Get More Smarter on Tuesday (April 24)

Tomorrow is Administrative Professionals Day, if you’re into that sort of thing. 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… 

► Colorado Republicans are getting (rightfully) blasted for proposing legislation that would jail Colorado teachers for escalating their push to increase education funding. Mother Jones is just one of numerous national news outlets to pick up this story:

The bill, which is seen as a long shot to make it through the state Legislature, came just days after hundreds of Colorado educators rallied in Denver, joining educators in West Virginia, Oklahoma, Kentucky, and Arizona in protesting for better pay and funding for public schools. Gardner told the Denver Post on Monday that the idea for the proposed legislation emerged after the strike in West Virginia, and he noted he was open to changes in the penalty for teachers who strike, adding it was “probably most important” that unions are penalized for sponsoring a strike.

“It’s a wise thing to do, in some shape or form, in the state of Colorado because we have one district that’s already voted to strike. We have others discussing a strike,” Gardner told the Post. “Strikes are not good for children.” On Twitter, Colorado Senate Democrats slammed the bill as “anti-worker trash.”

Colorado teachers are among the lowest-paid in the entire country. 9News has a list of school districts that will be closed for students at the end of this week because of planned teacher protests.

 

► The White House is defending President Trump’s nominee for VA Secretary amid what looks to be an uphill battle for confirmation. From the Washington Post:

Ronny L. Jackson, the White House physician and a former combat surgeon, was scheduled to testify before the Senate Committee on Veterans’ Affairs on Wednesday. But the hearing has been delayed because of concerns about his qualifications and oversight of the White House medical staff, as well as other allegations about Jackson’s conduct that have been shared with the committee.

“We’re gonna have a hearing at some time in the future, but not Wednesday,” said Sen. Johnny Isakson (R-Ga.), the chairman of the panel.

Should Jackson’s nomination fail, perhaps Colorado Rep. Mike Coffman can be a nominee so that he can later call on himself to resign. In the meantime, perhaps Trump’s administration can come up with some sort of vetting process.

 

If you’re having a difficult time keeping track of the number of sexual harassment allegations now levied against Sen. Randy Baumgardner, you are not alone. If you believe that Senate President Kevin Grantham or Senate Majority Leader Chris Holbert are ever going to actually do something about these allegations…well, you might be on your own there.

 

► Congressman Doug Lamborn (R-Colorado Springs) may be finishing out his political career in 2018 after a Colorado State Supreme Court ruling tossed his name off of the June Primary ballot. Lamborn is apparently appealing the decision to a federal court, but it is unclear whether a higher court will consider his arguments. The Colorado Secretary of State’s office is supposed to finalize the Primary ballot by Friday, April 27.

This is a complete embarrassment for Lamborn even if he ultimately makes it onto the Primary ballot. Lamborn is a six-term Congressman, yet his re-election campaign struggled to collect 1,000 valid petition signatures.

 

Get even more smarter after the jump…

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Colorado’s Democratic and Republican party platforms reveal some fundamental differences

Colorado Democrats and Republicans approved their 2018 party platforms at their state conventions earlier this month, and they show stark differences on issues ranging from tax policy and gun control to healthcare and abortion.

On tax issues Colorado Republicans  support “President Trump’s and the Republican Congress’ tax cuts,” while Democrats call for “restoring tax rates on top incomes” and “enacting a progressive estate tax.”

On guns, Colorado Democrats back “individual ownership of firearms for hunting and personal safety,” but they would, among other regulations, “ban assault weapons, bump stocks, and high capacity magazines” and increase the age for purchasing a firearm to 21.

Colorado Republicans “affirm the right of all peaceable and law-abiding individual citizens to keep and bear arms of their choice without any degree of prior restraint.”

State Democrats “support measures that promote equality for, and non-discrimination against, gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender, and queer people in all aspects of their lives” while the state GOP advocates for “marriage exclusively as the union of one man and one woman” and asserts that the state has a “rational interest” in defining marriage as such.

On abortion, the state Republican Party supports personhood, which states that a “person’s unalienable rights begin at conception and continue until death.” This stance, if enacted into law, would translate into a ban all abortion and possibly some forms of birth control.

State Democrats took the position that “all people should have access to affordable, safe, and legal reproductive health care, including abortion, and should not be infringed on by the anyone.”

The state’s Republicans would repeal Obamacare and defund Planned Parenthood, while Democrats want “health care for all, as a fundamental human right, including Medicare / Medicaid for all.”

