Oops! Rep. Dave Williams, Day Late, Dollar Short

UPDATE: From Rep. Faith Winter’s statement this week stoutly defending Speaker Crisanta Duran, which carries considerably more weight:

Speaker Duran has done everything correctly. In May of 2016 Speaker Hullinghorst and then-Majority Leader Duran took the allegation seriously, worked with legal services to provide me with legal options and most importantly respected my decisions as a survivor. It was my decision not to move forward with a formal complaint. I worked with leadership to come up with a resolution that I felt most comfortable with. I told him I would go public if I heard of anything else. We thought that the issue had been resolved with the steps that he agreed to, including getting therapy and quitting drinking, and I hadn’t heard of subsequent allegations until last week.

From when I first informed Speaker Duran about the incident to today when I informed her I would be filing a formal complaint she has been very supportive and has also followed all the guidelines as outlined in our workplace harassment policy.

I one hundred percent support the Speaker, and we need to focus on the only person to blame for Steve Lebsock’s actions – Steve himself.

—–

Rep. Dave Williams (R).

Moments ago, controversial freshman Rep. Dave Williams of Colorado Springs published an op-ed in the Denver Post addressing the recent sexual harassment scandal in the Colorado General Assembly. Williams takes a strident partisan line, affecting great outrage over the supposed failure of House Speaker Crisanta Duran to intervene in Rep. Steve Lebsock’s alleged serial harassment:

Another dark shadow has been cast over the Colorado General Assembly, giving citizens even more cause to “throw the bums out.” Recently, state Rep. Steve Lebsock has been accused of sexual harassment by multiple women, and I for one believe their stories. Because of his own actions, Lebsock has lost the trust of his colleagues and the public and it’s time for him to step down.

But the truth is we would never have arrived at this point if the state House Democratic leadership hadn’t covered up for Lebsock for well over a year. Their silence and mishandling of this issue put at risk other women, for which they must be held accountable.

Sturm und drang, indeed–but since Rep. Dave Williams wrote this opinion sometime before yesterday evening, something happened.

Longstanding allegations of harassment by Republicans in the Colorado Senate, alluded to since the first reports a week ago, were confirmed. In at least one case, Sen. Randy Baumgardner, the allegations were sufficiently common knowledge that it is impossible GOP Senate leadership were not aware of the situation.

With this in mind, we decided to have a little fun with Williams’ bombastic rhetoric search-and-replace style:

Another dark shadow has been cast over the Colorado General Assembly, giving citizens even more cause to “throw the bums out.” Recently, state Sen. Randy Baumgardner has been accused of sexual harassment by multiple women, and I for one believe their stories. Because of his own actions, Baumgardner has lost the trust of his colleagues and the public and it’s time for him to step down.

But the truth is we would never have arrived at this point if the state Senate Republican leadership hadn’t covered up for Baumgardner for well over a year. Their silence and mishandling of this issue put at risk other women, for which they must be held accountable…

Just like Hollywood covering up for Harvey Weinstein for so long, so too has the Colorado Republican Senate leadership indirectly caused abuse of additional victims.

As a state legislator, I realize that the people have given us a sacred trust. They expect us to conduct the people’s business in an ethical and upright manner. That trust has been violated, not only by Baumgardner but also by Kevin Grantham, Chris Holbert, and any other leaders who knew about this, yet did nothing to prevent future abuses…

The archaic days of covering up corrupt and immoral behavior because of political expedience must end, which is why Grantham, Holbert, and anyone else in leadership who knew but didn’t stop it need to resign. [Pols emphasis]

And that, dear reader, is why you wait until both shoes have dropped.

Dear Everyone: Don’t Outrun Sexual Assault Allegations

UPDATE: State Rep. Steve Lebsock unintentionally backs up our point:

—–

Hold on. Back up. Slow down.

A story about sexual harassment in the State Capitol that broke last week is quickly turning into a weird media free-for-all with desperate attempts to advance the story to another stage without fully embracing or unpacking the fundamental issue at stake: There is a cultural and institutional problem of sexual harassment at the state legislature.

This is not a partisan problem, and it is not a new problem. For too long, the atmosphere around the state legislature has been reminiscent of a high school field trip with little accountability or even understanding of the inappropriate behavior that takes place in quiet corners. Reporter Bente Birkeland of KUNC first broke the story on Friday of harassment allegations against state Rep. Steve Lebsock, a Democrat who is also running for State Treasurer. Much of the media focus since that story has been about Lebsock and his most-visible accuser, state Rep. Faith Winter, and on Monday the coverage started to veer into a “cover-up” story suggesting that House Speaker Cristana Duran should resign from the legislature for not doing more to address sexual assault claims in 2016.

There will be plenty of time to address Duran’s responses to these allegations and the subsequent political fallout, but it’s critical that we don’t veer off topic from the broader issue at stake. As Birkeland wrote on Friday, this story does not start and stop with allegations about one legislator:

Beyond Rep. Steve Lebsock, there are other complaints about a handful of male senators touching women’s lower backs, giving lingering hugs, making uncomfortable and unwanted comments about appearances, massaging necks, telling off-color jokes of a sexual nature and showing pornographic pictures.

Several female lobbyists said they try to avoid being alone with certain senators and go to offices in pairs or ask a male colleague to talk to them instead. None were willing to be named for this story, saying they feared going public would hurt their work at the legislature.

Another said, “It’s a well known fact across the building that people like Rep. Lebsock and a number of Senate Republicans have all behaved in a way that would never be accepted in any other conventional workplace. It crosses party lines and has been happening for generations.” [Pols emphasis]

Rep. Steve Lebsock (D-Thornton)

This story is nowhere close to even contemplating a conclusion. According to Birkeland’s reporting, numerous other lawmakers from both parties appear likely to be accused of sexual harassment encompassing several years.

