Rep. Lori Saine: Idiot With a Gun, Not Criminal With a Gun

Rep. Lori Saine (R).

As the Boulder Daily Camera reports, special prosecutor Stan Garnett of Boulder County has decided not to press criminal charges against Rep. Lori Saine, who was caught last week inside a Denver International Airport security checkpoint with a loaded 9mm pistol:

The Boulder District Attorney’s Office has decided not to charge Colorado Rep. Lori Saine for reportedly having a gun at Denver International Airport last week.

The Boulder DA’s Office released a statement Thursday saying that Assistant District Attorney Ken Kupfner had reviewed the case and deemed charges could not be filed.

“The evidence in this case indicates that Lori Saine forgot the firearm was in her purse,” the statement read. “Based on the evidence presented, it is the District Attorney’s position that no criminal case against Ms. Saine can be proven beyond a reasonable doubt, and thus pursuant to the ethical standards guiding prosecutors in Colorado, no charges will be filed in this case.”

Under the law, accidentally bringing a weapon into an airport security checkpoint, while we can all agree is a stupid thing to do, is not a crime unless someone knowingly brings the weapon into the checkpoint. It does appear that Rep. Saine was not aware that a loaded 9mm handgun was in her purse, which means her case doesn’t meet the test for criminal charges.

News reports have suggested that, although weapons frequently turn up at DIA security checkpoints, very few people are ever arrested and jailed–most being given a citation and summons to appear in court. There has been some speculation based on this that Rep. Saine wasn’t given fair treatment by TSA and Denver police, but today’s Denver Post story explains what happened:

“When Denver PD officers, who were not aware that Ms. Saine was a public official, contacted Ms. Saine, she indicated that she ‘totally forgot’ about the gun,” the statement went on to say. “After being mirandized, Denver police attempted to further interview Ms. Saine, who refused and instead requested an attorney, as is her right.”

It’s certainly Rep. Saine’s right to request an attorney, but halting voluntary cooperation with the police in a matter where you can readily explain all he pertinent details with no need for lawyer can justifiably result in being transported and booked into jail while waiting for that process to play out–which then requires a hearing to set bond and eventually be released as Rep. Saine was. It’s the same process thousands of people innocent and guilty go through every year for all kinds of offenses, but it looks like DIA is sufficiently familiar with this kind of incident that they don’t usually arrest the offender and put them through the unpleasantness of incarceration.

Unless you don’t cooperate. In that case, when they have a gun in your purse inside an airport checkpoint, the cops can detain you while they sort everything out. We haven’t heard if at any point the words “I’m a state representative” were uttered by Rep. Saine, but these days that tends to put Denver cops into by-the-book mode too.

The bottom line is that Rep. Saine appears to have been treated professionally by all parties, and had her case evaluated by a Democratic prosecutor who determined it didn’t meet the standard for criminal charges. Nothing about this experience can be considered unfair to Rep. Saine. The fact remains that Rep. Saine is demonstrably irresponsible with her own guns, much like former GOP Rep. Jared Wright who left a loaded pistol sitting in a House hearing room a couple of years ago. It remains to be seen if Rep. Saine will face any sanction from House Republican leadership over this episode, but it certainly doesn’t make her or the “gun nut” contingent of the Colorado legislature look good.

If you don’t know for sure every waking moment where your own guns are, we think there’s an argument to be made that you shouldn’t have guns. You certainly aren’t the right person to be trying to repeal gun laws as Rep. Saine has year after year. And lawmakers who stroll around the Capitol packing heat–in a building with metal detectors and armed police protection–maybe shouldn’t be allowed to do that either.

It would be a shame if someone were to actually get hurt because of a Colorado Republican’s negligence with guns–like a loaded pistol falling out of a purse no one remembered it was in, or a mislaid gun being picked up by a kid on a Capitol tour.

Ulterior Motives of Lobbyists Defending Sen. Jack Tate Exposed

Sen. Jack Tate (R).

Back on November 20, we took note of a story from Ernest Luning of the former Colorado Statesman featuring a number of female lobbyists rising to the defense of Sen. Jack Tate of Centennial–following allegations of sexual harassment against him from a legislative aide who reportedly left the Capitol rather than deal with his unwanted advances. In particular, we recognized an undisclosed connection between at least one of the lobbyists most stoutly defending Tate’s character and legislation that both was sponsored by Tate as well as passed through Sen. Tate’s Business, Labor and Technology (BLT) Committee.

And without researching in detail, we postulated there would be more such undisclosed relationships between the lobbyists defending Tate in Luning’s story and Sen. Tate–relationships that make their rushing to defend Tate from allegations leveled by a young legislative aide something worse than merely dubious.

Today KUNC, the outlet responsible for breaking the story of widespread sexual harassment in the Colorado General Assembly, published their own research into the lobbyists who defended Sen. Tate. And it’s worse than we could have imagined:

Five women lobbyists who voiced support for Sen. Jack Tate after sexual harassment allegations against him also did business before the committee he chairs earlier this year…

All five women lobbyists worked on bills sponsored by Tate or before his committee. Three of them donated to his campaign.

