Terror, hate, and guns

(Promoted by Colorado Pols)

The shocking violence committed against LGBT Americans in Orlando this weekend has horrified us all. This weekend’s attack on the Pulse nightclub brought together the combined threats of terrorism, gun violence, and bigotry our nation faces today.

Is it time for the nation to follow Colorado’s model on gun safety? Click here to say yes.

Here in Colorado, we took action after the Aurora theater shootings to reduce the threat of gun violence. In 2013 we tightened background checks, limited gun magazine capacity, and made it harder for dangerous domestic violence offenders to have guns. Our state’s painful history of mass murder has forced us to take the lead in finding solutions to gun violence.

No law has perfect compliance. Criminals by definition are lawbreakers. But in Colorado, we know that our gun laws have saved lives. In 2015 alone, over 7,700 criminals attempting to buy guns in Colorado were stopped by universal background checks–including 22 arrested or convicted of homicide, 17 for kidnapping, and 130 for sexual assault. In addition, 251 fugitives attempting to buy a gun were arrested on site. [1] We know that a pause to reload a semiautomatic weapon saves lives in mass shootings. And we know that protecting victims of violence from more violence is the right thing to do.

Sign our petition now: it’s time for the nation to follow Colorado’s lead. It’s time for America to get serious about stopping gun violence. And hatred of LGBT Americans. And terrorism that threatens us all.

Orlando LGBT Terror Attack Stuns Nation

UPDATE #3: From One Colorado, the state’s biggest LGBT advocacy group:

Dave Montez, Executive Director of One Colorado, the state’s leading advocacy organization for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer Coloradans and their families, issued the following statement in response to the shooting last night at an Orlando gay nightclub that killed 50 and injured more than 50 others.

“We are shocked and devastated by the horrible shooting that occurred in Orlando last night and our hearts are with the victims and families who have been impacted by this horrific act of violence targeting the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer community in Orlando.”

“June commemorates Pride month and gay clubs hold a significant place in LGBTQ history. They were often the only safe gathering place for LGBTQ people and this horrific act strikes directly at our sense of safety. We will all continue to work to address the hatred that causes these senseless acts of violence in hopes that something like this never happens again.”

And from Colorado Speaker of the House Dickey Lee Hullinghorst:

“My heart goes out to the victims of this attack, to their families, and to the greater LGBT community. This morning’s attack is a reminder to us all that gun violence in America is a plague that afflicts every state, every city and every community. That this was a targeted and hateful terror attack against the LGBT community only compounds our hurt today. We must all come together, as a nation, to do more to stop the mass gun violence that plagues this country, and stand together against hate and extremism however it manifests itself.”

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UPDATE #2: Statement from Senate Minority Leader Lucia Guzman:

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UPDATE: The father of the alleged shooter in Orlando says that he believes the attack was motivated by his son’s anger at recently witnessing open affection from two gay men. According to NBC News, “This had nothing to do with religion,” said Mir Seddique.

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What a horrible thing to wake up to. CNN:

Fifty people were killed inside Pulse, a gay nightclub, Orlando Police Chief John Mina and other officials said Sunday morning, just hours after a shooter opened fire in the deadliest mass shooting in U.S. history.

At least 53 more people were injured, Mina said. Police have shot and killed the gunman, he told reporters…

Orlando authorities said they consider the violence an act of domestic terror. The FBI is involved. While investigators are exploring all angles, they “have suggestions the individual has leanings towards (Islamic terrorism), but right now we can’t say definitely,” said Ron Hopper, assistant special agent in charge of the FBI’s Orlando bureau.

Authorities are also looking into the possibility the attack was a hate crime, a law enforcement source told CNN.

We’re not yet in a position to evaluate the full implications of this terrible news. But we’ll update as we learn more about what happened last night, and our thoughts are with these victims–and all victims of both terrorism and hatred across the world.

Latest Maketa Indictments Highlight Problem of Police Domestic Violence

(Promoted by Colorado Pols)

Terry Maketa, former El Paso County Sheriff, was indicted Wednesday, May 25, 2016, by a Grand Jury on six felony counts, including extortion, tampering with a witness, and second-degree kidnapping.  The latter two charges stem from Maketa and codefendants Paula Presley and Juan San Agustin intimidating a witness to keep her from testifying against her abuser, a deputy under Maketa’s supervision.

From Benzel and Sun’s Gazette reporting:

After a sheriff’s deputy was arrested in August 2013 for assaulting his girlfriend, Maketa directed the woman to recant her story and tell investigators she “instigated the incident in order to allow (the deputy) to get his job back,” the indictment alleges. When the woman, a civilian jail employee, followed his instructions and provided a false confession about being “the aggressor,” she was arrested on suspicion of domestic violence, assault and driving under the influence.