Republican Lawmakers Threaten Jail Time for Underpaid Teachers

Two Colorado Springs Republicans, Rep. Paul Lundeen and Sen. Bob Gardner, are sponsoring a ridiculously tone-deaf piece of legislation targeting teachers.

The plight of underfunded schools and underpaid teachers has become a national story, with educators walking off the job in West Virginia, Kentucky, Oklahoma, and Arizona.

Here in Colorado, teachers have been marching on the State Capitol to demand higher wages and better school funding. Those protests will grow louder this week when teachers from three of the largest school districts in the state — Denver, Douglas, and Jefferson counties — descend on the State Capitol on Thursday and Friday. Teachers from multiple other school districts throughout Colorado are participating in various rallies this week, and while there are no indications that educators might go on strike, Republican lawmakers are doing their best to threaten them anyway.

Denver7 reports on a new GOP-sponsored bill in the Colorado legislature designed to have a chilling effect on the free speech rights of teachers:

The bill, SB18-264, would prohibit public school teacher strikes by authorizing school districts to seek an injunction from district court. A failure to comply with the injunction would “constitute contempt of court” and teachers could face not only fines but up to six months in county jail, the bill language reads. 

The bill also directs school districts to fire teachers on the spot without a proper hearing if they’re found in contempt of court and also bans public school teachers from getting paid “for any day which the public school teacher participates in a strike.” [Pols emphasis]

The bill, which was introduced this past Friday, is sponsored by State Rep. Paul Lundeen and Sen. Bob Gardner, both Republicans.

The story of this new legislation from Republicans is already being picked up nationally (see The Hill and Vox.com for two examples), and we would expect that you’ll be hearing about this soon from every major media outlet in the country. Colorado teachers are among the lowest paid in the country — our state ranks 46th in average teacher pay nationwide.

Administrators in Colorado have tried threatening teachers in the past, and it has usually failed spectacularly (see: McMinimee, Dan). We wouldn’t expect this move by Republicans to do any better. Colorado teachers are not promoting a strike, and those that are walking out in places like Jefferson County are taking personal days off to attend the rallies; it’s not like they are just refusing to work for the day.

Aside from the issue itself, the political ramifications here are plainly obvious. With this legislation, Republican lawmakers are publicly lining up in opposition to Colorado teachers in a manner that is absolutely unnecessary. Instead of listening to teacher arguments and nodding politely — and then doing nothing — the GOP has decided to stake out a position as a villain. And make no mistake about which side is the bad guy here; a recent poll shows that 78% of Americans believe teachers are underpaid, and half of those respondents say they would support a tax increase in order to raise teacher salaries.

With Democrats in control of the State House, there’s no way SB18-264 is going to pass anyway. Republicans are inflicting a significant political wound on themselves for no practical reason.

Karen McCormick: Wall Street Banks Saved Billions from the Republican tax cut in 90 days. Middle class Coloradans didn’t.

A new analysis from Associated Press shows the six biggest Wall Street banks saved $3.6 Billion – that’s with a B –  in the last 90 days of 2017 on the tax cut bill Ken Buck voted for. JPMorgan Chase, Citigroup, Wells Fargo, Goldman Sachs, Morgan Stanley and Bank of America did very well thanks to the Republican tax cut bill.

Middle class Coloradans did not. According to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, in Colorado and 46 other states, the richest 1% will get more from new Republican tax cuts than the bottom 60%.

That’s wrong. And that’s why I’m running – because middle class Coloradans deserve a break, not Wall Street banks. And I know who’s side I’m on, and whose Ken Buck is not – yours. I will advocate for an economy and a tax code that rewards work and helps Colorado’s small farmers, ranchers, local communities and working families, not giant corporations.

Please join me in my fight for economic fairness for Colorado families. Together we can make a difference.

Robinson, Watson Fail to Make Ballot; Lynne Squeaks In

UPDATE: The Secretary of State’s office announced this afternoon that Democrat Donna Lynne made the ballot for Governor. Lynne barely surpassed the signature threshold in two congressional districts (1,556 in CD-4 and 1,586 in CD-6) and almost certainly would not have qualified for the June Primary were it not for SOS Wayne Williams’ decision to stop counting petitions for Democrat Jared Polis.

—–

Republican gubernatorial candidates Victor Mitchell (left) and Doug Robinson get mixed news from the Secretary of State’s office.

