Pettersen Runs For SD-22

Rep. Brittany Pettersen (D).

A press release a short while ago resolves another lingering question from the tumultuous game of musical chairs that played out in Jefferson County this year–Rep. Brittany Pettersen, who stepped back from the CD-7 congressional race after Rep. Ed Perlmutter decided at length against a run for governor in 2018, will run for the state senate seat being vacated by her former primary opponent for CD-7, term-limited Sen. Andy Kerr:

Jeffco State Rep. Brittany Pettersen today announced her candidacy for the Colorado State Senate, District 22. The three-term legislator, State House Majority Whip and House Education Committee Chair entered the race with the support of Congressman Ed Perlmutter, State Senate Minority Leader Lucia Guzman, former Lakewood City Councilwoman Karen Kellen, and neighboring Lakewood representative, Chris Kennedy.

“It was the teachers and schools in Jefferson County that gave me a chance to succeed, and I first ran to ensure others had that same opportunity to make a better life for themselves,” said Rep. Pettersen. “I have fought to increase public school funding by millions of dollars throughout my legislative career, reduced the testing burden on kids and teachers and worked to make college more affordable. In the state senate, I will continue the fight for stronger public schools for all Colorado kids.”

Pettersen and her three brothers grew up in Jeffco, and lives in Lakewood with her husband, Ian Silverii. She became the first in her family to graduate from high school and college. She put herself through school working minimum wage jobs and graduated with a degree from Metro State University. She knows first-hand the challenges families face in the district, having gone through those struggles herself. She had to grow up fast to help take care of her two younger brothers when her mom became addicted to opioids at a young age. Her mother’s struggles with addiction have led Pettersen to become a leader on combating the opioid crisis in Colorado, and she currently serves as chairwoman of the bipartisan Opioid and Other Substance Use Disorders Interim Committee.

This development should mark the end of the confusing back-and-forth that has surrounded the future plans of all the candidates affected by Rep. Perlmutter’s abortive run for governor. Lakewood Councillor Karen Kellen was a principal candidate for the SD-22 seat prior to everyone’s plans to move up to fill the chain of vacancies created by Perlmutter were scrambled, so her swift endorsement of Pettersen is significant.

A smooth handoff for Democrats in this race matters, since it’s a competitive swing suburban Jefferson County district that can be considered a bellwether–like Jeffco as a whole. In 2014, Sen. Kerr beat challenger Tony Sanchez by just over 1,300 votes, and Sanchez if you recall was a fringe candidate with no local name recognition. Sanchez, expected to run again in 2018, would have greatly benefitted from running against a less-seasoned opponent than Brittany Pettersen.

With Pettersen running, the question for Republicans is whether anybody better than Sanchez dares get in. We’d say their resources are probably better spent elsewhere.

Get More Smarter on Tuesday (September 12)

For those of you who fell asleep before Monday’s late game was over, the Denver Broncos are now 1-0 on the season. 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…

► Things were very good economically for the American middle class in 2016 (thanks, Donald Obama!) As the Washington Post reports:

America’s middle class had its highest-earning year ever in 2016, the U.S. Census Bureau reported Tuesday…

…America’s poverty rate fell to 12.7 percent, the lowest since 2007, the year before the financial crisis hit. The percent of Americans without health insurance for the entire year also dropped in 2016 to just 8.8 percent, largely thanks to expanding coverage under the Affordable Care Act.

Economists hailed the news as evidence the recovery is finally taking hold after years of frustration for the middle class, which watched the stock market soar while the average American’s income barely budged.

 

► Don’t stop us if you’ve heard this before (because you have): Congressional Republicans are eager to get to work on tax reform issues, but they’re a bit perplexed by the absence of anything resembling a specific proposal. As Politico reports:

“This time around there is no room for error. This has got to be a home run,” Rep. Dave Brat (R-Va.) said, recalling the GOP’s Obamacare fiasco. “I would hope everyone wants to know what’s in it before you vote on it. That’s the old [Nancy] Pelosi joke on health care, it turned into a colossal joke. ‘You’ll find out what’s in it after we pass it.’”