“Detective Lisa Kaiser, the interviewing and arresting officer, did not believe she had probable cause to arrest (the woman) for either crime, but arrested (her) because the order came from her superiors,” the indictment says.

Maketa was booked and bonded out of jail on Thursday, May 26 .  Maketa had resigned in disgrace in 2014, ahead of a recall effort, amidst charges of sexual misconduct, corruption, and incompetence in his office.

Terry Maketa's mugshot

Maketa’s 5/25/16 mugshot  Credit : Gilpin County Sheriff’s Office

Maketa was one of the so-called “Constitutional Sheriffs” involved in a lawsuit against Colorado’s stricter gun laws, including magazine size limits and background check requirements.

Colorado media outlets have capitalized on the lurid sexual content of the Maketa case – Westword,   the Denver Post, and the Colorado Springs Gazette have all run stories emphasizing the conduct of the “Shirtless Sheriff”. We’re all sick of that steamy shower selfie, so, please, Pols, don’t post it in this diary.

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SD-27 Democrat Tom Sullivan Nets Huge Kickoff Haul

SD-27 candidate Tom Sullivan (D).

SD-27 candidate Tom Sullivan (D).

A press release from Democratic Colorado Senate candidate Tom Sullivan, running in a “reach goal” race in Senate District 27 against appointed Republican Sen. Jack Tate, shows “Sully” off to a smashing start:

Newly released campaign finance numbers tell a compelling story about an unlikely candidate: not only is Tom Sullivan, the Democratic candidate in the State Senate race for District 27 getting an effective populist message out but that a significant number of voters are literally buying into his fight for the middle class.

For the first quarter of 2016, Sullivan has raised $30,876, toppling Republican opponent Jack Tate’s first quarter contributions eight times over. Sullivan’s opponent is also under a campaign finance complaint investigation for rolling over too much money from his State House to State Senate committee. Notwithstanding, they are now nearly neck-and-neck in total funds raised.

Sullivan is known in the community as the father of Alex Sullivan, one of twelve murdered in the 2012 Aurora theatre shooting. He’s also an Air Force veteran and retired postal worker; none of these experiences reveal any sort of political acumen, and when filing to run on February 23, few could have seen the powerhouse he would soon become…

That’s a head-turning quarterly take for a state legislative race without a doubt, and as the Democratic Senate Campaign Fund reports in a separate release, Jack Tate has his own problems:

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According to state statute, campaign committees have a limit to the amount of money they can roll over from one race to another, intended to prevent campaigns from dodging contribution limits when pursuing higher office.* It’s a significant violation, both financially and ethically, and one that people familiar with campaigns or business should know about. That’s why Tate’s alleged violation is surprising: he’s the self-proclaimed pro-business candidate in Senate District 27.

“He runs on the idea that since he knows how to run a business, he can run a Senate seat. But with such an obvious violation of Colorado law, it’s evident his campaign has a troublesome problem with adhering very clear finance guidelines,” says Ali Vail, the claimant who filed the violation. “It’s bad business, pure and simple.”

*Colorado Constitution, rule 2.2.4(b)(3). The amount limit is $22,125. Tate’s campaign rolled over $27,736.67 — $5,611.67 more than the legal limit.

A sloppy error for Tate if the complaint bears out–and combined with Sullivan’s powerful show of support since launching his campaign in late February, it’s more evidence that this race will be competitive in ways that the voter registration breakdown in the district can’t account for. Tate is an undistinguished junior legislator who was just appointed to his Senate seat. He has no real advantage in this race whatsoever, only a slightly more favorable ratio of registered Republicans to Democrats in an overall competitive district.

No folks, it’s Sullivan–his story, and now the strength he is showing as a candidate–that makes this race special.

Caption This Photo: “Dirty Douggie” Lamborn!

Rep. Doug Lamborn of Colorado Springs, not generally known as a rugged manly-man politician, nonetheless got his “man card” renewed with a visit to the Magnum Shooting Center–perhaps a very good idea in advance of his unexpectedly stiff primary challenge from a charismatic young female opponent. Lamborn asks, do you feel lucky?

Well do you, punk?

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Are we the only ones who find that look on his face a little…disconcerting? A few more photos of the all-new Badass Doug Lamborn® after the jump.

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Tom Sullivan’s War: Casus Belli

We’ve had a few occasions to mention the name Tom Sullivan in recent years, long before he announced his candidacy for the Colorado Senate a few weeks ago. Sullivan is the father of a victim of the 2012 Aurora theater mass shooting that left 12 people dead and many dozens more wounded. Photos of an anguished Tom Sullivan desperately seeking information about his son in the hours after the shooting are seared into the memory of everyone who was following the news that day, whether he knew his name or (more likely) not.

