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.

—–

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.

—–

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.

—–

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.

Wait, You Can Do That? Harassment Tax Break Edition

Rep. Ken Buck (R).

KDVR FOX 31 Denver reports on a proposal from a Colorado Republican for which we think there ought to be unanimous support, in light of headlines coast to coast and flyover states too–but for one little problem:

Whether it be Bill O’Reilly, Harvey Weinstein, Roy Moore or Steve Lebsock, the topic is dominating Colorado airwaves.

Now Congressman Ken Buck says it’s time to end the practice of businesses being able to deduct harassment settlements from their taxes.

“Right now a business can write that off as an ordinary and necessary business expense which is wrong,” Buck told FOX31 political reporter Joe St. George.

The idea that a corporation can build harassment settlements into the cost of doing business to the extent that they can get a tax break for them might come as a rude shock to many readers, and we of course have no idea when this particular provision may have been inserted into the tax code.

We assume plenty of dudes through the years found it useful. It’s good to see that time may finally be past.

With that said, there is a problem in the case of Rep. Ken Buck’s proposal with implementation:

Buck has written a letter to the House Ways and Means Committee chairman asking for language to be included in the latest tax reform debate on Capitol Hill.

That’s right–unfortunately, this no-brainer of a tax deduction to repeal is going to get bundled with a whole bunch of other and in many cases stupid alterations to the tax code, an elusive “pay-for” in the GOP’s budget-busting tax cut plan that–while we certainly wouldn’t mind seeing this particular pay-for enacted–isn’t worth the widespread harm certain to ensue when the hole these cuts create has to be filled. As a general guide, that is usually right after the opposing party retakes power.

If Buck keeps this idea alive in the entirely possible event the tax bill tanks, or fails to include this provision at all, we’ll circle back to thank him.

As of now, we’d rather see a “clean” harassment tax break repeal.

Republican state lawmakers buy into fake reports that Texas shooter had Antifa ties

(Promoted by Colorado Pols)

Multiple former and current Republican state lawmakers fell for fake news reports that claimed the shooter who killed 26 people inside a Texas church Sunday was connected to Antifa.

Former state Sen. Laura Woods of Arvada initially spread the fake news in a Facebook post, which was then “liked” by state Sens. Randy Baumgardner (R-Hot Sulphur Springs) and Vicki Marble (R-Fort Collins).

Woods recommended that the Department of Justice declare Antifa a terrorist organization as a result of the fake news.

Woods’ post received a comment from state House candidate Grady Nouis saying he’d vote to declare Antifa a terrorist organization in Colorado if elected, and an additional “like” from conservative gun rights lobbyist Joseph Neville, who’s the son of state Sen. Tim Neville (R-Littleton).

Woods appears to be referencing the news story provided in the comment section, which claims shooter Devin Kelley carried an Antifa flag and shouted “this is a communist revolution” before opening fire on the churchgoers. It also claims Kelley was one of two shooters and “vowed to start a civil war by targeting white conservative churches and causing anarchy in the United States.”

(more…)

Who’s Getting Frog-Marched Tomorrow?

MONDAY UPDATE: It’s Paul Manafort, reports CNN:

Former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort is turning himself in Monday to Justice Department special counsel Robert Mueller, according to a source with direct knowledge of the matter.

Manafort was indicted under seal on Friday and is planning to turn himself in, the source said…

The indictment of a top official from President Donald Trump’s campaign signals a dramatic new phase of Mueller’s wide-ranging investigation into possible collusion between the Russian government and members of Trump’s team as well as potential obstruction of justice and financial crimes.

—–

UPDATE: President Donald Trump, on the other hand, doesn’t know when to be quiet.

Any of Trump’s attorneys in reach of that cell phone, now’s the time to just grab it already.

—–

The political chattering class is quieter than usual this weekend, as CNN reports, awaiting what’s expected to be very big news as early as tomorrow morning:

A federal grand jury in Washington on Friday approved the first charges in the investigation led by special counsel Robert Mueller, according to sources briefed on the matter.

The charges are still sealed under orders from a federal judge. Plans were prepared Friday for anyone charged to be taken into custody as soon as Monday, the sources said. It is unclear what the charges are.

A spokesman for the special counsel’s office declined to comment. The White House also had no comment, a senior administration official said Saturday morning.

In the absence of firm information about who is getting hit with the first criminal charges from the Trump/Russia collusion scandal, surrogates for the President are more or less freaking out–pointing fingers wildly in any direction to distract from the real headlines:

The White House has been anticipating for months that special counsel Robert Mueller would eventually file criminal charges in his Russia investigation. But President Donald Trump, his lawyers and senior administration officials were all caught off guard by the news…

The lack of information, on a case that could have major ramifications for the president, left many current and former Trump advisers livid, focusing their rage on how the information leaked and on a forever target: Hillary Clinton.

