Polis-Backed Candidate Takes Office After Big Oil Felony Fiasco

Eddie Mirick (R).

The Greeley Tribune’s Tyler Silvy bookends a story we’ve been following out of Greeley ever since last November’s municipal elections–Eddie Mirick, a Republican city council candidate lavishly supported by oil and gas “dark money” group Vital for Colorado, will not take office after a judge determined that a felony conviction on Mirick’s record violates the city charter’s qualifications to serve.

Replacing Mirick on the Greeley City Council, as Silvy reports, is his opponent in last November’s elections, Stacy Suniga:

Stacy Suniga’s campaign for a Greeley City Council seat is finally complete more than two months after Election Day, as the council on Tuesday voted to appoint Suniga to the council seat vacated by her opponent, convicted felon Eddie Mirick…

Suniga will be sworn in Tuesday to serve as the city council’s at-large representative until November 2019, when she’ll be able to run for election.

More than 7,000 Greeley residents voted for Suniga on Nov. 7, about 300 fewer than voted for Mirick just days after The Tribune first reported Mirick’s criminal past…

The Greeley City Charter says the council must appoint someone to fill a vacant seat, but it doesn’t prescribe a process.

Just a few months ago, the council took applications and conducted interviews. But with the shadow of the city’s failure to properly vet Mirick still hanging over the council, members chose to immediately appoint Suniga.

Normally-sleepy Greeley city council races became hotly controversial last fall after a local front group wholly funded by energy industry political group Vital for Colorado spent tens of thousands of dollars to blast three candidates who had received $500 each from Rep. Jared Polis of Boulder. With Polis running for governor in 2018, the oil and gas industry seized on his small donations as a proxy experiment–to see if Polis’ brand could be toxified in a town where the industry has a lot of clout.

The industry’s disproportionate spending in favor of Mirick was able to swing this race by 300 votes, after the Tribune reported on the felony conviction too late to change the course of a mail-ballot election in which many voters cast their ballots well before Election Day. But as soon as it became clear that Mirick had no backup for his claims that this felony conviction had been reduced to a misdemeanor, things started to unravel quickly despite the city council’s initial failure to take action.

Today, it’s obvious that both the Greeley City Council and the oil and gas industry’s premiere statewide political action group erred severely in failing to adequately vet Mirick’s record–the industry after supporting him in the election, and then the council for failing to act on news reports documenting Mirick’s unfitness to serve. The first-round appointment of Suniga to the seat and the refund of legal costs to the plaintiffs in the lawsuit filed due to the city’s inaction are the clearest possible admissions of how badly the city of Greeley dropped the ball.

As for Vital for Colorado? They did their reputation, and their agenda, no favors either.

Will Greeley’s Felon Republican Councilman Be Allowed To Serve?

THURSDAY UPDATE: The answer to our question appears to be no.

A Weld District Court Judge removed Greeley City Councilman Eddie Mirick from his seat Thursday, determining Mirick’s nearly 40-year-old felony conviction in another state remained on his record.

The Greeley City Charter prohibits residents with a felony conviction from serving on city council, and Mirick pleaded guilty to felony forgery in 1978 in San Diego, Calif.

Mirick’s at-large position on council is now considered vacated, and the Greeley City Council must now appoint a replacement.

—–

Eddie Mirick (R).

The Greeley Tribune’s Tyler Silvy follows up on the story of Eddie Mirick, Republican of Greeley who won an at-large seat on the city council after a nasty election battle that turned into a proxy fight involving the energy industry and a prominent Colorado Democrat:

Greeley City Councilman Eddie Mirick had his day in court Tuesday, arguing through his attorneys that the felony forgery charge he pleaded guilty to nearly 40 years ago was automatically reduced to a misdemeanor after Mirick completed jail time and probation…

The plaintiffs, a group of Greeley residents represented by attorney Martha Tierney, argued the opposite. They say proof would exist if Mirick’s felony was changed to a misdemeanor, and there’s no proof of that. [Pols emphasis] Meanwhile, they say there’s plenty of evidence, including Mirick’s own testimony, that Mirick pleaded guilty to a felony all those years ago.

Mirick will have to wait a little longer before he knows whether he’ll be able to continue to serve, as he and residents who are protesting his eligibility await Weld District Court Judge Marcelo Kopcow’s written decision.

