Weekend Open Thread

“I would rather be politically dead than hypocritically immortalized.”

–Davy Crockett

(Some) Colorado Lawmakers React Angrily To Trump Weed Threats

Rep. Jared Polis (D).

As the Colorado Independent’s Ernest Luning reports:

Word that the White House could begin cracking down on the marijuana trade in states that have legalized the drug drew swift rebuke Thursday from Democratic lawmakers in Colorado, the first state to cultivate a recreational pot industry.

“Whether it is building a wall or stripping protections for trans students, President Trump has already shown he’s willing to trample Colorado values to further his regressive agenda,” said state Sen. Steve Fenberg, D-Boulder, in a statement. “Now, he’s going to use his Department of Justice to trample states’ rights? The people of Colorado voted for the legalization of recreational marijuana, and the federal government needs to respect the will of Coloradans.”

…U.S. Rep. Jared Polis, a Boulder Democrat and a founder of the bipartisan congressional Cannabis Caucus, invoked states’ rights and the burgeoning marijuana economy in his sharp criticism of Spicer’s statement.

“The president has said time and again that the decision about marijuana needs to be left to the states,” Polis said in a statement. “Now either the president is flip-flopping or his staff is, once again, speaking out of turn; either way, these comments leave doubt and uncertainty for the marijuana industry, stifling job growth in my state. The public has spoken on recreational marijuana, we’ve seen it work in Colorado, and now is the time to lift the federal prohibition.”

Gov. John Hickenlooper has a less strident but still fairly supportive tone, via Politico:

Hickenlooper also weighed in on the issue of legalized marijuana. Following White House press secretary Sean Spicer’s statement Thursday that the Department of Justice would be “taking action” on the recreational use of marijuana, Hickenlooper called legalized marijuana “one of the great experiments of the 21st century.”

He said while he was against legalized marijuana, the state has anecdotally seen less drug dealers and has not experienced an uptick in usage among teenagers.

Twenty-four hours since the Trump administration’s announcement of “greater enforcement” of federal law prohibiting recreational marijuana sales and possession, we’re struck by how little comment there’s been from Colorado politicians–especially Republican Colorado politicians who presumably would be opposed, and would have more pull interceding on Colorado’s behalf with Trump than Democratic lawmakers.

Yesterday’s announcement by White House spokesman Sean Spicer contained very little in the way of details on what the “greater enforcement” against marijuana would look like, and the administration has refused requests for more information. That vacuum leaves room for rumor and misinformation that further darkens the picture for this billion-dollar industry.

If we really do value the marijuana industry’s economic and public revenue benefits to our state, the time to speak up is right now. That includes, in fact it’s fair to say it depends on, Republicans with access to the new administration leading the opposition.

If they don’t? Well, there are going to be a lot of upset (and sober) stoners voting in 2018.

Ken Buck Scrambles Obamacare Repeal Message

Rep. Ken Buck (R).

As the Denver Post’s John Ingold reports, Rep. Ken Buck of Greeley just helped deprive Coloradans of whatever security they might have felt about health care, after other Colorado Republicans like Rep. Mike Coffman and Sen. Cory Gardner assured us that the Affordable Care Act would not be repealed without a replacement in place:

In a meeting with constituents in Douglas County on Tuesday, Colorado Congressman Ken Buck said he believes that fully implementing a replacement could take years after the vote to repeal the law. His fellow Colorado U.S. Rep. Mike Coffman, though, told constituents in a video message last week that he would not vote to repeal the law without “a concurrent replacement.”

…Buck said he believes that a repeal of the heath care law will occur “soon” but will have its effective date delayed. Crafting, passing and fully implementing the replacement plan, he said, “will take a while to formulate.”

“I think other Republicans are expressing their optimism that something can happen concurrently,” Buck said. “I think realistically, if we do the process the right way, replacement is going to take a period of time.”

