Weekend Open Thread

“The ambition and focus that propel you to success can also be your downfall.”

–Judy Smith

This is a Math Problem, not a Message Problem

Would I still be smiling like this if I really wanted to take away your healthcare?

Sally has two apples. Mitch comes along and takes both of those apples. How many apples does Sally have now?

The answer, obviously, is none. Sally has no apples. This is not a complicated story problem.

But, wait! Suppose that Mitch informs Sally that he is only implementing an “apple reallocation strategy” in relieving her of her two apples. Now, how many apples does Sally have after this “reallocation?”

Yup. Still no apples.

You can probably see where we’re going with this. You could tell Sally that her apples have been “reallocated.” You could tell Sally that her apples were stolen by the Russians. You could take Sally’s apples and offer no explanation whatsoever. However you go about removing Sally from her apples, the result is the same: Sally once had apples, but now she has none.

Republicans have been getting positively blistered by media outlets across the country ever since Senate leaders introduced their healthcare legislation on Thursday. Senate leaders are calling it “The Better Care Reconciliation Act” (BCRA) and in describing the different facets of the legislation, they are employing numerous adjectives and phrases to make their plan sound less horrible than it really is.

The Senate healthcare proposal is a breathtakingly mean-spirited and awful piece of legislation that would be devastating to any American who is not rich and/or young and healthy. Poll after poll shows that Americans disapprove mightily of the central tenets of BCRA. Republicans are being deluged with protests, letters, and phone calls from people who are legitimately scared of the harm that this proposed legislation would cause.

Republicans seem to understand that their healthcare proposal is not being well-received, yet they appear completely oblivious as to the reasons why. In fact, when you listen to Republicans such as Colorado Sen. Cory Gardner discuss the bill, you get the distinct impression that they think they are merely facing a “messaging problem” with their healthcare proposal.

Take a look at this Thursday story from Denver7:

U.S. Sen. Cory Gardner said Thursday that he was taking his first look at the Senate’s version of the replacement for the Affordable Care Act, which he helped craft, and that the bill “deserves serious debate, not knee-jerk reaction.”…

…He said he was “beginning to carefully review” the bill and to look at ways to “rescue” Colorado from what he called the “negative impacts” the Affordable Care Act across the U.S.

Senator Gardner is a member of the “working group” that was assigned to craft the Senate healthcare legislation. Gardner would like you to believe, however, that he hadn’t seen any text of the proposed legislation until it was released to the public on Thursday. Gardner has acknowledged being a member of the healthcare “working group,” and unless he participated in these discussions while wearing a blindfold, it is inconceivable that the language was a complete surprise to the Yuma Senator.

You can see how individual Senators such as Gardner are trying to spin, spin, spin their way out of this problem. As the Washington Post writes on Friday, this is also the strategy for the bill as a whole:

Republicans have gone to enormous lengths to obscure the plan’s profoundly regressive features. They have endlessly told the lie that no one will be worse off (because everyone will have “access” to affordable coverage), and they’ve developed numerous cleverly designed talking points designed to create the impression that, by slowly phasing in the loss of coverage for millions over time, this will create a painless transition to … well, to a blissful state in which everyone, again, has “access” to affordable coverage. Among these: “Smooth glide path.” “Rescue mission.” “Bridge to better health care.” “Soft landing.”

But it’s important to understand that this scam has multiple layers. The slow phase in isn’t merely about creating the impression of a painless transition. It’s also about deferring accountability. This is particularly the case with the Senate version of the bill, which must appear softer than the House bill in order to get the support of key Republican moderates who represent states with large Medicaid expansion populations.

Approximately 1 in 5 Americans rely on Medicaid for healthcare. If the current Senate bill ultimately goes into effect, literally millions of people will lose healthcare. Republicans are arguing over how long of a period they should stretch out the death of Medicaid – they call it a “transition period” – but the end result is that many people who have healthcare coverage today will not have it at some point in the near future.

