Stapleton Put On Notice for Sketchy Fundraising Tactics

Walker Stapleton

Sometime in early October, state Treasurer Walker Stapleton is expected to announce that he will seek the Republican nomination for Governor in 2018. Even though he’s not yet a candidate for the top job in the state, Stapleton is already facing legal questions about an independent expenditure committee that is raising money ostensibly on his behalf.

As Mark Matthews reports for the Denver Post:

The Democratic Governors Association is threatening to file a complaint with the Colorado Secretary of State against Republican Walker Stapleton over his ties to a campaign group that is raising money to support his expected bid for governor.

The DGA said Stapleton may have run afoul of state election law by headlining an Aug. 21 fundraiser for the group, an independent expenditure committee known as Better Colorado Now, whose primary purpose is to get Stapleton elected.

Colorado prohibits its candidates from coordinating with these committees — which can raise and spend an unlimited amount of money. The DGA vowed to file a complaint with the Colorado secretary of state against Stapleton, the committee and its donors if Better Colorado Now spent any money to back his candidacy.

Stapleton is not the only 2018 hopeful who will benefit from an independent expenditure committee (IEC), but he’s the only one pushing the legal line by being involved with the fundraising efforts. Stapleton’s name appeared as a “special guest” on the invitation for the Aug. 21 fundraiser for an IEC called “Better Colorado Now,” which lists as its official purpose “to oppose Democrat candidates for Governor” but is almost certainly going to be a vehicle meant to benefit Stapleton’s gubernatorial bid.

As we wrote last month, Stapleton may be legally permitted to help raise money for the IEC so long as he isn’t an official candidate for Governor — which is a big reason why he hasn’t already formally announced his candidacy. That could change once the lawyers get involved here, but the legality of this move won’t alter the awful perception for Stapleton. As Republican gubernatorial candidate Victor Mitchell told the Grand Junction Sentinel:

“Stapleton has been running for four years. He’s been doing unethical fundraising that’s basically just down and out wrong. He’s giving political speeches wherever he goes. He’s raising unlimited sums. It’s everything that’s wrong with our political discourse today.”

“Better Colorado Now” had raised about $121,000 as of June 30, and that figure has certainly grown since then. We’ll find out in a few months whether the total amount raised by this IEC is enough to override the negative news it has generated for Stapleton.

Get More Smarter on Friday (September 1)

For those of you who haven’t already left town for a “four-day weekend,” allow us to catch you up on your political news. 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 calling his own bluff — again — on a potential government shutdown. The White House is backing off of Trump’s most-recent threats to “shut down” the federal government if Congress doesn’t appropriate enough money to build a giant wall between the U.S.-Mexico border. As the Washington Post reports:

“Build that wall,” Trump said at the Aug. 22 rally in Phoenix. “Now the obstructionist Democrats would like us not to do it. But believe me, if we have to close down our government, we’re building that wall.”

But shortly after Trump made those comments, White House officials quietly notified Congress that the $1.6 billion would not need to be in a “continuing resolution” that was meant to fund government operations from October until sometime in early December, a senior GOP congressional aide said…

…Trump could still follow through on a threat to shut down the government in December, but this marks the second time he has pulled back from the wall demand in order to allow lawmakers to pass a budget bill. The first time came in May, when lawmakers voted to authorize government funding through September and refrained from including money that would allow for the construction of a new wall.

The OVER/UNDER for the number of times that Trump will threaten to shut down the federal government (in 2017) is now at 3.5.

 

► Governor John Hickenlooper and his new BFF, Ohio Gov. John Kasich, are promoting a healthcare policy plan of their own for Congress to get behind. The key tenets of the “Kasichlooper” plan are to stabilize insurance markets in part through retaining the “individual mandate” for insurance coverage. Governors from Nevada, Pennsylvania, Alaska, Virginia, Louisiana and Montana have also signed onto the plan.

Why is it so important to retain the “individual mandate?” Read this story from the Seattle Times about what happened in the state of Washington when state legislators dumped the mandate (SPOLER ALERT: It didn’t go well).

