donors. What’s up?

After Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) Robert Spencer issued his ruling that CPA failed to register and file reports as a political committee during the last election, CPA appealed, and Matt Arnold of Campaign Integrity Watchdog (CIW), which brought the case against CPA, guesses the case won’t be heard for a few months, at the earliest.

After the appeal was filed, Colorado Secretary of State Wayne Williams’ office issued an “enforcement order and stay of action.”

“We have stayed the action in CPA pending appeal,” said Suzanne Staiert, Colorado Deputy Secretary of State (SOS), who signed the order, via email. “This is required under our rule. If CPA is unsuccessful, then our practice is to invoice for payment. We have no reason to believe that CPA would not pay if they lost the appeal.”

Arnold thinks Williams office should have invoiced CPA for the fine immediately after the ALJ decision, even though the case was appealed, telling me on Wednesday, “Upon imposition of the penalty, the Secretary of State should have immediately invoiced CPA for the fine, and it’s not discretionary.”

Luis Toro, Director of Colorado Ethics Watch, also reads the applicable SOS rule as only barring “enforcement actions (i.e., lawsuits to enforce the order in district court) and not referral to collections.”

“My opinion is that the Secretary has discretion to file or not file an enforcement action in district court, but that he does not have discretion to refrain from issuing a fine invoice and referring it to collections if unpaid – unless a stay is issued by the ALJ or the Court of Appeals,” Toro told me via email.

“The bottom line is that yes, unless the ALJ or the Court of Appeals issues a stay, the Secretary should send out an invoice for the unpaid fine and refer it to collections if not paid. But CIW is not prevented from filing its own enforcement lawsuit, and in fact that’s what the law contemplates when the Secretary fails to act to enforce an ALJ decision.”

Arnold is concerned that even if Beauprez loses his appeal, filed by high-powered Holland Hart, Williams won’t instruct the state collections office to get the funds from CPA.

Asked if her office has instituted a policy not to collect fines, Staiert wrote, “We do not have a policy ‘not to seek the collection of such fines’, rather we look at the assets of the committee to determine if collection is viable only after a failure to pay.”

Toro pointed out that the letter from Williams’ office “doesn’t say that Matt Arnold can’t file his own enforcement action, in fact, I read it as saying that he can do so.”

The enforcement mechanism, which could compel CPA to pay its fine, register as a political committee, and disclose its donors, is a lawsuit in district court.

GOP Gubes Slobber Selves Trying To Ding Hick Climate Order

Gov. John Hickenlooper (D).

As the Colorado Springs Gazette’s Ernest Luning reports–Republican candidates for governor are lining up to criticize Gov. John Hickenlooper’s decision to join the U.S. Climate Alliance, a coalition of states who remain committed to mitigating the effects of human-caused climate change despite President Donald Trump pulling our country out of the Paris Climate Accords:

“When I am elected [g]overnor, I will repeal this misguided order on Day 1,” wrote entrepreneur and former state lawmaker Victor Mitchell in a Facebook post. “We all want clean air, but Hickenlooper’s rogue mandate is not the answer. It will cost Colorado jobs and hit every consumer in the wallet. And all this harm for unknown benefits. Say NO loudly to this politically motivated action by our lame duck [g]overnor.”

Doug Robinson, a former investment banker and Mitt Romney’s nephew, also said he would rescind Hickenlooper’s order if elected.

“Everyone wants to keep Colorado pristine, but this smacks of political grandstanding,” Robinson told Colorado Politics. “As Gov. Hickenlooper correctly points out, market forces are already driving the development of cleaner technology. And that’s exactly how it should work. The government shouldn’t be picking winners and losers in any industry.”

George Brauchler, the 18th Judicial District attorney, belittled Hickenlooper’s declaration as ineffectual and wrong-headed…

One of Hickenlooper’s goals, Brauchler said, jumped out as particularly ridiculous. “We have seen such a lack of leadership over the last 10 years of funding the upkeep and expansion of our roads, when I read about these ‘charging corridors’ for electric cars,” he said and then interrupted himself with laughter. “Our roads are in such disrepair, we’re going to push more and more electric cars onto them? You can actually charge your car now while sitting stuck in traffic along (Highway) 36 or (Interstate)-25.”

Polls show that a solid majority of Coloradans are worried about the effects of climate change, so politically this isn’t a position that will gain Republican candidates traction outside a GOP primary. We’re no fans of the state of Colorado roads but we have no idea how you charge an electric vehicle while “sitting in traffic,” so we can’t award George Brauchler any points for accuracy there. As for a “rogue mandate” as Victor Mitchell refers to Hickenlooper’s order, we assume that refers to the states in the Climate Alliance “going rogue” against Trump.