Whatever happens tomorrow, don’t get caught watching FOX News or you’ll liable to miss it. With that, we’ll turn 2017’s favorite guessing game over to our readers: who among President Donald Trump’s 2016 campaign operatives gets the first criminal charges? Who’s next? Who will turn state’s evidence? How will Sean Hannity control his blood pressure? How will Colorado Republicans’ facial expressions change?

It’s going to be a big week, folks. Stay tuned.

Vicki Marble Would Like This Cub Scout Story to Continue

State Sen. Vicki Marble, left, speaking to 11-year-old Ames Mayfield

On Sunday, the New York Times published a lengthy story about state Sen. Vicki Marble (R-Fort Collins) that we thought might be the topper to the saga of Marble’s bizarre talk to a group of Cub Scouts in Broomfield two weeks ago. Apparently this will not be the end of the tale, because Marble is making every effort to make sure that this story — which is most certainly not favorable to her — continues to be fodder for local and national media outlets.

Today, the Denver Post published a guest commentary piece from Sen. Marble in which she not only ingeniously rehashes the controversy surrounding her Oct. 9 Cub Scout talk but makes sure to state — again, erroneously — that she was falsely accused of saying words that came out of her own mouth related to a separate controversy from 2013.

This is all in response to a story that first appeared on Colorado Pols on Oct. 12 and has since been picked up by every major media outlet in Colorado and subsequently attracted national attention from the Washington Post, “TIME” magazineCNN, “Good Morning America,” and the New York Times. Marble said a bunch of absolutely crazy things to a group of Cub Scouts, and videos of those interactions went viral soon after we published the links.

Here’s Jesse Paul of the Denver Post with a story about Marble’s Op-Ed for the Post:

State Sen. Vicki Marble is doubling down on the nationally covered controversy involving her and a Colorado Cub Scout in a Denver Post commentary, blaming the media and the boy’s mother for stoking the situation.

Marble, a Fort Collins Republican, maintained that her 2013 comments during a legislative hearing about mortality among blacks — in which she linked obesity among African Americans to Southern barbecue and chicken — were taken out of context, writing in her Tuesday piece that her words “somehow got twisted by the PC police.”

The comments resurfaced during a heated exchange earlier this month that Marble had with a Cub Scout when he pressed her about the 2013 remarks. A video of the encounter was widely circulated online.

Sen. Vicki Marble (R)

Rather than riding out the bad press or offering an apology, Marble took the seldom-recommended third option of shooting the messengers (in this case, the mother of a Cub Scout and Colorado Pols, which she calls “a progressive hit group“) and attacking the media for not covering for her endless mistakes. Here’s an excerpt from Marble’s Op-Ed today:

The Denver Post recently accused me, in an editorial, of “lying” to a group of Cub Scouts about comments I made years ago that some saw as racially insensitive, when, in response to one question, I provided accurate context that’s always been missing from the preferred media narrative.

That the reporters-turned-pontificators who run The Post’s opinion page were so quick to breathe new life into that false narrative, without the professional courtesy of calling to get both sides of the story, is another example of why so many Americans don’t seem to mind when President Donald Trump pushes back against biased bullies in the press corps.

The original controversy occurred in 2013, during a presentation at the Capitol highlighting higher mortality rates suffered by African-Americans, relative to Hispanics and whites, for reasons ranging from heredity to poverty to lifestyle choices. It’s an issue that I, as a lawmaker, take seriously. And such conversations are necessary to help generate solutions.

One colleague took offense when I observed that some of these problems stem not just from biological factors beyond an individual’s control, but due to personal choices and food preferences, which is something widely recognized as true. That somehow got twisted by the PC police into a case of racial stereotyping, by inserting words or meanings that furthered their narrative but weren’t true. Then, through the echo effect of repeated re-telling, it’s become a political myth. [Pols emphasis]

At this point, we should probably remind our readers that Sen. Marble’s infamous 2013 comments about black people eating too much chicken are political myth only if you believe that audio recordings of Marble’s own words somehow qualify as fake. If you missed why those comments from 2013 are re-surfacing, here’s a brief explanation:

Ames Mayfield, the 11-year-old fifth-grader and dedicated Cub Scout, asked Marble questions about gun control and her 2013 comments during the Oct. 9 Cub Scout meeting. Said Ames: “I was astonished that you blamed black people for poor health and poverty because of all the chicken and barbecue they eat.”

Marble’s response to that question, which you can see and hear and read for yourself, was as follows:

“I didn’t. That was made up by the media. So, you want to believe it? You believe it. But that’s not how it went down. I didn’t do that. That was false. Get both sides of the story.”