 

President Trump is expected to rescind DACA — an Obama-era policy halting the deportation of children of undocumented immigrants — a decision that could mark a significant turning point for the electoral hopes of Republicans in years to come. Denver7 provides some Colorado-centered specifics:

They were brought to the U.S. as children of undocumented immigrants and a program called DACA allowed them to stay, to go to school and enter the workforce. But Thursday night, the hundreds of thousands of so-called ‘Dreamers,’ including those living in Colorado, fear their dreams could vanish as President Donald Trump nears a decision on whether to end DACA.

Denver7 talked to a local Dreamer, Monica Acosta about what’s at stake…

…This would essentially deport 17,000 Dreamers in Colorado and 800,000 across the country. Acosta is trying to cope and says she plans to stay put in the only place she has ever called home.

Officials with Denver Public Schools are warning that ending DACA would have “catastrophic” effects on the community as a whole. Meanwhile, House Speaker Paul Ryan announced on Friday that he does not believe President Trump should axe DAVA.

 

Get even more smarter after the jump…

(more…)

Waiting For Walker: Stapleton Will Enter Race as Frontrunner

The 2018 Colorado GOP gubernatorial primary has attracted a hefty pool of candidates, but there’s a reason why nobody in the race today has much in the way of traction: the all-but-certain imminent entry into the race of who should on paper be the frontrunner the moment he announces: Colorado Treasurer Walker Stapleton.

As the Denver Post reported early this month, Stapleton has been building up his “independent” campaign apparatus for some time now without having formally declared his candidacy for governor. The arrangement allows Stapleton to personally steer contributions to the independent group supporting him, exploiting a loophole in the law that as we discussed before more or less makes a joke of the notion that these entities should remain separate and uncoordinated. It also potentially gives future Stapleton campaign staff a place to draw a paycheck from before the campaign launches.

As for exactly when Stapleton gets into the race, there’s some debate on the best timing–waiting for any other big-name challengers to make their intentions clear can be a good strategy, but it can also leave a candidate with erstwhile supporters locked up with rivals before they even enter the race. Of course, since Walker’s entry one way or the other is a foregone conclusion at this point, that’s maybe not as big a consideration.

There’s little question that once Stapleton enters the race, the stakes for other GOP candidates rise dramatically. Stapleton’s ability to raise funds as a close cousin of the Bush family, not to mention his personal wealth if needed, make him a major threat. His experience as a statewide elected official eclipses other officeholding contenders (here’s looking at you, George Brauchler). Stapleton is also largely free of involvement in recent Colorado GOP intraparty squabbles. If we were laying odds on when Stapleton gets in, we would guess he’ll wait until well after Labor Day–and give himself the last splash.

And then, unless something unpredictable happens, he’s the candidate to beat.

Barry Farah Joining Republican Melee for Governor

We are fast approaching the point where it will make more sense to announce the names of Republicans who are not running for Governor in 2018.

As the publication formerly known as the Colorado Statesman reports, Colorado Springs entrepreneur/pastor/author Barry Farah is getting ready to join an increasingly-crowded field of candidates seeking the GOP gubernatorial nomination. Barry’s wife, Tamra Farah — the Deputy State Director for Americans for Prosperity in Colorado — took to Twitter today to make it clear that this is no pretend “exploratory” run:

Farah is not a name you should recognize unless you are regularly involved with Republican fundraising efforts in Colorado. Farah is a donor to the Koch Brothers political network and an admitted supporter of President Trump who authored a strange half-hearted explanation for his Trump vote in an Op-Ed for the Colorado Springs Gazette that was published just prior to Election Day in 2016. According to a bio on his personal website, Farah is the “CEO of Precocity LLC, a leading-edge technology company specializing in delivering end-to-end customer experience strategy.” Whatever that means.

Barry Farah

In short, Farah is (another) wealthy businessman with established connections to the GOP donor network. If you’re having trouble figuring out what political niche Farah plans to fill in the Republican field for governor (other than the role of Kent Thiry’s lookalike) you’re not alone. Republicans already have a handful of “Barry Farahs” running for the top job in the state, including Victor MitchellMitt Romney’s Nephew, and soon-to-be-declared-candidate Walker Stapleton.