Republicans are desperately trying to come up with new ideas to explain their Medicaid cuts as a “bridge” to something else, but there’s only one thing on the other side of that abyss: Fewer people with health care. If you had something before – like, say, apples – and you don’t have it later, it can be described as a “reduction” or a “cut” or whatever other phrase tickles your fancy. But it doesn’t make any difference what phrase you employ, because no words will change the math here.

The GOP isn’t dealing with a “message problem;” they are dealing with a “people are going to die so that we can cut taxes for the wealthy” problem. If you make life worse for most Americans, they aren’t going to console themselves in your boast that you repealed Obamacare.

As the headline of that Washington Post story referenced earlier states, this is “How Trump and Republicans may get away with hurting millions of people.”

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.

 

Get even more smarter after the jump…

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Gardner Desperate To Control Trumpcare Damage

Sen. Cory Gardner (R).

The past few days leading up to the formal release yesterday of the U.S. Senate’s so-called Better Care Reconciliation Act of 2017, the latest version of long-sought legislation to repeal President Barack Obama’s signature 2010 health care overhaul the Affordable Care Act, have been a major disaster politically both for the Republican Party generally and the highest-ranking Republican in Colorado, Sen. Cory Gardner.

Gardner was once considered one of the prime movers in a select panel of Republican Senators drafting that chamber’s version of an Obamacare repeal after the House’s much-celebrated bill was declared DOA owing to its…well, for lack of a better term, its casualty count. The failure of Republicans to craft legislation to repeal Obamacare without doing tremendous harm to the millions who have directly benefitted from the law is a growing political nightmare for Gardner, who campaigned heavily on the whole slate of factually-dubious arguments against Obamacare that were popular during the Tea Party movement of 2009-2010.

Yesterday, as Denver7’s Blair Miller reports, the bad news continued to rain down on Gardner:

Gardner told Denver7 Wednesday he hadn’t seen a text version of the bill despite being one of a handful of Republicans working in small groups to craft the bill. Senate Republicans wrote their own bill after the House of Representatives passed its version, the American Health Care Act, in early May…

Gardner slammed those who he said were jumping to conclusions about the bill without fully analyzing it.

“It’s frustrating that instead of actually reviewing the legislative text some have decided to immediately oppose the bill before it was even introduced,” Gardner told Denver7 in a statement. “This deserves serious debate, not knee-jerk reaction.” [Pols emphasis]

First of all, after the first six months of Donald Trump’s presidency have been dominated by debate over the repeal of Obamacare, it’s absurd to claim that any reaction to this latest bill is “knee-jerk.” Everyone following this debate understands what Republicans are working toward here, and the overwhelming public opposition to basically every part of this repeal process is not going to be quelled by the relatively minor differences from one bill to another.

Somewhere in the midst of yesterday’s busy news cycle, it appears Team Gardner realized that “knee-jerk reaction” statement was itself not very well thought out. We quoted yesterday from a Denver Post story by reporter Mark Matthews, which frankly questioned Gardner’s complaints in the context of his purported leadership role in the drafting effort. Sometime yesterday afternoon, the story we quoted from was completely removed from the Denver Post’s website, and replaced with a new story at the same URL that contains none of the previous story’s context. Gardner’s “knee-jerk reaction” quote is nowhere to be found in the new story, in which Gardner is now quoted as wanting to slow down the process–and implying without any real confirmation from Gardner that he might oppose the bill he allegedly helped create.

What happened here, you ask? It’s pretty obvious, really, and we want to be clear that we’re not trying to beat up Matthews in calling this out. In the business of politics and political journalism in particular, a common tactic is known as “working the refs”–aggressively either courting or lambasting journalists as needed to cast a story in the most favorable frame possible. Matthews’ original version, which we have reprinted in its entirety after the jump for educational purposes, clearly did not please Gardner or his aides, and they took action to get it replaced.

Prevailing upon a reporter to completely rewrite a critical story into a much less critical one, especially after thousands of people saw the original, to us demonstrates clearly how nervous Gardner and his team is over this legislation. Gardner’s swiftly-eroding approval in his home state is most certainly weighing heavily on his mind, even with re-election still a few years away. As the head of the National Republican Senatorial Committee (NRSC), Gardner can also see the damage this is doing to candidates he has to get re-elected next year. This is not just a needle has has to thread for himself, but for his whole party. We’ll never know if Team Gardner was nice to Matthews about it, but to the news-consuming public, that’s not what matters.