Mirick won election to the Greeley City Council at-large seat Nov. 7, just days after The Tribune reported he had once pleaded guilty to a felony. The Greeley City Charter prohibits people who have been convicted of a felony from serving on Greeley City Council, and the revelation that Mirick pleaded guilty to a felony threw the city council race into chaos in its waning days.

During the recent municipal elections in Greeley, an “independent” group directly funded by well-known oil and gas industry political advocacy organization Vital for Colorado spent some $50,000–an unprecedented amount by Greeley election standards–to vilify Rep. Jared Polis of Boulder for donating a mere $1,500 to three different city council candidates including Mirick’s opponent.

The contention that Mirick’s felony was reduced to a misdemeanor does not appear to be supported by court records, forcing Mirick to assert it had been done “automatically”–which we assume would also appear in the record, since it’s a very important distinction and presumably Mirick would want to know for sure. And Greeley’s charter is unambiguous about disqualifying convicted felons from serving on the city council.

What’s the moral of this story? Run a background check on your candidates before you spend tens of thousands of dollars supporting them. And if you want to turn an obscure municipal election into a stick to beat your regular political opponents with, make doubly sure you run that background check.

Because the people who look like idiots in this case are not named Jared Polis. That honor is reserved for Vital for Colorado, who spent tens of thousands of dollars to get a felon elected to the Greeley City Council.

Top Ten Stories of 2017 #7: The House That Blew Up

Like smoking, lawn darts, and bars on cribs spaced just far enough apart for babies to stick their heads through, oil and gas development in Colorado wasn’t always considered to be a problem. It wasn’t controversial for several reasons–in addition to the lack of public knowledge of the health and safety risks. For decades, Colorado’s “split estate” mineral rights law establishing property rights under the surface of the land in addition to the rights of landowners on the surface operated without major conflicts. Colorado’s wide open spaces gave drillers plenty to explore, and the population centers along the Front Range didn’t have the most easily-accessible minerals underneath them.

But over time, two things happened: the increasingly urban Front Range started to expand into energy-producing areas, and a maturing technology for extracting oil and gas known as hydraulic fracturing put minerals under residential communities within economical reach. Because under Colorado law mineral rights have parity with the rights of surface landowners, within regulations controlled by the state’s Oil and Gas Conservation Commission drillers are routinely allowed to override local zoning and place heavy industrial operations in the immediate vicinity of homes and schools.

As the political battle between concerned residents of local communities threatened by drilling and the energy industry has heated up in recent years, the industry has spent lavishly to influence Colorado’s political leadership on both sides of the aisle. This has resulted in gridlock at the Colorado legislature on the issue, especially for the last seven years under an avowedly pro-energy Democratic governor and frequently split control of the General Assembly. When citizens turned to the state’s initiative process to get relief by popular vote, the energy industry bankrolled 2016’s Amendment 71 to make it prohibitively harder to get constitutional measures on a statewide ballot.

Entering 2017, the fight over oil and gas drilling in Colorado was simmering but hardly boiling over. The success of Amendment 71, and the likelihood of no real movement on the issue until after Gov. John Hickenlooper leaves office, combined with the much bigger threat of the Trump administration over this and so many other issues left supporters of better protections feeling defeated.

On April 17th, a recently-built home in Firestone north of Denver suddenly exploded, killing two people and severely injuring two others inside. The home was totally destroyed in the explosion, which also damaged nearby homes and caused a fire that took hours to extinguish. Investigators determined that a flow line connected to a disused well owned by Anadarko Petroleum had not been properly disconnected from the well. Raw methane gas, lacking the telltale additive to warn of high concentrations by smell, began to flow again through this line, accumulating undetected in the basement of the home until being ignited accidentally by the homeowners with tragic results. After the explosion, more underground plumes of methane in the immediate area were discovered and vented.

The Firestone home explosion immediately brought the issue of oil and gas production near homes back to the fore. In this case, homes were built near abandoned wells from which methane had seeped, but that certainly doesn’t absolve the industry of responsibility of not just properly capping old wells but ensuring all infrastructure in place for energy extraction is rendered safe before homes are built over them. And obviously, if the industry is this careless with abandoned flow lines, it invites basic questions about how careful the industry is with everything else they do.