They’ve also come under fire from other women for their support in a series of Facebook posts, where some questioned their motivations, drawing objections from some of the lobbyists in lengthy comment threads.

Colorado Common Cause Executive Director Elena Nunez talked about the potential for conflicts.

“I think some of the conversations around some of the latest allegations and defending some legislators and not others really reveals that,” she said. “The dynamic really reveals the challenge of confronting sexual harassment in a political context.” [Pols emphasis]

That’s a very polite way of saying that not only do lobbyists have a straightforward ulterior motive for defending allied lawmakers accused of harassment, but lobbyists contribute to a culture of harassment by defending accused lawmakers against allegations from junior staffers. The reason that men with power feel comfortable engaging in behavior toward women that would make their mothers slap them silly is they know they will have defenders eager to ingratiate themselves with men who have power.

You know, like lobbyists do.

Today’s story documents the extensive connections between the lobbyists who defended Sen. Tate and legislation that Tate either sponsored or that appeared before Tate’s key Senate committee. In one case, nearly half the legislation one lobbyist was registered on was directly connected to Sen. Tate either by sponsorship or the Senate BLT Committee. That these lobbyists were able to offer their “defenses” of Sen. Tate with no disclosure whatsoever of these mutually gainful relationships is a huge problem–and now that it’s been disclosed, the credibility of Tate’s lobbyist defenders simply evaporates. The game is up.

There isn’t just one reason why sexual harassment becomes tolerated within the culture of any organization. There are lots of reasons. Yes, the men who can’t keep their hands and lecherous comments to themselves are the ones who bear 100% of the blame.

But as for the shame, it seems there is plenty to go around. There are lessons here for the men who behave this way, but also everyone who interacts with them and the institutions that provide harassers with a venue. The days of such behavior being tolerated–and enabled–are over, and we all must catch up to this new reality.

Even when it’s hard. Especially in fact.

ALEC: So THAT’S Where Lori Saine Was Taking Her Gun

Since the arrest earlier this week of GOP Rep. Lori Saine on allegations she brought a loaded 9mm handgun inside a security checkpoint at Denver International Airport, an unresolved detail, potentially irrelevant but still worth nailing down–where exactly was Rep. Saine traveling to with the gun she is alleged to have “knowingly” transported?

Yesterday evening the notorious American Legislation Exchange Council Tweeted the answer!

And as it turns out, it’s relevant as hell:

That’s right, folks! Rep. Lori Saine and her gun were traveling to Nashville, Tennessee to attend this year’s ALEC States & Nation Policy Summit, where she received the Public Sector State Chair of the Year Award. ALEC, as readers know, is a conservative organization that brings together (mostly) right-wing state lawmakers with conservative activists and lobbyists to formulate “model legislation” that has turned up around the country–including highly controversial examples like Florida’s “Stand Your Ground” law, prompting a years-long campaign by a broad coalition of progressive activists to pressure corporations to withdraw their support from ALEC.

As a relatively unproductive member of the GOP House minority in Colorado, we’d be hard-pressed to tell you what Rep. Saine may have done to earn this national recognition, but it’s fascinating and we’d love to know more! ALEC’s reputation for secrecy makes that difficult, but perhaps Rep. Saine’s newly elevated profile will motivate reporters to inquire.

We assume it wasn’t for smuggling guns, because she’s not very good at that.

Ex-Colorado GOP Chairman Steve Curtis Guilty of Voter Fraud

Former Colorado GOP chairman Steve Curtis.

Denver7 reporting from Weld County District Court, where a former chairman of the Colorado Republican Party was convicted today by a jury of felony forgery and election fraud–another development in what’s become a crazy week of Republican True Crime Stories™:

Steve Curtis, the former chairman for the Colorado Republican Party, was found guilty Thursday by a Weld County jury of voter fraud and forgery.

Curtis, 58, was arrested in March and accused of signing his wife’s mail-in ballot for her, which is a misdemeanor in Colorado. He was also charged with forgery of a public record, a fifth-degree felony…

“He knew exactly what he was doing,” argued Deputy District Attorney Tate Costin during closing arguments. “He received it in the mail, opened it, voted, signed it, sealed it back up and sent it in. If he were going to sign a name during this confused diabetic state, wouldn’t he sign his own name? Why her name? She hadn’t even lived in the house for 11 months.”

Curtis was the state’s GOP chairman from 1997 to 1999, and caused a stir ahead of the 2016 election when he said on KLZ 560: “It seems to be, and correct me if I’m wrong here, but virtually every case of voter fraud I can remember in my lifetime was committed by Democrats.” [Pols emphasis]

Ex-Colorado GOP chairman Steve Curtis’ defense that health problems somehow compelled him to forge his wife’s name on her ballot didn’t fly with the jury, and now Mr. Curtis gets to spend the rest of his days reflecting on the irony of being convicted of a crime he claimed only those rascally Democrats ever commit! In truth, as we’ve consistently found to be the case in our years covering Colorado politics, is that Republicans tend to do approximately 100% of the hand-wringing about voter fraud and the commission thereof.