We wrote Thursday about the absolute mess of a process that candidates in Colorado must navigate in order to make it onto the June Primary ballot. Things are about to get a whole lot messier.

On Friday the Colorado Secretary of State’s office made some huge announcements about ballot access for four statewide Republican candidates. In the race for GovernorVictor Mitchell is on the ballot and Mitt Romney’s Nephew (Doug Robinson) is not.

In the battle for State Treasurer, Republican Polly Lawrence has been certified for the June Primary, while erstwhile frontrunner Brian Watson failed to make the ballot because of a shortage of signatures in Congressional District 2.

Today’s ruling is almost certainly not the last we’ve heard of Robinson and Watson. We would expect both candidates to file lawsuits, and we wouldn’t be at all surprised if both ended up making the ballot after a Colorado judge hears their case. These days, the key to making the ballot in Colorado is really about having enough money to hire an attorney.

The Grand Equivocator

Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper is getting beaten up on social media today because of his penchant for answering one question with two answers…and probably for good reason. Taking multiple sides of a single issue is not a new trick for Hick, but as John Frank of the Denver Post points out, the Governor’s wordplay is getting a little out of hand:


Frank is referencing this CNN story about the legalization of marijuana in Colorado (and around the country), in which Hickenlooper suggests that he wouldn’t rule out re-criminalizing the funky herb:

Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper has two facts in front of him: Since 2014 crime has been rising in his state, outstripping the national trend, and since 2014 recreational use of marijuana has been legal.

Whether the two are connected is hotly debated — and if they are, then what? For the first time publicly, Hickenlooper told CNN he doesn’t rule out recriminalizing recreational marijuana, even if that’s a long shot.

“Trust me, if the data was coming back and we saw spikes in violent crime, we saw spikes in overall crime, there would be a lot of people looking for that bottle and figuring out how we get the genie back in,” he said. “It doesn’t seem likely to me, but I’m not ruling it out.” [Pols emphasis]

Hickenlooper has never been particularly enthusiastic about legalizing marijuana in Colorado, and that’s fine. But going back and forth like this is a bad look for a guy who is trying to position himself for a potential run for President in 2020, and he’s been doing it a lot lately. Earlier this week we took note of a comment from Hickenlooper in a KUNC story about addressing sexual harassment at the State Capitol:

“There’s an argument that says let’s get it right, let’s not rush into action,” said Gov. John Hickenlooper. “That being said, there needs to be a sense of urgency.”

Yes, there are two sides to every story, and two sides to every coin, yada, yada, yada. But if Hickenlooper is going to have another act in his political future, it would behoove him to present himself as more of a leader and less of a mediator.

Walker Stapleton Clams Up About Great-Grandfather Ben Stapleton

(Promoted by Colorado Pols)

When he first ran for statewide political office in Colorado, Republican gubernatorial candidate Walker Stapleton touted his “proud family tradition of community leadership,” which included the “great” accomplishments of Benjamin Stapleton, his great-grandfather who was a former Mayor of Denver and a former leader of the Ku Klux Klan.

But now, about nine years later, it’s hard to find Walker Stapleton saying anything about Benjamin Stapleton, much less praising his “public service.”

Benjamin Stapleton was a high-ranking member of the KKK when he was first elected Mayor of Denver in 1923, during which time the KKK had elected a handful of members and allies to government offices. The following year, while fighting a recall election, Mayor Stapleton pledged to “work with the Klan and for the Klan in the coming election, heart and soul,” and said he’d “give the Klan the kind of administration it wants.”

In an ad for his successful 2010 campaign for Colorado treasurer, Walker Stapleton bragged about his great-grandfather’s legacy as “Denver’s longest-serving mayor” and praised his “accomplishments,” which included the construction of parks as well as Stapleton Airfield, Colorado’s first municipal airport.

“I’m really proud of my family’s public service here in Colorado and beyond,” said Stapleton.

 

Continue reading this story on the Colorado Times Recorder

Democrats on Ballot in Every Major Race in Colorado

You can’t win a race that you don’t enter.

The blue wave cometh.

As Jesse Paul explains today for the Denver Post, Colorado Democrats will have a candidate on the ballot in every major political race in 2018:

Democrats have secured a candidate on the ballot in every 2018 Colorado congressional, statehouse and major statewide race.