In 2013, Sullivan joined with survivors and family from the Aurora shooting, the 1999 Columbine High School massacre, the Newtown, Connecticut school shooting that occurred just months after Aurora, and other incidents of gun violence to testify in support of the gun safety bills passed that year: requiring background checks for most transfers of firearms, limiting magazine capacity to 15 rounds, and strengthening protections for domestic violence victims. Sullivan earned a reputation as one of the most dedicated witnesses on either side of these debates, with his clear ringing voice and harrowing story forcing even the most jaded pro-gun Republican to at least acknowledge his loss.

For awhile, anyway.

Unfortunately, Sullivan has increasingly endured what we can only describe as totally inappropriate disrespect from a variety Republican lawmakers. We took note of a incident in May of 2013 in which Sen. Bill Cadman flew into an insolent rage at Sullivan during a Denver Post panel on the legislative session. And during this week’s hearing in the Colorado State Affairs Committee, Sullivan was dissed again:

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This photo was taken at the exact moment Sullivan was testifying late Monday night about the death of his son in the Aurora theater shooting during testimony against Senate Bill 16-113, the bill to repeal the 15-round magazine limit. These two Republican lawmakers, Reps. Justin “Sleepy Dwarf” Everett and Patrick Neville, are co-sponsors of the bill. Sources tell us that Rep. Everett never looked up even once during Sullivan’s entire testimony, apparently engaged in an intense…well, something or other on his smartphone. Facebook? Angry Birds? We’ll never know.

What we do know is that this is unacceptable behavior for a lawmaker listening to witness testimony on their bill. And before you shoot back with a photo of a Democrat looking downward in a hearing, you’ll want to explain to us in detail the moment in time the photo originated.

For example, the moment a witness is testifying about the murder of his son.

As the debate over the 2013 gun laws has dragged on in the Colorado legislature, we don’t doubt that the failure of pro-gun Republicans to repeal them has provoked great frustration. The recalls didn’t scare Democrats into abandoning their principles, and the 2014 “GOP wave” election’s failure to unseat Gov. John Hickenlooper or the Democratic House proved only that the 2013 gun laws were not going anywhere.

But folks, this infantile disrespect for Tom Sullivan is not the way to express their frustration. We don’t care how many times they’ve seen him testify. Especially as sponsors of the bill to repeal what he fought for, they owe Sullivan their attention every time.

If they won’t give it to him as a citizen, we’ll see what they do when he’s a senator.

Colorado Budget: Private Prisons Get Their Pound of Flesh

Kit Carson Correctional Center, Burlington.

Kit Carson Correctional Center, Burlington.

As the Pueblo Chieftain’s Peter Strescino reports, the Colorado state legislature gave final passage to the 2016 budget on Friday–but not before a last-minute request from the Governor’s office, supported by Senate Republicans, almost derailed the deal yet again:

A last-minute request by the governor to keep afloat a private prison — and help a rural economy — held up the final budget deal until the state Senate approved it Friday.

The budget, $25.8 billion, is headed for Gov. John Hickenlooper’s desk, where he is expected to sign it.

Hickenlooper requested at the last minute to spend $3 million to boost payments to a private, for-profit prison company that is threatening to close the Kit Carson Correctional Center on the Eastern Plains — a move that stalled the budget bill after Senate Democrats raised complaints…

Corrections Corporation of America.

Corrections Corporation of America.

The Denver Post’s John Frank has more on the $3 million to subsidize operations at the Kit Carson Correctional Center just east of Burlington, which is operated by the for-profit Corrections Corporation of America:

Sen. Mike Johnston, D-Denver, noted that the state gave Corrections Corporation of America a cash infusion four years ago to keep the facility open and now it’s back asking for more money. At the same time, other parts of the state budget are facing cuts or no new funding increases. [Pols emphasis]

Johnston said the timing of the request — just as budget negotiations finished — amounted to “blackmail.”

“It’s not in the best interest of the state of Colorado,” he said.

In the end, the $3 million for Corrections Corporation of America was not enough to blow up the long negotiations that led to this year’s budget compromises–which include hotly-contested line items like funding for the state’s groundbreaking IUD contraception program, a big win over the objections of the Senate’s far-right “Hateful Eight” caucus. But that doesn’t mean this “bailout” of an underutilized private prison was a good thing, as a statement from the state’s public employee union Colorado WINS makes very clear indeed:

According to WINS Executive Director, Tim Markham, “The for-profit prison industry is built on exploitation. They exploit our criminal justice system, they exploit their workers, they exploit the communities in which their facilities are located and they exploit Colorado taxpayers.

Unlike our state correctional facilities and professional correctional officers, for-profit prisons are not accountable to taxpayers. And they do not provide stable, community-building jobs – these are low-wage, low-security, high-turnover positions.