A member of the tax-writing House Ways and Means Committee, speaking on condition of anonymity to speak freely said, “It is frustrating and concerning that we don’t have the details and yet we’re going to be asked in 60 days to vote on something,”

The member suggested that congressional and administration leaders negotiating a plan are holding back information either to avoid leaks or because they haven’t found enough common ground yet to share anything. [Pols emphasis]

Or…and we’re just spitballing here…perhaps not having a plan really is the plan. After all, you can’t oppose something that doesn’t exist.

¯\_(ツ)_/¯

 

► Arapahoe County District Attorney George Brauchler is seeking the Republican nomination for governor in 2018. Brauchler should also be seeking some advice on how to talk about water policy in Colorado. HINT: Don’t say that you are surprised that water is a big issue here.

 

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Get More Smarter on Monday (September 11)

The Denver Broncos open their season late tonight; it may be Sept. 12 before the game finally concludes. 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…

► Officials are still assessing damage from Hurricane Irma, which hit South Florida on Sunday before moving up the western coast of Florida toward the Tampa Bay area. The storm left more than 6 million people without power across Florida, but the worst-case scenarios envisioned by weather forecasters last week seem largely to have been avoided.

 

► The Chair of the Colorado Republican Party is backing up comments made on the official Twitter accounts of the state party that were critical of the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC). As Ernest Luning reports for the publication formerly known as the Colorado Statesman:

Citing articles critical of the SPLC “from across the political spectrum” and a letter written this week by prominent conservatives that calls the SPLC a “discredited, left-wing political activist organization that seeks to silence its political opponents with a ‘hate group’ label of its own invention,” State GOP Chair Jeff Hays told Colorado Politics he has no intention of apologizing.

“The notion that the Colorado Republican Party should apologize for joining this broad chorus of critics is ridiculous,” Hays said in a statement. “Our tweet was correct to suggest the SPLC is an unreliable source of information, and stories that cite it uncritically ought not to be trusted.”

If you are unfamiliar with the SPLC, you should know that they are one of the leading groups in the United States keeping track of “hate groups,” white supremacy, and other extremist organizations.

 

Steve Bannon, the former top strategist for President Trump who was resigned-fired last month, had plenty to say in an interview with 60 Minutes on Sunday. As CNN reports, Bannon pulled no punches in assessing Trump’s decision to fire former FBI Director James Comey:

Former White House chief strategist Steve Bannon believes President Donald Trump’s decision to fire former FBI Director James Comey was one of the worst mistakes in “modern political history.”

In a “60 Minutes” interview that was posted online Sunday night, Bannon was asked whether he considered Comey’s dismissal — which ignited a political firestorm and directly led to the appointment of a special counsel to investigate Russian meddling in the 2016 election, including potential ties to Trump’s campaign — the biggest mistake in political history.

Bannon responded, “That would be probably — that probably would be too bombastic even for me, but maybe modern political history.”

Bannon is now back at Breitbart News, and it sounds like he is ready for an all-out war with the Republican Party.

 

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GOP Lawmakers Troll Well-Plugging Plan, Because Of Course

Sen. Ray Scott (R).

As the Grand Junction Sentinel’s Dennis Webb reports–a few weeks ago, Gov. John Hickenlooper announced measures intended to prevent the recurrence of an explosion inside a home in Firestone that killed two people and leveled the structure, an explosion later determined to be caused by methane gas seeping into the home’s foundations from an improperly abandoned well nearby. Flowlines from that well allowed the gas into the home, calling attention to a major statewide problem of abandoned oil and gas development infrastructure. Hickenlooper’s announced fixes have been debated as a potentially too-small response to a problem that will only get worse as the urbanizing Front Range expands into current and formerly drilled areas.

But as the Sentinel reports, a pair of energy biz-friendly GOP lawmakers is pushing back even against Hickenlooper’s small-scale proposed fixes:

State Sen. Ray Scott and state Rep. Bob Rankin are asking Colorado’s top oil and gas regulator to justify why more funds are needed to pay for plugging abandoned wells.

The two made the request in a letter written Wednesday to Matt Lepore, director of the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission.

They wrote it after Gov. John Hickenlooper made several recommendations for new laws or regulations in response to the April home explosion in Firestone that killed two men and was linked to gas flowing from an abandoned flowline from a nearby well. One recommendation was the creation of a nonprofit fund to plug and abandon orphan wells and provide refunds for in-home methane monitors. Orphan wells are ones for which no owner or operator can be found, or the owner or operator is unwilling or unable to plug and properly abandon it.