The last candidate to make the ballot and fill out the party’s roster was Guinn Unger Jr., a Democrat from Bayfield, who is running for the seat currently held by Sen. Don Coram, R-Montrose. Unger’s signatures were verified by the Colorado Secretary of State’s Office on Thursday.

Before you shrug off this statistic, consider how things look across the political aisle:

The Colorado Republican Party said it doesn’t have candidates in all of the state’s legislative races.

Out of the 65 state House races, the GOP had 35 people running before last weekend’s statewide Republican assembly. At that time, the party also had candidates on the ballot in 13 of of 17 state Senate races.

A spokesperson for the Colorado Republican Party is mentioned in the Post article trying to explain that there are advantages and disadvantages to having candidates on the ballot in every race, but this attempt at spin is transparently-silly nonsense talk. Political parties don’t need to expend resources for every candidate on the ballot, but Republicans would like you to think that it’s some sort of brilliant strategery to not even bother to compete in dozens of races.

It isn’t.

Legislative Trick Doesn’t Force Vote on Dreamer Bill in U.S. House

(Promoted by Colorado Pols)

U.S. Rep. Mike Coffman (R-CO) has taken little action on his promise to force a vote in Congress on a bill to help some Dreamers avoid deportation, but he’s touting another effort as if its comparable when, in fact, its not.

Coffman told reporters in Washington DC yesterday that he’s joined about 240 representatives to promote, in Coffman’s words, a “mechanism whereby we can have a vote, not just on one [Dreamer] bill but on four bills.” (Listen here at 9 min 50 sec.)

Under the parliamentary mechanism, called “Queen of the Hill,” four different Dreamer bills would be introduced, and the one with highest votes would move on to the U.S. Senate.

While this is a creative way to try to get a vote, the trouble is, House Speaker Paul Ryan would have to approve the Queen of the Hill procedure if a vote were to take place. And it already sounds like he’s against it.

BloombergPolitics reported yesterday:

But Ryan has final say on whether to pursue the plan. He’s said publicly that he doesn’t think this vote procedure is the best way to handle immigration because it gives the majority party — and congressional leaders — less control over the outcome. Trump continues to tweet about the wall he wants to build on the border with Mexico, as well as the need for legislation to address the immigrant status of people brought to the U.S. illegally as children, known as dreamers.

The only way to leapfrog the Speaker is through another parliamentary mechanism called a discharge petition, which Coffman has apparently dropped.

Last year, the Aurora Republican grabbed headlines by launching a discharge petition to allow some Dreamers to temporarily avoid deportation, but he has since mostly abandoned the effort, securing only five signatures, one of which is his own, while 218 are required.

Coffman opposed the best chance at passing the Dream Act when it was included in bipartisan immigration reform legislation that stalled in the U.S. in 2014.  He voted against the Dream Act in 2010 but has subsequently endorsed it.

During his news conference yesterday, Coffman said he “often meets with Dreamers” and decried the fact that no votes have been taken on the Dreamer issue since Trump announced that he would end the Obama’s DACA program, which allowed some Dreamers to stay in the U.S. for a few years.

Coffman’s office has not responded to multiple requests for comment about his efforts to help Dreamers.

Yet Another Petition Signature Mess in Colorado

Artist rendering of the inside of the Colorado Secretary of State’s office.

Corey Hutchins of the Colorado Independent reported yesterday on the latest news from the Colorado Secretary of State’s (SOS) office regarding the validity of petitions for access to the June Primary ballot. The key points in the story are buried a bit by a broader headline and lede about the April 27th deadline for the SOS to verify signatures and finalize the ballot, but there’s no question that this is another 2016-esque mess:

Rules in the petition-gathering game stipulate that if a voter signs petitions for two candidates, the signatures only count for the candidate who hands in his or her petitions first. On the Republican side, Stapleton handed in petitions just before Robinson, but then last week (because of Robinson— long story) he wound up admitting fraud in his gathering process and asked the Secretary of State’s office to scrap them. Stapleton’s only shot for the ballot was to go through Saturday’s assembly, which he successfully did. In a way, that sounded like good news for Robinson— Stapleton’s signatures might not count against his.

Not so fast.

Even though Stapleton asked for his petitions to be pulled, the signatures on them still count since the Secretary of State already had determined they were sufficient, said Secretary of State spokeswoman Lynn Bartels. [Pols emphasis]

That leaves a slimmer margin of error for the Robinson team as workers in an office building in Pueblo double-check his signatures to make sure they are valid and don’t include Republicans who already signed for Stapleton.