And with that, one of the storylines in what we’ve come to call Colorado GOP Crime Week–which started as a joke, then really became a thing–has gotten to the final chapter. Stay tuned to see how the Pueblo GOP treasurer wanted for theft on the lam in El Salvador and the developing case of Rep. Lori Saine‘s loaded pistol at the airport get resolved.

Never a dull moment, folks.

Why Rep. Lori Saine’s Gun Goof Matters

Rep. Lori Saine (R) in Denver court yesterday.

KDVR FOX 31 reports that Rep. Lori Saine of Weld County was released late yesterday from Denver County jail on a personal recognizance bond, while the Denver DA’s office determines what charges to file after Saine walked into a security checkpoint at Denver International Airport carrying a loaded 9mm pistol:

Saine “knowingly” brought the weapon to the north security checkpoint, according to a probable cause statement.

However, Saine’s attorney, Randy Corporon, denied that claim on Wednesday night, saying she “forgot it was in her bag.”

DIA ranked fifth highest for firearms discovered in carry-on bags in the United States last year.

In the past 12 months, the Denver Police Department responded to 106 reports of a firearm within a security checkpoint at the airport.

Besides Saine, only one other person was arrested and jailed by police for possession of the weapon.

In response to news reports that many people busted with guns at DIA security checkpoints have not been arrested, social media lit up in the last 24 hours with conspiracist speculation that Rep. Saine might have been “targeted” some way due to her political affiliation. The implication that federal Transportation Security Administration and Denver Police Department professionals would in some way be harsher on a Republican lawmaker than others is not borne out by experience, and is dubious to the point of being counterproductive as a defense.

It therefore remains to be seen what the aggravating factor was in Saine’s case that resulted in her not only being cited but arrested and booked into Denver County jail–and we have no reason to assume there isn’t one. Did Rep. Saine attempt to use her status as a lawmaker to intimidate or otherwise persuade police officers to go easy on her? Did she have some kind of half-baked outburst about her “sovereign right” to pack heat? There is much left to be reported about the circumstances of Saine’s arrest, and our first instinct is not to imagine she was being persecuted.

Because in the end, there is only one person responsible for a loaded 9mm pistol being in Rep. Lori Saine’s possession as she entered an airport security checkpoint, and that is Rep. Lori Saine. This kind of negligence with firearms, in addition to posing a security risk at airports, is responsible for thousands of preventable deaths each year. We said the same thing back in 2014 when then-Rep. Jared Wright left a loaded handgun unattended in a hearing room at the Colorado state capitol. As a lead sponsor of legislation to repeal the gun safety laws passed in 2013, the only way Rep. Saine could have embarrassed herself more in this situation would be to have literally shot herself in the foot.

As it was she only did so metaphorically, and thank goodness nobody was hurt–which could well have been someone Rep. Saine cares about. Either way, we should all be able to agree that nobody with such a demonstrable instance of irresponsibility with guns should be trying to weaken our state’s gun laws.

Rep. Ken Buck Gets Smart on Guns? Fat Chance

Rep. Ken Buck (R).

If you don’t read past the headline of the stories about passage yesterday in the U.S. House of legislation to force states to honor concealed carry permits from states with weaker standards, you might think that Rep. Ken Buck, arguably the state’s hardest-right member of Congress, had suddenly gone soft on the issue of guns:

The U.S. House of Representatives voted 231-198 Wednesday to pass a bill that would allow people with concealed carry permits to carry their weapons into other states where concealed weapons are allowed—though Republican Rep. Ken Buck voted against the measure.

Buck, who cosponsored the bill in January that changed before Wednesday’s vote, was one of 14 Republicans who voted against the measure, the Concealed Carry Reciprocity Act of 2017. He was targeted in NRA emails earlier this week urging constituents to call him and tell him to “listen to his constituents and vote for H.R. 38.”

But before you offer a surprised “attaboy” to Rep. Buck, keep reading:

“I strongly supported the Concealed Carry Reciprocity Act, but could not vote for it in this combined bill,” Buck said in a statement to Denver7 following the vote. “I have concerns that the NICS portion of the legislation places Americans at risk for having their Second Amendment rights stripped without due process.”

Tacked onto the original bill are extra background check measures that would strengthen the FBI’s database of who is not allowed to buy a gun. Democrats criticized Republicans for lumping the measure in with the concealed carry legislation, saying the background check measures should stand alone. The background check measures come in response to Air Force lapses that allowed a man to shoot and kill more than two dozen people at a Texas church.

The recent mass shooting in Sutherland Springs, Texas that killed 26 people was committed by a man who by all accounts shouldn’t have been able to legally purchase a gun. A conviction for domestic violence while the shooter served in the Air Force wasn’t properly reported to the national database used to approve firearm purchases. As Denver7 correctly reports, that lapse prompted bipartisan consensus that a law to improve collection of this information is needed–drawing a clear line from an horrific mass shooting to a policy change that might have prevented it.