“We are writing to request your assistance regarding the size and scope of the abandoned well situation in Colorado,” Scott and Rankin said in their letter to Lepore. They pointed to what they called Hickenlooper’s suggestion that “the abandoned well problem is so vast in scope that new taxes and fees are necessary to stand up a new organization to address the problem.”

Even Matt Lepore, Gov. Hickenlooper’s rather infamously pro-industry director of the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission, says that the amount of money oil companies are required to bond for plugging old wells is inadequate, having last been increased almost a decade ago and to a level still not enough to cover the need.

But apparently even Hickenlooper’s limited actions in response to the Firestone explosion are too much for Republicans in the legislature! Politically, questioning these baby steps as potential “overreach” following such a high-profile disaster is incredibly tone-deaf–if not for the Western Slope “gaspatch Republicans” in this story, then certainly for Republicans who have to answer to worried suburban homeowners along the Front Range.

At some point, public safety has to come before private profit. Doesn’t it?

Biz Lobby Talks Transportation Initiative, Hard Right Freaks

As Denver Post business correspondent Aldo Svaldi reports, the Denver Metro Chamber of Commerce is moving to resurrect of the major failed priorities from this year’s legislative session–a measure asking voters for more revenue to deal with the growing backlog of badly needed transportation projects all over the state of Colorado:

The Denver Metro Chamber of Commerce will pursue a ballot initiative next year to boost state transportation funding after the state legislature failed to send voters a measure to raise $3.5 billion for roads and transit this year…

Brough, in an interview after the announcement, said specifics are still being worked on with several other groups, but she hinted that the size and scope of the hard-fought but failed House Bill 1242 offers a starting point.

…The bill, sponsored by Democratic House Speaker Crisanta Duran and Republican Senate President Kevin Grantham, sought to increase the statewide sales tax to 3.52 percent from 2.9 percent for 20 years to raise $3.5 billion for transportation funding.

But Senate conservatives, opposed in principle to tax increases and state spending priorities, contributed to the bill’s demise late in the session, ending what backers had hailed as a grand bargain between Republicans and Democrats to address a critical need.

Colorado Senate President Kevin Grantham.

The state’s two principal right-wing ideological hard line groups, Americans for Prosperity-Colorado and the Independence Institute–who were chiefly responsible for killing the bipartisan “grand bargain” between Democratic House Speaker Crisanta Duran and GOP Senate President Kevin Grantham–reacted with predictable anger:

But we’ll be very interested in seeing what happens with this initiative, since it could take a major argument from local conservatives–that Medicaid and other “social spending” must be cut to pay for infrastructure upgrades everyone agrees are needed–off the table. The zero-sum paradigm forced on the state by the 1992 Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights (TABOR) is an end unto itself for the ideological “starve the beast” right, and they have no interest in upholding the part of the law that allows voters to grow the proverbial pie if they choose.

But when even conservative Republicans like Kevin Grantham agree that something has to be done–and not on the backs of the sick and poor–there is legitimate reason to keep trying.

Get More Smarter on Tuesday (September 5)

A lot of stuff can (and did) happen over the course of a three-day weekend. 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…

► After days of speculation, President Trump made Attorney General Jeff Sessions announce the news on Tuesday: The Obama-era immigration policy better known as DACA is coming to an end. As CNN reports:

The Department of Homeland Security will stop processing any new applications for the program as of Tuesday and rescinded the Obama administration policy, Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals.

“I am here today to announce that the program known as DACA that was effectuated under the Obama administration is being rescinded,” Attorney General Jeff Sessions said Tuesday at the Justice Department.

In the five years since DACA was enacted, the nearly 800,000 individuals who have received the protections have started families, pursued careers and studied in schools and universities across the United States. The business community and education community at large has joined Democrats and many moderate Republicans in supporting the program, citing the contributions to society from the population and the sympathetic fact that many Dreamers have never known another home than the US…

…The administration also announced a plan to continue renewing permits for anyone whose status expires in the next six months, giving Congress time to act before any currently protected individuals lose their ability to work, study and live without fear in the US.

Most Democrats and even some moderate Republicans have largely opposed scrapping DACA, and many business leaders are worried about the impact it will have on reducing the available workforce. As Chris Cillizza writes for CNN, Trump’s decision on DACA shows just how much the Republican Party has changed in the last few years.

