Cory Gardner’s Out of This World Constituent Outreach!

With a recess underway and thousands of Coloradans looking to ask their GOP Sen. Cory Gardner questions about what’s going on in Washington, D.C. under President Donald Trump, Gardner is doing his best to look like a politico engaged in outreach to his constituents–without actually, you know, doing so:

“Meeting with Coloradans” in Gardner’s case appears to mean either staged and access-managed events, like today’s panel at the Governor’s Forum of Colorado Agriculture (admission $200), or impromptu drop-ins at random locations that occur too fast for the word to get out that he’s even there–thus preventing ordinary constituents who have been trying to speak with him for weeks from being able to do so.

During today’s ag event at the Raddison Hotel Stapleton, FOX 31’s Joe St. George caught up with Gardner, and tried to ask him repeatedly why he’s not holding any public events during the congressional recess:

Folks, how many times did Gardner dodge the question about in-person town halls? We counted five times in under two minutes. Even by Gardner’s slippery standards, that could be a new record. Nothing about that made Gardner look good.

But Gardner did count among his “outreach” visits today a stop at the Colorado Space Coalition! Word is he was finally cornered by a “constituent” there, who had traveled to see him all the way from under Denver International Airport.

We joke. But to actual Colorado voters who just want to talk to their Senator, it’s probably not very funny.

Deep Jeffco Bench Ready For Perlmutter’s Next Move

Rep. Ed Perlmutter (D-Jefferson County)

Ernest Luning at the Colorado Statesman reports on the next generation of Colorado Democrats in Jefferson County, waiting to move up in the event Rep. Ed Perlmutter makes the decision to run for Governor in 2018:

Two Lakewood Democrats say they’re likely to run next year for the 7th Congressional District seat represented by U.S. Rep. Ed Perlmutter if the six-term incumbent Democrat jumps in the race for governor.

State Rep. Brittany Pettersen told The Colorado Statesman this week that she will run for the suburban congressional seat if Perlmutter seeks the gubernatorial nomination in 2018, and state Sen. Andy Kerr told The Statesman he’s “very seriously looking at it.”

The two legislators share many of the same constituents — Kerr held Pettersen’s House District 28 seat for three terms before winning an open seat in the upper chamber in 2012 — and both say their ability to win in their own swing districts means they’d be contenders for Perlmutter’s suburban swing seat.

Although Rep. Perlmutter’s seat is on-paper competitive, his strong leadership and deep ties to his Jefferson County constituents have made CD-7 completely unwinnable for the GOP since defeating Rick O’Donnell for Bob Beauprez’s open seat in 2006. The last real attempt at the seat was in 2012, when the late Joe Coors lost to Perlmutter 53-41%. Since then Perlmutter has faced only B-List opposition.

With that said, we do expect that Perlmutter giving up the CD-7 seat to run for Governor would embolden Republicans to make another attempt. Either Sen. Andy Kerr or Rep. Brittany Pettersen would make for excellent general election candidates against any Republican we could think of who might run–especially in potential matchups against Tim Neville, Lang SiasLibby Szabo, and other early names that have been floated.

With the biggest variable everyone is waiting on being Rep. Perlmutter’s next move, we don’t expect to see any major updates in this race until he makes his decision–a decision that reportedly depends on whether former Sen. Ken Salazar decides to run for Governor. But if Perlmutter does jump, there is a deep bench in Jefferson County waiting to fill resulting vacancies all the way down the ticket.

Get More Smarter on Wednesday (February 22)

If George Washington were still alive today, perhaps he would celebrate his birthday in a fashion that befits “National Margarita Day.” Now, let’s see if we can’t 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…

► Colorado’s ongoing budget problems and the need for TABOR reform has not gone unnoticed by Republican lawmakers. Unfortunately, GOP leaders at the State Capitol — including Senate President Kevin Grantham — are not at all interested in doing anything about the problem.