To be fair, Buck does assert that “there won’t be a change that happens next month that is going to completely alter the health care system, but Buck’s willingness to accept repeal without any replacement creates major uncertainty for everyone who has gained coverage under the Affordable Care Act–or benefited from improvements to coverage like keeping kids on parents’ plans longer and requiring pre-existing conditions to be covered.

Obviously, this sets up a conflict between Buck and the promises made by other Colorado Republicans–and given the reticence of most Republicans to be specific about the plan for health care going forward, we wouldn’t look for any clear answers anytime soon.

If that’s cold comfort for you, there are protests just about every day lately.

White House Blocks Prominent News Organizations from Briefing

This was probably inevitable, but that doesn’t make it any less terrifying:

CNN, The New York Times, Politico, and other mainstream news organizations were blocked from participating in a White House media briefing on Friday afternoon. Journalists expressed outrage at the unusual move, and the Associated Press and Time magazine boycotted the briefing as a result. Spicer reportedly allowed sympathetic outlets into the gaggle—an informal question-and-answer session between a press secretary and journalists—including the Washington Times, Breitbart, and One America News Network. Jeff Mason, the president of the White House Correspondents’ Association, said in a statement that the consortium of reporters will “strongly protest” the move and further discuss it with White House press staffers.

Kudos to the Associated Press and TIME magazine for boycotting the press briefing in solidarity with their media brethren.

Get More Smarter on Friday (February 24)

It’s cold outside — colder than the reception you might receive if you tried to talk to Sen. Cory Gardner. 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…

► Senator Cory Gardner (R-Yuma) has almost made it through the workweek recess without actually having to answer questions from real constituents about, well, anything. But Gardner’s consistent refusal to engage with the people he is supposed to represent is escalating into a full-out disaster for the first-term Senator, and the problem is only getting worse. On Thursday, multiple videos of Gardner evading a woman and her baby in a Broomfield hotel lobby became national news, with Gardner consistently brushing off questions by telling her — and other constituents — to just “go to my website” instead.

Gardner’s constituent indifference has become a national story.

 

► Once upon a time (also known as January), Rep. Mike Coffman (R-Aurora) promised to hold a big town hall meeting before Congress votes on a potential repeal of the Affordable Care Act. Coffman didn’t make any effort to hold a town hall meeting during the current President’s Day recess, but as Ernest Luning reports for the Colorado Statesman, Team Coffman says there will be an event in April:

U.S. Rep. Mike Coffman plans to hold a traditional town hall in April, when the Aurora Republican will be at home in his district during a scheduled congressional recess, his aides said Friday.

Coffman spokesman Daniel Bucheli told The Colorado Statesman that Coffman is looking for the right venue and nailing down the date for a town hall, likely sometime during the second full week of April. He was confirming an announcement made by campaign aide J.D. Key Friday morning at a GOP breakfast meeting in Highlands Ranch.

The immediate question, of course, is whether or not this means that Congress will not be voting on a potential repeal of Obamacare in the next 6-8 weeks; Coffman promised to hold a big town hall meeting before a potential vote on repealing the healthcare law. Coffman could have just been blowing smoke up everyone’s you-know-what, which the Congressman has been known to do, but this promise would be harder to walk back given the steady crowds trying to contact their elected officials across the country.

 

► It would not be a complete surprise if Congress is unable to take action on repealing Obamacare, as Rep. Ken Buck (R-Greeley) seemed to indicate earlier this week. Former House Speaker John Boehner was widely quoted on Thursday laughing at the idea that Republicans could coalesce around a single idea on health care reform. Meanwhile, Politico reports on a new draft document outlining another potential GOP healthcare plan:

A draft House Republican repeal bill would dismantle Obamacare subsidies and scrap its Medicaid expansion, according to a copy of the proposal obtained by POLITICO.

The legislation would take down the foundation of Obamacare, including the unpopular individual mandate, subsidies based on people’s income, and all of the law’s taxes. It would significantly roll back Medicaid spending and give states money to create high-risk pools for some people with pre-existing conditions. Some elements would be effective right away; others not until 2020.