The fascinating thing about Farah’s candidacy for governor is what it says about the Republican field in general: There is no candidate who can scare off potential challengers and claim the role of frontrunner.

In the last few decades, both Democrats and Republicans have tended to coalesce early around one or two candidates for the top offices in Colorado. This changed in the 2016 GOP Senate primary, when Republicans fielded what seemed like dozens of different candidates, and perhaps that odd field was a harbinger of a changing political landscape for Colorado Republicans.

By the end of this year the number of GOP candidates for governor should surpass double-digits. Some Republicans will claim that this is a healthy sign of competition, but with this large of a field, things can quickly become more of a melee than a tournament.

Walker Stapleton Works the Loopholes

dealinwalkerfinState Treasurer Walker Stapleton is a sure bet to run for Governor in 2018, but he won’t make it official anytime soon. As Mark Matthews writes for the Denver Post, Stapleton is holding off on a formal announcement while he drives a bus through a loophole in our campaign finance laws:

The longer Stapleton waits before formally announcing his bid for Colorado’s top job, the more he can help steer unlimited sums of money toward a super PAC-style group that is expected to provide his artillery during the campaign.

It’s a setup that watchdogs said could stretch the limits of Colorado election law, even as it projects Stapleton’s fundraising might — particularly toward his rivals in the GOP primary…

…The upcoming Aug. 21 fundraiser for Stapleton will be held at the Cherry Hills Village home of Republican booster Greg Maffei, and the host committee is a who’s who of the party’s money class, notably beer magnate Pete Coors, Broncos legend John Elway and businessman Larry Mizel, according to a copy of the invitation.

The proceeds, however, won’t go into Stapleton’s campaign fund — as he doesn’t have one yet.

Instead, the windfall will be routed to an independent expenditure committee called Better Colorado Now, an outfit run by political consultant Andy George, a co-worker of longtime Stapleton adviser Michael Fortney at the Denver-based firm Clear Creek Strategies.

Walker Stapleton

Candidates for Governor in Colorado are limited to max donations of $575 for the Primary Election and $575 for the General Election ($1,150 total). There are NO LIMITS, however, to the amount of money that can be collected by “Better Colorado Now,” an “Independent Expenditure Committee” (IEC) registered with the Colorado Secretary of State.

“Better Colorado Now” lists as its official purpose “to oppose Democrat candidates for Governor,” and as of June 30, the IEC reported $123,000 in contributions. Under state law, Stapleton is permitted to help raise money for the IEC so long as he isn’t an official candidate for Governor. This loophole may face a legal challenge at some point, but for now, Stapleton can be listed as a “special guest” for fundraisers benefitting an “independent” committee that really only exists to promote him.

Weaseling around campaign finance law is nothing new for Stapleton. Earlier this year, Stapleton’s name and face were featured prominently in advertisements for a nonsense group called “U.S. Term Limits.” As we wrote in February:

Some of our longtime readers will remember a previous ad campaign from U.S. Term Limits, a large buy in support of U.S. Senate candidate Bob Schaffer in 2008. Their “Thanks, Bob” ad (which said nothing about term limits) was parodied and laughed at generally in a race Schaffer went on to badly lose, as well as provoking an FEC complaint. But it was a good lesson in the true purpose of the organization–which is to support favored Republican candidates of Howard Rich, a New York real estate developer and member of the board of the much larger right-wing advocacy group the Club for Growth.

With protests related to government…you know, stuff (better for Walker Stapleton to keep that as vague as possible) raging throughout the land, we can understand why this “grasstops” organization run by and for well-heeled Republicans is trying to insert itself in the action. Once the organization’s true motives are unpacked, though, it’s pretty easy to understand that this is a cynical campaign vehicle–funded by a New York billionaire to support George and Jeb Bush’s cousin’s political ambitions.

Stapleton may not be breaking campaign finance laws with these stunts, but he’s certainly thumbing his nose at the spirit of contribution limits. That’s Walker Stapleton, buddy!

Remember George Brauchler?

George Brauchler’s gubernatorial campaign, metaphorically-speaking.

