Gardner Doesn’t Play “Shutdown Politics?” Is That a Joke?

Sen. Cory Gardner (R).

USA TODAY’s Herb Jackson points out something really, really obvious that we haven’t seen noted anywhere else as Sen. Cory Gardner presents himself as a peacemaker in the high-stakes battle over a short-term continuing resolution to prevent a shutdown of the federal government as early as tonight:

Sen. Cory Gardner could not have been clearer when asked during a sit-down with reporters Thursday which party would be to blame if there’s a government shutdown.

“I don’t want to play shutdown politics,” Gardner, R-Colo, said during a discussion of immigration reform with fellow Coloradan, Democratic Sen. Michael Bennet.

“I think it’s a bad idea, a pox on both parties,” Gardner continued. “And the American people, I think, will blame Washington. I don’t think they’re going to be able to say, ‘Hey, this is a Republican or a Democrat,’ I think they’re going to look at it and say, ‘You bozos can’t do your work.’”

As has become a familiar refrain, Sen. Gardner has received lots of love from the local news media this week as his partnership with Democratic Sen. Michael Bennet on both children’s health care and undocumented residents not responsible for their childhood immigration stood in stark contrast to President Donald Trump’s vulgar and racist headline-making. That’s good politics for Sen. Gardner, who has seen his public approval in Colorado badly erode under Trump’s first year.

But as Jackson continues, Cory Gardner is who he is–chairman of the National Republican Senatorial Committee (NRSC):

But that message must not have reached the National Republican Senatorial Committee, the party’s political operation that Gardner chairs.

And a quick look at the NRSC’s Twitter feed reveals a whole lot of “shutdown politics” going on.

This is one of the clearer-cut cases we’ve seen of Sen. Gardner saying one thing in a bipartisan press conference, then doing the exact opposite once the cameras are elsewhere. The NRSC attacking Democrats is not even something we would bother to criticize but for the fact that Gardner so brazenly contradicted himself–condemning the exact same behavior he’s engaging in. After all, everybody expects the leader of the GOP’s U.S. Senate campaign operation to “play politics.”

But this is trying to have it both ways to an extent that simply can’t be excused. It’s totally ridiculous.

And we’re glad somebody with a large readership called BS.

Get More Smarter on Friday (January 19)

The last time there was a federal government shutdown with one party in control of both Chambers of Congress and the White House, Jimmy Carter was President. 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…

It’s looking increasingly likely that the federal government will shut down when money runs out at midnight tonight. The Senate does not appear to have enough votes to approve a Continuing Resolution (CR) passed by the House on Thursday evening. Republicans, including Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and President Trump, are desperately pushing a narrative blaming Democrats for a potential shutdown, but Americans aren’t buying it. As the Washington Post reports:

By a 20-point margin, more Americans blame President Trump and Republicans rather than Democrats for a potential government shutdown, according to a new Washington Post-ABC News poll.

A 48 percent plurality says Trump and congressional Republicans are mainly responsible for the situation resulting from disagreements over immigration laws and border security, while 28 percent fault Democrats.

As for that House CR passed on Thursday, it would fund the government for a whole four weeks. Or as Congressman Mike Coffman (R-Aurora) said after the vote, it would give “the American people the certainty they need and deserve.” For four weeks.

More than 90,000 Coloradans will lose health coverage if Congress does not re-authorize funding for CHIP as part of a spending bill.

 

► Colorado Senators Michael Bennet (D-Denver) and Cory Gardner (R-Yuma) met with a group of reporters on Thursday to explain that they were still working on trying to construct a comprehensive immigration reform proposal. President Trump said last week that he would support a broad immigration plan if it landed on his desk, though he has since backed off from that statement. Bennet says that he will not vote for a budget resolution that does not include support for DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals).

Elsewhere, federal employees in Colorado are crossing their fingers that a shutdown will be averted at the last minute. As Politico reports, the looming government shutdown is making morale even worse in the White House.

 

► According to the results of a new NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll, President Trump now owns the record as the most unpopular President after one year in office. From NBC News:

Fifty-seven percent disapprove of Trump’s job, including a majority of respondents — 51 percent — who now say they strongly disapprove, which is a record high for Trump in the survey. That’s compared with 26 percent of Americans who strongly approve of the president’s job…

…Trump’s overall approval rating of 39 percent in the NBC/WSJ poll is lower than George W. Bush’s (82 percent), Bill Clinton’s (60 percent) and Barack Obama’s (50 percent) at this same point in their presidencies.