Colorado WINS has long stood publicly against the for-profit prison industry. This latest bailout is just one more example of why Colorado should extricate ourselves from this predatory and morally corrupt industry.” [Pols emphasis]

“Extrication” of Colorado’s prison system from for-profit corporate interests that have little regard for the state’s actual needs, unlike state employees who could be redistributed throughout the system and–key point–are much more qualified professionals who contribute far more to their local economies than the CCA’s low-wage employees, is a debate that will have to wait for another year. But these threat-laden “requests” for infusions of cash to a for-profit corporation under threat of closing underused prisons and “killing jobs,” this being the second such request in four years, is not at all what the private prison industry promised in the early 1990s: a happy arrangement in which private capital took the risk of operating the prisons and the public benefitted from “lower costs.”

Since that logic has now been turned on its head, we’d say it’s appropriate to question the state’s whole relationship with the private prison industry.

Loveland Reporter-Herald Rips Sen. John Cooke

Sen. John Cooke.

Sen. John Cooke.

We took note earlier this week, as did gun safety activists, of remarks by Sen. John Cooke of Greeley during debate last week over Senate Bill 16-113–legislation that would repeal the state’s 15-round limit on gun magazine capacity passed in 2013. Sen. Cooke, making the argument that the magazine limit is not enforceable, explained that he tells his “people,” whom we assume to be his constituents to “go to Wyoming” to buy high-capacity magazines that aren’t legally sold in Colorado.

You can buy all you want up in Wyoming because they’re not illegal.

Which, while technically true, doesn’t make it any less illegal to bring those high-capacity magazines back into the state of Colorado from Wyoming once you buy one. Sen. Cooke is surely aware of this, since in his previous job as Weld County Sheriff he was responsible for patrolling a significant length of the Colorado/Wyoming border to prevent illegal fireworks being brought into our state. Any way you slice it, Cooke’s encouragement to break the law and (most importantly) advice on how to break the law is not appropriate for a lawmaker–and not okay from a former sworn law enforcement officer.

We’re happy to report that, in a hard-hitting editorial today, the Loveland Reporter-Herald agrees:

Crossing the border into Wyoming to purchase items that are illegal in Colorado happens all the time. Flying and exploding fireworks are illegal on this side of the state line, so Coloradans who believe that this state’s fireworks regulations are onerous regularly take the risk of driving over the state line and purchasing fireworks that they may legally possess in Wyoming. Bringing them back across the border is illegal, and any elected representative who would encourage his constituents to do so could lead them to run afoul of the law and common sense.

Cooke has been an opponent of gun control measures passed in 2013, to the point of saying when he was sheriff of Weld County that he would not enforce those laws. He was within his legal right to do so.

Choosing not to enforce a law is one thing, but encouraging people to break the law is beneath the office of a state senator. [Pols emphasis] It would be as if a legislator in Nebraska who disagreed with marijuana prohibition encouraged Nebraskans to make their purchases in Colorado and return home with them, as some of Cooke’s opponents have pointed out.

It’s true, and the Reporter-Herald does make the point that Sen. Cooke has a constitutional right to tell his constituents it’s okay break the law–and even how to do it. But a constitutional right to say something does not make it a responsible thing to say, and a lawmaker can reasonably be held to a higher expectation where it concerns basic respect for the law. We would say the same of law enforcement officers like Colorado’s elected county sheriffs.

We’re pleased to see some accountability in the local press. However you may feel about Colorado’s gun laws, and we know there are strong opinions here, lawmakers encouraging citizens to break laws crosses a line.

How Ted Cruz Legitimized Dudley Brown

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cruzslateSetting aside Donald Trump’s conspiracy theories about how opponent Ted Cruz managed to completely dominate the election of delegates to the Republican National Convention from Colorado, we’ve already focused on the role of both local and national gun-rights organizations in organizing and consolidating the pro-Cruz delegate slate. With the state assembly in the books, it’s clear now that the threat of Trump’s nomination has produced an unlikely coalition of basically every other interest group in Colorado Republican politics–a shift could change the conservative political landscape in our state in lasting ways.

And as the Colorado Independent’s Corey Hutchins reports, not good ways:

Colorado’s Republican activist base had an inherent attraction to Cruz’s strain of conservative politics, and the Cruz campaign had a masterful understanding of how the delegate-selection process works in Colorado. Add a dash of anti-Trump (or #NeverTrump) sentiment into the mix and you saw a slate of Cruz-backers working toward the same goal even if they represented factions in Colorado politics that don’t often work together in elections. Dudley Brown, the head of the polarizing Rocky Mountain Gun Owners group, for instance, found his name on a flyer alongside that of Secretary of State Wayne Williams who represents a more mainstream faction of the state GOP.