If you were going to compose a theme song for the already-sputtering gubernatorial campaign of Arapahoe County District Attorney George Brauchler, you would probably start with a sad trombone (wah-wah-wahhhh) accompanied with the sound of air escaping from a deflated balloon. For vocal accompaniment, hiring the teacher from Charlie Brown would be ideal.

As Ernest Luning reports for the publication formerly known as the Colorado Statesman, Brauchler announced his Q2 fundraising numbers on Monday without enough practical spin to generate any momentum whatsoever:

Republican gubernatorial candidate George Brauchler raised $190,696 in the just-completed fundraising quarter — nearly all of it from Colorado residents and with donors in all 64 of the counties, his campaign said Monday.

Brauchler received contributions from 673 donors, with just over 95 percent of them from Colorado. After spending $46,731, he ended June with $143,966 cash on hand…

…His primary rivals include Douglas County entrepreneur and former state lawmaker Victor Mitchell, who launched his campaign by writing himself a $3 million check, and former investment banker and Mitt Romney nephew Doug Robinson. On top of the millions he loaned his campaign, Mitchell raised $13,098 in the quarter that ended in June. Robinson reported raising $207,532 and loaned himself $57,022 in the same period.

George Brauchler.

Brauchler was always going to have trouble competing with the self-funded campaigns of Victor Mitchell and Mitt Romney’s Nephew, both of whom seem able and willing to bankroll their own gubernatorial bids. State Treasurer Walker Stapleton, a proven fundraiser, should join the gubernatorial field later this summer, and Attorney General Cynthia Coffman is likely to enter the fray as well. If Brauchler couldn’t even raise $200k when he was the only somewhat-known name in the field, then there is little chance he will be able to ramp up the money machine when he is competing for donations with Stapleton and Coffman.

Brauchler doesn’t need to be the top fundraiser on the Republican side, but he needs a minimal amount of dough just to keep the lights on in a statewide campaign. Brauchler ended June with $143,966 in the bank; that’s enough to keep the doors open for another quarter, but there’s not much money left over for important things like advertising and voter outreach. This is dangerous territory for a statewide candidate.

While money isn’t everything in politics, timing certainly is. Two years ago, Republicans thought Brauchler might be their next big thing as a candidate for U.S. Senate. Brauchler passed on that race and focused his sights on running for governor, but whatever gravitas he may have had in September 2015 seems not to have followed him into 2017.

Republican gubernatorial candidate attacks likely opponent for “politicizing” PERA

(Dracula declares war on Kennebunkport! – Promoted by Colorado Pols)

Walker Stapleton.

In an unusual development on the gubernatorial campaign trail last week, a Republican candidate has criticized a likely opponent for “politicizing” Colorado’s public pension program.

“You know, one of my opponents claims [PERA is] a major crisis. I don’t believe it’s a major crisis,” Republican gubernatorial candidate Victor Mitchell told Jimmy Lakey, who’s the morning host on KCOL 690-AM Friday.

“I don’t believe we should be politicizing it,” Mitchell continued. “Certainly, it has been a broken system from a standpoint that the benefits are too generous and the incentives are perverse. But I don’t believe it’s in a state of crisis.”

Colorado Treasurer Walker Stapleton, who’s expected to join the growing list of GOP gubernatorial candidates, has been highly critical of Colorado’s Public Employees Retirement Association (PERA) for years, saying, among other things, that the program’s growth forecasts are unrealistic thereby subject the state to a potentially catastrophic unfunded liability.

In terms of news media coverage over many years, Stapleton is defined by his criticism of PERA.

Often casting himself as a rare voice of reason in a sea of nonchalance about PERA, Stapleton has even said neither the PERA board nor state judges cannot make fair decisions about PERA because they are part of the state retirement program.

Analysts point out that Stapleton’s attachment to the PERA issue could be a political liability, simply because a large majority of people have no idea what PERA is, and many of those who do want it built up, not torn down, because public employees rely on it, not Social Security, for their retirement.

On the substantive PERA issues, in contrast to Stapleton’s drumbeat of crisis, Mitchell argued on air that PERA should be reformed, but there’s not a lot to worry about anytime soon.