Trump’s job rating in last month’s NBC/WSJ poll was 41 percent.

 

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Senate Republicans Come Out Against “Bump Stock” Ban

Colorado Senate President Kevin Grantham.

The mass shooting last October in Las Vegas, Nevada that killed 59 people and wounded hundreds more brought to light a relatively novel modification to semiautomatic long guns to enable far higher rates of fire than can be achieved by pulling the trigger for each shot as the weapon was originally designed. So-called “bump stocks” were found installed on multiple weapons used by the Las Vegas shooter, enabling him to achieve a rate of fire that was indistinguishable to responding police from that of a machine gun.

Which he used to kill dozens and dozens of people.

In the immediate aftermath of the shooting “bump stocks” were identified as a major contributor the outsize death toll, and lawmakers including Sen. Michael Bennet of Colorado got behind legislation to quickly ban their sale. But as we’ve seen countless times in the wake of mass shooting incidents, the impetus for passing legislation quickly faded under intense “management” of the situation by gun lobbyists and PR professionals. Hardcore pro-gun activists like Dudley Brown of the Rocky Mountain Gun Owners in Colorado crassly told news reporters that “bump stocks” were only for enthusiasts to “see what automatic fire sounds like.”

Nonetheless legislation has been introduced this year in the Colorado General Assembly to deal with “bump stocks.” Senate Bill 18-051 bans “multi-burst trigger activators,” including bump stocks and devices that automatically depress the trigger on semiautomatic weapons faster than a human could. And with over 80% of the public supportive of banning “bump stocks,” you’d assume it’s a no-brainer–right?

But as the Denver Post reports, you’d be wrong.

Senate President Kevin Grantham, who had a relative at the concert in Las Vegas where the shooting took place, is a prominent opponent.

“This won’t save a single soul,” the Canon City Republican said. [Pols emphasis] “This won’t help the problem that they perceive. I think all it does is infringe on somebody’s ability to operate within their Second Amendment rights.”

Who would seriously argue that a lower rate of fire in the Las Vegas shooting would not have saved lives? That’s the first clue that something is seriously amiss here. The high rate of fire afforded by the use of high-capacity magazines and “bump stocks” is exactly what made the Las Vegas shooting unprecedented in its destruction.

If that isn’t obvious to you, you’re in very deep denial.

Senate President Kevin Grantham goes on to explain that a ban on “bump stocks” would lead to infringement of “people’s rights to have pieces of equipment,” as if that’s something that doesn’t exist today? Of course there are “pieces of equipment” that are regulated in modern society, many of which are–wait for it–weapons! And that leads to a very basic question for the President of the Colorado Senate: should automatic weapons be legal? Should any weapon be legal? What kind of regulation of guns would not infringe on Second Amendment rights under Grantham’s expansive interpretation?

We’re not asking this question flippantly. Two years ago, Republicans in the Colorado legislature actually introduced legislation to ease to process of acquiring fully automatic weapons that require special licensure from the federal government. It may be wildly out of the mainstream, but it is not at all unreasonable to suggest–underscored by Grantham’s comments about “bump stocks”–that Colorado Republicans don’t support any regulations whatsoever on the type of weapons civilians can legally obtain.

And if that’s what Kevin Grantham believes, let’s stop screwing around and have him say so.

To as many voters as possible.

GOP Special Session Shenanigans: As Bad As You Thought

Sen. Jerry Sonnenberg.

As the Denver Post’s John Frank reports, one of 2017 most played-up controversies in Colorado politics is ending with an anticlimactic whimper:

Three months ago, a special legislative session to fix a mistake Colorado lawmakers made regarding pot taxes disintegrated into partisan finger-pointing and blame.

Now, with a new session underway, the discord is mostly resolved and the legislation to allow special districts to collect a voter-approved tax on recreational marijuana sales — one that lawmakers inadvertently repealed in May — is poised for easy passage.