The problem is, in abandoning the Paris Accords, Trump “went rogue” against the entire world.

We know which side we’d want to be on in any election.

The Denver Post is Obsessed with Donna Lynne

Lieutenant Governor Donna Lynne

Donna Lynne is the current Lieutenant Governor of Colorado. If you are a regular reader of Colorado Pols, you might already know this, but it’s important that we start here because even political junkies tend to forget that Colorado even has a Lieutenant Governor.

Lynne is a former executive vice president of the Kaiser Foundation Health Plan and Kaiser Foundation Hospitals who was nominated in March 2016 by Gov. John Hickenlooper following the departure of  Joe Garcia. The Lieutenant Governor (LG) plays an important role in Colorado’s chain of command as the person who would step in should anything happen to the Governor…but aside from that duty, you’d be hard-pressed to find someone who knows what the Lite Gov. actually does on a day-to-day basis. That isn’t a knock on Lynne or Garcia or anyone else who has held the LG job — it’s just a quirk of Colorado’s Constitution.

When Garcia resigned in November 2015 to take a job with a nonprofit education organization, there was some minor speculation about potential successors, but Hick ultimately settled on Lynne — a political outsider — to take the office across the hall. At the time, both Hickenlooper and Lynne made it a point to note that this was absolutely not a stepping stone to higher office for Lynne. This headline from the Denver Post is pretty unambiguous: “Colorado’s Lieutenant Governor nominee won’t seek higher office.”

We haven’t mentioned Lynne as a potential candidate for Governor in this space in part because of that declaration, but also because we hear very little buzz about Lynne in general. The Denver Post, however, can’t seem to stop talking about Lynne as a potential gubernatorial candidate. Check out this headline from the Post today that was blasted out as a “Breaking News” email: “As door closes on Rep. Ed Perlmutter’s run for governor, will it widen for Lt. Gov. Donna Lynne?

The Post has included Lynne’s name as a potential gubernatorial candidate for months now, and we apparently aren’t the only folks around town wondering where this is coming from. As Mike Littwin writes for the Colorado Independent:

And then there’s the strange case of Donna Lynne, John Hickenlooper’s hand-picked lieutenant governor, who was nominated, in large part, because she was seen as apolitical and Hickenlooper would not be seen as giving anyone a leg up in the race to succeed him.

Well, you can forget all that. The rumor has been out there for a while that Hickenlooper had been pushing Lynne to get into the race. And Lynne now freely admits that she’s looking strongly at the race, which almost certainly means she’s getting in.

Lynne has been mentioned here and there by other news outlets as a potential gubernatorial candidate, but no other media source regularly includes her name in its list of candidates. We’re not knocking Lynne here — it’s just difficult to understand where this “Lynne for Governor” stuff is coming from. Lynne might very well be a fine candidate for governor, but if she were to actually enter the race, she’d be behind at least three other Democrats in our book (Jared Polis, Mike Johnston, and Cary Kennedy).

Get More Smarter on Monday (July 10)

Can we just declare July “Fried Chicken Month?” One day just isn’t enough. 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…

► Tick-tock. Tick-tock. Tick-tock…President Trump’s Russia problem is only growing larger by the day. The New York Times dropped a bombshell on the story over the weekend with news that Donald Trump, Jr. and other leaders of Trump’s campaign met with a Russian lawyer after being promised “dirt” on Democratic Presidential nominee Hillary Clinton. As a follow-up story in the New York Times explains:

President Trump’s eldest son, Donald Trump Jr., was promised damaging information about Hillary Clinton before agreeing to meet with a Kremlin-connected Russian lawyer during the 2016 campaign, according to three advisers to the White House briefed on the meeting and two others with knowledge of it.

The meeting was also attended by the president’s campaign chairman at the time, Paul J. Manafort, as well as by the president’s son-in-law, Jared Kushner. Mr. Manafort and Mr. Kushner recently disclosed the meeting, though not its content, in confidential government documents described to The New York Times…

…The meeting — at Trump Tower on June 9, 2016, two weeks after Donald J. Trumpclinched the Republican nomination — points to the central question in federal investigations of the Kremlin’s meddling in the presidential election: whether the Trump campaign colluded with the Russians. The accounts of the meeting represent the first public indication that at least some in the campaign were willing to accept Russian help.

While President Trump has been dogged by revelations of undisclosed meetings between his associates and the Russians, the episode at Trump Tower is the first such confirmed private meeting involving his inner circle during the campaign — as well as the first one known to have included his eldest son.

Senator Susan Collins (R-Maine) is calling for Donald Trump Jr. to speak with the Senate Intelligence Committee about the reported meeting.