MITCHELL: “It’s certainly a problem. I mean, we have — in the big picture, the fund has about $40 billion of assets. It’s paying out about two-and-a-half billion dollars a year in benefits. So, it’s fully funded for the next 30 years even with a 0% return. Obviously, it has never returned anywhere near that. But the benefits are, bottom-line, simply just too generous. We’re paying people 75 percent of their last three years’ average wages. And that should be changed to a 10 year average instead of a three year average. In addition, we have got to create incentives where people leave the state workforce, that it doesn’t create a burden on PERA.”

PERA backers say the fund is stable and will be able to provide benefits to all its members.

A coalition called the Colorado Coalition for Retirement Security has crunched numbers showing how PERA’s stability has improved over the past decade.

Listen to Mitchell here:

 

 

Republican Field for Governor Grows Vaguely Larger

Doug Robinson, the whitest man in Colorado.

Republicans have a new candidate for Governor in 2018: This guy!

“This guy” is Doug Robinson, a nephew of former Republican Presidential candidate Mitt Romney.

Aside from the fact that one of Robinson’s parents is a sibling of Romney — and that Robinson was a co-chair of Romney’s finance committee in Colorado — we can’t tell you much about the guy. John Frank of the Denver Post has a short story on Robinson’s candidacy that doesn’t say much of anything — the initial version of Frank’s story said that Robinson’s campaign declined to respond to repeated requests for comment, which is a strange way to roll out a statewide campaign — but does include some of the text from Robinson’s announcement letter sent to Colorado Republicans:

The Denver investment banker declared his candidacy for the 2018 race in a letter sent to Republican activists and launched online advertisements directed to a new campaign website [Pols emphasis]. His campaign launch is scheduled for Friday…

…His letter touts himself as a “committed Republican my entire life.” And he highlights his business background, noting that he founded his own company and then worked in technology investment banking for KPMG. “My background is in business — not politics,” he said.

A businessman, not a politician. How inventive.

If you are wondering why Robinson made such a cryptic announcement today, touting a website that says absolutely nothing, the bolded line in the Denver Post story above may provide a clue. Robinson’s campaign appears to have launched online advertisements before bothering to register as an official campaign committee, which is not exactly legal; someone may have panicked and realized that Robinson needed to make his campaign official before he started spending money on said campaign.

The only other thing we remember about Robinson is from a Mitt Romney appearance in Colorado during the 2012 election. Halfway through the clip below, Robinson says something off-camera and then gets a shout-out from Romney:

So, anyway, the GOP race for governor is getting crowded. Maybe it’s time to gas up the 2016 Republican Senate clown car for another tour through Colorado.

The State of the Race (for the State)

The 2018 race for Governor in Colorado is adding candidates at a rapid pace, with Democrats Ed Perlmutter and Cary Kennedy joining the field just this week. We’re keeping track of all of the big political races in Colorado through The Big Line, but with so much activity surrounding the open race at the top of the ticket in ’18, we thought it would be worthwhile to break down The State of the Race (for the State) on its own:

 

Looking Good

Ed Perlmutter

Congressman Ed Perlmutter (D-Jefferson County) officially joined the race for Governor with a big kickoff in Golden on Sunday. Perlmutter is the clear frontrunner here for a number of reasons:

1. Perlmutter begins the race with a strong base of support in Jefferson County, which is traditionally one of the most important swing counties in Colorado. Thanks in part to his decade of service in Congress, he is also well known in voter-rich areas like Adams and Arapahoe counties.

2. Perlmutter is both a proven fundraiser and an accomplished retail politician; there aren’t a lot of politicians in Colorado who can do both things well.

3. All he does is win. Perlmutter has been elected six times in Congressional District 7 – never by less than double digits.

Also on the upswing is former state Sen. Mike Johnston, who raked in more than $600,000 in his first fundraising period. Johnston’s next trick is to prove that he can find more than just some fat low-hanging fruit to collect. If he can churn out another strong fundraising quarter – with Perlmutter and Kennedy now in the race – Johnston could start to generate some serious momentum with less than a year to go until the Democratic Primary.