But in Denver, the industry’s sway over leadership on both sides of the aisle ensured little would change. A limited set of reforms announced by Gov. Hickenlooper in August fell pitifully short of addressing concerns, as the Denver Post reported:

Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper is asking oil and gas operators to pony up money to plug the 700 to 800 “orphan wells” in the state, but is shying from taking stances on more contentious policies, such as how close new homes can be built to existing wells.

The governor also won’t force the energy industry to allow state officials to compile a publicly available map of all oil and gas pipelines. Instead, he said he wanted to enhance the 811 call program to ensure homeowners can use their telephones to access pipeline information for site-specific areas. Hickenlooper said industry officials were concerned a comprehensive statewide map could lead to people illegally tapping pipelines to siphon off gas. [Pols emphasis]

Hickenlooper’s thoroughly ridiculous contention that scavengers might “siphon off gas” if the public is made aware of oil and gas pipelines running through their neighborhoods, and that this concern somehow trumps the rights of residents to know where these potentially deadly gas lines are located in relation to their homes, perfectly symbolizes the tone-deaf approach of his administration on oil and gas drilling–arguably Hickenlooper’s greatest failure in office. There is simply no way to overstate how offensive this was to concerned citizens in Firestone and elsewhere.

Meanwhile, the industry attempted to vilify gubernatorial candidate Jared Polis by proxy in municipal elections in Greeley this fall, linking his donations to city council candidates with his support for better protections from drilling. That attempt turned disastrous after one of the candidates backed by the industry was revealed to be a convicted felon and whose seat on the Greeley City Council is now in doubt. It’s fair to say that Polis, who doesn’t support a “statewide fracking ban” but has supported initiatives for local control and wider setbacks from drilling, is not under the industry’s thumb. As a result Polis is set to face the most shrill attacks imaginable from the industry and their many supporters next year–to include lots of affected hand-wringing from pro-energy Democrats during the upcoming gubernatorial primary.

It has been our contention since before John Hickenlooper won the governor’s race in 2010 that at some point, Colorado Democrats will face a seminal choice–to continue alienating their base of support and swing votes in impacted communities by currying favor with the oil and gas industry in this state, or to face them down on behalf of affected communities once and for all. We believe based on our years of experience that the political risks to Democrats standing up to oil and gas are much smaller than conventional wisdom suggests, and indeed that much of said “conventional wisdom” is a fabrication of the industry’s bought-off mouthpieces in both parties. On the other hand, this issue has done more to anger the Democratic base in Colorado than perhaps any other in recent years, making the benefits of a new approach easy to recognize.

What’s it going to take for Democrats in Colorado to remember where their loyalties should lie?

The right candidate. And an election to prove it.

Sonnenberg Says Lowering Global-Warming Pollution Would “Kill All The Trees And Plants”

(Jerry Sonnenberg don’t need no science — Promoted by Colorado Pols)

In a talk-radio appearance last week, Colorado State Sen. Jerry Sonnenberg (R-Sterling) had this to say about environmentalists concerned about carbon pollution, which is causing temperatures to rise on Earth:

SONNENBERG: [below at 3:45] So, you know, when we talk about carbon dioxide and those type of things, actually, those are important to agriculture and to the balance of nature. Trees and plants use carbon dioxide to create oxygen. It’s part of their process. And it’s nature’s way to make things work. So I guess my argument to those enviros that want less carbon is,”Here, you want to kill all the trees and plants.”

This type of climate-change denial is not taken seriously by the scientific community.

Even so-called “climate skeptics,” who deny the seriousness of global warming, at least acknowledge that human activities are contributing to a rise in global temperatures.

So Sonnenberg sits with an extreme fringe, which has representatives in high places. See Trump’s Chief of the Environmental Protection Agency, Scott Pruitt, who denies the link between Carbon emissions and climate change. See also Trump himself, who’s dismissed global warming as a hoax.

Sonnenberg, who spoke to KFTM-AM Dec. 6 from Nashville where was attending an unnamed energy task force meeting with other legislators, possibly as part of an American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), meeting did not immediately return a call seeking clarification or comment. Surprisingly, Sonnenberg said some of his conservative allies on the task force favored a carbon tax.

Sonnenberg’s position in denial of global warming is shared by other Republicans in Colorado, including apparently Cory Gardner, who refused during the last election to tell Denver Post Editorial Page Editor Chuck Plunkett whether he thinks humans are causing global warming.