 

► Is anybody home at the State Department? As CNN reports, foreign policy experts are concerned about the radio silence from Secretary of State Rex Tillerson:

Secretary of State Rex Tillerson made his debut on the international stage over two days in Europe last week — and said less than 50 words in response to press questions, according to pool accounts. On Wednesday, he departs for Mexico — a trip Americans first learned of from the Mexican press…

…That silence may reflect ongoing upheaval in the Trump White House, administration power struggles, Tillerson’s personal inclinations or the growing pains of a former ExxonMobil CEO adjusting to running a governmental organization. Regardless of the reason, diplomats, analysts and current and former State Department officials say there are risks if the dead air continues.

A voiceless State Department, they say, allows other countries to set the narrative about US policy and events, unsettling allies and potentially shortchanging US businesses, citizens and interests overseas.

 

► A 9News “Truth Test” uncovers something you probably won’t be surprised to learn: Rep. Mike Coffman (R-Aurora) does not have anything resembling a plan for the repeal and/or replacement of Obamacare, despite what you may have heard from some paid media ads running in the Denver area. More paid media could be in the works as well, as the Washington Post reports:

The American Action Network, founded by veteran GOP fundraisers to support the speaker’s agenda, will spend $2.2 million on TV and digital buys over the next two weeks to promote GOP efforts related to overhauling the law across two dozen media markets. That’s in addition to $5.2 million already spent on Obamacare-related advertising since the start of the year…

…Politically, lawmakers are trying to soothe fears among voters that they are going to scrap the law without a clear roadmap for what comes next. While some of the opposition efforts at town hall meetings are being organized by progressive outside groups, there is also organic anxiousness. Our reporters who have fanned out across the country report back that many people they’re interviewing have never before attended these sorts of meetings.

Meanwhile, a new poll shows that SUPPORT for Obamacare continues to rise in the United States.

 

Get even more smarter after the jump… (more…)

GOP Lawmakers Say Reform TABOR! GOP Leaders Say, “Meh”

Colorado Senate President Snidely Whiplash Kevin Grantham.

Peter Marcus of the Colorado Springs Gazette reports on the ongoing effort by a pair of Republican lawmakers, Rep. Dan Thurlow of Grand Junction and Sen. Larry Crowder of Alamosa, to enact a change to the 1992 Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights that would allow the state to keep more revenue when economic times are good–by changing TABOR’s revenue cap growth index from the rate of inflation plus population to the growth of personal incomes in the state.

Senate Republican leadership on Tuesday described an effort to reform TABOR as “interesting,” though leaders say it is not representative of the majority of the caucus’ priorities.

Senate President Kevin Grantham of Cañon City responded when asked about the proposal, which has sponsorship from two Republican lawmakers, Rep. Dan Thurlow of Grand Junction and Sen. Larry Crowder of Alamosa.

The lawmakers are proposing that the state’s spending cap under TABOR — the Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights in the state constitution — be tied to personal income rather than the current formula: inflation plus population change. The idea is that government would be allowed to grow when economic times are good…

Crowder and Thurlow have both ran afoul of conservative advocacy groups at the state capitol over stands that deviated from the hard party line. Crowder in particular angered well-funded conservative group Americans for Prosperity with his DOA proposal last year to exempt the state’s hospital provider fee from TABOR’s revenue limit, one of the biggest public breaks for a Republican from the pro-TABOR orthodoxy since 2005’s Referendum C backed by then-Gov. Bill Owens. Like in 2005, what we’re seeing today is TABOR forcing an arbitrary limit on revenue the state can keep–creating the bizarre conundrum of meager tax refund checks going out to citizens while basic functions of government face heavy budget cuts.

So it’s great to see this effort from two Republican lawmakers to make a small but sensible change to TABOR: one that preserves the law’s stated objectives, while not imposing a limit to revenue growth that deprives the state of the ability to carry out essential functions to serve our growing population. But unfortunately, Thurlow’s and Crowder’s good intentions are hitting a wall with the GOP leadership in the Colorado Senate:

“It’s an interesting concept,” [Senate President Kevin] Grantham said. “We have to look at what’s the end result of what this bill will do. The end result will be more money out of taxpayer’s pockets. They like to call that state revenue. When I hear that, I hear money out of taxpayer’s pockets.” [Pols emphasis]

And with that, any chance of an adult discussion of this Republican-authored proposal to help the state to carry out its basic responsibilities…evaporates.