What???

Republican gubernatorial candidates Victor Mitchell (left) and Mitt Romney’s Nephew have a significant stake in the latest ruling from SOS Wayne Williams.

According to the SOS office, signatures for Walker Stapleton are still officially valid even though Stapleton raised his own alert about potential signature fraud and asked that his name be withdrawn as a candidate seeking ballot access through the petition process (Stapleton will be on the June Primary ballot anyway after capturing top-line at the Republican state assembly last weekend). Stapleton formally asked Secretary of State Wayne Williams to remove his name from the petition process just last week, which came a few days after Stapleton got word from the SOS that his campaign had in fact gathered enough valid signatures for ballot access.

Williams spun hard to cover his own ass after Stapleton’s campaign essentially admitted that many of its signatures were probably fraudulent…but now he’s saying that all of those signatures will still be counted as valid. This ruling is completely absurd in its own right, but the logic breaks down even further in regard to the gubernatorial campaign of Democrat Donna Lynne:

On the Democratic side, the same rules are working in Lynne’s favor.

Polis, whose campaign fanned the state and hoovered up some 30,000 signatures— far more than the 10,500 he needed— seemed like he could have been also creating a bit of a defense shield with them. Remember, signatures of voters who sign only count for the first candidate to turn them in. Polis turned his in before Lynne, slimming her margin of error.

But.

Polis then decided to also go through Saturday’s assembly, where he earned himself a spot on the ballot by getting more than 30 percent of the vote among delegates. Polis’s signatures were still being counted at the time he won, and as soon as he made the ballot through the assembly, the Secretary of State’s office stopped counting them.

That means all of Polis’s 30,000 signatures are back in circulation— and are now able to count for Lynne.

Secretary of State Wayne Williams (R-Disaster).

Let’s recap what we’ve learned here. The SOS’ office is saying that Walker Stapleton’s petition signatures are still valid — even though he’s on the ballot through the assembly process — which is relevant because it means that Republican candidates such as Mitt Romney’s Nephew (Robinson) and Victor Mitchell cannot use any of those names for their own signature verification needs. In the same breath, however, the SOS says that signatures for Jared Polis will not be considered valid — because Polis is also on the ballot through the assembly process — which means that Donna Lynne doesn’t have to worry about signatures being double-counted from Polis’ submissions.

How does this make any logical sense whatsoever?

For his part, SOS Williams is passing the buck, telling the Independent that he was only following rules that say a candidate’s signatures must be counted if…they were already counted? “That is a bright line rule and that’s what we’re following,” says Williams in a comment that would only make sense if, in fact, there were any “bright lines” to be examined in this mess.

What Williams has really done here is to issue a ruling that completely upends the signature counting process for a number of statewide campaigns. We would expect to see a barrage of lawsuits coming — both from Republicans and Democrats — because Williams’ ruling could very well keep one or more gubernatorial candidates off the June Primary ballot altogether. The state legislature, meanwhile, probably needs to add another bill to its to-do list in an effort to prevent this lunacy from happening again in 2020.

Did we mention that the June Primary ballot is supposed to be certified seven days from now? We did?

Ugh.

Colorado GOP apologizes for Facebook post but not racist comments

(Promoted by Colorado Pols)

The Colorado Republican Party has deleted and apologized for posting pictures of State Rep. Dominique Jackson (D – Aurora) with her eyes closed at her desk on the statehouse floor.

The caption declared Jackson to be “In search of the American Dream,” but it failed to mention her serious health condition: lung clots which require her to receive regular IV infusions of white blood cells.

Her condition and the post itself were first reported via Twitter by KRCC radio’s Bente Kirkland.

Republican Party spokesman Daniel Cole apologized to the Representative on Twitter, writing “I’m the one who made the offending post. Upon learning of Rep. Jackson’s condition, I immediately removed it. I apologize to her for having shared the pictures in the first place.” 

9News story by Brandon Rittiman also quoted Cole:

“Reached by telephone state GOP spokesman Daniel Cole said he ‘wasn’t aware’ of Jackson’s medical issues. He said the post’s wording was meant to be light-hearted and that he “wouldn’t have made that comment” if he had been aware of her condition, which is why he removed the post this morning.”

Cole posted the images around 3:00 pm on Monday. Within the hour, several commenters had noted her health condition.

Other commenters, however, were less concerned about the Representative’s health. 

Still others chose to make racially charged statements referencing Africa and calling the Representative as a welfare recipient.