It was Republicans who had the bright idea to stack the bipartisan consensus for fixing background checks on to a far less unanimously-supported bill to enact “concealed carry reciprocity.” This is legislation that would significantly weaken the ability of states to regulate the carrying of guns by forcing them to honor concealed carry permits from states that have inferior (or even no) requirements for a concealed carry permit. Lumping these two provisions together made for a contradictory piece of legislation that Democrats simply couldn’t support.

But for Ken Buck, it was the opposite: strengthening background checks, which most everyone else had agreed on, was too much even to get CCP reciprocity. That puts Buck even farther out of the mainstream than his colleagues who supported the “compromise.”

So no, Rep. Buck, no applause for you. From either side.

The Bell Tolls For Thee, Al Franken

THURSDAY UPDATE: Senator Al Franken announces he will resign “in the coming weeks.”

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Sen. Al Franken (D-MN).

CNN reporting:

Embattled Sen. Al Franken will make an announcement Thursday, his office told reporters, as calls for the Minnesota Democrat’s resignation rapidly gained momentum Wednesday in dramatic fashion.

Twenty-eight Democratic senators — 13 female and 15 male including the second-ranking Democrat in chamber — called on Franken to resign as allegations of sexual harassment against him continue to mount. Republican Sen. Susan Collins also called on Franken to quit.

In a statement on Facebook, New York Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand wrote: “While Senator Franken is entitled to have the Ethics Committee conclude its review, I believe it would be better for our country if he sent a clear message that any kind of mistreatment of women in our society isn’t acceptable by stepping aside to let someone else serve.”

The list of Democratic Senators calling on Sen. Al Franken to resign amid dogpiling allegations of sexual harassment includes Sen. Michael Bennet of Colorado:

And it is increasingly expected that Sen. Franken will announce his resignation tomorrow. Politically this is consequential for Democrats, likely forcing them to unexpectedly defend two Senate seats in Minnesota in 2018. But as the allegations continued to mount against Franken from a numerous disconnected sources, and particularly after the resignation of senior Rep. John Conyers this week, Franken’s position quickly–not quickly enough, say his accusers–became untenable.

So here’s another prominent Democrat who has been held accountable for his sexual misdeeds.

When Roy Moore is sworn in to the U.S. Senate, and the next Access Hollywood-style allegation against the President of the United States gets denied, the difference in the response by the parties is going to stand out in very harsh relief. From Washington D.C. to the Colorado General Assembly, a double standard is emerging between the parties in response to sexual harassment allegations that voters in 2018 may show very little tolerance for.

In which case Democrats losing their jobs now may have lots of company later from the other side.

BREAKING: Gun-Toting State Representative Arrested At DIA

Rep. Lori Saine’s mug shot.

WEDNESDAY UPDATE: Denver7 updates the story with details about just how stupid Rep. Lori Saine apparently was here, walking into an airport security checkpoint with a loaded 9mm pistol:

The probable cause statement says Saine’s arrest happened shortly after 1:45 p.m. The statement says a TSA agent spotted “what appeared to be a loaded firearm” in Saine’s bag.

The statement says she “knowingly brought the handgun into the North Screening Check point.”

When TSA agents checked the bag, they found a 9mm semi-automatic handgun with four rounds in the magazine. There was not a round in the chamber, according to the statement.

We’ll be interested to hear exactly what Rep. Saine told TSA agents when they found the gun in her bag. Did she assert something to make it clear she knew the gun was in her bag? Maybe a little “constitutional carry” bluster without realizing that wouldn’t help her legally?

Either way it’s the biggest moment of either negligence or willful irresponsibility since Rep. Jared Wright left a loaded handgun in a House committee room back in 2014.

Which you might recall was a career-ending screwup. Stand by for updates from Rep. Saine’s court appearance this afternoon.

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UPDATE #3: Denver Post reporting that Rep. Lori Saine was in custody as of 4:30PM.

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UPDATE #2: Via Denver7:

Court records and the Denver Police Department confirm Saine’s arrest, and DPD said the case will be forwarded to the district attorney’s office to determine if she will face charges.

The pre-filed charge is a sixth-degree felony, introduction of a firearm into a transportation facility.

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UPDATE: Denver7’s Blair Miller connects an obviously relevant data point to this breaking story:

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That’s the word from KUNC’s Bente Birkeland, we’ll update once we know more:

As readers may know, Colorado lawmakers exploit a loophole in state law that allows them to carry concealed weapons inside the Colorado Capitol: despite the fact that citizens with concealed carry permits are not allowed to bring their guns inside the building, and despite the fact that the state capitol already has armed State Patrol officers protecting everyone inside.

It would sure be nice if lawmakers would justify that privilege by being responsible with their guns.

At Least He’s Not Your County GOP Treasurer

UPDATE: The Chieftain notes in an updated version of the story that Fogg was arrested in El Salvador on November 17.

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Jeff “Boss” Fogg

One word of caution–if you live in Pueblo County, as the Chieftain reports, the above doesn’t apply to you. Because, unfortunately:

An arrest warrant has been issued for former Pueblo County Republican Treasurer Jeff Fogg after he didn’t appear in court Nov. 16 for a pre-trial hearing on felony charges that he allegedly stole more than $20,000 from the county party between April 2013 and July 2015…

Fogg, 50, was scheduled to go to trial on Dec. 11, but he is reportedly out of the country. He owns property in El Salvador.