Better luck in 2019, we guess.

Truth Test: Mike Coffman’s Mythical ACA “Replacement”

We wrote last Friday about Rep. Mike Coffman’s so-called “listening tour,” underway this week to gain insight on the effects of the Affordable Care Act in Colorado ahead of upcoming votes to repeal President Barack Obama’s signature health reform law. Coffman’s “listening tour” stood in contrast, among many other contradictions, to an ad campaign running in Colorado right now praising Coffman for a plan to repeal and replace Obamacare that they claim he already has.

Obviously, only one of these can be true!

9NEWS’ Brandon Rittiman took a critical look at this pro-Coffman ad campaign last night in a Truth Test:

CLAIM: Our healthcare system isn’t working. Mike Coffman has a plan to fix it.
VERDICT: Overstatement

Mike Coffman doesn’t have a plan to replace Obamacare, but his staff points out he “does have some very specific principles that he expects to see included in the plan to replace the Affordable Care Act.”

That is not the kind of thing you’d write if the plan was actually done…

Coffman’s office told us he wants to keep the changes Obamacare made for pre-existing conditions, the ability for parents to keep children on their plans until age 26, and maintaining coverage for people who gained it under the ACA—including the Medicaid expansion, which has been criticized by some of Coffman’s fellow Republicans.

In any case, we’ve seen some G-O-P proposals to replace Obamacare, but since they haven’t settled on one we can’t really fact check those promises yet.

Rittiman goes on to debunk most of the horror story bullet points in the ad, or at least give them some context. There’s no attempt to bridge the enormous gap between what Coffman says he wants preserved from the ACA and any GOP replacement plan that’s been publicized. In the end, the spot is fundamentally deceptive to the point of quite honestly being a waste of everyone’s time:

And that gets us to the bottom line: this ad is glossing over the fact Republicans have yet to unite behind a plan on healthcare in an effort to make you think it’s going to be awesome, no matter what plan they end up with.

Because it’s…wait for it…not “Obamacare!”

As long as you pesky reporters don’t ask any more questions, this should all work out fine.

Get More Smarter on Tuesday (February 21)

You have only one shopping day left until George Washington’s birthday. Now, let’s see if we can’t 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…

► Congress is taking a break for its annual President’s Day Recess, but that doesn’t necessarily mean elected officials such as Sen. Cory Gardner (R-Yuma) are likely to make themselves available to constituents. As the Fort Collins Coloradoan reports, local residents are so incensed with Gardner’s inaccessibility that they are planning their own town hall meeting as protest. The Denver Post has more on Friday’s town hall meeting (sans Gardner):

Organizers invited U.S. Sen. Cory Gardner, who declined, but Farnan said it’s important to hold it anyway so that residents can share their ideas and demonstrate that town halls still matter.

“You should be standing in front of your constituents and hear what they have to say as long as it’s civil and respectful,” Farnan said.

Aides to Gardner said the Republican senator has meetings this week with the Colorado Space Coalition, the National Association of Manufacturers and the Colorado Health Care Association — to name a few — but no public forums. [Pols emphasis]

But they defended his outreach efforts and noted his past use of telephone town halls, a tool that has become an increasingly popular substitute on Capitol Hill.

You may not have any real access to your own U.S. Senator, but if you’re lucky, you might get invited to listen to him talk on the telephone! That’s pretty much the same, right?

Unfortunately for Sen. Gardner, this routine is wearing thin across the state. In the meantime, Colorado residents show no sign of letting up on demonstrations and protests.

 

► Before leaving Washington D.C. last week, House Republicans released a vague outline of a proposal about what to do with Obamacare if they end up repealing the health care law. On Monday, former South Carolina governor and current Rep. Mark Sanford admitted in a television interview that he could not guarantee that the Republican health care plan would allow all Americans to keep their current health insurance coverage.

As The Hill explains, Republicans may have a hard time convincing constituents that this vague new plan is even half-baked.