The last few years have witnessed a state of more or less continuous infighting within the Colorado Republican Party, which has frequently boiled over into very public conflicts–the departure of former chairman Dick Wadhams under heavy fire from the conservative “Tea Party” grassroots, the defeat of Wadhams’ successor Ryan Call by Steve House, and the coup attempt just months later against House all being symptoms of the underlying problem. Much of this tension can be traced directly back to Dudley Brown and his stable of RMGO-owned candidates and legislators. Meanwhile, “establishment” Republicans have openly worked to distance themselves from Brown’s political machine.

To us, the veneer of separation between Brown and today’s Colorado GOP has been increasingly anachronistic, especially in the years since the 2013 pro-gun recall elections. The 2013 recalls were a watershed moment for the Colorado GOP–and an ascendant moment for Brown and RMGO that cemented their control of the party grassroots. Brown’s power was demonstrated once again with 2014 primary victories that elevated Laura Woods and Tony Sanchez over establishment-backed GOP candidates.

This weekend, Dudley Brown stood on stage with Secretary of State Wayne Williams to claim victory in Colorado for Ted Cruz in the desperate battle to stop Donald Trump. Brown himself was elected not just to the RNC as a national delegate as he has in prior years, but also to the national convention’s platform committee. Even though Brown’s favored U.S. Senate candidate longtime ally Sen. Tim Neville lost out after Darryl Glenn’s fiery convention speech, there’s no question that the present state of chaos in the Republican Party is working out very well for Dudley Brown.

And that is a story we could be talking about well after 2016.

Colorado Lawmaker: Here’s How You Break The Law

UPDATE: Colorado Ceasefire condemns Sen. John Cooke’s remarks yesterday in very strong terms:

Those who support the repeal of the ammunition magazine ban have repeatedly argued that the law inconveniences law-abiding citizens. “Sen. Cooke, as one of the leading supporters of the repeal, advocated that these same law-abiding citizens become criminals,” noted Jacqui Shumway, a board member of Colorado Ceasefire.

“What Senator Cooke doesn’t seem to understand is that the General Assembly passed, and the Governor signed a high capacity magazine ban in order to save lives, and it is the law in Colorado. 82 people were wounded and 12 were killed in the Aurora Theater, where a 100-round drum was employed,” said Tom Mauser, also with Colorado Ceasefire. Mauser’s son Daniel was shot and killed at Columbine High School in 1999, where high-capacity magazines contributed to the carnage.

“Sheriff Cooke shamed himself and his state when he proclaimed he would not enforce the gun laws passed by the General Assembly in 2013. Now as a senator in that same Assembly, Cooke violates the expectations the people have of a lawmaker,” said Eileen McCarron, president of Colorado Ceasefire Legislative Action. “While he works to enact laws by day, in his off-time he is advising citizens to break them.”

Liberal group ProgressNow Colorado also fired up:

“Everyone knows the gun lobby dislikes Colorado’s magazine limit law, but it’s the law of the land,” said ProgressNow Colorado political director Alan Franklin. “Sen. John Cooke has every right to introduce legislation to repeal a law his benefactors in the gun industry doesn’t like. But when Sen. Cooke encourages citizens to break existing law, even telling them to cross state lines to buy illegal products in another state, he is going too far.”

“As Weld County Sheriff, Sen. Cooke was responsible for policing the Wyoming border to stop illegal fireworks being smuggled into Colorado,” said Franklin. “Did Cooke tell Coloradans to ‘go to Wyoming’ for illegal fireworks? Would Cooke tell the citizens of Nebraska they have a right to take legal Colorado marijuana back across the border to a state where it is illegal?”

“Cooke’s flagrant encouragement of Coloradans to break the law, despite the risk of fines, jail time, and a criminal record, makes a mockery of his responsibilities as a lawmaker,” said Franklin. “If Cooke wants to advocate the breaking of Colorado law, he should not be in a position to either make or enforce our laws.”

It’s a big deal, folks. And it should be.

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Sen. John Cooke.

Sen. John Cooke.

Yesterday, the GOP-controlled Colorado Senate gave initial passage to Senate Bill 16-113, legislation that would repeal the 2013 15-round limit on firearm magazine capacity. After passing the Senate, the bill awaits certain death in the Democratic-controlled House, but the perennial repeal attempts of the 2013 gun bills are still as much of a rallying point as General Assembly Republicans get these days–except for abortion, of course, and with election season fast approaching you won’t be hearing much about that going forward.

The debate yesterday over Senate Bill 113 could become memorable in another way, however, after remarks by former Weld County Sheriff-cum Sen. John Cooke of Greeley sparked outrage from gun safety advocates. Here’s the audio, we’ll post video shortly:

COOKE: The good Senator from Castle Rock, mentioned, uh, if you’re law enforcement or in the military you can still get ’em, well, which is true. But what I tell my people is go to Wyoming! You can buy all you want up in Wyoming because they’re not illegal. [Pols emphasis]

What happened here, as you can read very plainly above, is a Colorado lawmaker–indeed a lawmaker who was most recently a law enforcement officer–happily describing from the well of the Colorado Senate how he encourages other people to break Colorado law. Yes, it’s true that high-capacity magazines are available in Wyoming. So are, for example, illegal fireworks.