This is an absolute, 100% lie from Marble. She most certainly did say these things, and many local media outlets reported on her comments at the time. Again, it’s worth pointing out here that you can listen to the audio of Marble’s 2013 comments at any time. This isn’t a he-said, she-said kind of story; this is a “she-said” story because there is a lot of documented proof of her exact comments. Marble obviously thinks she was misunderstood, but what she actually said is not up for debate.

Perhaps Marble is just acting on some communications advice from the same group of Republicans who tried to sell the public on the idea that they were cutting ticket prices for an event with Vice President Mike Pence because of such high demand. Perhaps Marble thinks that she is somehow going to be vindicated if she just keeps insisting that this is all everyone else’s fault. Whatever the rationale, the only thing that Marble is accomplishing now is making sure her own terrible story gets a third week of coverage.

If that was the goal, then we congratulate Sen. Marble on a job well done.

Rep. Mike Coffman Snared By Opiate-Gate

Rep. Mike Coffman (R).

A CNN story caught our attention regarding trouble for GOP Rep. Marsha Blackburn of Tennessee, now a candidate for the U.S. Senate–but facing fierce headwinds due to her co-sponsorship of legislation now widely blamed for worsening the crisis of opioid pain killer addiction in the United States. This is the same legislation that led to the recent withdrawal of Rep. Tom Marino from consideration for the post of drug policy czar in Donald Trump’s White House:

Rep. Marsha Blackburn’s support for a drug law that she acknowledged might have caused “unintended consequences” is marring her entry into Tennessee’s Senate race — with her Democratic opponent saying she should drop out and potentially stronger foes in both parties now more seriously considering entering the contest.

Blackburn, who last week launched her bid for the retiring Sen. Bob Corker’s seat, co-sponsored the measure that was the subject of Sunday’s blockbuster investigation by “60 Minutes” and The Washington Post. The Blackburn-backed law, whistleblowers said, made it easier for drug companies to distribute opioids across American communities and thwart the Drug Enforcement Agency.

Already, the lead sponsor of that bill, Pennsylvania Republican Rep. Tom Marino, who took nearly $100,000 in campaign contributions from pharmaceutical interests, has withdrawn as President Donald Trump’s nominee to be the nation’s drug czar. Marino and Blackburn asked a government watchdog to investigate a DEA official who warned them in 2014 that their bill would aid criminals, accusing the official of intimidation.

Te perverse effect of this legislation, which was sold on the premise of “effective drug enforcement” while “ensuring patient access” to opioid pain medication, was to greatly increase the supply of powerful and addictive drugs. These drugs were both abused legally by patients who received unethically large prescriptions from doctors at walk-in “pain management” clinics, and also sold on the black market for many times their legal purchase price–both of which greatly worsened the crisis the legislation was passed to address. Newly-addicted patients who find their source of legal opioids cut off frequently turn to heroin as an alternative, with all the attendant social evils of the illicit drug trade.

Needless to say, nominating the lead sponsor of this legislation to be the White House’s drug policy czar invites fundamental questions about the Trump administration’s own ethics–not the first such questions, of course, given Trump’s Cabinet comprised of almost perfectly destructive misfits for the departments they were nominated to lead. But serious questions nonetheless.

And as CNN’s Eric Bradner continues, the and Reps. Marino and Blackburn aren’t the only ones in the hot seat:

The damage could extend beyond Marino’s nomination and Blackburn’s Senate race.

Three other Republicans who are along Democrats’ top targets in the 2018 midterms — Reps. Mike Coffman of Colorado, [Pols emphasis] Ryan Costello of Pennsylvania and George Holding of North Carolina — were all at times co-sponsors of Marino’s bill.

And with that, Tom Marino’s problem is now Rep. Mike Coffman’s problem. Yes, the bill was signed into law by President Barack Obama, but Obama’s not in office anymore. Today, the sponsors of this legislation who still have something to lose are facing the consequences of its perverse effects. For Rep. Tom Marino, those consequences just put a hard ceiling on his political career. For Rep. Blackburn, seeking to represent a state that has been ravaged by opioid addiction and preventable deaths, the same may be true.

Why exactly did Mike Coffman sign on as a sponsor of this bill? Who from the pharmaceutical industry lobbied him to do it? Was there a price? What does Mike Coffman say today about legislation he sponsored that has now been shown to have done widespread harm instead of good? A whole slew of pointed questions now need to be answered–and whatever those answers may be, the line of attack in next year’s elections against Coffman from his sponsorship of this bill is obvious.

And potentially, quite devastating.

Vicki Marble’s Crazy Cub Scout Talk is Now National News

UPDATE: CNN picks up the story:

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State Sen. Vicki Marble, left, speaks to 11-year-old Ames Mayfield on Oct. 9

Republican State Sen. Vicki Marble’s spectacularly-strange talk to a group of Cub Scouts in Broomfield, which first appeared on Colorado Pols on Thursday, Oct. 12, has become a national news story after one of the fifth-graders who asked tough questions was kicked out of his Cub Scout Den.