The only thing that matters is what they read in the paper today. The original story in question follows.

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Friday Open Thread

“The great proof of madness is the disproportion of one’s designs to one’s means.”

–Napoleon Bonaparte

Don’t Go Away Mad, Eric Nelson, Just Go Away

Eric Nelson impersonating a U.S. Air Force major in an undated photo.

The Aurora Sentinel’s Ramsey Scott updates us on the…well, not exactly sad, more like pathetic story of Aurora Public Schools board member Eric Nelson–who was exposed last year as a serial fabricator of virtually all the details of his background, from fake degrees to appearing in a fake U.S. Air Force major’s uniform:

Publicly discredited APS board member Eric Nelson is pondering another run for school board and said this week he never lied about or embellished his resume — an issue that resulted in his censure by his fellow board members last year and calls for his resignation among school and Democratic Party officials.

A 2016 investigation commissioned by Aurora Public Schools and Superintendent Rico Munn last year revealed Nelson’s resume was full of inaccurate claims. The report found Nelson fabricated all four educational degrees he claimed on his biography. He represented himself as a decorated officer in the Air Force, but the inquiry revealed he was only an enlistee for several weeks. The APS investigation and stories by The Aurora Sentinel and other Denver media also revealed that Nelson misrepresented his involvement with various businesses and organizations.

One year after the scandal, Nelson remains on the board, attends community events as a school board member and is pondering running for re-election. He has since changed his resume credentials, still maintaining a hefty list of academic honors.

According to the Sentinel, Nelson’s updated academic history consists of “degrees” from non-accredited theological colleges–including one that gives out “Life Experience Degrees” to anyone who can pony up $100. That’s a small step up from the crude Photoshopped fakeries Nelson tried to pass off on reporters and his colleagues on the Aurora school board last year, but needless to say it’s hard to call Nelson any kind of educational role model. Nelson’s fake history came to light last year after he filed to run as a Democrat in House District 42. Following those revelations Nelson lost that primary, but can’t be removed from the APS board without a vote–and nobody has seen fit to invest the money in a recall campaign.

The fact that Nelson remains on the Aurora school board after being found to be such a complete fraud brings discredit on that institution. But as we all learned in Jefferson County in 2015, even school board recalls are an incredibly expensive and fraught process. In this case, the judgment seems to have been that Nelson simply wasn’t worth the effort.

If Nelson does run for re-election, and we think he may just be bullheaded enough to try, hopefully the community will end this embarrassment once and for all.

Daily D’oh: Tapes, What Tapes?

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

 

♦ D’OH!
This bit of news should not get lost in today’s discussion about the Senate healthcare legislation. From the New York Times:

President Trump acknowledged Thursday that he had not recorded his conversations with James B. Comey, the F.B.I. director he fired amid the Justice Department’s investigation into the Trump campaign’s possible ties to Russia.

“With all of the recently reported electronic surveillance, intercepts, unmasking, and illegal leaking of information,” Mr. Trump said in a pair of tweets shortly before 1 p.m., “I have no idea …. whether there are ‘tapes’ of my conversations with James Comey, but I did not make, and do not have, such recordings.”…

…The president’s Twitter messages on Thursday left open the possibility that the conversations may have been taped without his knowledge. But they largely confirmed the suspicions of outsiders that Mr. Trump had been leveling a baseless threat at Mr. Comey on May 12, when he wrote, “James Comey better hope that there are no ‘tapes’ of our conversations before he starts leaking to the press!”

It took 41 days for President Trump to publicly deny the existence of taped conversations with former FBI Director James Comey. Trump quite literally could have done this at any time in the last 41 days.