Top Republican gubernatorial candidates in 2014, including current GOP contender for governor Tom Tancredo, had the same position as Sonnenberg.

SONNENBERG: [00:04:42] And when you look at the speck of time that we’re here on Earth, and we talk about climate change for the last — what?– 30, 40 years compared to the last 30, 40 million of cycles of the Earth — the climate cycles of the earth — we are a fraction — a very small fraction — in the time scale. And to think that humans have the ability to destroy the Earth is just ludicrous.

Sonnenberg scored an 11 percent on Conservation Colorado’s 2017 Environmental Scorecard.

Felon Elected to Greeley City Council – Opponent Sues

(Promoted by Colorado Pols)

Eddie Mirick was just elected to the at-large seat on Greeley’s City Council.  Mirick  has a 1978 felony conviction for forgery, which he lied about when he filled out the paperwork to run for City Council.  The charter of Greeley, a “home-rule” city, specifically does not allow anyone convicted of a felony to be elected to City Council. Yet Mirick was elected, and City Council members have seated him, and are letting the court decide whether he will be allowed to serve.

Mirick’s eligibility to serve on City Council will be decided in District Court, pending the result of a lawsuit filed by the campaign manager of Mirick’s opponent, Stacy  Suniga.

Mirick (3rd from left) on Greeley for a Stronger Economy’s FB ad

The makeup of Greeley’s City Council will affect the balance of power between oil and gas interests vs. the public health of residents, in one of the most fracked cities in America.

Mirick is a veteran, and lives with physical disabilities. He is active in charities and community groups. And he strongly supports oil and gas development in Greeley.  Mirick benefitted from over $65,000 spent for cable TV ads from a shadowy Denver group: “Greeley for a Stronger Economy (GSE)*”.  Mayor John Gates, and two other candidates for Greeley City Council:   appointed member Brett Payton, who won his seat against opponent Lavonna Longwell by a grand total of 2 votes. (after recount), and Ward 3 candidate Michael Fitsimmons were also promoted by GSE advertising.

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Coffman, Tipton, Buck, Lamborn Give Wind Power The Shaft

From top left: Rep. Ken Buck, Rep. Mike Coffman, Rep. Doug Lamborn, Rep. Scott Tipton.

A press release before the holiday break from American Wind Energy Association condemns passage of the GOP-controlled House version of the so-called “Tax Cuts and Jobs Act”–which contains a provision that won’t be good for jobs in one important industry to Colorado:

The U.S. House of Representatives missed an opportunity to stand up for 60,000 American workers and preserve $50 billion in private infrastructure investment. The tax reform bill passed by the House retroactively changes how businesses can qualify for wind energy’s primary investment tools, the wind energy Production Tax Credit (PTC) and Investment Tax Credit (ITC), which are already on a path to phase out by 2019.

“The House tax bill, far from being pro-business, would kill over half of new wind farms planned in the U.S. and undermine one of the country’s fastest growing jobs,” said Tom Kiernan, CEO of the American Wind Energy Association (AWEA). “The wind industry tax reformed ourselves with bipartisan agreement in 2015. The Senate tax proposal gets it right by respecting those terms. Congress must act immediately in conference to drop the House provisions on the PTC and ITC, to restore the confidence of businesses ready to pour billions of dollars into job-creating American infrastructure.”

The House bill undermines wind development by implementing a retroactive change to qualification rules for wind energy tax credits. Because businesses can’t go back in time to requalify for the credits after ordering wind turbines and inking construction contracts, tens of thousands of jobs and billions of dollars of investment could be lost, and new business has stalled. The House bill would also terminate an inflation adjustment, significantly cutting the value of the PTC.

Sen. Cory Gardner (R), with wind power turbines in a 2014 campaign ad.

In an op-ed in the Pueblo ChieftainJohn Purcell of Houston-based Leeco Steel calls out Republicans who voted to kill the wind energy production tax credit:

By breaking its promise to the wind industry, Congress wouldn’t just hurt the investors, manufacturers and developers whose deals are undermined. The harmful effects of the House bill would have a ripple effect across the wind energy supply chain, ultimately harming thousands of American workers and families.

No American job is safe if Congress can change the terms of business contracts years after agreements are signed and billions of dollars are spent. That’s not pro-growth tax reform, that’s bad business.