 

► You can set aside the “where there’s smoke, there’s fire” analogy for the moment, because as The Atlantic reports, “If there was no collusion, it wasn’t for lack of trying.” Trump Jr. initially claimed that the point of the alleged meeting was to discuss issues of adoption under the Magnitsky Act…but that was only the initial explanation:

Trump Jr. then changed his story, claiming he’d been promised only information relevant to the campaign, by an intermediary he met at the 2013 Miss Universe pageant, owned by his father and hosted in Moscow. (The Washington Post later identified him as Rob Goldstone, a music publicist who said he was working on behalf of an unnamed Russian client.) Trump Jr. brought his brother-in-law Jared Kushner and then-Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort to the meeting. He said that attorney Natalia Veselnitskaya offered him damaging information about Hillary Clinton, but that when it became clear she did not have the goods, he ended the meeting…

…In other words, Trump Jr. admitted (while acknowledging a prior lie) that he was open to receiving damaging information about Hillary Clinton from the Russian lawyer; he was just frustrated that she didn’t seem to have it. If there was no collusion between the Kremlin and the Trump inner circle, it was not because top Trump aides were against it.

Trump Jr.’s admission here is remarkable. Donald Trump’s tendency to speak unwisely remains one of his greatest weaknesses—his threat to release apparently fictive tapes resulted in a special-counsel investigation that has rocked his still-young presidency—and his children are a chip off the old block. (Eric Trump has admitted, contra claims of separation, that he continues to talk business with his father.)

 

► Colorado Sen. Cory Gardner (R-Yuma) has always tried to present himself as a “moderate” or “centrist” Republican, but as the Denver Post writes, the Trumpcare debate has shown Gardner’s true colors — and they are all red. From Mark Matthews:

Though the bill’s final language remains in flux, there is little doubt in Colorado political circles about where Gardner will stand at the end of the day — despite Gardner not taking a public position on the first Senate version when it was released in late June.

“In the end Colorado conservatives know that Cory Gardner is going to vote to repeal Obamacare and when there is a final bill Cory Gardner is going to be there,” said Guy Short, a political consultant and longtime Colorado delegate to the Republican National Convention.

ICYMI, Gardner spoke to a small group of constituents in a phone call on Thursday. Gardner’s answers to several pointed healthcare questions were astonishingly awful.

As for healthcare legislation, Congressional Republicans are back at work this week after the July 4th recess, and there are plenty of signs that Trumpcare is in trouble on Capitol Hill. Arizona Republican Sen. John McCain said over the weekend that the healthcare legislation is “probably going to be dead.”

 

► Don’t miss the newest episode of The Get More Smarter Show, featuring an interview with state Rep. Alec Garnett (D-Denver).

 

Get even more smarter after the jump…

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Get More Smarter on Monday (July 3)

You can still get burned if you wear a hat in the sun. 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…

► Senator Cory Gardner (R-Yuma) is back in Colorado this week not holding town hall meetings as Congress takes its annual July 4th holiday recess. Colorado’s cherubic junior Senator has risen quickly in the political world over the last decade by smiling broadly and throwing bombs at Democrats, but his strategy of climbing the partisan ladder at the expense of his home state has turned even once-loyal supporters like the Denver Post against him.

Late last week, the Post published two separate editorials critical of Gardner’s performance. In the first editorial, which appeared in Saturday’s print edition, the Post wrote that it was “ashamed” of Gardner after his office sought to have protestors with disabilities arrested. On Sunday, the Post then published another strongly-worded editorial calling on Gardner to show some actual leadership in the Senate healthcare discussions:

Here in Colorado, the spectacle has placed Sen. Cory Gardner in a most damning spotlight. It’s time for him to exercise his leadership within the party — Gardner runs the National Republican Senatorial Committee — and join the growing bipartisan rejection of the McConnell effort.

Gardner’s silence on what he’d like to see changed in the bill is deafening in a state where a shockingly high percent of voters support a more liberal approach to health care.

Our first-term Republican senator needs to think long and hard about who he represents and what he stands for.

He needs to spend his break telling constituents how he’d like to fix health care and why he’s the right man for the job in D.C. Because now there is clear reason for doubt. While he’s shown himself too skilled at dodging town hall meetings of constituents of late, Gardner can’t escape the public record. Gardner was one of the select members of a working group meant to inform McConnell’s bill…

Nothing about the path he is on will be easy, but if Gardner wants to prove his mettle as a leader, this is his chance.

He ought to take it. [Pols emphasis]

The entire editorial is worth reading (they both are, frankly).

Elsewhere, Politico points out just how big of a problem Trumpcare has become for Gardner.

 

► Senate Republicans remain perplexed by President Trump’s ever-changing strategy (and we use the word “strategy” very lightly here) regarding GOP efforts to repeal Obamacare. As the Washington Post reports:

When congressional Republicans zig, President Trump zags. When they follow suit and zag, he zigs. Nowhere is this clearer than when it comes to overhauling the Affordable Care Act.