Here in Colorado, the end of DACA is estimated to impact more than 17,000 people, and many local, state, and federal lawmakers are pushing back on the decision. Students across Colorado responded this morning by walking out of classes and staging public protests. Congressman Mike Coffman (R-Aurora), who has a mixed history on immigration reform in general, says he plans to enact a motion in Congress to force a vote on legislation intended to protect so-called DREAMERS.

 

► Congress is back at “work” today following its annual month-long August recess. As the Washington Post explains, lawmakers have a lot on their schedule:

If you want to understand the situation facing Congress in September, imagine resolving the thorniest problem you can think of in the space of one month.

Now multiply that task by four and add President Trump.

This is what awaits lawmakers as they return from summer break this week. In the small number of working days between now and the end of the month, Congress faces the following decisions: passing a bill to avert a U.S. debt default, renewing government funding to avoid a partial shutdown, reauthorizing critical programs including the Federal Aviation Administration, extending funds for health insurance for about 9 million children and agreeing on emergency aid for victims of Hurricane Harvey.

And that’s all while trying to anticipate the behavior of an unpredictable president.

Oh, but that’s not all. Not even close:

Trump has said he wants members to start working on tax cuts. There’s a chance Congress will respond if Trump phases out protections for undocumented immigrants brought to the United States as children, as he is expected to do. Lawmakers are under pressure to fund Obamacare cost-sharing reduction payments before Sept. 27, when insurers have to commit to offering plans on the exchanges next year. The Senate needs to pass a defense authorization bill. Committees are expected to interview members of Trump’s inner circle about Russia. Depending on how Hurricane Irma evolves, Capitol Hill could find itself responding to yet another destructive storm.

 

► Colorado’s air quality is suffering from multiple major wildfires burning in the Western United States. As the Denver Post reports:

Heavy smoke from forest fires in the Northwest has triggered a health advisory for ozone and fine particulates along the northern Front Range through 4 p.m. Tuesday.

Outdoor air quality is at unsafe levels for sensitive groups, such as the elderly and those with health problems. In some areas, particulates are at high levels unhealthy for the public at large, according to the “Action Day Alert” from the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment.

The elderly, the very young and those in poor health are urged to remains indoors and to relocate if outside smoke is worsening indoor air quality. Even those in good health should avoid heavy exertion outdoors, such as jogging, until the alert is lifted.

 

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AFP Colorado Rally Fizzles Despite “FREE BBQ LUNCH”

Lavishly-funded conservative activist group American For Prosperity-Colorado promoted the hell out of today’s No More, Uncle Sam! Reform the Tax Code! rally in Lincoln Park across from the Colorado State Capitol:

“Bring your friends and Rally with AFP-Colorado to REFORM the TAX CODE Now! FREE BBQ LUNCH!” Blared the ads on social media for this rally well in advance, giving AFP’s allegedly huge cadre of supporters plenty of time to make a plan to show. But despite all that preparation and the promise of a literal “free lunch,” initial reports from the scene in Lincoln Park would appear to indicate…well, plenty of leftovers:

If you know anybody from Occupy Denver, send them to Lincoln Park for some quick eats before it’s over! Failing that we hope the surplus gets donated to hungry folks close by. Napoleon said it best, “an army marches on its stomach.” But sometimes, as AFP Colorado learned today, not even a free hot meal can fire up the troops–not with Republican morale facing the daily acid test of President Donald Trump.

But free food certainly means they tried. And you can’t blame an astroturf front group for trying.

Sen. Scott Threatened Official Retaliation Over Private Business?

Sen. Ray Scott (R).

Heads up readers, the Grand Junction Sentinel’s Charles Ashby dropped a bit of a bombshell on the GOP-controlled Colorado Senate this weekend:

State Sen. Ray Scott is embroiled in a legal battle that pits allegations the lawmaker was run out of the fireplace sales business against claims he consistently was late in making payments, accepted money from customers but delayed placing their orders and threatened to use his elected position against the fireplace manufacturer.

In a lawsuit filed in U.S. District Court in Denver last year, the Grand Junction Republican alleges Montigo Del Ray Corp., the fireplace company for which his Grand Junction-based business, Gas Products Corp., was the sole manufacturer’s representative, unfairly ended its relationship with him and gave its exclusive distributorship to the second company named in the lawsuit, California-based BTU Marketing LLC.