Let’s repeat that one more time: According to Birkeland’s reporting, numerous other lawmakers from both parties appear likely to be accused of sexual harassment encompassing several years.

As we all wait for more information about this developing story, the Colorado Coalition Against Sexual Assault (CCASA) issued a powerful statement today calling on the media to consider the chilling effect it can have on other victims who may otherwise be prepared to come forward with their own experiences:

Sexual violence is a complicated topic to understand and crimes of sexual violence, including sexual harassment, are among the most underreported crimes in our society. Compounding the problem is that media coverage of these crimes often perpetuates stereotypes and myths, rather than providing well-written, fact-based stories. Covering sexual violence requires context — an understanding of who perpetrates these crimes, who is affected, and how sexual violence can be prevented. When the media chooses to criticize the actions of survivors and bystanders instead of focusing on the choices of perpetrators, journalists stand in the way of meaningful cultural change necessary to support survivors, hold offenders accountable, and create safer communities. [Pols emphasis]

SURVIVORS’ CHOICE MATTERS. Disregard for individuals’ choices and autonomy is at the core of sexual violence perpetration, including sexual harassment. Disregard for survivors’ choice to report, or not to report, is a shade of the same color. In a perfect world, survivors would be able to report without fearing personal and professional consequences. However, this is not a perfect world, and we know that many survivors face safety concerns, financial obstacles, custody battles, and social ostracism, amongst other considerations when reporting. Furthermore, we know that victims of workplace sexual harassment fear repercussions that make it difficult to continue at the workplace, such as lowered reputation, questioning of credibility and competency, reassignment, and even loss of their job. All this to say that reporting is a significant decision for a survivor with significant consequences to consider.

The CCASA statement goes on to say that calling for Speaker Duran’s resignation at this point “sends a dangerous message: victim choice does not matter, and the consequences that may affect the victim are not important.”

This story first broke because Rep. Winter had the courage to come forward about her experiences. Before everyone runs off in a different direction, perhaps we should come back to Winter herself:


Look, none of this is to say that Speaker Duran is free of guilt in this situation, but we’re just not there yet. Both Democratic and Republican leaders are calling for added protections against sexual harassment in the legislature, which is an important first step in solving this problem instead of just looking for someone to take out back and shoot.

It seems likely that more names are going to come out regarding a culture of harassment at the State Capitol, and it is critical that survivors of sexual assault are not discouraged from coming forward because of knee-jerk reactions from media outlets and other observers.

Colorado Republicans Love Them Some Roy Moore!

UPDATE: The chairman of the Denver GOP Jake Viano is criticizing Sen. Cory Gardner’s decision to condemn Roy Moore, via CBS4:

“I would not have advised him to do that if I was one of his advisors – it’s antithetical to the system we have in our country,” said Jake Viano, Chairman of the Denver County GOP.

Viano says if the allegations against Moore are true he should only be tried in court.

“What bothers me is our societal shift to believing the court of public opinion and moving away from what this country is founded upon,” said Viano.

“There is a long standing narrative that was put out there by the Democrats that we have a war on women. I greatly detest that, and I’ve argued it tooth and nail that we don’t. But, this only helps further that narrative,” Viano adds on Moore’s campaign.

There you have it, folks. We suspect he’s not the only one (see below).

—–

You don’t have to stroll very far back down Memory Lane to find this year’s Christian Home Educators of Colorado’s 2017 Homeschool Day at the Capitol: an annual event thrown by and for the burgeoning industry marketing to parents who take their children’s education into their own hands, often for religious reasons–exclusively in the case of the CHEC.

This year’s Homeschool Day at the Capitol featured a special guest: Alabama U.S. Senate candidate Roy Moore!

Yes, that Roy Moore:

That’s Sen. Kevin Lundberg, now a candidate for Colorado Treasurer, giving Moore some kind of award. Moore later made the rounds with some of the state’s more conservative lawmakers, such as Rep. Tim “OITNB” Leonard:

But gentle readers, there’s one photo of Moore on the steps of the Colorado Capitol that has aged especially poorly.

Hopefully Judge Moore is praying for (pardon us) self-restraint.

Obviously these photos were taken before the sexual molestation scandal that has gripped the Alabama U.S. Senate special election became national headlines. But given Moore’s defiance in the face of mounting allegations, and the many ideologically friendly Republicans who continue to defend Moore, we think it’s a highly relevant question for anyone who appeared with Moore in Colorado as to whether they’re standing by him today.

Now that Sen. Cory Gardner has belatedly called for Moore to be expelled from the Senate in the event of his still-entirely-possible victory, there might be some choice words on the side for Gardner as well! In any event, we suspect there are many more local angles on this story than have been reported up to now.

BREAKING: Sexual Misconduct Scandal In Colorado’s Capitol

SUNDAY UPDATE: Via the Denver Post’s Danika Worthington:

“I have come to realize that it does not matter that, at the time, I may have perceived my words as playful,” he wrote. “It does not matter that, at the time, I may have felt that we were flirting. It does not matter that, at the time, I may have felt what I said was OK. It does not matter that I may not remember the exact words which were hurtful. It does not matter that, at the time, I thought we were joking.”

“The only thing that matters is how I made these three women feel,” he continued. “I am sorry.”

Later in the day, the women — Winter, former lobbyist Holly Tarry and former legislative aide Cassie Tanner — released a joint statement to The Post that said, while they appreciate Lebsock’s new apology, they believe he has still not taken full responsibility for his actions.