The replacement would be paid for by limiting tax breaks on generous health plans people get at work — an idea that is similar to the Obamacare “Cadillac tax” that Republicans have fought to repeal.

Speaker Paul Ryan said last week that Republicans would introduce repeal legislation after recess. [Pols emphasis] But the GOP has been deeply divided about how much of the law to scrap, and how much to “repair,” and the heated town halls back home during the weeklong recess aren’t making it any easier for them.

The basis of the leaked plan is, essentially, to tax healthcare plans for “cost containment” while doing nothing to address coverage. This won’t end well.

 

► The Trump administration on Thursday made it clear that the President plans to crack down on the recreational marijuana industry.

 

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

Friday Open Thread

“We often want one thing and pray for another, not telling the truth even to the gods.”

–Lucius Annaeus Seneca

Trump Takes Aim at Recreational Marijuana

UPDATE: Once again Sen. Cory Gardner’s backside is flapping in the breeze:

Republican Senator Cory Gardner of Colorado, where marijuana production and distribution has become an established industry, spoke with Sessions before his confirmation about the business in his state and was assured there will be no sudden changes in policy.

“That was the take-away from my conversation with Jeff,” Gardner said. “It’s not a priority of the Trump administration.”

Time for an update, Senator.

—–

As The Cannabist reports:

Recreational marijuana is in the sights of the Trump administration, White House spokesman Sean Spicer said Thursday.

Spicer, during his daily briefing, gave the first clear glimpse at the new administration’s views toward the burgeoning rise of legal marijuana.

“There’s a big difference between (medical marijuana) and recreational marijuana, and I think when you see something like the opioid addiction crisis blossoming in so many states around this country, the last thing we should be doing is encouraging people,” Spicer said, when asked about the topic of legalization. “There is still a federal law that we need to abide by in terms of recreational marijuana and other drugs of that nature.”…

A Quinnipiac poll released Thursday found 71 percent of Americans surveyed would oppose a federal crackdown on legal marijuana, and 93 percent are in favor of medical marijuana.

MUST WATCH: Constituents Corner Cory Gardner

UPDATE: Here’s another camera angle of the encounter:

—–

Sen. Cory Gardner (R).

Wild video now circulating on social media of a confrontation this morning between Sen. Cory Gardner and several constituents in a Broomfield office building–in which Gardner tries mightily to escape with a proffered business card and promises of a future “tele-town hall,” and fails miserably as his persistent constituents tail him onto an elevator. Transcript:

CONSTITUENT: We are at 380 Interlocken Crescent trying to meet with Senator Gardner as he’s going into a meeting this morning.
(Gardner enters building, applause)
CONSTITUENT: Hi, Senator Gardner!
GARDNER: How are you?
CONSTITUENT: Hi, I’m Kathryn Ashton Hirst, nice to meet you I’m one of your constituents.
GARDNER: Nice to see you. Nice to see you. How are you guys doing?
CONSTITUENT: Came from Breckenridge Colorado today.
GARDNER: Thanks for coming in.
CONSTITUENT: We’re hoping you’re going to hold a town hall for us soon.
GARDNER: Thanks. If you go to our website there’ll be a tele-town hall soon.
CONSTITUENT: We have been. I’ve tried to sign up for three of them and I have yet to hear, I have yet to hear from your office.
(Crosstalk)
CONSTITUENT: I’ve tried to sign up for town halls, and they’re not returning my calls.
CONSTITUENT #2: Tell him there’s no scheduling either.
GARDNER: Excuse me, I’m trying to…yeah do you have a card you can give them…yeah, look at our website for tele-town halls, that would be fantastic.
CONSTITUENT: We want a town hall. We have…we’ve gone to your website, we’ve called your office, and we’re trying to get on your list…
CONSTITUENT #3: How about in person?
GARDNER: Call the office and we’ll be in touch.
CONSTITUENT: I’ve been refused for three of them, Senator Gardner.
CONSTITUENT #2: I’ve been calling a lot. (unintelligible)
GARDNER: Excuse me…
CONSTITUENT: You’re going to the ninth floor.
GARDNER: Well, um, it’s, uh, if you call the office we have…
CONSTITUENT: We have called the office.
GARDNER: I’m told we have the information on our website, so…
CONSTITUENT: Well we don’t, and I’ve tried to call and I’ve tried to get on three of your town halls.
GARDNER AIDE: Excuse me, you’re blocking the elevator…
CONSTITUENT: And I have yet to have been called back.
(Crosstalk)
GARDNER: (unintelligible) you weren’t on the town hall?
CONSTITUENT: Because there’s, you guys dial us and I’ve asked to be on three of them and I have yet to be reached on any of them.
GARDNER AIDE: Could be a capacity issue.
GARDNER: Well I’m curious now that, so we called you and it didn’t work?
CONSTITUENT: No you haven’t called me. I’ve called to get on your town halls several times…
GARDNER: Oh ok, take Jorge’s (?) card, can you take Jorge’s card, and call him [Gardner motions to staffer]…
CONSTITUENT: I would love to…
GARDNER: And we will add you to the next tele-town hall. (Crosstalk)
CONSTITUENT: Okay I have asked to be added…
(Crosstalk)
CONSTITUENT #3: You had lots of town halls last year.
GARDNER: And we had several yesterday, public forums, open forums, so…
CONSTITUENT: Where?
CONSTITUENT #3: When are you going to start announcing them, Senator?
GARDNER: Well, they’re on the website, I think we talked about them yesterday, I think… (Crosstalk)
CONSTITUENT: They’re not on the website.
CONSTITUENT #3: I’ve called a half a dozen times, signed forms… (crosstalk)
GARDNER: Well, the Governor’s Ag Forum…the Governor’s Ag Forum was well-publicized, so thank you. Thank you.
CONSTITUENT: We look forward to seeing you again Senator Gardner! We look forward to that town hall!
CONSTITUENT #2: Yeah don’t hide from us!

You can detect a very rare flash of public contempt from Gardner for these constituents, when he tells them “look at our website for tele-town halls, that would be fantastic.” Gardner defends himself by claiming to have held several “public forums,” citing yesterday’s appearance at the Governor’s Ag Forum as an example (admission $200). Gardner is able to delay with affected concern that the constituent was not able to connect to his tele-town halls just long enough for the elevator door to open and Gardner to escape down the hallway with staffers watching his flanks. The whole experience is very bad for Gardner, who spends most of the recording ducking his head out from behind his staff.

Yes, Gardner (mostly) keeps cool–but watching him first try to evade his constituents, then evade their obvious points about a face-to-face meeting, shows the limits of even Cory Gardner’s world-famous slickness.

And we’ll be watching for this video in the news.

Ken Buck Spills Obamacare Beans in Secret “Constituent” Meeting

Rep. Ken Buck (R-Greeley) says an Obamacare replacement plan is YEARS away.

Marianne Goodland of the Colorado Independent produced some impressive journalism this week when she managed to 1) Learn about a secret “constituent” meeting with Rep. Ken Buck (R-Greeley), and 2) Find a way to get inside the room at said secret meeting.

As Goodland learned firsthand, Rep. Buck is making some fairly bold assurances about healthcare reform efforts in Congress that don’t really jibe with some of the other GOP talking points we’ve seen and heard over the last week:

President Trump has said his administration plans to unveil a replacement plan next month, but Buck told the crowd that it could take several years to come up with a replacement. “We need to come to consensus on how much we’re willing to pay. We will leave some people behind, one way or another” either by charging too much or coming up with a plan that won’t cover everyone, he added.