Scott filed his lawsuit after Montigo made several attempts to collect payments it claims Scott’s company owed. Not long after those collection attempts, Scott sent an email threatening to use his position in the Legislature against the manufacturer.

“I would think that someone who could protect your interest in this market and who serves on the energy commission would be a huge benefit, or I guess could be a huge problem under the right circumstances,” [Pols emphasis] Scott wrote to Montigo executive Scott Baron in September 2012, a month after his distributor contract was terminated. “Wow. Now politics enters the picture, didn’t expect that one.”

So needless to say, folks, this is really bad for Sen. Scott if true. If misusing one’s public elected position to threaten private business associates doesn’t meet the test for official misconduct, it’s very difficult to imagine what would. The closest parallel to this situation we can recall in Colorado politics, and it’s not nearly as bad, would be ex-Sen. Deanna Hanna’s request for “reparations” from a trade group after they donated to her unsuccessful opponent. That wasn’t good, but this is far, far worse–and you’ll recall that incident cost Sen. Hanna her seat within a matter of days.

We’ll have to see what happens here, but there’s a scenario in which Sen. Scott’s political career rapidly winds down.

The Company Kevin Lundberg Keeps?

WEDNESDAY UPDATE: The photo below apparently originates from something called the “Denver Stormer Book Club,” which we’ll confess we did not even know existed until we received this photo. And it appears they’ve been Photoshopping!

For those of you wondering, the left one is Arapahoe County DA George Brauchler,  illustrated pressing the button to gas the Aurora theater shooter. The right one is Lundberg again, presumably acting out the fantasies of the Denver Stormer Book Club.

Of course, we’re not implying that this “art” was sanctioned by either candidate. But just like the alt-right’s fascination with Republicans at higher levels, it’s perfectly fair to ask what the, you know, affinity might be here.

Unless it’s obvious…

—–

A photo sent to us today is likely to cause some uncomfortable moments for the leading GOP candidate for Colorado Treasurer, Sen. Kevin Lundberg:

That’s a guy wearing a T-shirt for the white supremacist Daily Stormer website, which readers are aware has migrated to the “dark web” after gaining infamy for smearing victims of the white supremacist vehicular terror attack in Charlottesville, Virginia. It’s entirely possible the photo was taken before the Charlottesville attack, but Daily Stormer’s longstanding role as a central white supremacist organizing platform offers Lundberg little excuse.

Little excuse, and lots of unpleasant questions for one of Colorado’s hardest-right elected officials! After all, Lundberg’s political nexus with the Daily Stormer crowd is as easy to find as the Republican Study Committee of Colorado’s field trips to the Mexican border to “fact-find” with militia groups.

But we’ll leave that all to Sen. Lundberg to explain.

Beware the Big-Number Boogeyman

(Promoted by Colorado Pols)

Colorado’s total state budget is $29 billion. That’s right; billion with a “B.” That’s a big number. It’s bigger this year than it was two years ago.

All too often, Colorado’s most extreme conservatives use these oversimplified statements as if they are some kind of thunderclap in the raging debate over our state’s finances. It’s a particular line of attack I call the “Big-Number Boogeyman” argument.

The Big-Number Boogeyman’s tactic is cynical, yet effective. He throws around big numbers most of us can’t relate to and points out how the budget keeps growing. He is quick to dismiss those advocating for more public investment as hopelessly greedy liberals who can’t prioritize.

Last week, the Colorado Springs Gazette took a page out of the Big-Number Boogeyman’s handbook.

In an editorial, it erroneously depicted a shrinking K-12 budget as a direct consequence of the state’s decision to expand Medicaid coverage for those with incomes at 133 percent of the federal poverty line ($16,000/year).

To make its argument, the Gazette relied on the wrong facts. Instead of looking at the $11 billion general fund, it used Colorado’s $29 billion total state budget (all funds).

(If you’re starting to think like the Boogeyman and his followers, you’re probably saying to yourself, “Wow, $11 billion is a big number.” Before I lose you, divide that $11 billion by our population. It accounts to a mere $2,000 for every man, woman, and child.)

Remove the Big-Number Boogeyman bias and here’s what’s left: It may seem like Medicaid’s share of the budget is exploding, but that’s because Medicaid expansion is funded by a federal government match. When you look at the general fund — the true measure of where our tax dollars are going — you see percentages for Medicaid have remained virtually unchanged over the last five years.