Joining in the comment frenzy was El Paso County Republican Chairman Joshua Hosler, who compared Rep. Jackson to 85 year-old Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader-Ginsburg, who notoriously fell asleep during a State Of The Union speech.

None of these comments were removed from the post. Some remained up for eighteen hours, being removed only when Colorado GOP spokesman Cole deleted the post entirely.

Daniel Cole was right to apologize and to delete the post. No apology was forthcoming, though, for the dozens of cruel and insulting statements hosted on the state Republican Facebook page for nearly a day. During this time, two new posts appeared on the page.

Political Facebook can be a mean place and page administrators like Cole aren’t expected to spend every waking minute scanning their post comments for hate, but personal and racial insults levied at an elected official and colleague of the Colorado GOP’s own members shouldn’t ever be tolerated.

This was first published on the Colorado Times Recorder.

Associated Press Won’t Highlight Polling Numbers Anymore

New AP guidelines seek do de-emphasize the polling “horse race”

The Associated Press today issued new guidelines for how it covers polling data in political races. As Politico explains:

The updated guidelines appear in a new chapter in the AP Stylebook — which forms the backbone of the standards used not just by the AP, but by the majority of news organizations around the country…

…That means, according to the AP, de-emphasizing the horse-race aspects of election coverage and taking care to write about only high-quality polls…

The AP has long discouraged its journalists from predicating stories an entire story on a pre-election poll, but that’s now a bright-line rule, positioned right at the top of the new chapter: “Poll results that seek to preview the outcome of an election must never be the lead, headline or single subject of any story.” [Pols emphasis]

 

This new AP guideline is a significant change that could have a real impact on the coverage of political races throughout the country. Polling data has come under increasing scrutiny in recent years, particularly as more and more Americans disconnect from telephone landlines and become harder for pollsters to reach.

Coffman Vague on Welfare Reform Push

(Promoted by Colorado Pols)

Following a career-long pattern of voting for cuts in Medicaid, the federal-state health insurance program for low-income people, U.S. Rep. Mike Coffman is now calling for a reduction in “welfare” spending, a change in rhetoric that does not appear to reflect a shift in the Congressman’s thinking about the need to trim or eliminate Medicaid.

“We’d like to do some welfare reform in order to better control spending,” Coffman told KNUS’ Jimmy Sengenberger April 7. “There was such a explosion of welfare programs under under President Obama, under the prior administration. It’s about looking at all those programs and having a work requirement associated with them–either you are working or you’re involved in job training program.”

“When you look at the number of people that are sitting on the sidelines, that are receiving some form of public assistance, it’s a big number and particularly when it comes to able bodied people that ought to be in the workforce that are not,” he said on air.

Coffman’s office did not return an email seeking to know if he’s targeting Medicaid, Medicare, Social Security and/or other programs when he refers to the need for “welfare reform.”

Coffman’s repeated votes for the Ryan budget, as well as his multiple votes for Obamacare repeal in past House sessions, indicate that Medicaid is a specific target of his. These bills would have thrown hundreds of thousands of people off the Medicaid rolls in Colorado.

Coffman’s reference to “able-bodied people” as possibly undeserving of assistance reflects a common GOP attack on low-income people who’ve received expanded Medicaid insurance coverage under Obamacare.

But it’s not clear how many of the 400,000 people who are covered by Obamacare in Colorado could be classified as “able bodied,” because such statistics do not exist. And even if they did, there’s been no GOP proposal outlining the criteria for dumping a low income person, who qualifies for Obamacare by making less than $16,000 per year, from the Medicaid rolls. What about his or her mental state? Why are some poor people, facing hard times, deserving while others aren’t?

Critics also say Republicans who call for pushing “able bodied” people from Medicaid are demonizing poor people, in the same way Republicans once attacked “welfare queens.”

Coffman has made conflicting statements this year about whether Republicans have plans to cut the federal safety net, telling a recent town-hall gathering that “there is no plan to cut Medicare and Medicaid” (at 21 min 26 sec) after informing The Denver Post’s Mark Matthews in December there “will be welfare reform” by the Republicans.

Listen to Coffman April 7 discuss “welfare reform” on KNUS 710-AM:

Get More Smarter on Tuesday (April 17)

Happy Tax Day! Watch out for those technical difficulties when filing your taxes. 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… 

► Colorado teachers took their call for better pay and benefits to the State Capitol on Monday. As Blair Miller and Marc Stewart report for Denver7:

Dozens of Colorado public school teachers descended Monday on the state Capitol to demand better pay and pensions as lawmakers inside debated their future retirement benefit program.