—–

Rep. Steve Lebsock (D).

KUNC’s Bente Birkeland breaks a story today that could very well mean the end of one Democratic state lawmaker’s career–and rips the scab off a widespread problem that has been long-whispered of in the halls of the Colorado state capitol building, coming to light only now as the cultural upheaval over the treatment of women by men in positions of power goes on throughout our nation.

Let us begin with one unequivocal declaration: of zero tolerance.

Nine legislators, staffers and lobbyists are alleging that Rep. Steve Lebsock, a Democrat running for state treasurer, harassed, intimidated or made unwanted sexual advances against them. And in response to our reporting, a top Democratic leader is calling on Lebsock to “do the right thing and resign.”

Rep. Faith Winter said Lebsock tried to get her to leave a bar with him in 2016. Both were attending a party to celebrate the end of the legislative session. Lawmakers, lobbyists, staff, the governor and members of the media attended the event a few blocks from the Capitol Building…

Winter, a Democrat, said she repeatedly refused Lebsock’s advances, but he wouldn’t stop and instead got angrier and more aggressive. She said he was standing over her and grabbing her elbow and she didn’t feel safe.

Many others in the Capitol are corroborating Rep. Faith Winter’s story of repeated harassment from Rep. Steve Lebsock, who is now a candidate for state treasurer. And apparently it wasn’t just Rep. Winter, with at least one lobbyist describing inappropriate behavior on Rep. Lebsock’s part toward herself personally. The story also refers to but does not describe still another more recent incident.

Colorado Speaker of the House Crisanta Duran is calling for Rep. Lebsock’s resignation following the publication of these allegations today, as the Denver Post’s John Frank reports today:

The statement issued Friday by Duran, a Democrat, read: “I would expect that Representative Lebsock would consider the impact of his actions on his colleagues and the public confidence in our institution, and do the right thing and resign. There is no place for those types of actions at the legislature.”

And despite the feigning of ignorance about the story from Rep. Lebsock when confronted by Bente Birkeland, we do expect that he will be taking her advice very soon. This is not a politically survivable situation. But as Birkeland’s story continues, Lebsock is not likely to be the last to face hard questions for his conduct under the Gold Dome:

Beyond Rep. Steve Lebsock, there are other complaints about a handful of male senators touching women’s lower backs, giving lingering hugs, making uncomfortable and unwanted comments about appearances, massaging necks, telling off-color jokes of a sexual nature and showing pornographic pictures.

Several female lobbyists said they try to avoid being alone with certain senators and go to offices in pairs or ask a male colleague to talk to them instead. None were willing to be named for this story, saying they feared going public would hurt their work at the legislature.

Another said, “It’s a well known fact across the building that people like Rep. Lebsock and a number of Senate Republicans have all behaved in a way that would never be accepted in any other conventional workplace. It crosses party lines and has been happening for generations.” [Pols emphasis]

We of course have our suspicions about which Senate Republicans may be the type to commit sexual harassment in their workplace, but we’ll wait for that to come out through the many responsible channels now hard at work uncovering what appears to be a most distasteful culture of misconduct fostered by some of that chamber’s members. This isn’t the first time a case of sexual misconduct has rocked the Colorado General Assembly–in 2008, Rep. Michel Garcia was swiftly forced to resign after exposing himself to a lobbyist at a social function.

But what we’re talking about here is much more pervasive than anything that has been previously disclosed. We don’t have any way of knowing how many legislators may ultimately be implicated, or what the partisan breakdown of offending lawmakers might be.

What we will say is that sexual harassment in the workplace is never, ever acceptable, no matter what your politics are. To the extent this is a cultural problem in the Colorado General Assembly as it is everywhere, the time for allowing it to go on unreported and unpunished is over. Our society is becoming aware on a massive scale of something terrible that has been allowed to persist even as women fought for and won their rights to equality and dignity. From Harvey Weinstein to Steve Lebsock, it must stop.

It must stop. Every man who has ever treated a woman this way must stop.

It will never be okay again.

Kent Thiry: The Answer To Every Question Colorado Isn’t Asking

Ready or not, here Kent Thiry comes!

The Denver Post’s Mark Matthews reporting on a significant development announced yesterday by the Fair Districts Colorado campaign to put a measure on the 2018 ballot altering the state’s districting and reapportionment process–Kent Thiry, the would-be GOP gubernatorial candidate who bankrolled the controversial Propositions 107 and 108 last year scrambling party primaries, will put his…unique stamp on the once-again controversial attempt by political insiders to monkey with mapmaking:

Kent Thiry, the multimillionaire CEO of DaVita Inc., announced Wednesday that he would throw his weight — and presumably his wealth — behind an ongoing effort to change how Colorado draws the boundaries of statehouse and congressional seats.

His decision to join Fair Districts Colorado, which wants to transform the state’s redistricting process, comes a year after Thiry bankrolled a similar campaign — the passage of two ballot measures that gave unaffiliated voters the ability to participate in Democratic and Republican primaries.

Now Thiry, who briefly considered a Republican run for governor, wants to rewrite the rules again, even before Colorado fully understands the consequences of his last effort.

Thiry’s abortive GOP gubernatorial bid was thwarted in part by a round of absolutely horrible press for his kidney dialysis company DaVita, which included HBO’s John Oliver lampooning Thiry for comparing his dialysis centers to Taco Bell–which went over poorly when DaVita facilities were found to look and smell like a fast-food joint that’s not quite up to code. Thiry’s lack of political understanding kept him in self-consideration for that race much longer than he realistically should have been. Last year’s ballot measures opening up primaries to unaffiliated voters backed by Thiry has proven highly unwieldy to implement, and the full consequences won’t really be known until next year’s primaries.