Trump jerked the GOP-led Congress around on a puppet string last week when he abruptly tweeted that the Senate should suspend its uphill climb to pass a health-care bill and instead just vote to repeal the ACA without a replacement already lined up.

But that two-step strategy of first repeal, then replace is precisely what the president had convinced Republican leaders not to do earlier this year. 

“I feel that repeal and replace have to be together, for very simply, I think that the Democrats should want to fix Obamacare,” Trump said in a Jan. 10 interview with the New York Times. “They cannot live with it, and they have to go together.”

At a news conference the next day, Trump promised an Obamacare replacement “simultaneously.” “We will be filing a plan,” the president said. “It will essentially be simultaneously.”

Perhaps Trump meant to say that he would be “simultaneously” promoting competing narratives on healthcare.

 

► One Colorado woman profiled by NBC News shows how the healthcare battle over Medicaid spending is deeply personal:

Kelly Stahlman’s twin sons were born 12 weeks prematurely in 1992, and soon after, both were diagnosed with cerebral palsy and other severe health issues that required around-the-clock care.

After two years of constant care with the help of neighbors, friends and au pairs, Stahlman and her husband, Bruce, found themselves nearly broke — both financially and mentally, she told NBC News.

She says their search for assistance to help with the medical bills yielded nothing and even included advice to seek a divorce and give her twins up to foster care so they could receive adequate help.

Both sons required care that private insurance wouldn’t cover at a cost the middle-class family couldn’t afford as the bills reached hundreds of thousands of dollars per year.

“We weren’t poor enough” to get financial assistance, she said, “not in the right county. No matter where I went or what I did we couldn’t access anything.”

 

Maine and New Jersey have joined Illinois on the list of states facing massive cutbacks because of decimated state budgets. The causes of these state budget woes are too many to list here, but it’s no coincidence that all three states are led by Republican governors.

 

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Get More Smarter on Friday (June 30)

Happy 150th birthday, hosers. 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…

► A group of protestors with disabilities who were staging a sit-in at the Denver office of Sen. Cory Gardner (R-Yuma) chanted on Thursday that they “would rather go to jail than die without Medicaid.” The response from Gardner’s office: Why not both?

As Denver7 reports:

A group of advocates, many of whom who are disabled, were removed and arrested by Denver police after more 48 hours of protest at U.S. Sen. Cory Gardner’s office. The advocates took up residency to demand the Republican senator from Colorado vote against the Senate health care bill…

…a spokesman for the Denver Police Department said the department acted on a signed complaint from a representative from Gardner’s office. A total of ten protesters were arrested and now face a primary charge of trespassing.

The protest at Gardner’s office has become a national story. Hundreds of thousands of people have viewed the Facebook Live video from the arrests:

 

► If you’ve checked your email at all in the past 36 hours, you are probably aware that tonight is a big fundraising deadline. Candidates for state and federal offices have until 11:59 pm to collect donations that will be included on their Q2 finance report. Some candidates may release fundraising numbers for Q2 in the coming days, but full reports will not be available to the public until mid-July.

 

► If you thought that Republicans couldn’t muck up healthcare policy any worse than they have already, we have some bad news for you. As the Washington Post reports:

As health-care legislation continues to stall, President Trump pitched a new idea in a tweet Friday morning, suggesting that the Senate could repeal the Affordable Care Act now and deal with replacing it later.

“If Republican Senators are unable to pass what they are working on now, they should immediately REPEAL, and then REPLACE at a later date!” the president tweeted from his personal account.

Doing so could leave in the lurch more than 20 million Americans who now have private health plans or Medicaid coverage under the ACA and would lose that insurance with no guarantee of any alternative. And the tweet seems to contradict Trump’s earlier promises that he would provide “insurance for everybody” and that he would repeal and replace Obamacare as soon as he took office.

If at first (and second, and third, etc.) you don’t succeed…bring out the dynamite.

 

► Colorado Secretary of State Wayne Williams rolled over quickly after a request to release massive amounts of voter data from President Trump’s so-called “Election Integrity Commission.” As Denver7 reports:

The vice chair of President Donald Trump’s controversial Election Integrity Commission wants the full name, address, date of birth, affiliated political party, last four Social Security number digits and voting history since 2006 of every voter not only in Colorado, but in the entire U.S., and wants that information to be made available to the public…

…the ACLU of Colorado balked at Williams’ adherence to the request, saying it was part of a voter suppression effort by the government.