The story of 11-year-old Ames Mayfield was picked up this week by 9News, Denver7, Fox 31 and the Denver Post. Earlier this week the editorial board of the Denver Post chastised Marble for lying to the group of Cub Scouts (“Vicki Marble’s Finger-Lickin Lie”), and on Thursday the Post editorial board again weighed in to support Mayfield.

Marshall Zelinger of 9News sat down for an interview with Ames and his mother, Lori, for a story that ran on Thursday night. Whether or not you agree with Ames, it’s impossible to not be impressed with this kid’s composure (full video after the jump below):   

“I know that they probably don’t want me back…and I know that they’re probably still mad at me,” Ames Mayfield said.

Ames asked very specific questions on gun control when State Senator Vicki Marble visited the 11-year-old’s den on Oct. 9…

…Five days later, the Pack leader met with Ames’ mom and said Ames could find another Den within the Pack but not the one he was currently in.

“I am really heartbroken that my Den leader, which I really felt like I had a pretty good relationship with, decided to kick me out,” Ames said.

If you’re skeptical about Ames and his questions to Marble, just watch the 9News story; this is a smart kid who asked smart questions all on his own.

Ames Mayfield

Marble’s bizarre talk with the Cub Scouts started to gain national attention on Thursday, and today Samantha Schmidt flushes out more details for the Washington Post:

Ames’s story drew the attention of gun control advocate and former Democratic Rep. Gabrielle Giffords of Arizona, who was shot in the head by an assailant in 2011, suffering a severe brain injury.

“This is exactly the kind of courage we need in Congress,” Giffords tweeted Thursday. “Ames, call me in 14 years. I’ll campaign for you.”

Giffords’s husband, astronaut Mark Kelly, called Ames and his mother Thursday night to talk about what happened, according to Fox 31

After Mayfield posted the videos on YouTube, the website Colorado Pols published a story about the senator’s exchange with the Cub Scouts. It was after this article published that Ames’s pack leader requested a meeting with his mother. [Pols emphasis]

Mayfield said she was told by the pack leader that Ames should not have brought up the topic of gun control, although Mayfield asserts the Scouts weren’t given any parameters before the meeting. The pack leader, she said, told her words Ames used were disrespectful, such as “why on earth,” the mention of “Republicans” and the phrase, “if you truly represent your constituents.”

Remember to bookmark this link so that you can show it to your grandchildren when Ames Mayfield is elected President of the United States around the year 2048.

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Get More Smarter on Thursday (October 19)

Mark your calendars — the world is ending on Saturday. 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 upping his ante on a misinformation campaign about potential Russian interference in the 2016 election, suggesting on Thursday that perhaps the FBI and the Democratic Party somehow conspired together to pay for a reported intelligence dossier on Trump. We’d say that this was getting strange, but we’d be repeating ourselves. From CNN:

The point here is that it is deeply irresponsible for a president of the United States to even flirt with this sort of conspiracy talk. You can love Donald Trump and still believe that the idea that the Russians, the Democrats and the FBI co-funded a dossier designed to discredit Trump’s 2016 campaign is totally bonkers.

Unfortunately, lots and lots of Trump backers will believe this stuff solely by dint of the fact that Trump tweeted it. And that, of course, is Trump’s goal. Muddy the waters and discredit the ongoing investigations into what Russia did in the 2016 election. Make the whole thing into a partisan witch hunt.

But, there is no plausible scenario by which what Trump suggested this morning — a wide-scale conspiracy involving three separate actors across federal agencies and continents — actually happened. That we can’t (won’t?) agree on that seemingly obvious fact is troubling.

 

► Attorney General Jeff Sessions testified Wednesday in front of the Senate Judiciary Committee, and the topic of Russian election meddling took center stage. As the Washington Post explains:

Jeff Sessions was the personification of a hostile witness whenever a Democratic lawmaker questioned him during a contentious five-hour oversight hearing on Wednesday.

The attorney general set the tone early in his first appearance before the Senate Judiciary Committee since his January confirmation. “I can neither assert executive privilege nor can I disclose today the content of my confidential conversations with the president,” Sessions said in his opening statement.

There were several yes-or-no questions that should have been easy for Sessions to answer, but he refused. Sometimes what someone will not say is more interesting than what they do…

Sessions declined to discuss anything the president told him before firing James Comey. He pointedly refused to answer multiple questions about whether Trump told him that getting rid of the FBI director would “lift the cloud” of the Russia investigation.

Sessions also declined to express confidence in the investigation of special counsel Robert Mueller, nor would he say whether or not he would resign his post if President Trump took the extraordinary step of trying to fire Mueller.

 

Cracks are forming in the leadership ranks of the Colorado League of Women Voters over the groups decision to support a controversial redistricting/reapportionment ballot proposal for 2018.

 

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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.

 

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