But here’s the bottom line for today: a former Republican gubernatorial candidate just headlined a “nonpartisan” redistricting campaign that is quickly bleeding out its support from one side of the aisle. With that, what’s often referred to as a “stealth” Republican campaign by realpolitik observers becomes substantially less stealthy. On the upside, this allows GOP usual suspects like former House Speaker Frank McNulty and ex-Rep. Rob “The Blueprint” Witwer to be less coy about their own role in the campaign.

The downside is that, in terms of selling this as any kind of “bipartisan” measure, the game is now up.

Get More Smarter on Wednesday (October 25)

You only have six more days to come up with a good Halloween costume. 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…

► Senator Jeff Flake (R-Arizona) announced on Tuesday that he would not seek re-election in 2018, a decision he revealed in a stunning speech on the Senate floor while hammering President Trump for his divisive politics. Flake’s speech drew a standing ovation from his colleagues, as CNN reports:

Flake denounced the “complicity” of his own party in what he called an “alarming and dangerous state of affairs” under Trump, blaming the President for setting the tone. In his speech, Flake assailed a “flagrant disregard for truth or decency” and attacked a “regular and casual undermining of our democratic norms.”

“When such behavior emanates from the top of our government, it is something else: It is dangerous to a democracy,” Flake said.

Flake said he did not enjoy sparring with Trump. “If I have been critical, it’s not because I relish criticizing the behavior of the President of the United States,” Flake said. “If I have been critical, it is because I believe that it is my obligation to do so, as a matter of duty and conscience.”Flake went on to say that history would judge those who did not speak up.

Flake is the fourth prominent Republican to call out Trump in recent days, and Carl Hulse of the New York Times wonders if more in the GOP will follow:

Well aware of the mercurial nature of the president, most congressional Republicans are loath to do or say anything that could upset Mr. Trump and risk provoking an early-morning Twitter tirade from the White House when they are trying to delicately piece together a complex tax agreement. One can practically sense Republicans tiptoeing around the Capitol, taking extra care not to awaken the president to their presence in a way that could draw a scolding or rebuke.

They are equally wary of raising the ire of hard-right activists who already had Mr. Flake in their sights, contributing to his decision. Those activists celebrated Mr. Flake’s decision, claiming a Republican scalp…

…Mr. Flake is popular with his colleagues, and his fellow Republicans quickly noted how sorry they were to hear of his decision. But none joined him publicly in urging Republicans to stand up more defiantly to the president.

Chris Cillizza of CNN points to Idaho Sen. Jim Risch as an example of a Republican official who doesn’t think they should have to say anything at all about President Trump.

 

► Senator Cory Gardner (R-Yuma) and Rep. Mike Coffman (R-Aurora) are facing questions about their sponsorship of legislation that critics say has made it harder for authorities to crack down on opioid abuse. As Blair Miller writes for Denver7:

Some of Colorado’s federal lawmakers say they are reviewing the ramifications of a 2016 law, of which two of the state’s congressmen cosponsored early versions, that some say has handcuffed the Drug Enforcement Administration in its fight against drug companies—something that was uncovered in a joint Washington Post-60 Minutes investigation published last week.

The two Republican members of Congress – Rep. Mike Coffman and Sen. Cory Gardner, who was in the House of Representatives when he cosponsored the bills – did not, however, put their names on the bill that contained the final language now being blamed by some for neutering the DEA’s diversion program, which aims to stop the flow of pharmaceuticals and scheduled drugs to non-official sources.

And they and other members of Congress from Colorado, who were present when the bill passed both the Senate and House unanimously, say the law may have created “unintended consequences” for the DEA’s power over the opioid manufacturers that might need to be fixed.

 

► State Sen. Vicki Marble (R-Fort Collins) has apparently decided that she wants the story of her bizarre Cub Scout talk to get even more media attention than it has already attracted. This is really not going well for her.

 

Get even more smarter after the jump…

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Rep. Phil Covarrubias Has Himself a Facebook Meltdown

You might remember freshman GOP Rep. Phil Covarrubias of Adams County from unfortunate remarks he made on the floor of the Colorado House this past March–which, though they were a little confusing in the delivery, very much appeared to excuse the internment of Japanese-Americans during World War II. Rep. Covarrubias’ comments went national, and as a result most Americans’ first impression of the man came in the form of his apology.

An observant reader alerted us a short while ago that Rep. Covarrubias is right now, as we write having some kind of social media “meltdown”–ranting on Facebook in a way that could make him, well, infamous once again:

Editor’s note: “American” is not a race.

This was all posted a little early in the day to blame liquor or “wacky tobbacky,” but that’s honestly the best theory we’ve got. Rep. Covarrubias is clearly upset about contemporary headlines, but got off track trying to wrap up “Hitlery Clinton,” Harvey Weinstein, and racism against “Americans” into something you’d call a coherent package.

The internment rant and associated controversy already had us thinking Rep. Covarrubias is the present-day Archie Bunker of the Colorado General Assembly. After this bout of social media diarrhea, we’d say it’s safe to remove all doubt.

Get More Smarter on Friday (October 13)

Today is the second, and final, Friday the 13th of 2017. It’s time to Get More Smarter. If you think we missed something important, please include the link in the comments below (here’s a good example). If you are more of a visual learner, check out The Get More Smarter Show.

 

TOP OF MIND TODAY…

President Trump is destroying healthcare in America. Trump signed an Executive Order on Thursday that encourages the creation of cheap and largely worthless health insurance plans for healthier Americans — the result of which will likely drive up costs significantly for everyone else.