“President Trump’s baseless claim that millions of illegal voters participated in the 2016 election has been summarily debunked. Yet the federal government is pushing forward on a massive voter suppression effort based on myths and outright lies about voter fraud,” said ACLU of Colorado Public Policy Director Denise Maes. “Colorado’s Secretary of State should not willingly participate in a politically-motivated federal campaign to intimidate voters and suppress the vote.”

The commission Kobach is the vice chair of was created earlier this year after Trump made his false claim that several million people voted illegally in last year’s election.

 

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Get More Smarter on Thursday (June 29)

Which country will Sen. Cory Gardner visit next week so that he doesn’t have to show his face in Colorado? 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…

► If you’re looking for other reasons for why the GOP healthcare bill is in so much trouble, you won’t be lacking for ideas. Greg Sargent of the Washington Post singles out an interesting moment on Capitol Hill when Republican Senators first learned of the devastating CBO score on their proposed legislation…and were curiously surprised that the news was so bleak:

If GOP Senators expected the Senate bill to achieve “greater distance” from the House bill, then they were either not reckoning with the fundamental underlying realities of what GOP health reform is trying to accomplish, or they were hoping for some magical formula to materialize that would obscure those realities from view. Here is the basic math: If you are going to cut Obamacare’s taxes on rich people by hundreds of billions of dollars, you are going to have to roll back an enormous chunk of the law’s massive coverage expansion…

…Yet the Post report indicates that Republican Senators were surprised to learn that the CBO concluded that their bill would indeed carry out this trade-off. And they responded by dividing into two camps — one that would attack the purveyor of dispassionate, empirical analysis that had confirmed this to be the case; and one that thought this was futile, because the argument could not be won [Pols emphasis], once voters back home learned how many people would lose coverage under their bill. But why did they expect any other outcome in the first place?

Colorado Sen. Cory Gardner (R-Yuma) is firmly entrenched in the first camp listed above; Gardner is desperately trying to brush off the CBO score as unimportant.

 

► A separate story in the Washington Post offers a simpler explanation for the GOP’s healthcare woes:

White House officials and Trump loyalists saw a president diving in to patch up strife and save legislation that had been curbed in the Senate. Some seasoned senators, however, saw a president unable to grasp policy details or the obstacles ahead, and talked with each other after the gathering about what they saw as a bizarre scene. That Republican disconnect has been a constant ever since the Senate health bill was unveiled…

…Instead of moving happily toward passage of the party’s rallying cry, Republicans are frozen and unsure of the political cost of passing the Senate bill — especially with swing voters who in many states have come to rely on aspects of Obamacare and its expansion of Medicaid.

As Politico reports, Senate Republican leaders are still trying to salvage their healthcare bill by offering billions of dollars in sweeteners to address the opioid crisis. Critics of such proposals include Ohio Republican Gov. John Kasich, who has said that a few billion dollars for short-term opioid treatment is a “drop in the bucket” compared the the massive financial losses that would be inflicted by decimating Medicaid budgets.

Here in Colorado, Republicans are having plenty of trouble trying to figure out how to explain why the GOP healthcare legislation is not terrible. Congressman Scott Tipton (R-Cortez) either doesn’t understand the healthcare bills — or he is flat-out lying to his constituents — when he says that nobody who qualifies for Medicaid will lose that coverage. Senator Cory Gardner (R-Yuma) keeps peddling nonsense talking points about rising costs under Obamacare — while failing to mention the fact that insurance rates would rise significantly more under the Republican healthcare proposals.

 

► As the New York Times explains, we finally have a bit more clarification on how President Trump’s Muslim travel ban will be implemented:

Stepsiblings and half-siblings are allowed, but not nieces or nephews. Sons- and daughters-in-law are in, but brothers- and sisters-in-law are not. Parents, including in-laws, are considered “close family,” but grandparents are not.

The State Department issued new guidelines Wednesday night to American embassies and consulates on applying a limited travel ban against foreign visitors from six predominantly Muslim countries. Enforcement of the guidelines will begin at 8 p.m. Eastern on Thursday.

 

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Get More Smarter on Wednesday (June 28)

Few things have become as strange as the daily White House press briefing.  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…

► Republicans are scrambling to figure out their next steps after Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell abruptly announced on Tuesday that the Senate healthcare bill (“The Better Care Reconciliation Act”) would not be rushed to a vote before Congress takes its July 4th holiday recess at the end of the week.

As the Washington Post explains, Republicans are having trouble finding a reason to push forward with a terrible healthcare bill:

Amid a revolt against the Senate health-care bill, supporters have seized upon something of a last-ditch argument: Whatever you think of this bill, they say, you owe it to your voters. Republicans have been promising for years to repeal and replace Obamacare, the argument goes, and not passing this bill will mean they will have broken their promise.

There is one big problem with that strategy: The GOP base doesn’t seem to see it that way.