The people who benefit from wind energy in this country are not strangers. They are the backbone of our communities, our returning veterans, our teachers, nurses, neighbors and family members.

Voting to hurt the wind power industry is a particularly toxic vote for Colorado Republicans. Rep. Scott Tipton’s district includes the Vestas wind tower manufacturing plant, and Rep. Ken Buck’s hometown of Windsor is home to a Vestas blade factory. Numerous smaller companies in Colorado support the wind power industry, from manufacturing to installation to operations.

And yet all four Colorado Republicans in the House voted to kill the wind power production tax credit. Don’t you think somebody should ask them why they voted directly, transactionally to kill Colorado jobs for the sake of tax cuts for the richest Americans?

In the Senate, the current tax “reform” legislation under debate does not include cuts to the wind power production tax credit. Although there are Republicans in that chamber who have paid lip service to supporting wind power including Sen. Cory Gardner of Colorado, it’s anybody’s guess whether Senators beholden to the fossil fuel industry will try to reinsert this provision–or if it does get out of the Senate with the wind power production credit intact, when the next attempt to slow down renewable energy will be made.

But we do know four Colorado Republicans who voted against this industry with a crucial role in Colorado’s economy one week ago. And they can’t take it back.

Shit The Oil and Gas Industry Says, What Free Speech Edition

The world’s smallest violin.

A story from the Denver Business Journal’s Cathy Proctor, reporting from the Colorado Oil & Gas Association’s annual meeting is provoking…shall we say animated feedback from the industry’s critics, after COGA’s CEO Dan Haley (formerly of the Denver Post) turned his keynote into a bizarre and defensive spectacle that we do believe very few outside the oil and gas industry would find ingratiating:

The head of Colorado’s biggest oil and gas association drew a line in the sand Thursday at the Colorado Oil & Gas Association annual meeting.

“We will not be bullied,” Dan Haley, COGA’s president and CEO, said during a speech at the association’s annual luncheon that draws senior industry executives, elected local officials and legislators. [Pols emphasis]

Saying that the industry works hard to safely supply energy to the state, nation and world, Haley issued a call for the industry to speak up and “reject” negative caricatures of the sector.

“We care because Colorado belongs to all of us, not just the loudest voice in the community meetings,” he said.

Dan Haley.

And then it got even weirder, with Haley actually calling for private citizens to be “reprimanded” for their testimony before the Colorado General Assembly:

“We’ve been called rapists and meth heads in public testimony at the legislature and those people saying that have not been gaveled out of order or reprimanded,” he said. [Pols emphasis]

We suppose the occasional judicious gaveling when things get out of hand in testimony is one thing, depending on the circumstance–but how exactly would Mr. Haley like those citizens to be reprimanded for their testimony before the legislature? Our understanding is that in America we don’t, you know, do that.

In fact, the suggestion is kind of horrifying.

To be fair, Haley did make reference to a couple of cases in which the rhetoric against the oil and gas industry has crossed the line. But that certainly doesn’t mean citizens lose their free speech rights, and it doesn’t change the dynamic increasingly defining the relationship between the industry and the citizens of Colorado: communities trying to protect themselves from land use that seemingly trumps every other use under the law, and an industry arrogantly thwarting those citizens in court rather than engaging in actual dialogue.

Who’s the real “bully” in this situation? In every quantifiable way, it’s the oil and gas industry. It’s the bottomless energy industry pockets who pay Dan Haley’s fat salary, and throw hundreds of thousands of dollars against any attempt by local communities to regulate them. It’s the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission, whose contempt for public input and built-in support for the industry under pro-energy Gov. John Hickenlooper has been amply demonstrated over the course of almost eight years. It is most certainly not the citizens of Broomfield, Longmont, Fort Collins, and other cities who have voted overwhelmingly to protect their communities.

And if you really think voters are “bullies,” Mr. Haley, it’s time to check yourself.

Because the problem, sir, is you.

Frackers Reel, Plot Revenge After Another Big Loss

As the Denver Post’s John Aguilar reports, another popular vote goes strongly against the oil and gas industry–this time in Broomfield, where voters overwhelmingly opted to give local authorities more power over regulate drilling, setting up yet another legal battle that the industry feels comfortable about winning but still spent almost $350,000 trying to avoid:

Voters on Tuesday passed a controversial ballot issue that gives Broomfield more local oversight of oil and gas operations in the city, a move that probably will invite a legal challenge from Colorado’s large energy sector.