As the Denver Post reports, Colorado’s top insurance regulator is concerned about what comes next:

Colorado’s top insurance regulator responded on Thursday to President Donald Trump’s health care executive order with concern, saying the policies endorsed could lead to flimsier coverage in the state and much higher costs for the sick.

“The limited benefits, the focus on the healthy at the expense of those with pre-existing conditions, and lack of regulatory oversight will cause problems for the health insurance market as a whole,” said Marguerite Salazar, the state’s insurance commissioner…

…In her statement, Salazar said expanding the use of these plans — and loosening the requirements around them — could pull healthy people into skimpier plans, while heaping unbearable costs on the sick.

“Premiums may end up being lower for people buying these plans, but for many, paying for services not covered by the plans will be much more costly in the long run,” she said.

 

► Thursday’s Executive Order was just the first blow in a one-two combination thrown by Trump to bury the Affordable Care Act. As Politico reports:

President Donald Trump plans to cut off subsidy payments to insurers selling Obamacare coverage in his most aggressive move yet to undermine his predecessor’s health care law.

The subsidies, which are worth an estimated $7 billion this year and are paid out in monthly installments, may stop almost immediately since Congress hasn’t appropriated funding for the program.

The decision — which leaked out only hours after Trump signed an executive order calling for new regulations to encourage cheap, loosely regulated health plans — delivered a double whammy to Obamacare after months of failed GOP efforts to repeal the law. With open enrollment for the 2018 plan year set to launch in two weeks, the moves seem aimed at dismantling the law through executive actions.

Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders confirmed the decision in a statement emailed to reporters Thursday night.

How is Trump able to just cancel these subsidies? You can draw a straight line between this pending E.O. and legislation passed by Congress in 2014 with the support of Republicans Cory Gardner, Mike Coffman, Scott Tipton, and Doug Lamborn.

Vox.com has more on how and why Trump’s actions on Obamacare create a lose-lose situation for Americans.

 

► President Trump’s decision to use Executive Orders to cripple the Affordable Care Act puts the results — which aren’t likely to be good — squarely on his shoulders. As the Washington Post explains:

This is not “letting” Obamacare fail. Many nonpartisan experts believe that these active measures are likely to undermine the pillars of the 2010 law and hasten the collapse of the marketplaces.

The Pottery Barn rule comes to mind: You break it, you own it. Yes, the plate you just shattered had some cracks in it. But if you dropped it on the ground, the store is going to blame you.

As Barack Obama learned after the Great Recession, with heavy Democratic losses in the 2010 midterms, it’s hard to blame your predecessor for problems two years after you take office. Especially when your party has unified control of the federal government. No matter how much it might be the previous guy’s fault, many voters won’t buy it. People have very short attention spans.

Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper calls Trump’s healthcare decisions “cruel and irresponsible.” The editorial board at the New York Times calls on Congress to prevent Trump from destroying the healthcare marketplace.

 

► In non-healthcare news, President Trump has apparently made a decision on how to proceed with the Iran nuclear deal: He’s going to punt. Instead of scuttling the deal altogether, Trump is asking Congress to fix “flaws” in the agreement that was sealed by the Obama administration. Why Trump thinks Congress can fix anything is another question altogether.

 

Get even more smarter after the jump…

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Get More Smarter on Wednesday (October 11)

Today is not international fried chicken day or anything else; for once, it’s just a day. 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…

President Trump reportedly asked military leaders to dramatically increase the number of nuclear weapons in the U.S. arsenal. As NBC News reports:

President Donald Trump said he wanted what amounted to a nearly tenfold increase in the U.S. nuclear arsenal during a gathering this past summer of the nation’s highest-ranking national security leaders, according to three officials who were in the room.

Trump’s comments, the officials said, came in response to a briefing slide he was shown that charted the steady reduction of U.S. nuclear weapons since the late 1960s. Trump indicated he wanted a bigger stockpile, not the bottom position on that downward-sloping curve.

According to the officials present, Trump’s advisers, among them the Joint Chiefs of Staff and Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, were surprised. Officials briefly explained the legal and practical impediments to a nuclear buildup and how the current military posture is stronger than it was at the height of the buildup. In interviews, they told NBC News that no such expansion is planned.

Trump responded to the NBC News report with his typical “fake news” diatribe, though with a new twist on his worn-out rhetoric. From Politico:

President Donald Trump on Wednesday suggested that NBC’s broadcast license should be pulled as punishment after NBC News published a report stating that the president sought a dramatic increase in the nation’s nuclear arsenal.

“Fake @NBCNews made up a story that I wanted a ‘tenfold’ increase in our U.S. nuclear arsenal. Pure fiction, made up to demean. NBC = CNN!” Trump wrote on Twitter Wednesday morning, equating the two TV news outlets he has most often lashed out against. “With all of the Fake News coming out of NBC and the Networks, at what point is it appropriate to challenge their License? Bad for country!”…

…The president’s stated willingness to potentially challenge the broadcast licenses of networks whose coverage he objects to opens a new front on Trump’s long-running battle with the media. The president has regularly complained about coverage he views as unfairly critical, labeling stories, reporters and entire outlets “fake news.”

Like most of the things Trump says, this threat is more fantasy than reality. It is extremely unlikely that Trump could somehow coerce the FCC into cutting off NBC’s broadcast license. The Politico story quotes Andrew Schwartzman, a communications lawyer with the Institute for Public Representation at Georgetown University Law Center, calling Trump’s grumbling “an empty threat.”

Nevertheless, Trump’s latest threat was met with a swift response from Democrats:

Bennet is also calling on the FCC to clarify that NBC is in no danger of losing its broadcast license.