We’re pretty sure Cooke did not encourage people to “go to Wyoming” for their fireworks as Weld County Sheriff.

It’s possible that today’s politics have gone so far off the rails that nothing can shock the conscience anymore, but we are legitimately dismayed to see once again a Colorado lawmaker legitimize breaking Colorado law. We have to believe there was a time in history when that was not okay–when lawmakers, even when they disagreed with the law of the land, stood for the rule of law, and would never undermine the sanctity of the law for their own politics. Attempting to repeal a law you don’t like is fine. As a sworn lawmaker, telling your constituents not just that it’s okay but how to break the law is not acceptable behavior.

Make no mistake: this is not Rosa Parks’ civil disobedience, folks. This is George Wallace promising “segregation forever” as Governor of Alabama. It’s really important to understand that distinction. When Cooke admitted to doing was deeply wrong, and an affront to the most basic responsibilities of any lawmaker.

If you don’t agree, we’d say you should probably not be a lawmaker.

Phillips Family Blasts Bernie Sanders on Gun Immunity Law

Aurora shooting victim Jessica Ghawi.

Aurora shooting victim Jessica Ghawi.

We’ve noted several times in the last few years the sad story of Lonnie and Sandy Phillips, whose daughter Jessica Ghawi was murdered in the July 20, 2012 mass shooting at the Century Theater in Aurora. After the Aurora theater massacre, the Phillipses sued online sellers of ammunition and body armor that the killer used to obtain thousands of rounds of ammunition, a high-capacity magazine, and body armor.

Lonnie and Sandy Phillips lost their suit–and under the terms of both state and federal laws shielding weapons dealers from liability for harm caused by their products, they were ordered to pay hundreds of thousands of dollars in legal fees to the ammunition dealers. Their story has provoked sympathy and some national press, though very little interest from local media.

But as 9NEWS reports today, the Phillips family is gaining visibility through the Democratic presidential primary–calling out pro-gun Sen. Bernie Sanders for his vote in favor of the federal law that helped ensnare them:

As the Democratic primary race turns to New York, where the gun issue looms large, Clinton will seize upon their story and those like it. The Phillips’ daughter, Jessica Ghawi, died in the 2012 mass shooting at a movie theater shooting in Aurora, Colo.

Lucky Gunner was shielded from prosecution under a 2005 law that grants gun makers and sellers immunity from prosecution for crimes committed with their products. Sanders voted for the law, though he’s recently wavered over whether he supports it.

“We don’t have that much money to pay them, and they can take our house,” Phillips told USA TODAY. “Right now we’re living in a trailer traveling and speaking around the country trying to get people to understand how egregious this law is.”

“I don’t think he had any idea of the repercussions this law would cause,” Phillips said of Sanders. “I would like Bernie Sanders to at least apologize to us for the heartache this has caused.” [Pols emphasis]

After so many mass shooting events in recent years including the Aurora theater massacre, there’s no question that the debate over gun safety laws has shifted since 2005–at least within the Democratic coalition, where “pro-gun” holdouts like Sanders have had a harder time justifying their recalcitrance as victims and advocates have cried out for justice.

Regardless of who you support in the Democratic primary, you can’t help but feel sympathy for the Phillips family and their plight as we have since long before they became an issue in this race. Their political interest certainly can be justified by this law, which Sanders supported and has severely impacted their family as they sought justice in the wake of great tragedy.

And if we didn’t acknowledge what they’re going through, we would be playing politics.

Homophobic Williams to run for Chaps’ old House seat

(Promoted by Colorado Pols)

Constituents of House District 15 in El Paso County have been represented for almost two years  by a homophobic, gaffe-prone politician with ethical challenges:  Dr. Gordon Klingenschmitt, aka “Dr. Chaps“. Now, unless mass sanity strikes, they will probably be represented by another gay-bashing, hot-tempered, inexperienced  politician: David O. Williams.

“Chaps” announced that he would not run again for HD15; he is now running against Bob Gardner for  SD12,term-limited Senate President Cadman’s district. Chaps’ long-suffering constituents should have had a reprieve from embarrassing stories about their duly elected representative. Klingenschmitt’s greatest hits have included claiming that a brutal assault on a pregnant woman was God’s punishment, saying that Rep. Jared Polis wants to behead Christians, and being under IRS investigation for possible  financial misconduct.

david o williams

David O. Williams, candidate for HD15

Unfortunately, House District 15’s new Republican nominee, David O. Williams, looks to be potentially every bit as embarrassing as Chaps. Homophobia? Check. Lack of elected experience? Check. Hot temper – Shoot first, then aim? Check. Dubious financial history, only ever employed in his father-in-law’s business, kicked out of the only two positions he’s ever been elected to ? Check. Add to this access to weapons and $2,000 from Rocky Mountain Gun Owners in 12/2013, and EPCO HD15 voters may have another embarrassingly rocky two years ahead of them.