According to a late-night vote tally in the mail-in election that accounts for most of the ballots cast in the city, the yes vote for Question 301 was comfortably ahead of the no vote by a margin of 57.5 percent to 42.5 percent.

As of late Tuesday night, nearly 42 percent of eligible electors in Broomfield — or 20,643 voters — cast a ballot.

What does the industry led by its PR front groups at Vital Colorado and Coloradans for Responsible Energy Development (CRED) have to say after Broomfield voters turned out in big numbers to overwhelmingly pass Question 301?

Screw ’em:

“It is in violation of state law as upheld by the state Supreme Court,” said Don Beezley, a “No on 301” committee member. “The result will be Broomfield spending tens of thousands of dollars or more defending lawsuits, most likely from both the state of Colorado and the operators, with apparently 100 percent likelihood of losing said suits.”

Vital for Colorado, an advocacy group that has been active in supporting pro-business and pro-oil and gas candidates in the state, conceded defeat Tuesday night and said 301’s passage “will trigger lawsuits.”

It’s true that the Colorado Supreme Court has ruled that local regulations over oil and gas drilling are overruled by state law giving that power to the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission. Local communities, especially suburban and exurban communities along the northern Front Range where drilling is encroaching on surface land uses (and vice versa), have felt obliged to pass additional regulations–even moratoria and bans while the the impact of drilling remains uncertain–if they believe the state rules don’t adequately protect their residents.

So why don’t drillers just go to court, instead of spending hundreds of thousands of dollars to fight ballot measures they claim are illegal anyway? The answer is simple: they don’t want it proven that local communities are against them. Too many Longmonts and Broomfields take action only to see our industry-friendly state government ignore their pleas, and suddenly a statewide ballot measure to change the rules that let drillers walk on local communities becomes a viable prospect.

Which, by the way, it is.

Folks, we’ve been saying for years that the oil and gas industry’s arrogance is increasingly out of touch with the changing political realities in the state of Colorado. This is an industry that is in fact ripe for comeuppance, and has had its day of reckoning postponed in part by aggressively courting Democratic support as Democrats have solidified their control here. Some of those Democrats, like Gov. John Hickenlooper, have damaged their political standing by dissing their own base on the industry’s behalf.

After eight years of Hickenlooper’s uneasy status quo, this may be all about to change. The 2018 governor’s race is expected to focus on the future of energy policy in Colorado–and depending on the choices Democrats in particular make in their primary, it could be a much clearer-cut choice between the parties than we’ve seen since well before Colorado’s most famous oilman/brewer came on the scene.

Once again, the voters have signaled loud and clear what they’d do if the politicians got out of the way.

Trump Ministers Wage War on Taxpayers and the Environment

(Promoted by Colorado Pols)

The Trump War on the Environment continues, with a steady barrage of roll backs, anti-science flak, funding attacks, and rhetorical bombast that threaten our most cherished public lands, bedrock public health protections, and century-old conservation laws. Easing the way for corporate interests to profit from the public lands, the Trump administration at the same time is making it harder for the American public to enjoy them. The Interior Department, we just learned, is planning to hike fees for America’s most iconic public lands—including Rocky Mountain National Park—to $70 for a visit, which the administration denies will cause any hardships. Not for human persons anyhow. A few pennies in added costs for corporate-persons, however, doing business on the public lands is a different matter.

Rifle native, top-shelf attorney, and Deputy Interior Secretary Bernhardt doesn’t think he’d have any trouble affording a $70 Park fee, according to media reports.

Although no health, safety, or environmental regulation appears safe from the armies of corporate lobbyists and lobbyists-cum-administrators, a particularly fierce animus has been directed to anything with Obama’s name on it. The Clean Power Plan, National Monuments like Bears Ears, and other Obama-era rules aimed at recouping costs for American taxpayers, clamping down on harmful pollution, expanding public involvement, and preventing waste of resources have all been in Trump’s cross-hairs.

Obama Derangement symptoms may be further sign of the psychological rot at the heart of this administration, may reveal the profound, perhaps existential, threat to our Republic the Trump regime poses.

The need to undo a predecessor’s accomplishments does fit in with the behavior of an insecure autocrat. And either by design, or in the vacuum of leadership a naked emperor brings, the administration’s ministries are following suit, ruling by decree.