 

► Congressional Republican leaders say that “failure is not an option” when it comes to tax reform. Of course, they said similar things before failing repeatedly to repeal Obamacare.

The New York Times examines how a tax reform plan similar to the one being championed by President Trump was enacted in Kansas — and quickly repealed by lawmakers after disastrous results:

With the state hemorrhaging government revenue, Kansas lawmakers rolled back the tax law this year, but congressional Republicans and President Trump are trying to take the experiment with pass-through preferences national, beyond Wichita and Topeka to cities with residents who measure incomes in seven, eight or nine figures.

The Republican tax rewrite unveiled this month aims to jump-start economic growth in part by establishing a 25 percent tax rate on small businesses and other firms that operate as pass-through entities, a cut from the top rate of 39.6 percent that such business owners pay now.

But the abandoned experiment in Kansas points to how a carve-out intended to help raise growth and create jobs instead created an incentive for residents, particularly high earners, to avoid paying state income taxes by changing how they got paid.

 

► Colorado politicians — those not named Cory Gardner, anyway — continue to criticize the Trump administration’s War on Clean Energy, which took a new turn on Tuesday when EPA Chief Scott Pruitt ended the Obama-era “Clean Power Plan.” Gardner and Sen. Michael Bennet (D-Denver) do agree that a proposed tariff on the import of solar panels is a bad idea.

 

► Massive wildfires in California are straining emergency response systems.

 

Get even more smarter after the jump…

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D’oh! Colorado Candidates Have New Reports to File

Candidates running for statewide office in Colorado in 2017 and 2018 need to make sure they comply with a new reporting requirement until November 8. According to a press release from the Colorado Secretary of State’s office, a drafting error in a bill passed by the Colorado legislature in 2016 is causing some unexpected problems:

A campaign finance bill aimed at providing more transparency for school board races, which are held in odd years, has impacted those running in the 2018 election, including the numerous candidates for governor.

The Colorado General Assembly passed a bill in 2016 that requires contributions of $1,000 or more be disclosed within 24 hours starting 30 days prior to the election in an odd year. It also requires disclosure of certain spending on advertisements, billboards and direct mailing that mentions candidates.

But the legislation didn’t limit the new requirement to school races. As a result, candidates running in next year’s general election must comply with the blanket requirements. The 24-hour reporting mandate began Sunday and runs through the election on Nov. 7.

General-election candidates already were subject to 24-hour reporting campaign-finance requirements 30 days before the primary election and again before the general election. The primary election is set for June 26 and the general election is Nov. 6.

House Bill 1282 was borne out of frustration with some 2015 school board races. At the time, political-committee expenditures in those races had to be filed quarterly, so the last one before the election showed up by Oct. 15. The next report wasn’t due until Jan. 15 of the following year, allowing donations throughout October and early November to be kept quiet until after the election.

We would expect that the legislature will fix this error when it reconvenes in January, but until then, statewide campaigns in Colorado may have some extra paperwork to do.

“Every Dollar Counts”—Special District Pain Stories Begin

Colorado Senate President Kevin Grantham.

After last week’s failure of a special session of the Colorado General Assembly to correct a drafting error in a fiscal policy bill passed earlier this year, an error costing special tax districts millions of dollars combined in lost revenue from marijuana sales taxes, the next phase of reporting is starting to come out—documenting the harm being done to some of these districts due to lost revenue that everyone agrees was not intended.

CBS4 reported this weekend on one such case, the Summit County Combined Housing Authority:

Summit County is a place where affordable housing is nearly impossible to find and every dollar to subsidize housing counts.

“Every dollar does count,” said said Summit County Combined Housing Authority spokesman Jason Dietz. “We are moving forward, we have a lot of projects in the works with our jurisdictions.”

…In July, those pot taxes slated for Summit County added up to about $11,000. That means new housing projects and resources for people desperate to find a home will have to be reevaluated.

Before and during the special session, Republicans tried all kinds of rhetorical ways to minimize the harm that would be done from failing to correct the error in Senate Bill 17-267 responsible for special district marijuana tax revenues going uncollected. RTD Denver could take the hit, they said. The booming economy compensates, they said. Everyone knows that the $500,000 hit RTD is taking every month these taxes go uncollected is not going to shut RTD down. It’s a question of services lost or improvements delayed around the margins. An incremental hardship.

But for the Summit County Combined Housing Authority, $11,000 a month means some people might not get the help they need with affordable housing. The incremental loss counts for much more. For reasons we expect could fill a blog post all by themselves, many special tax districts affected by the loss of marijuana tax revenue seem to be heavily in Democratic-represented areas of the state, one notable exception being the Colorado Springs transportation district. For ideological and perhaps also geographic reasons, Senate Republicans decided that making these special districts feel the pain of a bipartisan drafting error was good politics for them.

Every story like this one, aired in Republican and Democratic legislative districts alike, makes that calculation harder to justify. The only thing that has prevented the failure of the special session from becoming a serious liability for Colorado Republicans is the onslaught of national political news squelching everything else. With that said, the common themes of political treachery and incompetence from Colorado’s special session mesh seamlessly with public perception of Republicans in Washington.

And it’s not a good look.

Get More Smarter On Monday (October 9)

Have a nice Columbus Day/ Indigenous People’s Day. 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…

President Trump said last month that he would not require funding for a border wall with Mexico to be tied to DACA legislation. Of course, President Trump says a lot of things. As the Washington Post explains, that was then, and this is now:

The Trump administration released a list of hard-line immigration principles late Sunday that threaten to derail a deal in Congress to allow hundreds of thousands of younger undocumented immigrants to remain in the country legally.