 

► We all know that campaign finance loopholes are big enough to accommodate whatever metaphor you prefer, but some paid campaigns are so brazenly sketchy that it’s hard to believe they could exist. For example, this barrage of advertisements promoting Walker Stapleton’s campaign for Governor apparent interest in term limits. The intent is so obvious that even Republican-aligned groups like Compass Colorado can’t help but applaud the name recognition boost for Stapleton.

 

Get even more smarter after the jump… (more…)

CPAC Conference? Call It The Beau-PAC Conference!

Bob Beauprez (right).

With the upcoming 2017 Conservative Political Action Conference in Washington making headlines after disinviting their keynote speaker Milo Yiannopoulos, those of us with Google alerts tracking two-time Colorado gubernatorial loser Bob Beauprez are getting fresh updates. As Politico reported yesterday on the controversy:

Milo Yiannopoulos lost his keynote speaking slot at the Conservative Political Action Conference after tapes surfaced of the right wing provocateur and senior Breitbart editor advocating for sexual relationships between “younger boys and older men.”

“Due to the revelation of an offensive video in the past 24 hours condoning pedophilia, the American Conservative Union has decided to rescind the invitation,” said Matt Schlapp, chairman of the group which sponsors CPAC, in a statement Monday afternoon. The group called Yiannopoulos to “further address these disturbing comments,” but defended its original decision to invite him as a nod to “the free speech issue on college campuses.”

…President Donald Trump, along with Vice President Mike Pence, Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker and Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, will be headlining this year’s event, along with top White House aides Steve Bannon and Reince Priebus. But the Milo controversy quickly threatened to taint the event and raised questions about what it would mean if other speakers still attended.

CPAC organizers had a conference call at 1 p.m. on Monday to discuss the controversy and how to address it, according to a GOP source familiar with the matter. The decision to disinvite Yiannopoulos was unanimous and did not even need to be deliberated, the person said. Among those on the call were ACU board members Amy Frederick, Bob Beauprez, Mike Rose, Matt Smith, Matt Schlapp and Becky Norton Dunlop, along with Vice Chair of the ACU Foundation Millie Hallow. [Pols emphasis]

To have been a fly on the wall for that conference call! There hasn’t been much coverage of the Yiannopoulos meltdown in local press, which is odd since he just toured through Colorado on a college speaking tour that generated plenty of earned media. But it seems to us that somebody should pick up the phone and ask American Conservative Union board member Beauprez what led to their unanimous decision to ban this guy.

And if you happen to be headed to CPAC this weekend, you can catch Beauprez as the moderator of this truly fascinating panel discussion on Saturday morning:

We can’t explain the ID of Beauprez as the representative of Colorado’s 10th congressional district, since Colorado only has seven congressional districts. Perhaps it’s an acknowledgement of how long Beauprez has been out of office? We digress. Anyway, we are of course very interested in hearing what Beauprez and Rep. Ken Buck have to say about border security.

In…Heaven. Aren’t you at least a bit curious?

Radio host should call crazy on Coffman’s comparison of Petraeus to Clinton

(Promoted by Colorado Pols)

Rep. Mike Coffman (R).

Last week, the Trump Administration decided against offering the job of national security adviser to former CIA director David Petraeus, after the retired four-star general indicated he wanted to have authority over personnel.

Patraeus was Rep. Mike Coffman’s (R-Aurora) favored candidate for Trump’s national security adviser–despite Patraeus’ resignation from the CIA as the FBI was gathering evidence that Patraeus leaked classified documents to his biographer with whom he was having an affair.

“I’ve worked with general Patraeus,” Coffman told KNUS host Krista Kafer Feb. 14. “I know he had a misstep, obviously, in terms of working with classified information. Much less than what Hillary Clinton did [laughs]. And he was certainly disciplined for it. But I think he’s well-trusted here on Capitol Hill, and I think by the American people as well. I think he would do a great job as the national security adviser to the president.”

(Listen here at 5 min 20 seconds.)

Kafer should have pointed out that unlike Clinton, Patraeus faced felony charges for his leaks, eventually agreeing to a plea-deal conviction.