Senate Releases Text of Secret Healthcare Bill, and it is Terrible

UPDATE #4: NARAL Pro Choice Colorado tears into the bill:

“This bill is an insult to Colorado women, Colorado families, and to the democratic process itself. It not only allows states to opt out of the requirement insurance cover maternity care, it could eliminate contraception coverage requirement and ban private insurance from covering abortion care. Women’s reproductive health care would essentially be zeroed out altogether by the Republican bill.

Colorado already has a constitutional amendment banning public funding for abortion care. This bill would ban PRIVATE insurance from covering abortion care. So Colorado women needing abortion care would have to pay out of pocket. Not acceptable.

This is just one of the many reasons Republicans are trying to jam this bill through with no hearings and no testimony from Colorado medical organizations and Colorado citizens. It is wrong.

We will be communicating this No on Trumpcare message to our thousands of members and supporters across the state. And we will be asking them to call Senators Gardner and Bennet and ask them to strongly and vociferously oppose this attack on Colorado women and their health care.”

—–

UPDATE #3: Gov. John Hickenlooper says hell no:

“The Senate’s health care bill, like the House bill, will take Colorado backward. It makes even deeper cuts to health care for the most vulnerable and shifts the costs onto hard working middle class Coloradans. It’s no surprise that a bill drafted in secret, without public hearings and scrutiny, and planned for a rushed vote within days, will hurt Coloradans. We urge Senators Gardner and Bennet to vote no on this flawed bill.”

—–

UPDATE #2: Via Rep. Dave Young in Greeley, Sen. Cory Gardner’s staff has flown the coop:

—–

UPDATE: The Denver Post’s Mark Matthews has Sen. Cory Gardner’s farcical latest statement on legislation he once claimed to have had a hand in drafting:

“This is the first I’ve viewed the legislation, so I am beginning to carefully review it as we continue to look at ways to rescue Colorado from the continued negative impacts of the Affordable Care Act on our health care system,” Gardner said in a Thursday statement. “It’s frustrating that instead of actually reviewing the legislative text some have decided to immediately oppose the bill before it was even introduced. This deserves serious debate, not knee-jerk reaction.”

On one level, the response makes sense. The full proposal was presented to Gardner and the rest of the Republican caucus for the first time Thursday morning and reading the bill — let alone understanding it — is a process that could take hours, given its length of 142 pages.

On the other hand, it’s a curious reaction, given the context of Gardner’s role in crafting the bill, the politics of health care reform and his comments about the legislation in recent days. [Pols emphasis]

Indeed.

—–

Trumpcare

As the Washington Post reports:

Senate Republicans on Thursday released a health-care bill that would curtail federal Medicaid funding, repeal taxes on the wealthy and eliminate funding for Planned Parenthood as part of an effort to fulfill a years-long promise to undo Barack Obama’s signature health-care law.

The bill is an attempt to strike a compromise between existing law and a bill passed by the House in May as Republicans struggle to advance their vision for the country’s health-care system even though they now control both chambers of Congress and the White House.

At around 9:30 a.m., Republican senators entered a room near the Senate chamber where leaders started briefing them on the bill. The legislation, labeled “discussion draft” and numbering 142 pages, was then posted online by the Senate Budget Committee.

The Senate’s version of Trumpcare is, by and large, the same steaming pile of crap as the proposal that was narrowly passed by House Republicans in early May. In fact, the argument you will hear discussed over the next several days will debate whether or not the Senate healthcare bill might actually be worse than the House version.

It’s entirely possible that the Senate released such an awful bill now so that they can pretend to “moderate” the language later — perhaps after the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) officially scores the Senate bill early next week. As the Daily Intelligencer explains:

These concessions will have outsized political impact. They will be new and newsy, and reporters will be drawn from the old story — the outlines of the bill — toward the newer developments. The major coverage of the bill will likely focus on changes in the proposed law that make coverage more affordable. The overall law will still make coverage less affordable overall, but that large fact will remain in the background.

Social scientists call this this “anchoring effect.” People tend to have hazy ideas about what is sensible or fair, and have a cognitive bias toward “anchoring” their sense of the correct answer by whatever number is presented to them initially. In one typical experiment, people in job interviews who start by mentioning absurdly high sums, even as an obvious joke, could get higher offers.