Fogg was the target of complaints by local Republican officers in July 2015 after they pressed him for an accounting of the party bank account. They claimed there was evidence Fogg had emptied the account but replenished it the day of their examination.

Jeff Fogg might have dropped some money back into the Pueblo County Republican Party’s bank account on the sly, but the Chieftain reports further examination of the party’s books found evidence that Fogg pocketed between $20,000 and $100,000–which we expect is enough to buy a pretty nice hidey-hole in El Salvador! That nation technically has an extradition treaty with the United States, but apparently not a very good one.

It’s not the first time a Colorado county Republican Party has had a problem with party officers using the organization’s finances as a slush fund. Back in 2011, Larimer County GOP chairman Larry Carillo pleaded no contest to felony theft charges after relieving the party of between $17,000 and $35,000 to support his swinging gambler lifestyle. You might remember that fines related to Carillo’s case against the county party were partly offset by a fundraiser featuring then-Colorado Secretary of State Scott Gessler, who at one point had been set to appear in a dunk tank to raise money to cover the fines.

If it was our donations walking away like this, we wouldn’t find that very funny.

Please Let Steve Lebsock Know His Career Is Over

UPDATE: Former Capitol lobbyist Holly Tarry makes the point for us:

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Rep. Steve Lebsock (D-Thornton)

As Denver7’s Blair Miller reports–Rep. Steve Lebsock, accused of sexual harassment in official complaints filed by Rep. Faith Winter and a former lobbyist who worked with Lebsock at the state capitol, as well as many other women in discussions with reporter Bente Birkeland of KUNC, has apparently decided not to go quietly.

That’s unfortunate for him.

Colorado state Rep. Steve Lebsock, an Adams County Democrat, said Tuesday he’s received more pressure to resign but says he won’t after he was formally accused by a fellow lawmaker of sexual harassment…

“When I am contacted by the fact finder/s, I will submit my official responses to the two formal complaints. Ultimately the truth will come out,” Lebsock said in a statement posted to his website.

He added in the lengthy post that “most of what has been reported is one sided,” that “some of the alleged incidents have been significantly exaggerated,” and that some of the accusations “are completely false.”

After the allegations against Lebsock came to light, House Speaker Crisanta Duran and Lt. Gov. Donna Lynne were among the high-profile Democrats to call for Lebsock’s resignation. Duran stripped him of a committee chairmanship.

Rep. Lebsock’s statement yesterday quickly devolved into an incoherent conspiracy theory about Rep. Winter’s upcoming run for the state senate, suggesting that the Democratic Party wanted a “quick resignation” in order to help Democrats seeking to retake the Senate in 2018. That is both nonsensical and deeply offensive, implying that Rep. Winter is using Lebsock’s alleged harassment of her and other women at the Capitol in order to boost her own career. That is simply not what is happening here.

Going back to Birkeland’s original story on Lebsock from November 10th:

Four lobbyists contacted in the reporting of this story said they considered filing formal complaints against Lebsock over the last three years but worried it could negatively impact their careers, the clients they represent, and their personal reputations.

The reporters who have dug into the growing story of widespread sexual harassment in the Colorado General Assembly have all uncovered a common theme: widespread knowledge among women who work inside the building of who the sexual harassers are, and how to avoid them. The Denver Post’s John Frank described this perfectly:

The warnings start as whispers echoing through the marbled hallways at the Colorado state Capitol.

Watch out for this lawmaker. Don’t be alone with that lawmaker. Avoid these other lawmakers when they drink.

The cautionary tales — passed from lobbyist to lawmaker, lawmaker to staffer, staffer to aide — remained hushed in a place where power and fear create a culture that often tolerates sexual harassment and questionable behavior with few repercussions.

How does this relate to Rep. Steve Lebsock, you ask? Simple: they’re talking about Steve Lebsock. They’re also talking about Sen. Randy Baumgardner, who was hit with a formal complaint yesterday. And they’re talking about some other men, too, who for whatever reason have not yet been exposed. They know who they are. And so do the women with the misfortune of having to work with them.

There is a difference between a man who is truly blindsided by an allegation with no context and a man who stands accused with a wealth of context and corroboration of the allegations. Everything we know about Lebsock’s case suggests that he falls into the latter category: a known and (until recently) unapologetic serial harasser, for whom the allegations are completely unsurprising to those who know his history.

In summary, Rep. Steve Lebsock’s political career is already over. His statement yesterday only further alienated him from Colorado Democrats, basically accusing them of treachery over allegations of sexual harassment from far too many disparate sources to have political origins. His refusal to acknowledge these widespread complaints is a disgrace not just to Lebsock but the Colorado General Assembly as an institution. He should not take his seat when the legislature convenes in January, and the odds of him prevailing in the Democratic primary for Treasurer are resting on the peg at nil. In fact, we’ve even updated The Big Line to give Lebsock one of the only “0%” odds we’ve ever listed in 14 years.