FBI Director James Comey, who’s no friend of Hillary Clinton, and other experts have stated that Patraeus’ actions shouldn’t be compared to Clinton’s use of a private email server. She faced no charges, much less a conviction. And she didn’t hide documents in the attic. CNN reported on Comey’s testimony on this topic in July:

Comey pointed out that Petraeus not only shared the classified information, but also hid the documents in his attic and then lied to investigators.

“So you have obstruction of justice, you have intentional misconduct and a vast quantity of information,” Comey said. “He admitted he knew that was the wrong thing to do. That is a perfect illustration of the kind of cases that get prosecuted.”

He added: “In my mind, it illustrates importantly the distinction to this case.”

Kafer should have called crazy on Coffman’s comparison of Patraeus to Hillary Clinton.

Walker Stapleton Rides The Term Limits Pony: Please Clap!

TUESDAY UPDATE: GOP-aligned advocacy group Compass Colorado spills the beans in an email update today:

Our Colorado State Treasurer, Walker Stapleton, is now the voice behind a new ad campaign promoting term limits. The ads will run across the state. Considering that Treasurer Stapleton is a likely gubernatorial candidate, the campaign will help boost his name ID across the state. [Pols emphasis]

Which is the whole point of course, but you’re not supposed to say so.

—–

Regular readers are no doubt aware of the ad that’s been planted at the top of our site more or less continuously for a number of days now, advertising a rally on March 9th at the state capitol for usual-suspect conservative message group U.S. Term Limits:

About a week into the ad campaign promoting this “grassroots” rally, the art switched to a new theme: join Colorado Treasurer Walker Stapleton at the term limits rally, which is still paid for by U.S. Term Limits:

So, for starters, we can dispense with the notion that U.S. Term Limits exists to propose any kind of workable limit on the terms of members of Congress. Such a major change to the legislative branch would require a constitutional amendment, either through ratification by two-thirds of the states or by a “convention of states”–the latter being the official position of U.S. Term Limits, though it has never actually been used in American history. USTL claims further that their convention would be restricted to their pet cause, but there’s no legal way they could actually guarantee that.

Meaning the whole exercise is silliness, based on the one overriding fact that term limits poll well with (no nice way to say this) low-information voters. In states like Colorado where we have term limits in our own General Assembly, the effects of the policy are overwhelmingly negative–creating a climate in which lobbyists and political pressure groups have more experience running the government than lawmakers themselves.

Some of our longtime readers will remember a previous ad campaign from U.S. Term Limits, a large buy in support of U.S. Senate candidate Bob Schaffer in 2008. Their “Thanks, Bob” ad (which said nothing about term limits) was parodied and laughed at generally in a race Schaffer went on to badly lose, as well as provoking an FEC complaint. But it was a good lesson in the true purpose of the organization–which is to support favored Republican candidates of Howard Rich, a New York real estate developer and member of the board of the much larger right-wing advocacy group the Club for Growth.

With protests related to government…you know, stuff (better for Walker Stapleton to keep that as vague as possible) raging throughout the land, we can understand why this “grasstops” organization run by and for well-heeled Republicans is trying to insert itself in the action. Once the organization’s true motives are unpacked, though, it’s pretty easy to understand that this is a cynical campaign vehicle–funded by a New York billionaire to support George and Jeb Bush’s cousin’s political ambitions.

And that could dry up the grassroots enthusiasm.

Another Busy Saturday of Protest in Downtown Denver

Two back-to-back well-attended protest events in Denver yesterday to note for the record–the first was in the morning, starting outside Denver Pavilions with a “flashmob” dance then marching to Civic Center Park. One Billion Rising explained their event’s goals:

Our focus in Denver this year is honoring and standing with our indigenous sisters, especially our sister Red Fawn Fallis, who is currently a political prisoner in North Dakota. Red Fawn is a human rights advocate, organizer and a community leader within the Oglala Lakota Sioux. She grew up in Colorado and was raised in traditional Lakota ways, grounded with love and a deep connection to the earth and all living things. Her mother Troylynn Yellow Wood, taught her the importance of fighting for social and environmental justice.