Not only aren’t Republican voters particularly keen on this bill, but polls suggest they wouldn’t even blame their Republican members of Congress for failing to close the deal.

A new poll (Marist/NPR) shows that 55% of Americans disapprove of the Senate healthcare plan, with only 17% in favor of the bill. The polling trend lines have shown consistent downward movement.

As Politico reports, the Senate healthcare bill is not dead…yet…while the editorial board of the New York Times says the GOP’s “healthcare hoax” has been exposed.

 

► Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper has been in Washington D.C. alongside a bipartisan group of Governors in opposition to the Senate healthcare bill. Hickenlooper and Ohio Gov. John Kasich, a Republican, held a news conference on Tuesday that was highly critical of GOP healthcare efforts that would include devastating cuts to Medicaid. Hickenlooper specifically called out Sen. Cory Gardner (R-Yuma) in his remarks.

Senator Michael Bennet (D-Denver) is pushing back against Republican claims that Democrats are refusing to work with the GOP on healthcare legislation. Bennet took to the Senate floor on Tuesday to hammer this point home.

 

► A group of protestors with disabilities have been camping out at the Denver office of Sen. Cory Gardner (R-Yuma) since late Tuesday in an effort to persuade Gardner to oppose the Republican Senate healthcare bill. Gardner has been bullish on the Senate bill despite Monday’s awful score from the Congressional Budget Office (CBO), which estimated the legislation would cut health coverage for at least 22 million Americans.

 

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Hickenlooper, Kasich Jab Senate Republicans on Healthcare

UPDATE: Via the New York Times–apparently you’re not the only one who can’t get ahold of Cory Gardner:

This can’t go on forever. It can’t, can it?

—–

Gov. John Hickenlooper and Gov. John Kasich today in D.C. (Mark Wilson/Getty Images)

While Colorado Sen. Cory Gardner (R-Yuma) tries to ignore the CBO score of the Republican Senate healthcare bill, Gov. John Hickenlooper (D-Colo.) is in Washington D.C. with Gov. John Kasich (R-Ohio) to voice strong bipartisan disagreement with Trumpcare. From CBS News:

Democrat Hickenlooper applauded Kasich’s “courage” to stand up to Republicans, saying the health care debate “isn’t a political discussion, it’s a moral issue.”

“The fact that the Senate is going to do a bill in secret in a short period of time and try to sell the notion that this is an improvement of health care is a bad joke,” said Hickenlooper.

The governor said in his state alone, 188,000 people, more than half in rural areas, would see negative impacts by the bill, many losing coverage as a result.

“Governor Kasich and I won’t agree on everything, but agree we’ve got to control the rise in health care costs on all levels,” said Hickenlooper.

Hickenlooper echoed Kasich’s suggestions for bipartisan action on a new version of the bill, which he recommended would take 6-8 months to complete.

Kasich also dismissed the idea that the Senate bill could be more appealing if billions of dollars were included for specific opioid treatment programs. Kasich said on Tuesday that a “few billion” dollars for opioid addiction treatment in Ohio would be like “spitting in the ocean,” given the bill’s deep cuts to Medicaid.

Get More Smarter on Monday (June 26)

If you’re looking to hire some interns for the summer, please don’t do this. 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…

► Today is another big day in the healthcare policy debate. The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) is expected to announce the results of its examination of the Republican Senate healthcare bill, also known as “The Better Care Reconciliation Act.” The Washington Post offers a good primer on what to look for in the CBO announcement.

The CBO score is expected to show, once again, that Republicans are dealing with a math problem — and not a messaging problem — when it comes to healthcare discussions. The looming report is one of many reasons why many Senate Republicans think the healthcare bill won’t be able to advance much further before next week’s July 4th recess.

 

► Colorado Sen. Cory Gardner (R-Yuma) spent the weekend at a conservative retreat in Colorado Springs hosted by the infamous Koch Brothers. The big message out of the weekend discussions at the Broadmoor Resort and Hotel centered around concerns from major right-wing donors that the Senate healthcare legislation doesn’t kill enough Americans isn’t more aggressive about eradicating Medicaid. Predictably, Gardner did not find time to talk to a reporter from the Denver Post about the Senate healthcare bill.

 

President Trump’s Muslim travel ban earned its first non-loss from the Judicial Branch. As the New York Times explains:

The Supreme Court announced on Monday that it would decide whether President Trump’s revised travel ban was lawful, setting the stage for a major decision on the scope of presidential power.

Mr. Trump’s revised executive order, issued in March, limited travel from six mostly Muslim countries for 90 days and suspended the nation’s refugee program for 120 days. The time was needed, the order said, to address gaps in the government’s screening and vetting procedures.

Two federal appeals courts have blocked critical parts of the order.

The administration had asked that the lower court ruling be stayed while the case moved forward. The court granted part of that request in its unsigned opinion.