David Williams is the son-in-law of his employer,  Doyle McAlister, who was a registered sex offender in 2013.  McAlister’s company, MKW Global Sourcing, is primarily in the Chinese export-import business.  MKW employs Williams as Program Manager.

Williams ran for HD15  in 2014, but Dr. Chaps got the nod from the El Paso County delegates. Williams’  homophobic behavior is well known, and has included booing a “Log Cabin” gay delegate; threatening someone else with an AR15; discriminating against funding of gay clubs as UCCS Student Body President, and fostering a climate of gay-bashing and bullying during his tenure, because of which he was finally impeached.

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Cory Gardner: Ready To Play Ball on SCOTUS Yet?

Sen. Cory Gardner (left).

Sen. Cory Gardner (left).

In the weeks since the sudden death of conservative U.S. Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia, Colorado’s junior U.S. Senator Cory Gardner has had varying responses to the question of whether he would consider a nominee from President Barack Obama in the final year of Obama’s presidency. After an initial statement that appeared to leave an opening for an “acceptable” nominee, Gardner slammed the door on any consideration of a nominee from Obama well before Judge Merrick Garland was nominated.

In a meeting with the Grand Junction Sentinel’s editorial board yesterday, Gardner appeared firm on this latter obstructionist stance, even as the polls say it’s a huge political mistake:

Despite national polls indicating that even a majority of Republican voters say the Senate should hold hearings on President Obama’s nominee Merrick Garland, Gardner remains steadfast in his belief that confirmation should wait until after the election.

The American people deserve a voice in this process, Gardner said. Asked to consider that the American people have already spoken — twice — by electing Obama, Garner countered that voters have also given the Senate a Republican majority to “advise and consent” on the process as it chooses.

Why not hold hearings, even if just to reject the nominee?

“If it’s a political show, I’m not interested,” Gardner said.

So, if the will of the people is expressly important and Hillary Clinton becomes the next president, the Senate should forgo a lame-duck confirmation of Garland and wait for Clinton to nominate someone else — likely younger and more liberal than the moderate Garland?

“That’s exactly right,” Gardner said…

But as Politico reports today, the terrible reception from the voting public the GOP’s stonewalling of Obama’s Supreme Court nominee has received, especially after the moderate and popular Judge Garland was nominated, could mean a very different outcome when the Senate returns from Easter recess next week.

With small cracks emerging in the Republican Supreme Court blockade — and private indications from some GOP senators that they’d likely back Merrick Garland if he ever did come up for a vote — the White House is preparing to press its perceived political advantage when senators return from their recess next week…

White House aides have expanded their universe of potential Republican “yes” votes from their original three-category breakdown of vulnerable incumbents up for reelection, moderates and older institutionalists. Their target list now includes the six Republicans who voted for Garland’s confirmation to the D.C. Circuit Court in 1997 — including Utah’s Orrin Hatch and Mississippi’s Thad Cochran — and off-cycle Republicans in states where the other senator is a Democrat who can help carry the attack back home. That smaller list includes Indiana’s Dan Coats (who’s retiring, and also voted for Garland in 1997), Nevada’s Dean Heller and Colorado’s Cory Gardner. [Pols emphasis]

Polling clearly shows that Republicans overstepped by planting the flag against any Obama nominee before the nominee was even known, and the number of GOP Senators willing to at least meet with Judge Garland has continued to grow. Sen. Gardner, for his part, is very sensitive to such changing political realities, and much less dogmatically committed than, say, his successor in Congress Rep. Ken Buck.

If the GOP’s SCOTUS stonewall does come apart when the Senate reconvenes next week, watch for Gardner to keep himself on the winning side.

Tim Neville: Ain’t Nothing Like The Real Thing, Baby

Sen. Tim Neville.

Sen. Tim Neville.

The Denver Post’s John Frank posted a short while ago about the unusual predicament GOP U.S. Senate candidate Jon Keyser finds himself in, trying to appeal to the Republican primary electorate as just one face in a very crowded field:

“Democrats have shown time and time again that they have no respect for our Second Amendment rights,” [Keyser] wrote in an e-mail that asked for campaign donations to beat Democratic U.S. Sen. Michael Bennet.

Keyser mentioned this in reference to a recent hearing in the Democratic-controlled House State Affairs Committee, in which a number of GOP-sponsored pro gun bills were killed. The problem is,

What Keyser didn’t mention: [Tim] Neville is a co-sponsor of four of the five bills. [Pols emphasis]

Neville is using his legislative seat to outline an agenda that dovetails with his Senate bid. He also raised campaign cash on the back of his gun bills — and recently gave away an AR-15 rifle to a campaign donor.