Last year’s big fiscal deal in the Colorado General Assembly, which saved hospitals in rural areas of the state by exempting funds collected through the Hospital Provider Fee from limits imposed by the 1992 Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights, created a toxic division within the Republican Party. Hard-right fiscal groups like the Independence Institute viciously harangued Republicans who voted for the bill, and Americans For Prosperity, linked closely to the Senate GOP’s one-seat majority, made an embarrassing about-face on the legislation over the summer after it was passed.

All of which would have likely remained inside-baseball discussion among political insiders–but then a drafting error in Senate Bill 17-267 was discovered that had the effect of cutting off specific taxes levied on marijuana sales collected by special districts around the state. Rather than wait until 2018 while millions of dollars went uncollected due to a simple and unintentional omission, Gov. John Hickenlooper called a special session for early October to fix the glitch.

And as our readers know, Republicans in the legislature threw what can be best described as a $75,000 hissy fit. Sen. Jerry Sonnenberg, a major player in SB17-267’s passage, had already filed draft legislation for the 2018 session to fix the error–but after Republicans turned against the special session under withering fire from Caldara, Sonnenberg was forced to disparage his own bill as unnecessary. Sonnenberg even questioned whether the bill was “constitutional,” which makes him look clueless either for introducing it to begin with or for ditching it later. Pick one.

Local liberal blogger Chase Woodruff summed up the GOP’s half-baked uprising against the 2017 special session quite well today:

This week, with lawmakers back at the Capitol for the 2018 regular session, Republicans finally admitted what everyone knew three months ago: that their tantrum over the special session wasn’t about policy or governance at all, just a spiteful political stunt…

Republicans never gave the session a chance. They signaled their intentions to block the funding bill weeks in advance, and instead used it as an opportunity to embarrass Hickenlooper and send fundraising appeals to supporters attacking him for “toying with taxpayer dollars.”

In the end, the cost of the GOP’s cynical stunt will be thankfully small; the service hit hardest by the funding glitch, Denver-area transit agency RTD, will have lost only a few million dollars out of its $478 million operating budget.

The only reason this sorry spectacle wasn’t even more damaging to Colorado Republicans was the steady barrage of headlines from Washington kept it from getting the attention it deserved. Today, with Republicans quietly allowing the fix to pass, all of the faux outrage and obstructive speculation about the bill’s constitutionality is revealed for the empty bluster it was. The tens of thousands of dollars spent on the October 2017 special session were truly wasted, and now we know who wasted them.

Like we said, in the shadow of dysfunctional Washington D.C. politics, this act of legislative bad faith and irresponsibility was easy to miss–and plenty of people did. But what happened here was every bit as spiteful and counterproductive as anything Republicans have done in Washington since Trump took office. Exactly the kind of behavior that breeds contempt for politics, differing only in scale. No matter how you feel about the “size of government,” this just isn’t the way responsible people govern.

Will it register in the polls next November? We don’t know. But morally, it ought to.

Child Welfare Hotline Manager Goes Down The “Shithole”

Jack Hilbert.

Over the weekend on 9NEWS, local Republican political consultant Kelly Maher caused a bit of a stir when she said on the station’s Balance of Power local politics show that last week’s comments from President Donald Trump regarding what he considers to be “shithole countries” were racist. Though we expect most of our readers will appreciate this unequivocal statement from a local Republican, Maher received some pointed criticism on Facebook from Trump loyalists:

Jack Hilbert: Kelly I was very disappointed about your stance on Trump and his recent remarks about other countries. Frankly I hav been to those countries and his description was correct. [Pols emphasis] It is not what he said that is incorrect, it is the use of harsh words to describe those conditions. That does not make him racist. You fallen into the liberal mantra trap that started the whole PC crap. So if I said I think that typical African is ugly I am a racist. No. I just do not like their clothing and it is an opinion. You need to rethink the term racist, look at the definition and adjust. I cannot repeat what my wife called you but that does not make her anti-feminist. Just an opinion in the moment that is emotionally charged. We slipping backwards into that liberal muck….

The source here is interesting: Jack Hilbert is a former Republican county commissioner from arch-conservative Douglas County. While that helps explain his talk-radio strident political views, it’s somewhat troubling to note that Hilbert now serves as the manager of the Colorado Child Welfare Protection Hotline at the state Department of Human Services.