Based on its incorrect theory, the Gazette then declared a solution to the problem (one it created by using out-of-context numbers): If we want higher paid teachers, kick people off Medicaid. Fiscal crisis solved!

The Big-Number Boogeyman and his henchmen went wild.

“$29 billion and we can’t find money for roads and schools?”
“We just need to prioritize better!”
“The budget grows bigger every year. How much more do you want?”

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Get More Smarter on Wednesday (August 9)

Members of Congress are holding fewer town hall meetings in August than they have in recent years — try to contain your surprise. 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 war of words between the United States and North Korea reached a new level on Tuesday after President Trump promised to unleash “fire and fury” on the reclusive country if it continues to threaten the U.S. with nuclear weapons. Trump’s strong rhetoric is raising concerns in Asia, and as the New York Times reports, Trump’s bombastic (pun intended) statements caught his own staff off guard:

President Trump delivered his “fire and fury” threat to North Korea on Tuesday with arms folded, jaw set and eyes flitting on what appeared to be a single page of talking points set before him on the conference table at his New Jersey golf resort.

The piece of paper, as it turned out, was a fact sheet on the opioid crisis he had come to talk about, and his ominous warning to Pyongyang was entirely improvised, according to several people with direct knowledge of what unfolded. In discussions with advisers beforehand, he had not run the specific language by them. [Pols emphasis]

The inflammatory words quickly escalated the confrontation with North Korea to a new, alarming level and were followed shortly by a new threat from North Korea to obliterate an American air base on Guam. In the hours since, the president’s advisers have sought to calm the situation, with Secretary of State Rex W. Tillerson assuring Americans that they “should sleep at night” without worrying about an imminent war.

Yes, you read that correctly. President Trump improvised threatening North Korea. If we end up in a military conflict with North Korea, maybe Trump can go do the fighting himself, too.

Hopefully, North Korea is listening more closely to Secretary of State Rex Tillerson.

 

Luis Toro of Colorado Ethics Watch calls for more transparency in campaign fundraising in light of a Denver Post story that Treasurer Walker Stapleton is using a big loophole in the law to raise unlimited amounts of money for his upcoming campaign for governor. The editorial board of the Denver Post is also not thrilled with Stapleton’s loophole maneuvering:

While his move can be viewed as an understandable and inevitable outgrowth of the reality of how tangled campaign finance laws corrupt our politics, we wish the treasurer had set a better example and not led us down this path — for others surely will follow.

As The Denver Post’s Mark K. Matthews reported, the Republican plans to appear at a high-dollar fundraiser on Aug. 21 on behalf of BetterColoradoNow, an independent expenditure committee that seeks to cause trouble for Democratic candidates. Stapleton is doing so even though he hasn’t made his candidacy official. His coyness allows him to avoid rules that prohibit cooperation between such committees and candidates.

We argue that Stapleton’s planned workaround violates the spirit of the law and the clear expectation of Colorado voters, who have consistently sought to set strict limits on political fundraising. Such dodges add to the reasons voters feel down in their bones that the system is falling apart.

 

► Big news from the Washington Post regarding Robert Mueller’s investigation into potential ties between Russia and the Trump campaign:

FBI agents raided the Alexandria home of President Trump’s former campaign chairman late last month, using a search warrant to seize documents and other materials, according to people familiar with the special counsel investigation into Russian meddling in the 2016 election.

Federal agents appeared at Paul Manafort’s home without advance warning in the predawn hours of July 26, the day after he met voluntarily with the staff for the Senate Intelligence Committee.

The search warrant was wide-ranging and FBI agents working with special counsel Robert S. Mueller III departed the home with various records. Jason Maloni, a spokesman for Manafort, confirmed that agents executed a warrant at one of the political consultant’s homes and that Manafort cooperated with the search.

As “The Fix” concludes, there are few phrases scarier than “predawn raid” when it comes to the topic of a federal investigation.

 

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Get More Smarter on Tuesday (August 8)

Worried that people don’t like you? Your approval ratings can’t be worse than those of Cory Gardner. 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 a model of consistency when it comes to low approval ratings. As CNN explains:

Six months into his presidency, Donald Trump’s overall approval rating stands at its lowest point in CNN polling, while three-quarters of Americans say they can’t trust most of what they hear from the White House.