Englewood Schools were closed for the day as most of the school’s teachers joined the rally. The educators are the latest across the U.S. who have joined public walkouts to call for higher wages for public school teachers

The CEA estimates that Colorado teachers spend $656 of their own money for school supplies for students each year, and the average teacher salary here ranks 46th among U.S. states and Washington, D.C., according to the National Education Association. [Pols emphasis]

For a great explanation of how and why Colorado teachers are so underpaid, check out this story from Denver7 reporter Jennifer Kovaleski:

The latest figures from the U.S. Census Bureau, Education Week; Quality Counts, and the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) show Colorado ranks 42nd in how much it spends per student, roughly $2,500 less than the national average.

Which means despite being the nation’s 12th richest state, our public schools land at the bottom of the list for both per pupil spending and teacher pay.

 

Something smells in Yuma, Colorado, where Sheriff Chad Day appears to have accepted and $62,000 truck and other “donations” to the Sheriff’s department so that billionaire right-wing donor Robert Mercer can be a “volunteer sheriff’s deputy” in Yuma County — with the primary purpose of skirting gun laws so that Mercer can carry a concealed weapon anywhere in the country.

 

► President Trump overruled advisers and decided to scrap proposed sanctions on Russia. As the New York Times reports:

President Trump rejected, for now at least, a fresh round of sanctions set to be imposed against Russia on Monday, a course change that underscored the schism between the president and his national security team.

The president’s ambassador to the United Nations, Nikki R. Haley, had announced on Sunday that the administration would place sanctions on Russian companies found to be assisting Syria’s chemical weapons program. The sanctions were listed on a menu of further government options after an American-led airstrike on Syria, retaliating against a suspected gas attack that killed dozens a week earlier.

But the White House contradicted her on Monday, saying that Mr. Trump had not approved additional measures.

“We are considering additional sanctions on Russia and a decision will be made in the near future,” Sarah Huckabee Sanders, the White House press secretary, said in a statement.

Perhaps Trump received a weekend phone call from his Uncle Putin.

 

► President Trump has yet to announce a replacement for Communications Director Hope Hicks, who announced in February that she would be leaving the White House. As the Washington Post reports, that may be because Trump has decided to just do the job himself:

He drafts talking points. He organizes surrogates. He oversees rapid response. He maintains relationships with key media figures over dinners, rounds of golf and long phone calls. And, of course, he manages his own social media presence.

Since the 2016 election, five people have now done six stints as Trump’s communications director. One reason it’s an impossible job is that the former reality television star who occupies the Oval Office will always consider himself his own best spokesman.

 

Get even more smarter after the jump…

(more…)

Robert Mercer is a Volunteer Sheriff in Yuma (No, Really)

UPDATE: Blair Miller of Denver7 catches up with Yuma County Sheriff Chad Day and asks for some clarifications that never come:

In an interview Monday, Day didn’t deny using the LEEF grants or having a volunteer program like the “sheriff’s posse.” But on multiple occasions, he declined to say who worked as volunteers, though he denied having any sort of tit-for-tat arrangement with Mercer or LEEF.

“To be clear, there certainly is no quid pro quo arrangement,” Day told Denver7.

He said a friend of his told him about the LEEF grants, and that he’d applied and been awarded several of the projects he’d applied for. An archived LEEF website notes that its mission is to “help law enforcement officers and agencies in training, equipment, matching funds and family line-of-duty funds grant.”

“They certainly weren’t some sort of trade for volunteer work,” Day said. “[The writer’s] assertion was that I was granting [LEOSA] status in exchange for those things…that’s not true.”

Miller had less luck hearing back from the attorney for the Yuma County Sheriff’s office…

Lees did not respond to a phone message left Monday requesting further clarification the statements attributed to him by Bloomberg.

…or from Mercer:

A spokesperson at Renaissance Technologies, where Mercer is still employed, declined to comment Monday. An email to Mercer requesting comment was not returned. Requests for comment made to the LEEF also went unreturned Monday.

Sheriff day was adamant to Blair that Mercer would or did not receive any “special treatment.”

Oh, and guess who else didn’t have a comment?