The only person who does not understand this, apparently, is Steve Lebsock.

Poll: Who Spent Millions on Neil Gorsuch?

Justice Neil Gorsuch.

Tax disclosures for major right-wing interest group The Wellspring Committee, which provided millions of dollars in funding to the campaign first to prevent President Barack Obama from successfully replacing the late Antonin Scalia on the U.S. Supreme Court, and then to grease the wheels for eventual Justice Neil Gorsuch of Colorado–Maplight’s Andrew Perez:

The Wellspring Committee, a Virginia-based nonprofit, donated more than $23 million last year to the Judicial Crisis Network, which spent $7 million on advertisements pushing Republican senators to block President Barack Obama’s court pick, Merrick Garland. After the election, the network spent another $10 million to boost President Donald Trump’s pick, Justice Neil Gorsuch.

Wellspring received more than $32 million in donations last year, with $28.5 million coming from a single, anonymous donor. Before 2016, Wellspring had never received more than $13.2 million in annual donations. As a social welfare organization, Wellspring is not required to disclose its donors…

Certainly a lot of big money moved in support of Gorsuch, but it’s fair to say that $28.5 million is a lot of simoleons–enough to rule out all but the very biggest players in conservative politics. We immediately thought of Phil Anschutz, the Colorado billionaire who Gorsuch used to work for and who who could probably find $28 million under his couch cushions. But the money does predate Gorsuch’s nomination, and although Anschutz certainly puts his money where his throwback politics are, plenty of other big spenders should not be ruled out.

A poll follows: pin the billionaire on the money! You might as well since you’ll probably never know for sure.

Who plunked down $28.5 million to stop Merrick Garland and confirm Neil Gorsuch?
Phil Anschutz
Koch Brothers
Mercer Family
Singer Family
DeVos Family
Sheldon Adelson
Bradley Foundation
World Wrestling Entertainment
Vladimir Putin
Not sure/other (specify)
View Result

Rep. Diana DeGette: #MeToo

Rep. Diana DeGette (D).

The Denver Post’s Mark Matthews reports on Rep. Diana DeGette of Denver’s revelations yesterday that she was sexually harassed by ex-Rep. Bob Filner, the San Diego Democrat whose career imploded after leaving Congress under allegations of serial sexual misconduct:

U.S. Rep. Diana DeGette said Monday that she is among the many women who have been sexually harassed while serving in Congress — telling MSNBC that former U.S. Rep. Bob Filner of California groped her while the two Democrats were in an elevator.

“Some years ago, I was in an elevator and then-Congressman Bob Filner tried to pin me to the door of the elevator and kiss me and I pushed him away,” said the Denver lawmaker in an on-air interview…

“When these advances happen, they’re brushed under the rug,” DeGette said. “This is one reason why I think it’s so important that we update our House employment rules.”

A DeGette aide said the Colorado lawmaker did not file a complaint or take official action in either incident she mentioned.

The straightforward reason why Rep. DeGette would not have reported this incident is the fact that Rep. Filner was a much higher-ranking member than herself. In an environment where such incidents were routinely swept under the rug, the controversy caused by reporting the offense could well have had its own negative impact on her career. That’s an explanation reporters have gotten from women in Colorado who have been subjected to sexual harassment in the General Assembly as well. In the end, the negative consequences of standing up for one’s self over sexual harassment are perceived to outweigh the offense.

All we can say to that is it should never, ever be that way. And hopefully one outcome of the present upheaval over sexual harassment across all levels of society is that survivors will never have to weigh the repercussions of seeking justice against their right to seek justice ever again.

Lobbyists Questionably Leap To Sen. Jack Tate’s Defense

MONDAY UPDATE #2: In a thoughtful Facebook post, Rep. Jonathan Singer calls the story in question “media-enabled gaslighting.”

We can do better.

This might come as a shock to some people. Of all the elected officials that have allegations against them, I’ve been friends with … pretty much all of them. And that shouldn’t matter to the media.

It turns out that people who do bad things can be very nice people. That’s how they can continue to bad things. It’s also one reason why survivors choose not to come forward. If there are more victims, do you think they’re more or less likely to step forward now?

We have to take every allegation seriously and I think it’s absolutely appropriate for someone to refute an allegation if they were direct witness to it. I also think it’s alright if people don’t want to rush to judge their peers. Let our process (that could improve) play out first. I don’t think any of the people in the article were intending to discredit the victim or stop new reports. But those just might be the consequences.

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MONDAY UPDATE: Conservative blog Colorado Peak Politics’ lede today says a mouthful:

That’s how the boys explain these things, yes! Unfortunately the victims tend to see it differently.

And yes, this is yet another shining example of the problem.

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UPDATE #2: More from today’s post from Morgan Carroll, as Statesman reporter Ernest Luning responds–Carroll lays out the problem brilliantly:

Morgan Carroll: Just to be clear. You wrote the story in question. You miss the point. I think it looks like a lineup of lobbyists (who have professional and financial ties to Tate) [Pols emphasis] defending an elected official overall suggesting that if women lobbyists think Sen. Tate is a nice guy that the he couldn’t have harassed or been inappropriate with an intern.