In other words, a job where you really shouldn’t be validating Trump’s notion of “shithole countries.” We have to think that a public official’s conception of various regions of the world as “shitholes” might adversely affect their judgment, and when their job is protecting the welfare of children across the state of Colorado, that’s a big problem.

Yes, for the President of the United States too. But no less so in this case we’d say.

Get More Smarter on Tuesday (January 16)

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TOP OF MIND TODAY…

► Fundraising reports for the last quarter of 2017 are due to be filed today with the Colorado Secretary of State’s office. Check back here at Colorado Pols for more on the fundraising reports as they become available.

 

► President Trump is blaming Democrats for a potential federal government shutdown, but Republicans would unquestionably own any funding problem. As CNN notes, it has been nearly 40 years since the last government shutdown when one political party controlled both chambers of Congress and the White House. According to a story from NBC News, Democrats are well-prepared to push back on Trump’s blame game:

Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., said a shutdown would “humiliate” the country, the president and the GOP, which controls Congress.

“The only one that can allow a government shutdown is Donald Trump. And I don’t know why he would humiliate the United States, humiliate himself and humiliate his party by having a government shutdown,” he said.

“Republicans control the House, they control the Senate, and they control the presidency,” Leahy said. “The government stays open if they want it to stay open. It shuts down if they want it to shut down.”

TIME magazine provides a good rundown of several key questions and answers surrounding a potential government shutdown.

Meanwhile, President Trump Tweeted on Sunday that discussions on DACA — the program to protect undocumented immigrants brought to the United States as children — is “probably dead.” Immigration policy discussions had been a key part of the debate over a potential government shutdown.

 

► The New York Times reports that former White House chief strategist Steve Bannon has been subpoenaed by special counsel Robert Mueller in the investigation into potential collusion between Russia and the Trump campaign in the 2016 election.

 

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See “Cop-Out Cory” Bob and Weave

Yesterday morning, Sen. Cory Gardner appeared on Face the Nation in an attempt to put some kind of happy face on the unfolding disaster of President Donald Trump’s rejection of the latest bipartisan immigration deal–to which both Colorado Senators are party, but now in mortal danger after Trump denounced the agreement in formerly-unprintable terms.

What does Sen. Gardner think about Trump making the discourse safe for “shithole,” you ask?

SENATOR CORY GARDNER: You know, I wasn’t in that meeting with the president. I was in the previous meeting earlier this week, where we talked about- last week, on Tuesday, where we talked about putting a deal together that reflected the four priorities of the president. And I think that we can do this…

So, I think we’re- we-we put together a very responsible plan and I hope that we can build on that. But look, it’s- it’s unbecoming comments, and I hope that we can move beyond that. And I hope that what we see are Republicans and Democrats coming together, not to fight politics, but to actually come up with a solution to address this challenge before us.

JOHN DICKERSON: Do you think just- this word obviously rocketed around this week. It’s also obviously now an international point of conversation. If Senator Cotton is right and Senator Perdue is right, and Senator Durbin made this up, that’s a pretty extraordinary thing. You’ve now got people in the president’s own party saying it’s a racist comment. If-if another senator makes up something that causes people to come to that judgment, that’s a pretty serious thing.

SENATOR CORY GARDNER: Well, look, I’m not going to get into the- the who-said-what-said, [Pols emphasis] but what was reported is unacceptable. But what we have to do is not let that define this moment. Look, we have a very, very serious challenge in front of us. It’s a challenge that the president laid out very clearly this past week.

Given that the central point in the controversy raging around this question today is what President Donald Trump said, it seems like there’s no choice but to “get into” that. What we have here is yet another opportunity for Sen. Gardner to call out the President over something that could not be more unambiguously wrong, and Gardner refusing to do it. He’s not denying that the comments were made, he even calls them “unbecoming”–Gardner just refuses to “get into” discussing them.

A clue as to why could be in Gardner’s choice of words describing the immigration deal he brokered and Trump has now rejected. The “priorities of the president.” The “challenge that the President laid out clearly.” Not only is Gardner avoiding the unsavory part of this story that has attracted the most attention, he’s trying to characterize a deal that Trump has rejected–using the racist language Gardner does not want to acknowledge–as something Trump wants.

We understand Gardner is obliged to say something, but this is just back-breaking contortion.

Shithole! Shithole! Shithole!

“Why are we having all these people from shithole countries come here?”