The administration’s wish list includes the funding of a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border, a crackdown on the influx of Central American minors and curbs on federal grants to “sanctuary cities,” according to a document distributed to Congress and obtained by The Washington Post.

As Politico notes, Trump’s Sunday demands are likely to stop DACA legislation before it even gets moving:

On Sunday, Trump called on Congress to build a wall along the southern border — a centerpiece of his presidential campaign, which was premised on tougher immigration policies. But Democratic leaders left the dinner believing that Trump would not demand a border wall in exchange for signing legislation to provide legal status to immigrants who obtained protection from deportation and work permits under the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program…

…The list will certainly turn off Democrats and even Republicans — many of whom have endorsed providing a pathway to legal status for “Dreamers,” or undocumented immigrants who came to the United States as minors. The White House said Sunday it was not interested in providing citizenship to DACA beneficiaries, even though the main proposals for Dreamers on Capitol Hill would allow a pathway to citizenship.

 

President Trump inexplicably picked a fight with retiring Tennessee Sen. Bob Corker in a Twitter tirade on Sunday — a head-scratching decision that highlights Trump’s apparent inability to govern.

Corker did not hold back in his response:

Corker was also prompted by Trump’s tirade to speak out in an interview with the New York Times about concerns that Trump could be pushing the U.S. closer to war:

Senator Bob Corker, the Republican chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, charged in an interview on Sunday that President Trump was treating his office like “a reality show,” with reckless threats toward other countries that could set the nation “on the path to World War III.”

In an extraordinary rebuke of a president of his own party, Mr. Corker said he was alarmed about a president who acts “like he’s doing ‘The Apprentice’ or something.”

“He concerns me,” Mr. Corker added. “He would have to concern anyone who cares about our nation.”…

…Mr. Trump poses such an acute risk, the senator said, that a coterie of senior administration officials must protect him from his own instincts. “I know for a fact that every single day at the White House, it’s a situation of trying to contain him,” Mr. Corker said in a telephone interview.

According to Corker, his views on Trump are most certainly not a minority opinion:

“Look, except for a few people, the vast majority of our caucus understands what we’re dealing with here,” he said, adding that “of course they understand the volatility that we’re dealing with and the tremendous amount of work that it takes by people around him to keep him in the middle of the road.”

 

► As part of efforts to influence the 2016 election, Russian wrench-throwers spent big money on advertisements on Google platforms. Facebook has previously disclosed that Russian-connected groups spent heavily on misinformation ads during the 2016 cycle.

 

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Deja Vu: Redistricting Campaign Defections Begin

Former Lt. Gov. Joe Garcia.

As the Colorado Independent’s Corey Hutchins reports–eerily similar to the way a similar effort collapsed in a heap ahead of the 2016 elections, cracks are rapidly appearing in the well-publicized “coalition” backing a measure to make byzantine changes to the state’s process for congressional redistricting and legislative reapportionment–in the name of making the system “fairer,” a popular national refrain going into 2020, but in reality moving Colorado in the opposite direction:

Two former Democratic politicians, former Lt. Gov. Joe Garcia and ex-lawmaker Abel Tapia, have pulled their names as supporters of a campaign that seeks to change the way Colorado draws its political boundaries…

Garcia told The Colorado Independent it became clear to him that the Fair Districts campaign and its efforts are “more controversial and potentially partisan” than he realized. [Pols emphasis] As president of the Western Interstate Commission on Higher Education, Garcia said he has taken pains to avoid public involvement in partisan issues.

The campaign, announced in early September and spearheaded by the League of Women Voters of Colorado, came under immediate scrutiny, Critics say it is little more than a rebranding of an effort that failed to make the ballot last year, and that it did not do enough meaningful outreach to communities of color. The group, anticipating the backlash, says its members did more outreach this time than last.

But critics of the group pointed to a lack of minority support on the Fair Districts webpage of endorsers, which lists more than two dozen supporters. None are black, but four listed on the page were Latino, including Garcia, Tapia, GOP Rep. Clarice Navarro-Ratzlaff and former lawmaker Larry Trujillo.

That was until Garcia’s and Tapia’s names disappeared.

Organizers responsible for this latest redistricting campaign in Colorado spent considerably more time and money on the roll-out than in 2015, and clearly hoped the new effort would not be tainted by the failure of the previous initiative. Unfortunately, the fact that it is essentially the same campaign fronted by the same Republican usual suspects like former House Speaker Frank McNulty and ex-Rep. Rob “The Blueprint” Witwer was impossible to conceal–and once other white dudes working for the campaign like Sen. Ron Tupa started publicly lecturing former Sen. Jessie Ulibarri about how great their “minority outreach” was, the proverbial writing was on the wall.

We fully expect that the pullout of former Lt. Gov. Joe Garcia and Sen. Abel Tapia will lead to further disintegration of the so-called “Fair Districts Colorado” campaign. If it does reach the ballot now it will be hobbled by the same taint of political insider game-playing as the Initiative 55 campaign was in late 2015. If this isn’t the death knell for this campaign going into 2018, it’s a very bad prognosis.

Although the issue of gerrymandering is of major importance across the nation after a decade of huge GOP legislative gains and the next round of district-drawing coming up fast, in Colorado the story of the state’s current legislative and congressional maps is very different. Although certainly improvements can be made to the status quo, the emphasis on fair and competitive districts that prevailed in the 2011 redistricting/reapportionment process in Colorado has given the state many close races where candidates had to earn their seats–and division of power that accurately reflects the state’s diverse and evenly divided electorate. That’s not the way it works everywhere, but it’s critical that Coloradans understand that this is yet another way things are different here politically.

Different, and better.