 

Looking Shaky

George Brauchler

Former State Treasurer Cary Kennedy has been talking about making a bid for Governor for years, so it was a bit odd that she suddenly decided to join the race one day after Perlmutter’s big rollout. Kennedy made her campaign announcement in an awkward Facebook Live video that featured the candidate driving through a wealthy neighborhood before stopping outside her Denver home. The entire performance was stilted and overly-scripted, and while Kennedy got some decent press for her campaign, she won’t generate any momentum from her Facebook Faceplant.

Arapahoe County District Attorney George Brauchler finally became a statewide candidate after years of threatening to run for higher office. Brauchler got some big help from the Denver Post in his “virtual announcement” for Governor, and he’s been burning up the right-wing talk radio circuit ever since. His platform for Governor is a bit of a head-scratcher, however. Brauchler has thus far focused his chatter on a pledge to execute convicted killer Nathan Dunlap and a promise to make dramatic cuts to Medicaid in Colorado – neither of which seem like good issues to attract new voters. Brauchler is also already waffling on plans for making it through a Republican Primary; after initially saying he would go through the convention/caucus process, Brauchler made it clear in a recent radio interview that he has not ruled out trying to petition his way onto the ballot. If you like your candidates indecisive, Brauchler is your guy.

 

 

Still Just Looking

Walker Stapleton

Current State Treasurer Walker Stapleton has been angling toward the 2018 Gubernatorial race since he was first elected in 2010. So where is he? Stapleton may not formally announce his campaign for Governor until this summer, which is a long time to cede the spotlight to the rest of the candidates already running full-steam ahead. Stapleton is not a big-enough name or personality to just wait out the race on his own timeline, and the flurry of early activity in the Governor’s race may force him to adjust his planned schedule. Stapleton is also the Republican candidate with the deepest potential donor base (he is a cousin of former President George W. Bush, after all); if he’s confident that the money will wait for him, maybe a late start won’t be a major hurdle.

Also still eying the race on the Republican side is DaVita CEO Kent Thiry, though it still looks like the chatter is more rumor than reality. Both Noel Ginsburg (D) and Victor Mitchell (R) have already laid claim to the “businessman candidate” angle for 2018.

 

The Denver Post Should Be Embarrassed

The front page of today’s Denver Post

Democrat Ed Perlmutter launched his campaign for governor on Sunday in front of a large crowd in Golden. This was a big deal, regardless of your political affiliations, because Perlmutter is the obvious frontrunner in the race for Colorado’s top job in 2018. Perlmutter’s announcement also opens up his Congressional seat in CD-7 for what is likely to be a crowded affair for both Democrats and Republicans. In other words, there’s a lot going on here.

Yet, somehow, the front page of the Denver Post today is all about…buttons. Most of today’s front page is dedicated to a story about the 49th annual Colorado State Button Society show and sale that apparently took place in Denver over the weekend.

[We’ll pause here while your adrenaline rush dissipates]

Five other stories are headlined on the front page today — but none of them mention anything about the 2018 race for governor. Not. A. Peep.

Front page of the Denver Post from April 5, 2017

This is particularly odd when you consider that the front page of the Post from last Wednesday featured a breathless account of news that Arapahoe County District Attorney George Brauchler would seek the Republican nomination for governor in 2018. Brauchler didn’t even hold a big event to kick off his campaign — and he’s not even the clear frontrunner in his own party — yet the Post fell all over itself to blare the news across its front page.

Look, the Denver Post can do whatever it wants with its front page. But if the idea of this newspaper is to practice actual, you know, journalism, then virtually ignoring Perlmutter’s gubernatorial announcement is farcical at best. This is a joke, and if you work for the Post, you have every right to feel ashamed today.

Ed Perlmutter Will Run for Governor in 2018

Ed Perlmutter will run for Governor in 2018.

The Jefferson County Democrat will officially declare his intentions at 1:00 on Sunday in Golden, and he will immediately become the frontrunner for the top job in Colorado.

Rumors of a potential Perlmutter candidacy have been circulating for months, becoming all but inevitable in late March when former Senator and Interior Secretary Ken Salazar announced publicly that he would not seek the Democratic nomination himself.