This is what President Trump allegedly said at the White House on Thursday during a meeting with lawmakers about immigration policy. Trump’s comments are causing quite a backlash all over the world, and this morning the President began his inevitable denial about saying the thing that he almost certainly said.

Trump supporters are going to fall in line with the Twitterer-in-Chief in labeling this some sort of fake news attack, but for those of you with the ability to form your own opinions, CNN’s Chris Cillizza makes a very strong argument for why you should believe the shithole:

Almost immediately after The Washington Post broke the news on Thursday night, White House spokesman Raj Shah was out with a statement that not only seemed to confirm that Trump had said what he said but also worked to defend it…

…Then, soon after Shah’s comment, came this from an anonymous White House official to CNN’s Kaitlan Collins, “The President’s ‘shithole’ remark is being received much differently inside of the White House than it is outside of it. Though this might enrage Washington, staffers predict the comment will resonate with his base, much like his attacks on NFL players who kneel during the National Anthem did not alienate it.”

According to Collins, Trump spent Thursday evening making calls to friends and associated to gauge how they believed the “shithole countries” story was playing. One White House official told Collins that Trump’s calls amounted to a “victory lap.” [Pols emphasis]

If Trump had really not used the word “shithole” (or something very like it), then why would the White House not come out and issue a blanket denial and a condemnation of the reporting? Why, rather than doing that, would they issue a statement that sought to own his “shithole countries” comment and make political hay out of it?

The answer, of course, is because he said it.

Let’s pause and reflect for a moment on the fact that we are actually having a discussion about whether or not THE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES used the word “shithole” to describe other countries in a meeting with Congressional leaders. That this is even a subject of debate speaks volumes about the White House.

Get More Smarter on Thursday (January 11)

Your three-day weekend is almost here. 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 Colorado legislature reconvened on Wednesday with much speechifying from leaders in each chamber, and a renewed focus on sexual harassment charges against several lawmakers (including another thoroughly embarrassing day for State Rep. Steve Lebsock). House Democrats outlined their legislative priorities with several early bills, while Senate Republicans are pretending to be focused on transportation issues.

Elsewhere, Governor John Hickenlooper today delivers his final “State of the State” address.

 

► Congressman Mike Coffman (R-Aurora) does not want to campaign with President Trump in 2018. Unless he does.

 

► The Trump administration is pushing the idea of work requirements for Medicaid recipients. From the Washington Post:

The Trump administration issued guidance to states early Thursday that will allow them to compel people to work or prepare for jobs in order to receive Medicaid for the first time in the half-century history of this pillar of the nation’s social safety net.

The letter to state Medicaid directors opens the door for states to cut off Medicaid benefits to Americans unless they have a job, are in school, are a caregiver, volunteer or participate in other approved forms of “community engagement” — an idea that some states had broached over the past several years but that the Obama administration had consistently rebuffed.

The new policy comes as 10 states are already lined up, waiting for federal permission to impose work requirements on able-bodied adults in the program. Three other states are contemplating them. Health officials could approve the first waiver — probably for Kentucky — as soon as Friday, according to two people with knowledge of the process.

The idea that Medicaid recipients do not already work is more of a conservative talking point than a reality.

 

► President Trump’s uncontrollable Twitter habit is causing new problems for Congressional Republicans. As NBC News explains:

Congress moved Thursday toward renewing a critical intelligence program despite a morning of confusion prompted by President Donald Trump’s tweets, in which he appeared to support significant changes that his administration had worked for months to rebuff.

The House voted on a bipartisan basis to renew intelligence agencies’ broad authority to monitor terrorist and foreign adversary communications under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, or FISA; the measure now heads to the Senate for a vote…

…Though the White House on Wednesday strongly urged lawmakers to defeat the reform amendment, Trump appeared to take a different position in a tweet Thursday morning. He called FISA “controversial” and claimed without offering evidence that the program may have been used to “so badly surveil [sic] and abuse” his presidential campaign.

For nearly two hours, lawmakers and members of his own administration scrambled to explain the comment.

Trump later backtracked on his early-morning Tweet. Earlier this week a federal judge cited several of Trump’s Tweets as part of a decision to block the administration’s attempt at phasing out the DACA program.

 

 

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Get More Smarter on Tuesday (January 9)

We can’t promise that reading this will make you as brilliant as Donald Trump, but it’s a start. 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.