As with the GOP presidential race, the Colorado GOP U.S. Senate primary this year has been defined by the candidate most willing to make controversial statements that attract earned media. State Sen. Tim Neville’s strident legislative record and close ties with far-right Republican grassroots groups give him a natural leg up on the competition for primary voters. With voters for whom guns are basically their single political engagement issue–and thanks to the organizing work of Rocky Mountain Gun Owners (RMGO), that a lot of Colorado GOP primary voters–Neville has bonafides that none of his opponents can match. When he speaks to Republican voters or in debates, Neville is always careful to make sure that he talks about how he is already trying to do these things that all the other candidates are discussing; it’s a powerful message to be able to say, You don’t have to take my word for it — just watch what I’m doing.

All of which makes this story from Frank, which simply states the facts, very harmful to Keyser’s “17th Street insider”-driven campaign. At best, Keyser looks like he’s playing catch-up to Neville’s leadership on the issue.

And at worst, Keyser is covering up his record. Via Frank, Neville points to a vote in April last year in which Keyser sided with Democrats to defeat a longshot procedural attempt to keep a bill repealing the 2013 magazine limit alive. If Keyser manages to emerge from the “clown car” pack of Republican candidates and present a serious challenge for the nomination, we fully expect Neville and Dudley Brown to turn Keyser into a new Michael Bloomberg on the strength of that one single vote.

And it’ll work, too. This is what the Brown/Neville political machine does best.

Coloradans To Sen. Cory Gardner: #DoYourJob

(Promoted by Colorado Pols)

Gardner-MorningJoe-22416With new polling released today showing the American public rejects the right-wing stonewalling of President Barack Obama’s Supreme Court nominee, ProgressNow Colorado, the state’s largest online progressive advocacy organization, delivered a petition with nearly 1,300 names and hundreds of comments from Coloradans to Sen. Cory Gardner demanding he do his job and give Chief Judge Garland a fair hearing.

“It was a risky gamble for the far right to vow to block any nominee President Obama put forward, and today the polls show the American people reject this latest act of partisan obstruction by the Republican Party,” said ProgressNow political director Alan Franklin. “The message we’ve heard from progressives in Colorado is loud and clear: we can’t wait until 2017 for a new Supreme Court Justice. It’s time for Republicans in the U.S. Senate to set aside their endless vitriol against America’s first black President and do their jobs.”

Here are just a few of the hundreds of messages to Sen. Gardner from Colorado voters received by ProgressNow Colorado:

Robert in Denver: “It is not unprecedented for a president to nominate a SCOTUS replacement during an election year. Do your job–you know, the one the tax payers are paying you to do, and carry out your Constitutional responsibility.”

Jacquelyn in Boulder: “It is not likely you will have the courage to do the right thing. I have yet to meet an independent Republican. You love to talk of the Constitution, but will not even give a nominee a hearing. It is disgraceful. If it were up to me, none of you would get your paycheck. Most of us would be fired immediately if we did our job the way your party does. I will spend as much shoe leather as I can afford to defeat you and your obstructionist colleagues.”

Sharon in Palmer Lake: “If it was good enough for Reagan to nominate someone for the Supreme Court during his last years…it is also good enough for President Obama to do the same thing. Shame on you and the others who are not willing to work together according to the U.S. Constitution.”

Curt in Denver: “Ronald Reagan was the last president to nominate a Supreme Court justice in the year prior to an election…it is ridiculous for Mitch McConnell to block a nomination to the Court by President Obama. Leaving the Court in limbo is unprecedented. Election year politics have no place in your obligation to advise and consent to Obama’s nomination to the Supreme Court.”

Garrett in Pueblo: “I find it interesting for all of Republicans’ rhetoric about following the Constitution, that you are not willing to follow it in this case and give Judge Merrick Garland a hearing. No one is suggesting that you must accept his nomination–you can always vote ‘no.’ But to deny him a hearing and an ‘up or down’ vote is to disregard the Constitution and to make up the rules as you go along. We all have our jobs to do–now do yours. Give Judge Merrick Garland the hearing he deserves.”

To read more comments from Colorado voters to Sen. Cory Gardner, click here.

“The response from Cory Gardner and Republicans in Washington to the election of Barack Obama as President almost eight years ago has been to wage endless partisan warfare against him, which has done enormous damage to our nation and our politics,” said Franklin. A new poll today [1] shows that Republicans are rapidly losing public support for their refusal to even hold hearings on Judge Garland’s nomination. The message from Colorado voters to Cory Gardner and the Republican Party could not be clearer: do your job. If they refuse, November is coming fast.”