He pleaded with the audience to remove from their minds the idea that the repeal of the Affordable Care Act would happen before a replacement plan is in place. [Pols emphasis]

The healthcare marketplace, insurance companies and employers will have a chance to adjust before the ACA is gone, he insisted. “The idea that anyone wants to disrupt the economy in that way isn’t true.”

Whoa! These are some pretty strong statements coming from Buck that definitely don’t jibe with paid advertisements in Republican districts promising that the GOP “has a plan” for healthcare reform. Says Buck:

  1. Any Obamacare replacement plan is years away from reality.
  2. Any GOP healthcare plan will definitely not cover all Americans.
  3. Congress will not repeal Obamacare until a replacement plan is in place.

This is most definitely not the narrative that Republican leaders would have you believe about Obamacare…but that doesn’t mean Rep. Buck is wrong.

Rewarding The Worst Possible Behavior in Politics

One of the top stories of the 2016 elections in Colorado centered on a campaign mounted in a key Colorado Senate race, swing suburban Senate District 19 in Arvada, attacking the Democratic challenger in that race now-Sen. Rachel Zenzinger. The allegation that Zenzinger had “voted to spend taxpayer money on a trip to China” as an Arvada city councillor had been thoroughly debunked years before, but the Republican Senate 527 group Colorado Citizens for Accountable Government chose to recycle the charge in 2016 for Zenzinger’s rematch against incumbent GOP Sen. Laura Woods.

In 2016, this line of attack was prosecuted by CCAG with an audacity that shocked the local media out of its usual complacency about bogus claims in elections. After Denver7’s Politifact Colorado rated the whole accusation “Pants on Fire” false, citing Zenzinger’s stand against using tax dollars for the trip and the fact that the trip never even happened, CCAG actually used copy from that fact-check in another ad doubling down on the lie.

Perhaps the worst moment in this campaign arrived as small cardboard boxes in SD-19 mailboxes containing a fortune cookie “to commemorate Rachel Zenzinger’s vote for a taxpayer-funded trip to China.” This, along with another mailer that featured Zenzinger wearing a Vietnamese straw hat, introduced an ugly racist element to the message.

A complaint to Jefferson County’s elected Republican district attorney citing Colorado law against knowingly false statements in electioneering of course went nowhere, but the campaign ultimately backfired as press stories about the thoroughly false nature of the claim spread much more widely than the mailers themselves were seen by SD-19 voters. In particular, deceptively quoting from the fact-check that debunked the claim in a subsequent mailer struck Politifact Colorado and others as unacceptably contemptuous of the media’s responsibility to keep politics honest–which resulted in more bad press.

Rachel Zenzinger won this election, in no small part due to the backlash against CCAG’s false and racially charged ad campaign. The bad press Republicans earned for the campaign far exceeded any rational benefit. In all of our years covering Colorado politics, this is one of the worst message campaigns we’ve ever seen; and the proof is in the results.

So why are we bringing this up now, you ask?

Because the prestigious political insider publication Campaigns & Elections just awarded this campaign, in particular the fortune cookie mailer, Best Mail Piece For Independent Expenditure Campaign for the 2016 elections.

That’s right, folks! A campaign that was so centered on lies and prejudice that the local media blew it out of the water, and may have cost the candidate it was supporting re-election, has just been held up nationally as an example of how to do it right.

Who knows? Maybe the results of the elections nationally last year stripped the political operator class of their last shreds of objectivity or integrity. But for ourselves, if this is now the right way to do politics, we don’t want to do it right.

We’d prefer to tell the truth, sleep at night, and win the election.

Thursday Open Thread

“Criticism may not be agreeable, but it is necessary. It fulfills the same function as pain in the human body. It calls attention to an unhealthy state of things.”

–Winston Churchill

Cory Gardner’s Out of This World Constituent Outreach!

UPDATE: Sen. Gardner brings his super-duper surprise outreach to Ft. Collins on Wednesday evening:

—–

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…)