The 2018 field for Governor is going to be a crowded affair, and may well end up as the most expensive statewide campaign in Colorado history. But as we’ve said in this space before, no other potential candidate — in either party — can match Perlmutter’s combination of experience and results as a campaigner. Perlmutter is wildly popular in Jefferson County, always one of the most important counties for any statewide candidate, and he has established a reputation as both a brilliant retail politician and a consistently-strong fundraiser. Consider this: Perlmutter has won six consecutive races for Congress in CD-7, and no opponent has ever come within single digits on Election Day.

Perlmutter’s decision to run for Governor will also set off a chain reaction in CD-7 that should attract numerous candidates for Congress, including Democratic lawmakers Andy Kerr and Brittany Pettersen, but that is a story for another day. In a gubernatorial field full of recognizable names, none is as big (literally and figuratively) as Perlmutter.

Irony Eludes George Brauchler in Silly Teaser Video

Screenshot image from George Brauchler’s “teaser” video on Facebook.

Arapahoe County District Attorney George Brauchler has been hinting and hemming and hawing about making a run for higher office in Colorado for literally years now. Brauchler now appears to be close to actually running for statewide office in 2018…but he’s still going to screw around with the possibility for a few more weeks/months.

It has been widely assumed in Colorado political circles that Brauchler will seek the Republican nomination for Governor in 2018. Today, Brauchler posted a video on Facebook that appears to be a teaser for such a campaign. Enter, irony:

“Here in Colorado…we’re frustrated with weak elected officials that continue to dodge difficult decisions.”

Yes, that’s correct. The guy who can’t decide whether or not he will actually run for higher office is on a rampage about elected officials who “dodge difficult decisions.” The absurdity of Brauchler’s video was not lost on local political reporters:


For much of 2015, Colorado Republicans waited on Brauchler to announce that he would seek the GOP nomination for U.S. Senate in 2016. Brauchler spun himself in circles before  anticlimactically announcing that he was going to pass on the 2016 race, which made him look like a putz — even moreso than he already looked ridiculous — and set Colorado Republicans scrambling to find someone to challenge incumbent Sen. Michael Bennet.

Brauchler was certainly not the GOP’s top choice to run for Senate in 2016, but by the time he finally announced his decision, he was about the best option left for Republicans. Here’s what Brauchler had to say in late September 2015 after waffling for months over the idea of a Senate bid:

“I got pretty far down the field. I just couldn’t do it to my family.”

Now, let’s fast forward to November 2016. Less than 24 hours after Election Day, Brauchler took pains to suggest a potential bid for governor during an interview with a local radio station. Since that time, Brauchler has been trying to attract attention through some dunderheaded social media diatribes while refusing to actually say if he will or won’t run for governor. According to the Colorado Secretary of State’s office, Brauchler’s “George for DA” campaign committee was terminated on February 13, 2017, but as of today there is no filing for a gubernatorial campaign for Brauchler.

So, anyway, if you’re looking for a gubernatorial candidate who is willing to make the tough decisions…George Brauchler might eventually be your guy. If and when he decides to run, of course.

Cynthia Coffman Trolls Race for Governor

Colorado Attorney General Cynthia Coffman is almost certainly not running for governor in 2018, but she would really like it if you would pretend that she might. This is very, very lame…

“You know I am at least looking at governor” [Pols emphasis]. This is what Coffman told Denver Post reporter Mark Matthews today in Washington D.C. If you are unaccustomed to the language of politics, please allow us to translate:

I don’t actually plan on running for governor, but please float my name so that I can use these rumors to generate support for my re-election bid for Attorney General. 

Attorney General Cynthia Coffman

We noted back in January that Coffman was trying to gin up interest for a potential bid for governor. From everything we’ve heard, that effort didn’t go anywhere and Coffman has since indicated privately that she will seek re-election as Attorney General. That won’t stop her from continuing to troll the rest of the potential field for 2018, however.

Coffman may not particularly like her current job as AG, but there is no path for her to win a Republican primary for Governor. Coffman is not what you’d call a beloved figure in the Colorado GOP — certainly not enough to elbow her way into a Republican Primary that is already expected to include State Treasurer Walker Stapleton and Arapahoe County District Attorney George Brauchler (in addition to a wealthy self-funder in former legislator Victor Mitchell). It’s also important to note that Coffman’s biggest financial backer in 2014 was the Republican Attorney General’s Association (RAGA), a group that obviously doesn’t care about the Colorado race for Governor.