Whatever happens from this point forward, Congress will have to make astronomical changes just to make the legislation slightly less-awful. The Senate version released today will increase premiums and deductibles; destroy Essential Health Benefits and protections for pre-existing conditions; raise premiums by 500% for Americans aged 50-64; and make catastrophic cuts to Medicaid.

So, now what, Cory Gardner?

Thursday Open Thread

“There are no morals in politics; there is only expedience. A scoundrel may be of use to us just because he is a scoundrel.”

–Vladimir Lenin

Gardner Hasn’t Seen Healthcare Bill, Can’t Answer Specific Questions

UPDATE: The editorial board of the Denver Post essentially calls on Gardner to grow a spine:

Gardner needs to demand more transparency from his colleagues and be one of the two “no” votes that could stop this nonsense. The senator is a member of the panel that helped draft the bill, which put him in a place to demand much of the legislation. We’re told he’s been working behind the scenes to take input from the medical providers and experts in Colorado to make sure their concerns are reflected in the final version of the bill.

“Working behind the scenes?” That’s pretty generous to Gardner based on the Senator’s own words below…

—–

Sen. Cory Gardner (R-Yuma) posing with whatever is left of his credibility.

Blair Miller of Denver7 has been quietly making noise on the political beat in Colorado for several months now, but today he made a career quantum leap with a detailed interview with Sen. Cory Gardner (R-Yuma) about the Senate healthcare legislation currently — and mysteriously — winding its way through Capitol Hill.

Among the many significant revelations in Miller’s interview with Gardner comes this stunning revelation: Gardner admits that he hasn’t even seen the text of the Senate healthcare legislation. Think about that for a minute. For months we have been led to believe that Gardner was heavily involved in crafting the Senate healthcare bill as one of the original “Group of 13” organized by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell. This was the next logical question to ask on the healthcare debate after Utah Sen. Mike Lee — also allegedly among the “select group” of 13 — admitted that he didn’t know what was in the legislation that McConnell is reportedly trying to rush to the floor before the July 4 holiday. Denver7’s Miller asked that question, and much, much more:

U.S. Sen. Cory Gardner, who is one of a handful of Senate Republicans working in small groups to craft the Senate’s version of the American Health Care Act, said Wednesday he has still not seen a text version of the bill just a week before the full chamber is set to vote on it.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., said Wednesday the text of the Senate’s version of the bill will likely be released Thursday, and that a vote on the bill is likely to happen before Congress goes on its July 4 holiday recess.

Gardner confirmed that he knew only what McConnell has so far said about the timing of the bill’s release and a vote.

“I have not [seen the bill’s text],” he told Denver7. “And what I’ve been told is a discussion draft will be released tomorrow, but I’ve not seen language or finalized language.” [Pols emphasis]

This is absolutely not a good look for Gardner, who has spent weeks championing a theoretical Senate bill on Trumpcare that he may or may not have even played a role in crafting.

Denver7 has posted a full transcript of Miller’s interview with Gardner, which apparently took place at 10:00 am (Mountain Time) this morning. We’d strongly encourage you to read the entire interview yourself, but after the jump we’ll break down some of the key pieces of this explosive discussion…

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“Con Man Cory” Finally Feeling The Heat

Sen. Cory Gardner (R).

As the Denver Post’s Mark Matthews reports–as the GOP-controlled U.S. Senate prepares to unveil their bill to repeal the Affordable Care Act tomorrow, Sen. Cory Gardner of Colorado, one of the select group of GOP Senators allegedly involved with drafting the bill, is finally starting to buckle under the intense backlash against both the legislation and the secretive process by which it was written:

“It should be more open,” said the Colorado Republican in a brief interview. “I think there should be (Senate) hearings on this.”

But, Gardner said, the fault lies with U.S. politics writ large, rather than with him and other Senate Republican leaders, who are writing the bill and control the chamber’s agenda. [Pols emphasis]

“I’m disappointed that we have a Washington, D.C., so fundamentally broken that both sides of the aisle can’t come together to fix” health care, said Gardner, whose role as chair of the National Republican Senatorial Committee makes him one of the top GOP officials in the Senate…

Asked about the lack of Senate hearings, Gardner said it wasn’t his preference.