 

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► The Colorado legislature kicks off its 2018 session on Wednesday. The Denver Post previews the upcoming action with a list of the eight biggest issues on tap for the next 120 days. Among them: PERA reform, addressing sexual harassment under the Gold Dome, and long, long, long battles on transportation funding.

Elsewhere, the Pueblo Chieftain examines a likely slate of bills targeting heroin abuse.

 

► The Senate Finance Committee begins confirmation hearings today for Alex Azar, the former pharmaceutical company executive nominated by President Trump to be the new Secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services. Azar is expected to face pointed questions from Senate Democrats about his role in driving up drug prices while at the helm of Eli Lilly.

 

► Republican and Democratic leaders are scheduled to meet with President Trump at the White House today to discuss DACA reforms as another funding deadline to keep the federal government running looms on the horizon. From CNN:

Republican and Democrats involved in negotiations over the must-pass January spending deal say that DACA — the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program — has become the key to unlocking any funding agreement and some are frustrated with how negotiations are unfolding. Republicans charge that Democrats have all but halted talks on spending caps until there is a resolution on DACA, which gives undocumented immigrants who came to the country as children a chance to stay, work or study in the US without fear of deportation.

“Seems to me that Democrats are holding that deal hostage for a DACA negotiation and we are meeting at the White House tomorrow on a bipartisan basis with the President to see what that might look like,” said the Senate’s No. 2, Texas Republican John Cornyn. “But I think that’s going to make the January 19 date pretty hard to hit.”

“It’s a mess,” said one person directly involved in the negotiations.

Colorado Senators Cory Gardner (R-Yuma) and Michael Bennet (D-Denver) are both expected to attend today’s White House meeting.

 

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It’s Official: The “Centrist Project” Thinks You’re Stupid

Don’t be fooled again.

A featured story today from the former Colorado Statesman’s Ernest Luning announces the rebranding of what has been known up to now as the “Centrist Project” into a vehicle to openly support the candidacies of several “unaffiliated” candidates for the Colorado General Assembly:

The nonprofit formerly known as the Centrist Project, a group working to elect nonpartisan officials nationwide, on Monday unveiled a slate of four unaffiliated Colorado candidates running this year for the Legislature in the opening salvo of its assault on the two major parties’ unbroken rule of the state’s government. It also announced it’s changing its name to Unite America and will call the state-focused organization Unite Colorado.

The slate includes challengers against the No. 2 Republican in the Senate and a House Democrat — Senate Majority Leader Chris Holbert, R-Parker, in Senate District 30, and state Rep. Matt Gray, D-Broomfield, in House District 33 — and two candidates for open House seats currently held by Democrats, in El Paso County’s House District 18 and Adams County’s House District 31. Those seats are represented by state Reps. Pete Lee, D-Colorado Springs, a candidate for an open Senate seat, and Joe Salazar, D-Thornton, a candidate for attorney general, respectively.

We’ll start with a fundamental point, long suspected about the so-called “Centrist Project” but proven now with this announcement: this organization is fielding candidates in swing Democratic-held House districts in order to split the Democratic vote and elect Republicans. That is the only raison d’être that makes any sense based on the easily predictable outcome. From everything we can see, the inclusion of a challenge in Senate Majority Leader Chris Holbert’s beet-red GOP district is a diversion meant to distract from the principal goal of this organization–to peel off swing voters who would otherwise vote for Democratic candidates in what’s shaping up to be an historic Democratic wave election.

We’re not going to impugn the motives of individual candidates or the (in some cases disaffected) former Democratic staffers working on this campaign. We’re simply being frank about what the results of this effort will be, and they are obvious enough that we have to believe at some level the backers of the “Centrist Project” are fully aware of it. From a beleaguered post-Trump GOP operative’s point of view (see: Rep. Mike Coffman’s phalanx of ex-College Republican staffers), this kind of “unbranding” of a campaign with a clearly partisan motive probably sounds like a really slick idea.

But as Luning continues, that gnawing feeling in your stomach that something isn’t right about this is dead on:

“It doesn’t really matter to voters of that bloc where you stand on the issues, [Pols emphasis] or even if you align with them on issues. It matters that you’re fundamentally different than the people in office now.”