Overall, 38% say they approve of Trump’s handling of the presidency, according to a new CNN poll conducted by SSRS, with 56% saying they disapprove. Just one other newly-elected president has held an approval rating below 50% at this point in his presidency since modern polling began: Bill Clinton, whose approval rating stood at 44% at this point in 1993.

Enthusiasm breaks against Trump by a 2-to-1 margin. Nearly half in the new poll say they strongly disapprove of Trump’s handling of the job (47%), while just a quarter say they feel strongly positive about Trump’s performance (24%).

Trump has been President for 200 days already? Covfefe!

 

► Here in Colorado, new poll results show that Sen. Cory Gardner (R-Yuma) remains less popular than President Trump. Gardner’s approval/disapproval split is 24/56, compared to 40/53 for Trump.

Back in March, Gardner’s approval ratings were at a miserable 39%. At the rate he’s going, Gardner’s approval ratings will be in the single digits by Christmas.

 

► An in-depth Climate Change study compiled by a slew of federal agencies tells a story that President Trump may not want to hear. From the New York Times:

The average temperature in the United States has risen rapidly and drastically since 1980, and recent decades have been the warmest of the past 1,500 years, according to a sweeping federal climate change report awaiting approval by the Trump administration.

The draft report by scientists from 13 federal agencies, which has not yet been made public, concludes that Americans are feeling the effects of climate change right now. It directly contradicts claims by President Trump and members of his cabinet who say that the human contribution to climate change is uncertain, and that the ability to predict the effects is limited…

…The report was completed this year and is a special science section of the National Climate Assessment, which is congressionally mandated every four years. The National Academy of Sciences has signed off on the draft report, and the authors are awaiting permission from the Trump administration to release it.

One government scientist who worked on the report, Katharine Hayhoe, a professor of political science at Texas Tech University, called the conclusions among “the most comprehensive climate science reports” to be published. Another scientist involved in the process, who spoke to The New York Times on the condition of anonymity, said he and others were concerned that it would be suppressed.

Each one of 13 federal agencies — including the EPA — is supposed to “approve” the report for distribution by August 18. Scientists are worried that the Trump administration will dismiss this report entirely.

 

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Gardner Talks Plenty, Answers Little in Telephone Townhall

(Promoted by Colorado Pols)

Why won’t Cory Gardner do in -person, live town halls? That’s easy –  if he did, he would have baffled crowds of people yelling, “What?” “Who?” “When?” and turning to each other, muttering, “What – what did he just say? It sounded great, but what does it mean?” He couldn’t handle the follow-up questions. At all. There are no “mute” or “delete” buttons for real people asking inconvenient questions in a live town hall.

I listened to Senator Gardner talk at his constituents for an hour during his tele-town hall on August 2, 2017. For the first time in all of the Gardner town halls I’ve sat through, he actually answered one of my questions.  (at 49:15 in the recording). Unfortunately, it was a question with lots of wiggle room – perfect for Gardner. On the other hand, plenty of people asked him very specific questions, and he didn’t answer those, either.

Here’s what I heard between 7:05 pm and 8:05 pm on Gardner’s telephone town hall. All questions and answers are paraphrased, unless I’m using quotation marks.

Photo: ADAPT protest, Cory Gardner’s Greeley office, July 27, 2017.

In his introduction, Gardner spewed the usual glibberish. He’s going to repair the damage of Obamacare, because so many Coloradans got their policies cancelled or had to pay fines, bla bla. He lied again about how many town halls he’s held, counting his one on one meetings with a health care CEO and stopping to get fruit for his kids at a roadside stand as “meeting with Coloradans”. Oh, and he had dinner at a ranch, and met with  Chamber of Commerce members.  Aren’t those town halls? Cory swears that counts as a town hall.

Still glibbering, Gardner talked about cybersecurity and his bill to make the “internet of things” more secure, which cook rightly pointed out is not-bad legislation.  He also talked about opening up more broadband “spectrum” in rural Colorado, and mentioned tax reform, coming to you in September!!

Then he began taking questions. Some had been submitted online, while most were live telephone callers.