“I would love to see the Senate hold hearings. I would love that. I have said that before. I have said that for months,” Gardner said.

Unfortunately for Gardner, Matthews didn’t take his word on that last part:

Following the interview, his staff was asked to identify when exactly Gardner had called publicly for hearings; the response was that Gardner had done so whenever he had been asked about it, though no specific examples were cited. [Pols emphasis]

This new attempt by Gardner to distance himself from a process he was previously quite proud to identify as a leader of is a telling sign that things are not going well–and also that the fierce pushback Republicans are getting over this legislation is having an effect. As our readers know, Gardner has used the Affordable Care Act as his foremost political grandstand ever since his first run for Congress in 2010. Gardner relied on rank misinformation about “policy cancellations” to vilify the law, and even blamed the failure of health co-op organizations on Obama after he himself sponsored legislation to kill their funding. Through all of this, Gardner has relied on his ability to fast-talk and smile his way through the contradictions.

But now, the time for talk is over. The Senate’s repeal bill will be unveiled tomorrow, and just yesterday it became apparent that Gardner may not have been as involved in the drafting of the new legislation as we were led to believe. Regardless, how can Gardner complain about the lack of bipartisan cooperation on repealing Obamacare after his own years of provable deception about the law’s effects? How can Gardner claim the process “should be more open” when he won’t even meet with constituents to discuss it? And if Gardner truly wants hearings on the bill, why doesn’t he demand them?

Gardner has been successful in part because of his ability to stay just ahead of political disaster, making wholesale changes to his professed agenda to suit the politics of the race he’s running in. Today, though, Gardner is out of maneuvering room. It’s about to be painfully obvious how Gardner has deceived voters for years, and how the promises to replace Obamacare with “something better” were never intended to be kept.

As they say in the con man business, “the jig is up.”

Beware Koch Brothers Bearing Gifts

Americans For Prosperity-Colorado, the well-funded conservative message group tied to the Koch Brothers empire of political advocacy organizations, is launching a campaign that’s fairly unusual at first glance–praising Democrats for a bill passed this year on charter school funding:

Americans for Prosperity Colorado launched a “Thank you” ad campaign, acknowledging state legislators from both sides of the aisle in standing up for taxpayers and equal funding for schools. State director, Jesse Mallory, asserts, “As a nonpartisan organization, we are pleased to work across the aisle to promote freedom for all Coloradans. Today we would like to recognize and thank a number of state legislators for their courage to stand up for taxpayers and promote equalized funding for all public schools.”

Legislators being thanked for co-sponsoring legislation to equalize funding for charter schools include: Senator Angela Williams, Representative Brittany Pettersen, Senator Own Hill and Representative Lang Sias. Senator Tim Neville, Senator Jack Tate, Senator Beth Martinez-Humenik, Senator Chris Holbert and Representative Patrick Neville are being thanked for standing up for taxpayers.

The legislation in question, House Bill 17-1375, was the result of a compromise principally brokered between House Speaker Crisanta Duran and Republican Senate leadership–a compromise that included the death of another bill to “equalize” charter school funding sponsored by Republicans in that chamber. It’s important to note that the Colorado Education Association, which opposed the Republican bill, was neutral on HB17-1375–and it passed with broad bipartisan support.

Obviously charter school funding remains a divisive point among Democrats, and there’s plenty of disagreement over this bill even after Gov. John Hickenlooper signed it into law. It’s perfectly reasonable for it to be a subject of debate in the upcoming CD-7 primary between Jefferson County public school teacher Sen. Andy Kerr and Rep. Brittany Pettersen. Sen. Kerr is the former chairman of the Senate Education Committee, has solid support from parent and teacher groups in the district, and opposed HB17-1375. Pettersen, as readers will recall, was one of the principal organizers of the landmark 2015 recall campaign against the right-wing majority on the Jefferson County school board. Given the lingering hard feelings over the 2015 recall, it’s a safe bet that AFP is not looking to benefit Pettersen by “thanking” her for this bill. Democratic primary voters in CD-7 know AFP very well, and may well figure out the reverse psychology at work without any help.