That’s Nick Troiano, a failed congressional candidate from Pennsylvania who’s now fronting Colorado’s Centrist Project, and who describes himself as “a motivated 24-year-old fiscal conservative who adheres to the core Republican values of limited government and personal responsibility.” Troiano is running candidates in three swing Democratic House districts, campaigns in which the only “successful” outcome will be to peel off enough otherwise Democratic voters to elect Republicans.

But don’t worry, because it doesn’t matter where you stand on the issues–or even if voters agree!

Even though the quote is older than yesterday, we’re shocked that Troiano allowed himself to go on the record so cynically. The so-called Centrist Project is being sold as a “post-partisan” campaign, but by the executive director’s own admission, what we’re really talking about here is a post-values campaign. The politics of ignorance. The politics of branding and slogans over reality. In every possible way, an insult to the voters this campaign is meant to appeal to.

And we’re sorry, but it’s also the politics of President Donald Trump.

One can only hope the voters in these districts can see through the deception to the cynical bottom line.

That quote will help.

Top Ten Stories of 2017 #5: The #MeToo Movement Hits #COLeg

State Rep. Steve Lebsock and dog.

One of the biggest political stories of 2017 is almost certainly going to be one of the most notable stories of 2018 as well. The #MeToo movement that shone a new light on sexual harassment in the workplace dominated the news cycle for much of the second half of 2017, but it wasn’t until November that it broke through as a huge topic in the Colorado legislature. The topic will certainly be elevated again once the 2018 legislative session begins next week.

Bente Birkland of KUNC broke open the problem of sexual harassment in the legislature with a bombshell story in November that included several accusations against Democratic Rep. Steve Lebsock – most notably from Democratic Rep. Faith Winter – about harassment dating back to at least 2016. Lebsock initially apologized for his conduct before embarking on a strange reversal culminating in a silly claim that he should be exonerated because of the results of a lie-detector test that he himself paid to be administered. Thus far Lebsock has ignored calls for his resignation – as well as invitations to switch parties — while continuing his no-hope campaign for the Democratic nomination for State Treasurer.

Lebsock was the first sitting legislator to face sexual harassment accusations, but he wasn’t alone for long. A few days later, Birkland broke news of new harassment allegations against Republican State Senators Randy Baumgardner and Jack Tate; an official complaint was filed against Baumgardner shortly thereafter. Senate Republican leadership was quick to trot out a line about “zero tolerance” for harassment after the Lebsock story broke, but when faced with allegations touching their own members, Senate President Kevin Grantham went remarkably quiet, saying in a statement that they “cannot and will not be responding to unsubstantiated or anonymous allegations against members appearing in the press.” Grantham has kept his word in this regard but won’t be able to duck these questions so easily once the legislature reconvenes.

Meanwhile, Sen. Tate tried to patch up his reputation through public claims from a group of female lobbyists – all of whom have significant business interests in appeasing Tate – that he was totally not at all the kind of person who would sexually harass someone. Republican defenders of Tate even went so far as to claim that Tate did nothing more than “complement the clothing” of a former Capitol intern. Yeah, it got gross.

These sexual harassment stories faded a bit in the media in part because of distractions related to the Holiday season and the Alabama Senate election. But as we noted earlier, we fully expect the issue to be front and center once the legislature kicks off the 2018 session next week. Here’s hoping that the allegations – and the accusers – get a different sort of treatment in the new year.

Get More Smarter on Wednesday (January 3)

Thanks to President Trump, no American was eaten by zombies in 2017. 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.

 

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► Steve Bannon is now using the “T-word” in discussing Trump contacts with Russia. From CNN:

Former White House chief strategist Steve Bannon called the 2016 Trump Tower meeting between Trump campaign officials and a Russian lawyer purportedly offering damaging information about Hillary Clinton “treasonous,” according to a new book obtained by The Guardian.

The book, “Fire and Fury: Inside the Trump White House” by Michael Wolff, is based on hundreds of interviews, including ones with President Donald Trump and his inner circle. According to the Guardian, Bannon addressed the June 2016 Trump Tower meeting between Donald Trump Jr., then-campaign chairman Paul Manafort, Jared Kushner and Russian operatives that was arranged when Trump Jr. agreed to meet a “Russian government attorney” after receiving an email offering him “very high level and sensitive information” that would “incriminate” Clinton.