This is indeed as confusing as it soundsPresident Trump, meanwhile, is declaring victory.

 

► Elsewhere in Supreme Court news, the case of a Colorado baker who refused to make a cake for a gay wedding will finally be heard this fall. From the Denver Post:

The U.S. Supreme Court said Monday that it would review the case of a Colorado baker who refused to make a wedding cake for a gay couple because of his beliefs — a legal fight with high stakes for both religious activists and civil-rights advocates.

For months, the high court has vacillated on whether it would hear the appeal of Jack Phillips, the owner of Masterpiece Cakeshop in Lakewood, whose refusal of service to Charlie Craig and David Mullins was rejected by the Colorado Court of Appeals and the state’s Civil Rights Commission.

There’s been one significant change to the Supreme Court, however, since the case first landed on its steps — the addition of Justice Neil Gorsuch, a native Coloradan who became its ninth member this spring after his nomination by President Donald Trump.

Gorsuch!

 

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Get More Smarter on Friday (June 23)

Trumpcare and Russia: That’s pretty much the extent of the news today, but here are a few more headlines worth following. 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…

► Senate Republicans on Thursday released their plan to kill as many Americans as possible make massive changes to healthcare in this country. Vox.com breaks down the Senate Trumpcare bill — officially called “The Better Care Reconciliation Act” — into a handful of “winners” (rich people) and “losers” (pretty much everyone else). As Sarah Kliff explains in a separate story for Vox.com, the Republicans’ primary argument for supporting its healthcare efforts is a complete sham:

Republican lawmakers consistently claim that the Obamacare marketplaces are collapsing, so they need to pass a bill to repeal and replace the health law…

…The marketplaces, though, have refused to cooperate. They are not working perfectly — but they are far from ruinous demise, experts say. But the Republican replacement plan, introduced Thursday, could change that. It contains several provisions that could accelerate the crumbling of the marketplaces and leave millions of Americans with no health care options.

“Honestly, the marketplaces are in okay shape,” says David Anderson, a research associate at Duke University who studies the individual market. “The amount of competition isn’t where some people would like it to be, but this isn’t collapse.”

Republicans such as Colorado Sen. Cory Gardner (R-Yuma) are all over the place on their talking points; Gardner, for example, was part of the Senate working group on the healthcare legislation, yet he insists that he never saw any of the bill’s proposed language until it was released to the public. And then there’s this nonsense from Trump adviser Kellyanne Conway.

 

► Jennifer Rubin, the conservative columnist for the Washington Post, doesn’t understand what Republicans are doing with Trumpcare:

Instead of getting run over by the right wing of their party, as their House counterparts did, Senate moderates have the chance to strike out on their own and come up with reforms that bolster the exchanges and that improve Medicaid. They can test Democrats’ promise to work constructively across the aisle. Conservatives, meanwhile, should understand that the bill is nothing more than a repudiation of their seven-year fight to repeal the ACA. They will leave a legacy that amounts to: Obamacare, but worse!

 

President Trump announced on Thursday that there are no tapes of his conversations with former FBI Director Jim Comey. Trump Tweeted the news a full 41 days after he first floated the idea on Twitter that such tapes might exist.

The Washington Post does a deep dive into how the Obama administration handled (or failed to handle) information that Russia was trying to influence the 2016 election. Regardless of how Obama handled the information, it is indisputable that Russia’s meddling was intended to help Trump win the Presidential election.

 

► Vice President Mike Pence is in Colorado Springs today to speak at a “Focus on the Family” anniversary event. Not everyone is happy to see the VP.

 

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Hickenlooper Signs Civil Asset Forfeiture Reform Bill

Gov. John Hickenlooper.

As the Denver Post’s Jesse Paul reports, a big win for the ACLU of Colorado as Gov. John Hickenlooper signs legislation to reform the controversial civil asset forfeiture process in Colorado:

Gov. John Hickenlooper on Friday will sign into law a controversial bill seeking to change how officers and sheriff’s deputies seize money and property, against the urging of the Colorado law enforcement community and local government groups who say it could hamper crime fighting efforts.

The Democrat’s decision came within about an hour of his deadline to sign or veto measures passed during the legislative session. It was announced by the state Senate GOP and state Senate Democrats…

Those supporting the legislation, from the ACLU of Colorado to ProgressNow, say it provides greater due-process protections to Coloradans and would add accountability to the controversial practice.

State Rep. Leslie Herod, D-Denver, and state Sens. Tim Neville, R-Littleton, and Daniel Kagan, D-Cherry Hills Village, were the bill’s prime backers in the legislature.