Exactly.

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UPDATE: In a testy Facebook exchange with Colorado Democratic Party chair Morgan Carroll, longtime Capitol lobbyist Wendy Aiello appears to confirm that she is “working with” Sen. Jack Tate to respond to the allegations against him:

This detail is significant because Megan Dubray, who is extensively quoted in today’s story from the Colorado Statesman’s Ernest Luning (below), is listed as “of counsel” for Aiello Public Relations. None of these relationships are disclosed in Luning’s story.

Which is, of course, a big problem.

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Sen. Jack Tate.

A new story from Ernest Luning of the former Colorado Statesman this morning is stoking fresh controversy in the growing scandal over widespread sexual harassment in the Colorado Capitol. The story consists of several lobbyists defending Sen. Jack Tate from allegations of misconduct leveled in a story by KUNC’s Bente Birkeland late last week.

Luning’s story is problematic on several levels–for Sen. Tate, and also the lobbyists attempting to jump on this grenade on Tate’s behalf:

“I was surprised by the story,” lobbyist Adeline Hodge told Colorado Politics. “I was definitely surprised to hear Jack Tate’s name thrown into the ring. I think we can all acknowledge there are things at the Capitol that need improvement, but I think we need to focus on the true problem areas.”

Said lobbyist Cindy Sovine-Miller: “I’ve worked very closely with Sen. Tate, and I’ve never experienced anything like that. He’s very respectful of his wife and his daughter and the women around him. I’m not trying to say sexual harassment isn’t happening at the Capitol, but you guys are pointing the finger at the wrong guy.”

The most stout–and questionable–defense of Tate came from Meg Dubray, a (nominally) Democratic lobbyist:

“What we saw in the paper didn’t show some sort of deviant pattern of behavior. The whole thing — a politician’s job is kissing babies and shaking hands. He’s a friendly guy, he’s from the South and has that sort of congenial nature to him. But it’s never been toward me or anyone I’ve seen in a less than completely respectful way,” [Dubray] said.

After repeating one of the story’s allegations — that Tate had supposedly told the anonymous intern he “really liked that skirt” she was wearing while on an elevator with her — Dubray said she doubted it happened that way but, even if it had, it was an example of Tate’s southern manners and nothing to get alarmed about.

“He always appreciates when men and women are dressed well,” Dubray said with a laugh. “But not in a creepy way, almost in a funny, goofy way.” [Pols emphasis]

That’s what they all say, isn’t it?

Of course it may be true that Tate has never harassed Dubray personally, or these other lobbyists personally, but that doesn’t rule out the possibility that he did so with others. And we’re sorry, but dismissing such behavior as “funny” or “goofy” has allowed way too many predators to continue with their predation.

Anyone who has followed the pitched battles in the legislature in recent years over legislation easing restrictions on subprime personal lenders is aware that Dubray is the lobbyist who worked with Sen. Tate on behalf of those lenders. In 2015, a last-minute bill that Dubray helped sneak through the House was vetoed by Gov. John Hickenlooper after an outcry from consumer advocates and in some cases hoodwinked Democrats.

The point? Meg Dubray has a gainful professional relationship with Sen. Tate. We haven’t looked into the other lobbyists’ disclosures, but it wouldn’t surprise us to learn the same.

Folks, how could this story be published without mentioning that? It’s irresponsible to leave that crucial fact out, even if it can be straightforwardly inferred. And it segues into the larger problem with these defenses of Tate: they seem to all be coming from lobbyists, and Jack Tate is the chairman of the Senate Business, Labor and Technology Committee.

If the conflict of interest here is not immediately evident to you, please go back and reread Ethics 101.

Broactive: GOP’s Evolving Response To Harassment Scandal

Colorado Senate President Kevin Grantham.

With the scandal over widespread sexual misconduct and harassment in the Colorado General Assembly entering its second week, the latest development being accusations against two Republican Colorado Senators, we wanted to take a moment to circle back and examine the three statements put out by GOP Senate President Kevin Grantham’s press office as the controversy has unfolded.

The initial statement came last Friday, as KUNC’s Bente Birkeland broke the first story of allegations against Democratic Rep. Steve Lebsock:

We take any and all allegations of sexual harassment or misconduct very seriously. The legislature has been proactive about heading-off potential problems by conducting in-depth sexual harassment awareness training for legislators and staff, and we have a formal process in place to address issues if they arise. At this time we have no active complaints on these issues, [Pols emphasis] but we will continue to be proactive [Pols emphasis] about educating lawmakers and staff and policing problems should they occur.

Then the following Monday, an updated statement from Senate GOP leadership outlining new proposed steps from President Grantham to address the problem–still without any mention of the possibility that Senate Republicans had themselves been implicated:

We have a zero tolerance policy for sexual harassment, [Pols emphasis] but welcome the opportunity to improve upon our procedures. I propose to my colleagues the following 5-part improvement plan to increase access to information and ease reporting processes.