Consider how the environmental and land agencies are behaving under Trump. The Environmental Protection Agency and Department of Interior, for instance, seem to prefer executive fiat to public process, silence over science, and conflicted interests over competence. Under the Trump regime the media is the enemy and the public interest is elitist.

Trump Secretaries Zinke and Perry looking clean and morally straight in the swamps of DC. Zinke believes questions about government contracts are elitist, and Perry thinks fossil fuels decrease sexual assault, per recent agency communications and  reporting.

It all brings with it the appearance of the swampiest of tin-pot dictatorships. Interior Secretary Zinke, it has been revealed, flies his own flag over the Departmental Palace when he is holding court, handing out coins to his admirers. EPA Administrator Pruitt has an around-the-clock security detail and has built himself a private phone booth.

And this royal demeanor extends, many observe, to the actual management of the public’s lands and treasures—the former seems for plunder and the latter for friends.

Take the Bureau of Land Management’s methane rule, put in place by Obama to prevent the waste of a public resource, widely popular, practical, and effective. Thousands of stakeholders across America, including oil and gas companies and some industry groups, agree that this rule is an effective way to reduce methane waste.

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George Brauchler: Make Electric Cars More Expensive!

We’re not making that up–flagging GOP gubernatorial candidate George Brauchler really Tweeted his support for making electric cars cost more, qualifier-free–a strange campaign plank to say the least:

Why on earth would you say something like this? The CNET article Brauchler links to explains:

Right now, buyers of electrified vehicles might be eligible for up to $7,500 in federal tax credits. But that could change — and fast — if a new tax bill becomes law.

A new bill proposed by House Republicans could eliminate the federal electric tax credit without any sort of drawdown period, Bloomberg reports. While the credits won’t disappear tomorrow, they might be eliminated after the 2017 tax year if this bill becomes law.

If killing the electric vehicle tax credit sounds like a good idea to you, you most likely work for the fossil fuel industry. For just about everyone else, tax credits to encourage the purchase of zero-emission electric vehicles are a no-brainer. Here in Colorado, we’ve gone even further to help consumers take advantage of these credits at the time of sale rather than having to wait until their next tax filing–which has proven very popular with both car dealers and car buyers.

We assume that’s what Brauchler is complaining about. Shame on you, electric car buyers!

This fumbled talking point is obviously meant to appeal to the oil and gas industry as Brauchler’s campaign continues to struggle. Unfortunately for Brauchler, Walker Stapleton has already locked down the “I’m running to serve the oil and gas industry” slot in this primary. If Brauchler wants to demonstrate he can be a better shill for the industry, he really needs to work on his delivery.

“Vote Brauchler to pay more!” It’s not a winning slogan, folks.

Even More Problems For Sen. Vicki Marble

As the Colorado Springs Gazette’s Marianne Goodland reports, the hits just keep coming for the once-and-again poster child for Colorado Republican nuttery, Sen. Vicki Marble–this time with an ethics complaint over a questionable town hall she hosted in Feburary with monetary help from a drilling company proposing controversial operations in her district moving forward:

The Colorado Independent Ethics Commission Monday voted unanimously to issue subpoenas to state Sen. Vicki Marble, a Fort Collins Republican, her legislative aide, Sheryl Fernandez, and an oil and gas company that paid for a Marble town hall last February.

The complaint against Marble alleged that Extraction Oil and Gas paid for the February 15 town hall, potentially a violation of the state’s limit on gifts to lawmakers.

Sarah Hall Mann of Broomfield filed the complaint after attending the February event. She said in the complaint that Brian Cain, a media relations employee of Extraction, paid the bill for the event, which was held at CB & Potts, in the Flatirons Crossing mall.

According to the state’s ethics laws, lawmakers are prohibited from accepting gifts valued at more than $59. While the amount of the town hall isn’t known, according to Mann, the event was attended by 50 to 75 people, who were each given two free drink coupons for alcoholic beverages.

According to Goodland, who covered this story previously at the Colorado Independent, the party least cooperative with the Ethics Commission appears to be Extraction Inc.–the oil company accused of paying for the free booze and hors d’oeuvres for attendees to Marble’s town hall. We’re pretty sure that every legislator would love to have a deep-pocketed sponsor to cover drinks and nosh for town hall attendees, since this would result in more people coming to often sparsely-attended legislative town halls.