The bill’s prime Democratic sponsor Rep. Leslie Herod Tweeted this clip from the signing ceremony in celebration:

House Bill 17-1313 passed the General Assembly with strong bipartisan support, but Hickenlooper immediately came under intense pressure to veto the bill from the Colorado Chiefs of Police and other pro-law enforcement interests. Some comments from Hickenlooper as he deliberated signing seems to indicate he might veto the bill, but today its bipartisan proponents are celebrating together–a special event indeed between opposites like Republican Sen. Tim Neville and Democratic Senate Minority Leader Lucia Guzman.

Today is one of those rare Fridays in Colorado politics where almost everyone goes home happy. Enjoy.

Get More Smarter on Friday (June 9)

The President is not a liar.” Welcome to the history books, Sarah Huckabee Sanders. 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…

► Donald Trump’s Twitter account, which may or may not be making autonomous decisions about the fate of the free world, finally responded to FBI Director James Comey’s testimony in front of the Senate Intelligence Committee. As the Washington Post explains:

President Trump broke his public silence Friday morning on former FBI director James B. Comey’s testimony to Congress in the Russia probe, accusing him in a tweet of lying under oath and calling him a “leaker.”

A day after he had allowed surrogates to respond for him, Trump took to Twitter to attack Comey directly, writing: “Despite so many false statements and lies, total and complete vindication … and WOW, Comey is a leaker!”

Trump’s statement came as surrogates fanned out to defend the president and his personal lawyer was preparing to file a “complaint” early next week over Comey’s testimony to the Department of Justice’s Inspector General’s Office and the Senate Judiciary Committee, according to a person close to the legal team.

A spokesman for the Justice Department Inspector General declined to comment on the matter, which was first reported by Fox News and CNN.

Trump’s personal lawyer is preparing to file a “complaint,” eh? Nothing screams innocence like a strongly-worded letter. There will be exclamation points!!!

And what about other high-profile Republicans? Incredibly, they appear to be sticking by Trump’s side.

 

► President Trump will take a few questions from reporters today — theoretically, anyway — when he holds a joint press conference with Romanian President Klaus Iohanni at the White House. Chris Cillizza of CNN has a list of eight questions he’d love to ask Trump. One of the biggest questions on that list is whether or not there are audiotapes of Trump’s Oval Office discussion with Comey. The former FBI Director certainly hopes they exist.

 

► Colorado politicos reacted to the Comey hearings along largely partisan lines, though Senators Michael Bennet (D-Denver) and Cory Gardner (R-Yuma) agreed on the need for further investigations into Trump’s Russian ties. The three Colorado Democrats running for Attorney General also weighed in on the story.

Elsewhere, the Colorado Independent takes a look at how Colorado media outlets reported on Comey’s testimony.

 

► Voters in the United Kingdom dealt a serious blow to Prime Minister Theresa May and her Conservative Party on Thursday. May’s decision last month to call a snap election backfired bigly, as The Guardian explains:

Jeremy Corbyn said the face of British politics had changed and called on Theresa May to resign after her snap general election left Britain with a hung parliament 11 days before Brexit talks begin.

Speaking as he was returned as MP for Islington North, the Labour leader declared: “Politics has changed. Politics isn’t going back into the box where it was before. What’s happened is people have said they’ve had quite enough of austerity politics.”

Corbyn said May had called the election to assert her authority. “She wanted a mandate. Well, the mandate she’s got is lost Conservative seats, lost votes, lost support and lost confidence. I would have thought that is enough for her to go.”

The Conservative leader appeared crushed as she accepted her victory in the constituency of Maidenhead with a shaky speech in which she repeated her resolve to provide the stability the country needed before Brexit talks.

Heavy losses by Conservative candidates left May without a true majority in Parliament, forcing the Conservative leader into a coalition with the Democratic Unionist Party to maintain her tenuous hold on the top job in England. The New York Times has more coverage on the U.K. election results and what it means for the United States.

 

Get even more smarter after the jump…

Good News! Week of June 3-June 10

(Get More…Gooder! – promoted by Colorado Pols)

This diary, which I hope to publish every Friday, will be all about small victories in the big battles: People doing the right thing for the right reasons. Stories of bravery, generosity, caring, and integrity. Where possible, I’ve connected this to Colorado politics and stories.

This is a selfish project for me – I need to see those small victories and uplifting stories just to keep going as an activist. Without them, it’s too easy to be overwhelmed by the flood of bad news and attacks on democracy and civil rights, and simply stop trying to keep politicians accountable.

There are many “good news” items I haven’t covered; more possible categories for good news are: Race, discrimination, justice, bizarre news, animals, marches, town halls, community organizing, “the resistance”. Where another organization such as ProgressNow Colorado reports on “How to fight back this week”, I’m not going to duplicate coverage. As always, add your own “good news” stories and commentary.

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