With that said, we have no interest in shielding any candidate from legitimate criticism in the course of what’s expected to be a hard-fought but (hopefully) amicable primary. CD-7 Democrats have a choice between several great contenders to succeed Rep. Ed Perlmutter, and here’s an issue we expect will be vigorously debated.

Whoever they choose, Democratic voters are best off making the choice without the Koch Brothers living rent-free in their heads.

Wednesday Open Thread

“To educate a man in mind and not in morals is to educate a menace to society.”

–Theodore Roosevelt

Does Cory Gardner Even Know What’s In The Bill?

UPDATE #2: Via Talking Points Memo:

Rank-and-file Senate Republicans had one thing in common with their Democratic counterparts in the health care debate Tuesday: Most did not know exactly what is going to be in the GOP Obamacare repeal legislation expected to be unveiled Thursday and put up for a vote as soon as next week.

“Nobody really has a finalized health care bill. I don’t think anybody’s seen any kind of final text,” Sen. John Thune (R-SD), the No. 3 in Senate GOP leadership, told reporters Tuesday…

…Asked Tuesday morning if lawmakers would see the text of a bill later this week, Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) said, “I don’t know.”

Asked if she knew who is drafting the bill, Sen. Susan Collins (R-MN) said, “I do not.”

If a tree falls in the forest, and nobody is around to hear it…

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UPDATE: Local activists who have been in touch with Sen. Cory Gardner’s office recently, Tweeting since we posted this blog, would seem to confirm that Gardner is not in the loop for the latest iteration of the GOP’s Obamacare repeal effort despite allegedly being a member of the working group:

Seems like a really good question for the next reporter who gets Gardner on the line…

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Sen. Cory Gardner (R).

Sen. Cory Gardner of Colorado, as our readers know, is one of a group of thirteen select Republican U.S. Senators who are allegedly crafting the Senate’s version of legislation to repeal the Affordable Care Act behind closed doors–this despite repeated and explicit promises from Sen. Gardner that they would not do so.

All this time, we’ve been operating under the assumption that, as one of the small group of Senators tasked with writing up this new bill to replace the House’s “mean” and dead-on-arrival ACA repeal bill, that Sen. Gardner knew what was in it–and was keeping voters in the dark for political reasons.

But based on new public complaints from Sen. Mike Lee of Utah, another member of the “select group” allegedly authoring this bill, we’re wondering if Gardner has even seen the legislation he’s touting:

“Even though I’ve been a member of this working group assigned to help narrow some of the focus of this, I haven’t seen the bill. It has become increasingly apparent over the past few days that even though we thought we were going to be in charge of writing this bill within this working group, it’s not being written by us. It’s apparently being written by a small handful of staffers for members of the Republican leadership in the Senate. [Pols emphasis] So, if you’re frustrated by the lack of transparency in this process, I share your frustration wholeheartedly.”

Got that? Here we have a U.S. Senator, like Gardner in the small group allegedly working on this bill, who claims he has not seen the bill. Lee says the Senators publicly fronting this effort are not writing the bill at all, but that staffers for Republican Majority Leader Mitch McConnell are the authors. And that presents a very straightforward question: how “in the loop” is Cory Gardner, really? For all of Gardner’s insistence that the bill “he’s” working on will be better than Obamacare, does he even know what’s in it to know if that’s true?

If it turns out that Gardner has been lying about his role in this process, it’s a severe hit on his credibility. And if it’s true that he hasn’t been involved in the drafting, he could be in the highly uncomfortable position of having to sell a bill that fails to meet his own stated benchmarks–like protecting the Medicaid expansion population.

Like we said last week, Gardner is rapidly approaching the moment of truth in terms of his years of factually-dubious demonization of Obamacare against the growing certainty that the GOP’s “replacement” is a disaster that will hurt millions of people.

If Gardner is flying blind like Mike Lee while insisting everything is fine, it’s going to end very badly for him.