The only problem being it’s not legal. The particulars here also point toward the unhealthily close relationship between the oil and gas industry and Republican lawmakers in Colorado–so much so that, as the woman who filed the complaint told Goodland, the purported town hall held by Sen. Marble “was one long ad for the oil and gas industry.”

If so, that at least means Sen. Marble was doing right by somebody. As she proved again becoming a nationwide spectacle for the second time in her career, she’s not doing much for the Republican brand.

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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Don’t Worry Broomfield, Bill Owens Just a “Concerned Citizen!”

Former Colorado Gov. Bill Owens (right, bobblehead left).

Dan Njegomir, a former staffer for the Colorado Senate GOP and now a quasi-reporter at the Phil Anschutz-owned Colorado Springs Gazette, published a piece yesterday about former Gov. Bill Owens wading into a ballot measure fight in Broomfield over oil and gas drilling regulations:

You know the war over Broomfield’s anti-fracking proposal – or any pending ballot issue, for that matter – is heating up when a former governor steps into the fray. Republican Bill Owens, who served as Colorado’s chief exec until 2007, took to the airwaves and digital media this week with a video denouncing Question 301 on Broomfield’s November ballot.

In the video, Owens calls 301 “a deceiving measure” and a “cynical power play focused on blocking energy development.” The former two-term guv also assures viewers “Colorado already has the toughest oil and gas regulations in the U.S.”

In siding with the No on 301 campaign, Owens – who before his time in elective office ran the Colorado Petroleum Association – appeals to war-weary Broomfielders in his video:

“National outside groups are trying to turn Broomfield into a political battleground over oil and gas development – again,” he says as the video opens. “Well enough is enough.”

We assume that note you can see above that Owens was once the head of the Colorado Petroleum Association is supposed to be disclosure of the fact that he is not exactly a disinterested observer. But it’s also ancient history, a job Owens had literally decades ago. Much more relevant to voters in Broomfield would be Owens’ current job as a senior director in the lobbying office of Greenberg Traurig, the politically connected law firm made infamous by criminal lobbyist Jack Abramoff.

Now, we don’t have a current list of Greenberg Traurig’s clients to know if any of them are a party to the controversy over oil and gas drilling near residential areas in Broomfield, but somebody should probably ask–after all, the firm’s energy division has dozens of full-time attorneys. Even if there’s no direct client relationship, readers know that energy interests sweat every single one of these popular vote proposals to restrict drilling, working overtime to defeat them in order to avoid ugly legal battles afterward that only leave the industry more unpopular.

We doubt there are very many voters in Broomfield who read the Colorado Springs Gazette, but writing a story that omits the one thing that really needs to be disclosed about the subject doesn’t help anyone sort out the facts here.

Which, considering the source, probably wasn’t an accident.

Vicki Marble and the Cub Scout Tapes

State Sen. Vicki Marble (R)

State Sen. Vicki Marble (R-Broomfield-ish) is no stranger when it comes to making what we could charitably call “controversial” statements, but she really raised lowered the bar for herself this week while speaking to a troop of Cub Scouts in Broomfield.

We’ll get to that Broomfield scout meeting in a moment, but first a little primer on Marble. It is Marble who came up with the “Hateful Eight” moniker to describe her and seven of her conservative colleagues in the state senate. She has alleged that renewable energy proponents “destroyed” the town of Craig with their “maypole” windmills. She has trouble differentiating between legitimate news sources and satire sites like “The Onion.” She believes that advocates for equal pay are actually victimizing women.

And, of course, Marble was the voice behind the infamous “Chickengate” affair, in which she explained during a legislative hearing on poverty that African-Americans have a shorter life span because they eat too much chicken and barbecue; the State Republican Party practically tripped over itself trying to distance itself from Marble’s commentary on this issue.

On Monday, Oct. 9, Marble spoke to a Cub Scout pack in Broomfield and delivered a breathtaking display of craziness. Videos of Marble’s remarks showed up on YouTube soon afterward; we’ve taken the liberty of transcribing Marble’s comments so that you can better hope to understand one of the more uncomfortable diatribes we’ve come across in recent memory.

You can read Marble’s comments on a variety of subjects after the jump. We’ve also included links to the videos related to the transcription…

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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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