Yuma is also home to Colorado’s Republican U.S. Senator, Cory Gardner, whose spokesman said he didn’t know anything about the story aside from what he’d read in Bloomberg. [Pols emphasis]

—–

Billionaire right-wing donor Robert Mercer is apparently a volunteer sheriff’s deputy in Yuma County, Colorado — largely so he can legally carry a gun wherever he goes.

Bloomberg News has a story today about a new “sheriff” in town by the name of Robert Mercer (yes, the very same):

For most of the past six years, Mercer was a volunteer policeman in the tiny town of Lake Arthur, New Mexico, an arrangement that allowed him to carry a concealed weapon in any U.S. state under a law that applies only to law-enforcement officers. As Bloomberg Businessweek reported last month, Mercer gave up his New Mexico badge for undisclosed reasons in September. The mayor of Lake Arthur shut the volunteer program last week.

But the 71-year-old financier is still in the law-enforcement game. Last week, a lawyer for the office of Sheriff Chad Day of Yuma County, Colorado, confirmed that Mercer is a volunteer member of the agency. [Pols emphasis]

“From time to time, he serves in certain roles as designated by the sheriff,” said the lawyer, Robert Lees, who also helped set up the sheriff’s volunteer posse. Yuma is a rural county with a population of about 10,000 that borders Nebraska and Kansas.

You really need to read this entire story for yourself. There are a lot of unanswered questions here that will almost certainly be fodder for future news stories (Vanity Fair has already picked up on the Bloomberg story).

Cory Gardner with Dudley Brown of Rocky Mountain Gun Owners.

Mercer is the hedge-fund billionaire who spent a great deal of money helping to elect Donald Trump, after his initial crush, Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, fizzled out. Mercer is thought to be the single-biggest individual donor in the 2016 election cycle, and his money has funded a variety of right-wing interests from Breitbart News to Cambridge Analytica to whatever weird crap Steve Bannon was concocting.

In 2016, Mercer’s foundation bought a brand-new Dodge Ram 1500 Limited pickup truck for the Yuma County Sheriff’s “official use.” Mercer’s “Law Enforcement Education Foundation” has also donated $20,000 worth of tasers to Yuma County, and Yuma Sheriff Chad Day says that he is hopeful that they will receive a grant to buy a bunch of new handguns.

In exchange for this generosity, Yuma County rounded up itself a posse:

Lees confirmed that two Mercer associates, George Wells and Peter Pukish, had also joined the sheriff’s office. Both men had previously volunteered alongside Mercer in New Mexico. Wells is Mercer’s son-in-law, and Pukish is a family friend and longtime employee. Both are officers of the Law Enforcement Education Foundation. Wells and Pukish didn’t respond to requests for comment.

“In addition to whatever donations they made, these people bring certain qualifications to the table,” Lees said of the three men.

The Yuma County posse has about two dozen members, Day said, of whom seven or eight live outside the county. [Pols emphasis] He said some but not all posse members qualify for privileges under the Law Enforcement Officers Safety Act, the 2004 federal law that allows officers to carry concealed weapons nationwide.

Yuma County Sheriff Chad Day

The Yuma County Sheriff’s office only has about seven 21 employees in total, though the city of Yuma has its own police department. According to Bloomberg, Mercer was connected to Day via Rocky Mountain Gun Owners head honcho Dudley Brown. Reporters Zachary Mider and Zeke Faux apparently didn’t realize — or declined to mention — that Colorado Sen. Cory Gardner just so happens to be from…Yuma, Colorado. It’s no secret that Gardner has been having a hell of a time raising money for the National Republican Senatorial Committee (NRSC); it’s probably a good guess that this little arrangement helps open Mercer’s checkbook. Or, maybe this is all just a really weird coincidence.

This is a pretty incredible tale, and here’s the cherry on top:

Sheriff Day rejected a Bloomberg News request this month under Colorado’s public-records law for documents relating to Mercer and his associates, including information on their qualifications and duties. He said disclosing the names of volunteers could endanger their safety.

“Some of my volunteer resources are directly involved in confidential undercover operations that involve direct ties and associations with the Mexican Cartel which has a presence in my area,” Day wrote in an earlier email. “It would not be safe tactically or personally to identify individuals who serve in association with those types of cases.” [Pols emphasis]

According to the sheriff of Yuma County, billionaire right-wing donor Robert Mercer is a key cog in confidential undercover operations involving the Mexican Cartel, and that’s why he gets to carry a concealed weapon wherever he goes.

Sure thing.