And as long as that’s the case, political usual suspects looking to tinker with the system for their own advantage should be viewed with the suspicion they deserve. Once again, that suspicion is turning out to be entirely warranted.

Get More Smarter on Friday (October 6)

Enjoy your weekend — snow is coming on Monday. It’s time to Get More Smarter. If you think we missed something important, please include the link in the comments below (here’s a good example). If you are more of a visual learner, check out The Get More Smarter Show.

 

TOP OF MIND TODAY…

► The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services is making it easier for companies to deny contraception coverage to female employees on “religious” grounds. As the Washington Post reports:

The Trump administration issued a rule Friday that sharply limits the Affordable Care Act’s contraception coverage mandate, a move that could mean many American women would no longer have access to birth control free of charge.

The new regulation, issued by the Health and Human Services Department, allows a much broader group of employers and insurers to exempt themselves from covering contraceptives such as birth control pills on religious or moral grounds. The decision, anticipated from the Trump administration for months, is the latest twist in a seesawing legal and ideological fight that has surrounded this aspect of the 2010 health-care law nearly from the start.

Several religious groups, which battled the Obama administration for years over the controversial requirement, welcomed the action.

Women’s rights organizations and some medical professionals portrayed it as a blow to women’s health, warning that it could lead to a higher number of unintended pregnancies.

This is the part where we remind you that elections matter.

 

► Is the United States about to start a new military conflict? Tune in next week…

From CNN:

While taking photos alongside military leaders and their spouses before a dinner at the White House, President Donald Trump made an ambiguous statement, citing “the calm before the storm.”

“You guys know what this represents? Maybe it’s the calm before the storm,” Trump said at the photo op Thursday night, following a meeting with his top military commanders.
When reporters present asked what he meant, Trump replied: “It could be, the calm, the calm before the storm.”

As Chris Cillizza elaborates for CNNPresident Trump continues to act as though this is all just one big reality TV show.

 

► A group trying to change the redistricting/reapportionment process in Colorado is losing some of its key supporters, as the Colorado Independent reports:

Two former Democratic politicians, former Lt. Gov. Joe Garcia and ex-lawmaker Abel Tapia, have pulled their names as supporters of a campaign that seeks to change the way Colorado draws its political boundaries.

The campaign, called Fair Districts Colorado, comes as multiple other states look to reform legislative and congressional redistricting and reapportionment and as the U.S. Supreme Court hears a case about whether partisan gerrymandering violates the Constitution

In Colorado, the movement is trying to get three measures on the Nov. 2018 statewide ballot to create a new, more independent commission that would draw legislative and congressional district lines, among other changes.

Garcia told The Colorado Independent it became clear to him that the Fair Districts campaign and its efforts are “more controversial and potentially partisan” than he realized.

 

► The U.S. House passed a 2018 budget resolution on Thursday, the first step in advancing a nonsensical Republican tax reform plan.

 

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Get More Smarter on Thursday (October 5)

The Colorado Rockies made the playoffs this year, but you missed it if you didn’t catch Wednesday’s game in Arizona. 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…

► Tens of thousands of Colorado children are in serious trouble if Congress does not renew funding for CHIP, the Children’s Health Insurance Program that expired at the end of September. The Senate Finance Committee on Wednesday took the first step toward renewing CHIP funding with a bill sponsored by Sen. Michael Bennet (D-Denver) and Sen. Cory Gardner (R-Yuma).

 

► Today is the last day for DACA recipients to renew permits before the process is closed under a policy shift announced last month by the Trump administration.

 

► Colorado Senate Republican leaders pledged not to do their jobs when the legislature convened for a brief session to fix an unintentional legislative error this week, and they succeeded in doing nothing once again. But the decisions of Republican leaders such as Senate President Kevin Grantham are looking even worse with the news that legislation to fix SB-267 would have passed in the Senate had a floor vote been permitted.

State Sen. Chris Holbert is among those Republican leaders whose reputations took a hit this week. Holbert was quoted by the Denver Post saying that he “did not swear an oath to uphold the opinion of a court” and preferred to follow his constituents’ interpretation of the State Constitution rather than, you know, facts.

 

► Former Judge Roy Moore, who easily defeated Sen. Luther Strange in a Republican Primary in Alabama last month, showed up unexpectedly in Washington D.C. on Wednesday and caused quite a stir. As the Washington Post reports, Moore apparently met with NRSC head Cory Gardner, despite the best efforts of both men to pretend othewise:

Rather than meeting with McConnell, Moore was on the House side of the Capitol on Wednesday. In a brief interview as he left the office of Rep. Robert B. Aderholt in the afternoon, Moore said he had no meetings set up with McConnell or members of the National Republican Senatorial Committee, the Senate majority’s campaign arm, which spent millions trying to defeat Moore in the primary.

“Nothing confirmed,” he said casually, as an aide tried to head off questions. Asked why he decided to come to Washington, Moore simply replied: “Beautiful place.”

In the evening, Moore met with the NRSC chairman, Sen. Cory Gardner (R-Colo.), according to a Republican close to Gardner and a second Republican familiar with the talk who spoke on condition of anonymity to describe the closed-door session. Moore’s campaign declined to comment.

The meeting appeared to be hastily arranged, given Moore’s afternoon remark and Gardner’s uncertainty earlier in the day, as he and other Republicans struggled to save face.

“I haven’t looked at the schedule — I don’t know that yet,” Gardner said around midday, when asked whether he planned to meet with Moore.

The entire story is worth a read; Republicans who feared Moore and his right-wing supporters seem to have plenty of reason to be nervous. Moore’s Senate campaign was also a referendum on Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, whom the Alabama nominee has openly criticized.

 

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