But yesterday, after allegations against Republicans finally broke, a very different statement:

We take every allegation of harassment or misconduct seriously. We ask those who feel they have been victims of harassment or inappropriate behavior at the General Assembly to file an official complaint, in confidence that their anonymity and rights will be protected. Going forward, Senate Republican leaders cannot and will not be responding to unsubstantiated or anonymous allegations against members appearing in the press, [Pols emphasis] which the existing complaint process is designed to handle.

Over the last week, the chief complaint from critics of Democratic Speaker of the House Crisanta Duran is that she knew about the allegations that Lebsock had committed sexual harassment but “didn’t take action.” It’s not true; the statements of the principal survivor in Lebsock’s case are clear that the matter was resolved through mediation in the House–and the survivor came forward publicly only after further alleged incidents by Rep. Lebsock. It’s critical that this timeline be clearly understood.

But as we said yesterday, the allegations against at least one Republican Senator who has now been identified, Randy Baumgardner of Hot Sulphur Springs, were very far from secret. The original story from Berkeland last Friday referenced at least three yet-unnamed Republican Senators who were known offenders–the guys every woman in the Capitol knew to keep their distance from.

What does that mean? It means Senate President Kevin Grantham’s claims that Senate Republicans are in any way “proactive” in addressing sexual harassment, or that anything like a “zero tolerance” policy exists in his chamber, are false. If they were true, Randy Baumgarder would have been subjected to the same scrutiny Lebsock faced in the wake of his actions in 2016–at least the “informal mediation” described by all parties in Lebsock’s case. Some kind of acknowledgement that something bad had happened.

And the other Senators, too. At least one whose name we don’t yet know.

With this in mind–with the fact that at least one Republican accused of harassment was, like Rep. Lebsock, a poorly-kept secret under the Gold Dome–all of these statements from Senate Republican leadership are revealed to be evasions. There was no “proactive” work going on in the Colorado Senate to put a stop to sexual harassment, while the House at least tried to intervene. And after the savage grilling House Speaker Duran has faced over the last week for her handling of Lebsock, suddenly it’s Kevin Grantham who appears to have actually “turned a blind eye” to harassment in his chamber.

Item one: Speaker Duran gets an apology from…a bunch of dudes. You know who you are.

Item two: The editorials calling for Kevin Grantham’s head had better be good.

BREAKING: GOP Sens. Tate, Baumgardner Accused of Harassment

Randy Baumgardner.

KUNC’s Bente Birkeland breaks more ugly news from the Colorado General Assembly–this time two members of the Republican state Senate majority accused of harassing lobbyists–and, in at least one case, an intern working for a member from across the aisle:

New claims of sexual harassment have been brought up at the Colorado legislature involving Sens. Randy Baumgardner and Jack Tate. Both, in comments to us, strongly deny any wrongdoing, although they refused to answer our specific questions directly.

Megan Creeden, an intern who was 25 at the time, told us she had many uncomfortable encounters with Baumgardner during the 2016 legislative session. She said Baumgardner often pressured her to drink with him in his office and she didn’t want to be with him in his office alone because she didn’t know him…

Six other female lobbyists and staffers who declined to be named for this story, fearing going public would affect their work relationships at the Capitol, said they also avoid Baumgardner. Some said they won’t work alone with Baumgardner and only go to his office in pairs or urge male colleagues to work with him instead. Baumgardner chairs the Senate Transportation and the Senate Capital Development Committees.

The allegations against Sen. Randy Baumgardner of Hot Sulphur Springs are not surprising to many people in the Capitol we’ve spoken with–in fact it was only surprising that it took so many days after the initial allegations of widespread sexual harassment in the General Assembly came out almost one week ago for Baumgardner to become part of the story.

That’s a nice way of saying that Baumgardner’s reputation for this kind of thing is not a well-kept secret.

Jack Tate.

The case of Sen. Jack Tate, representing a substantially less safe suburban Denver Senate district, though, was perhaps less expected:

The former intern, who was 18 at the time, spoke to us on the condition of anonymity, because she could be involved in an unrelated sexual assault case involving a different person. She claims Tate was inappropriate with her repeatedly over a period of two-and-a-half months last year…

At one point, she alleged, Tate said to her, “if she wanted to move up in the world, give him a call.” [Pols emphasis]

Needless to say, eww. That’s the trademark blending of the professional with the skeezy you never, ever want to see.

In response to these new-but-not-really-new allegations, GOP Senate President Kevin Grantham released a new statement, overriding previous carefully-worded missives about “proactively” taking on the problem of sexual harassment. Now that Republicans are under the microscope, the Senate GOP leadership is officially clamming up:

We take every allegation of harassment or misconduct seriously. We ask those who feel they have been victims of harassment or inappropriate behavior at the General Assembly to file an official complaint, in confidence that their anonymity and rights will be protected. Going forward, Senate Republican leaders cannot and will not be responding to unsubstantiated or anonymous allegations against members appearing in the press, which the existing complaint process is designed to handle… [Pols emphasis]

Can you imagine the outcry if this had been House Speaker Crisanta Duran’s first response?

As you can see, the next phase of this troubling but very much necessary storyline appears to be underway. Stand by for updates tomorrow.