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Clueless Climate Alliance Clamor Continues

We wrote earlier this week about Republican gubernatorial candidates who reacted with over-the-top anger to Gov. John Hickenlooper’s decision to join the U.S. Climate Alliance–a group of states committed to meeting the goals of the Paris Climate Accords despite President Donald Trump’s unilateral pullout of the United States.

Since then, Sen. Jerry Sonnenberg has joined the pile-on in his own colloquial way:

We don’t know who Mark Train is, but we assume he doesn’t drive an electric car! Bah-dum-tish!

Ribbing aside, this is another chance to remind readers that we’ve never understood the intensity of the clamor against renewable energy from groups like the Independence Institute and their Republican message surrogates. The scientific consensus regarding human-caused climate change is really only challenged by a small subset of non-mainstream voices, who are almost always are revealed under scrutiny to be funded by interests with a financial motive to deny the overwhelming consensus.

This description sums up the Independence Institute pretty well.

What we’re trying to say here is that the only people who rage against renewable energy this much are paid to–or in the case of politicians like Sen. Jerry Sonnenberg, supported politically by those who are. If you don’t have a financial interest in the fight against clean energy, there’s just no reason to badmouth it. Not even as price-sensitive consumers, since the cost of power from renewable sources has been dropping, steadily eroding that once-decisive factor. Consumers understand the benefit of using clean energy over fossil fuels, and are excited about new technologies to make them practical.

In all cases, whether it’s the GOP’s candidates for governor or the fossil fuel industry’s paid surrogates, these are extremely weak arguments, that the next generation will find laughable as they routinely set out for the West Coast in their electric cars and power their homes with renewable generation. Unless you’re already primed for these anti-renewable energy arguments by immersion in the Fox News/talk radio infobubble, in which case you’re the choir the Independence Institute is wasting time preaching to, it simply doesn’t work. It sounds stale, strained, and above all contrived.

Like the real Mark Twain once said, “do not tell fish stories where the people know you; but particularly, don’t tell them where they know the fish.”

Before Annual ALEC Conference, New Report Exposes Secretive Group’s Political Influence in Colorado

(Promoted by Colorado Pols)

Just days before the American Legislative Exchange Council’s (ALEC) annual meeting in Denver, Colorado Common Cause and the Common Cause Education Fund released a new report uncovering the recent influence of the secretive special interest lobbying group in the Colorado legislature. ALEC is a national secretive lobbying group that is holding its annual meeting in Denver from July 19th-21st. ALEC is known for bringing state lawmakers and corporate lobbyists together in secret to draft and approve “model” bills on different issues, often benefiting its corporate donors’ bottom line.

The report reveals the members of the Colorado legislature that have ties to ALEC and which recent Colorado state bills can be traced back to the organization. Additionally, the report highlights ALEC’s corporate members and uncovers money given to the organization from both the Coors family and Koch brothers. The report also documents how ALEC abuses its public charity status with the IRS, effectively making its corporate donors eligible for a tax deduction for its funding of ALEC.

“ALEC’s secretive corporate lobbying flies in the face of how democracy is supposed to work,” said Elena Nunez, executive director of Colorado Common Cause. “Voters may not know who ALEC is, but they have been very influential in Colorado. Coloradans need to know who is really behind some of the bills introduced in our legislature and what ALEC’s corporate funders are getting in return.”

“This report should be eye-opening and alarming for any Coloradan who believes in transparent and accountable government,” Nunez added. “ALEC and its corporate funders can’t be allowed to peddle their influence in secret anymore, and taxpayers shouldn’t be subsidizing ALEC’s lobbying.”

The release of the new report comes a week before ALEC holds its annual meeting in Denver, where legislators and lobbyists will meet behind closed doors to plan a national strategy to push ALEC’s agenda on workers’ rights, environmental protection, healthcare, tax and budget issues, and telecommunications policy. U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos, former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, Congressman Ken Buck (R-CO), and Colorado Attorney General Cynthia Coffman are among the conference’s announced speakers.

To kick off a week of counter programming and unveil the new report, Colorado Common Cause will hold a teach-in on ALEC’s influence and agenda on July 15th at the First Baptist Church of Denver featuring expert panelists from Colorado Ethics Watch, Mi Familia Vota, FRESC, NARAL Pro-Choice Colorado, Colorado Fiscal Institute, Conservation Colorado, and more. Additional information about the event can be found here.

To view the “ALEC in Colorado” report, click here.