Bannon was particularly pointed in discussing the role played by Donald Trump, Jr. in these discussions, saying, “They’re going to crack Don Junior like an egg on national TV.”

You won’t be surprised to hear that President Trump is absolutely furious with Bannon over these comments.

 

► Democrat Doug Jones is now officially the newest Senator from Alabama after his swearing-in ceremony this morning. To the dismay of Colorado Sen. Cory Gardner, Jones did not immediately declare loyalty to the Republican party.

Minnesota Democrat Tina Smith was also sworn-in today to fill the remainder of the term vacated by the resignation of Sen. Al Franken in December.

 

► Don’t expect the Colorado legislature to do much about gun safety in the aftermath of a weekend shooting in Douglas County that killed sheriff’s deputy Zachary Parrish. As Fox 31 reports, House Republican leader Patrick Neville thinks that we shouldn’t try to act on gun safety because previous attempts haven’t stopped gun violence:

“We oppose this law,” it said. “This tragedy is another example of why thousands of gun laws passed in the last several decades don’t work.”

We also have laws prohibiting things like murder and robbery, but those haven’t stopped either crime from being committed. Let’s just change Colorado to Thunderdome!

 

Get even more smarter after the jump…

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Protesters Greet Senator Gardner on New Year’s Eve in Yuma

(Promoted by Colorado Pols)

Hey folks we are having a house party at Cory Gardner's house in Yuma, Colorado! #ADAPTandResist #FreeOurPeople #DIAToday #SaveMedicaid

Posted by Carrie Ann Lucas on Sunday, December 31, 2017

Video from  New Years Eve visit to Senator Gardner’s home in Yuma

On New Year’s Eve 2017, Senator Cory Gardner of Colorado had some unexpected visitors outside his home in Yuma, Colorado. Twelve protesters and supporters from Atlantis ADAPT  braved the bitter cold to hold a “house party” on the sidewalk outside Gardner’s home, asking for him to come out and talk with them about how the tax legislation he supported would affect their lives. (about 23:00 minutes in to the video) They chanted:

“Cory Gardner, come on out! We’ve got something to talk about!” and “New Year’s Resolution – Uphold the Constitution!”

However, Senator Gardner declined to party with the protesters, and never spoke with them, although, according to a police officer in the video, he was at home at the time.

Carrie Ann Lucas, a member of the Atlantis ADAPT board, and a candidate for the town board of Windsor, posted live video of the protest. I asked Ms. Lucas to comment on the events.

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Marble claims media “panders to its liberal base”

(Promoted by Colorado Pols)

marble on media 3Colorado State Sen. Vicki Marble (R-Fort Collins), who falsely claimed last month that she was misquoted by a Boy Scott, stepped up her complaints about the “liberal media” in a Facebook post last month.

“As the liberal media panders to its liberal base, they continue fanning the flames of hatred and racism against conservatives of all colors and American principles and values,” Marble apparently wrote last month in a Facebook post obtained from a source.

Specifically, Marble called KMGH-TV, Channel 7, “lame.”

Marble didn’t return an email seeking an explanation, but her attack on the media may stem from frustrations over press coverage of a speech she gave to a group of Boy Scouts in October.

marble on media 2Marble insisted that Denver media outlets were wrong to point out that she’d delivered a falsehood to a den full of Scouts, after one Scout told her that he was astonished that Marble had, as the Scout put it, “blamed black people for poor health and poverty because of all the chicken and barbecue they eat.”

Marble responded to the scout, fifth graderAmes Mayfield, that he she’d made no such statement.

“I didn’t, that was made up by the media,” Marble told Mayfield in the den. “So, you want to believe it? You believe it. But that’s not how it went down. I didn’t do that. That was false. Get both sides of the story.”

In fact, Marble made the following statement during a 2013 hearing: “When you look at life expectancy, there are problems in the black race. Sickle-cell anemia is something that comes up. Diabetes is something that’s prevalent in the genetic makeup, and you just can’t help it.

“Although I’ve got to say, I’ve never had better barbecue and better chicken and ate better in my life than when you go down South and you, I mean, I love it. Everybody loves it.”

The Scout was eventually booted from his den, but allowed to continue with another group of Boy Scouts.

marble on media 1