Now, if Coffman could figure out a way to create an office of “Chief Troll” for Colorado, she’d have to be considered a frontrunner.

Walker Stapleton Term Limits Rally a Very Expensive Fizzle

Walker Stapleton.

That was the scene on the West Steps of the Colorado state capitol building today, as Treasurer Walker Stapleton’s long-hyped rally for congressional term limits took place on an unseasonably warm Thursday afternoon. As we’ve discussed in this space and readers have seen in site ads for weeks, this event had a very large promotional budget. After all the thousands of dollars spent advertising the rally and especially Stapleton’s attendance, the estimated 150 or so who turned out is nothing short of an embarrassment (unless you consider $700 per person a good investment).

Today’s rally for congressional term limits always struck us as a contrivance, a vehicle for Stapleton to get face time ahead of his widely-expected run for governor in 2018. It’s clever in theory given that the term-limits pitch has a defiant anti-politician ring to it, which could feed off the large protests against President Donald Trump and the GOP-controlled Congress since January. But as soon as you find out this is all just a ploy to boost George W. Bush’s cousin electorally, it loses its rebellious allure.

Please clap.

Get More Smarter on Thursday (March 9)

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TOP OF MIND TODAY…

► Colorado lawmakers are getting closer to approving legislation that would put a tax increase on the November ballot in order to fund necessary transportation infrastructure upgrades. As the Denver Business Journal reports:

Following eight months of negotiations, the Colorado Legislature’s leaders late Wednesday introduced a 20-year transportation-funding bill asking voters to approve a sales tax hike to generate some $677 million per year for highway and transit projects — without making significant cuts to existing state revenues.

Observers, including Gov. John Hickenlooper, quickly referred to House Bill 1242 as a starting point, saying they expect details about everything from the size of the tax hike, to the allocation of new revenues, to be up for debate in the two months that the Legislature has left in its 2017 session.

But House Speaker Crisanta Duran, D-Denver, and state Senate President Kevin Grantham, R-Cañon City, both expressed gratitude at finding a compromise they believe can muster support of their two parties’ lawmakers before they take their case to voters.

We still have a couple of months of negotiating before any proposal moves toward the ballot, but this is a good sign that the Republican caucus has at least a few adults in the room who aren’t going to continue to pretend that we can finance major infrastructure projects with magic fairy dust and generic speeches about financial belt-tightening.

 

► Senator Cory Gardner (R-Yuma) held a telephone “town hall” meeting on Wednesday night that included a smackdown of President Trump’s plans for a border wall with Mexico. As Eli Stokols reports for Politico:

“We do need security on the border,” Gardner said. “That may mean personnel. It may mean a fence. That may mean an electronic fence,” the first-term lawmaker said. “But we shouldn’t just build a wall and add billions of dollars because that’s what somebody said should be done.” [Pols emphasis]

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell also scoffed Thursday morning at Trump’s claim that he will be able to get Mexico to pay for the wall.

“Uh, no,” McConnell said.

McConnell’s comments this morning about a proposed border wall are getting a lot of attention from national media outlets.

 

Trumpcare has passed two initial hurdles by limping through a couple of House committees, but Senate leaders continue to take a wait-and-see approach until cost and coverage estimates are available:

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said lawmakers need to see the Congressional Budget Office’s estimate of how the bill will affect the federal deficit.

“I think we need to know that,” McConnell said at a breakfast sponsored by Politico, adding that the CBO report could be released by Monday.

McConnell was the first in growing chorus of high-ranking Senate Republicans to question the wisdom of moving forward on the health bill without an official budget tally. Senate Finance Committee Chairman Orrin G. Hatch (R-Utah), whose committee will help craft a Senate response to the House legislation, told reporters on Thursday that he believes CBO score is a valuable tool.

The New York Times has more on Republican backlash to the Trumpcare proposal. Here in Colorado, the Bell Policy Institute outlines how Trumpcare would be a major problem for our state.

 

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