After the One Billion Rising Event, the PA system in Civic Center Park was handed over to the Defend Our Constitution March, more directly focused on President Donald Trump and his historically unsteady first few weeks in office. After rallying in the park, as FOX 31 reports, protesters marched to the First Unitarian Church a few blocks away to show support for Jeanette Vizguerra, an undocumented immigrant who has sought sanctuary there:

Protesters marched from Civic Center Park to First Unitarian Church to show their support for a woman who sought sanctuary inside the church to avoid being deported.

Several hundred people gathered for the rally. Organizer Queen Phoenix said the march was all-inclusive with protesters rallying for everything from immigrants’ rights to the constitution.

“There are so many different venues that are hurting us and offending so many different groups of people,” said Phoenix…

Vizguerra addressed the crowd outside the church on Saturday. She said the image of all the people standing on the front steps of the church will stay in her memory forever.

“It’s very emotional, see very much people coming, and express your support, your love, it’s very emotional,” said Vizaguerra.

If you missed out on the action yesterday, don’t worry–tomorrow is President’s Day, and the “NOT My President’s Day” rally tomorrow at 5:00PM at the Colorado State Capitol is forecast to be a pretty big deal.

Then Tuesday, the weekly protest outside Sen. Cory Gardner’s offices resumes. And Congress is in recess, giving local citizens (in theory, anyway) more chances to make their voices heard. Not to mention a whole new week of news from Washington to create new motivations to protest. After weeks of unrelenting action since President Trump took office, amounting to the greatest season of protest in modern American history, one thing we’re increasingly sure of is this is not a fad.

Until Trump stops frightening America out of our usual complacence, it’s the new normal.

Gardner has had “number of great conversations” with Trump

(Promoted by Colorado Pols)

Asked by a conservative radio host this morning to “characterize his current relationship with President Trump and his team” and whether Gardner was a “persona non grata,” U.S. Sen. Cory Gardner (R-CO) said:

Gardner: “Oh, I’ve had a number of great conversations with the President. The opportunities to work together are real. He is very, very clear that he wants us to be successful in Colorado and that we have the chance to do things that will make our state a better, stronger place.”

Gardner’s warm comments about Trump come as the President is battling journalists and after weeks of protests in Colorado against both Trump’s actions and against Gardner himself for backing Trump and voting with him 100 percent of the time.

Told by KNUS 710-AM host Craig Silverman that citizens are “clamoring for a town-hall meeting” and protesting, Gardner did not indicate he’ll hold town hall meetings, as requested by citizens who’ve jammed Gardner’s phone lines since Trump took office.

“We’ll continue to reach out across Colorado through meetings and offers to have appointments throughout the eight offices we have in the state–and also making sure we’re reaching out via tele-town halls,” said Gardner, adding that it is “great that people are interested.”

“Tele-town halls provide us with a great way to reach thousands of Coloradans at one time instead of just five or 10 at one time,” said Gardner.

Republicans across the country are turning to tele-town halls, instead of actual town hall meetings, where they’ve been greeted by large numbers of citizens upset about Obamacare, cabinet selections, Planned Parenthood cuts, and more. Images of large crowds and defensive lawmakers have viralized across social media.

Gardner has apparently been irked by some of the protests he’s faced, labeling callers and protesters as hailing from California and New York and as being “paid,” with some hired via CraigsList or tricked into calling via computers and surveys.

Asked if Gardner has the kind of relationship with the President that allows Garder to “kid around with Trump,” Gardner told Silverman, “Oh, absolutely.”

“I think it was on television even, on Tuesday, before the inauguration, the president introduced me to a crowd and talked about being able to work together for the common good of Colorado,” said Gardner on air. “And that’s something we will continue to do.”

“Overall, we have got to make sure that we to come together as a country the way [Trump] talked about on i guess it was Wednesday, November 9, after the Election,” Gardner said.

“You always leave me in a good mood,” Silverman told Gardner at the end of the interview, asking that the Republican to remember him to his family.