DeGette Stands Up For Colorado Voters, Hickenlooper Not So Much

ABC News follows up on the passage of Amendment 64, legalizing marijuana in Colorado:

Voters in Colorado and Washington pushed the limits even further when they approved ballot measures Tuesday allowing adults over 21 to possess small amounts of marijuana under state regulation and taxation.

Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper has said Colorado will respect the will of voters but added that he was awaiting word from the U.S. Department of Justice on how to proceed.

“In a situation like this, where our law is at loggerheads with federal law, my primary job is to listen first,” the governor said.

Hickenlooper opposed the ballot measure and has downplayed the likelihood of a commercial marijuana market materializing in Colorado.

“Based on federal law, if it’s still illegal under federal law, I can’t imagine that 7-Eleven is ever going to sell it,” he said.

In a Denver paper editorial today, we’re told of a new amendment to the federal Controlled Substances Act proposed by Rep. Diana DeGette that would simply exempt state laws regarding pot. It’s odd to learn of such a thing from an editorial as opposed to a news story, but we expect advocates for Amendment 64 will be happy to see it nonetheless.

So where does that leave Gov. Hickenlooper? Considerably less proactive, folks.

Hickenlooper’s first response to the passage of Amendment 64 was to warn proponents “don’t break out the Cheetos and gold fish too quickly.” Hickenlooper probably thought he was being cute, but doesn’t that seem a little insulting to the 53% of Colorado voters who approved this? Certainly not all of those voters were pot smokers with the munchies–they had other, more serious reasons for voting to legalize marijuana.

Like ending a failed policy that has needlessly criminalized millions of people.

On Friday, Gov. Hickenlooper and state Attorney General John Suthers, who has pledged to implement Amendment 64, had an inconclusive phone call with U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder. Again, Amendment 64’s advocates are showing restraint in their public comments, but there is a sense that Hickenlooper is almost hoping the feds will put the kibosh on Amendment 64, and is purposefully not doing enough to support the will of the voters here.

With all of that in mind, and especially given Gov. Hickenlooper’s charge to uphold the will of Colorado voters–more directly his responsibility than DeGette’s–we think he should strongly consider adopting a more aggressive stand. We certainly aren’t downplaying the conflict between state and federal law, obviously that’s the 800-pound gorilla in the room.

But for Gov. Hickenlooper to more or less insult an electoral majority, while meekly awaiting the edict of federal law enforcement on Amendment 64, makes him appear feckless and contemptuous of the same Colorado voters who elected him–even more of whom, we are obliged to point out, voted to legalize marijuana than voted for John Hickenlooper in 2010.

Bottom line: on this issue, like marriage equality for gay and lesbian people, reproductive rights for women, and sane immigration reform, we see a new majority consensus emerging with generational change. The issues aren’t related except in the respect that the voters are really beginning now to act against what they see as wrong–and reject politicians who don’t.

Which side do you think Hickenlooper should be on?

Consumers Saved $99 million in 2011 Under Payday Lending Reforms

(And they’ve stopped spamming us, too – promoted by Colorado Pols)

$99 million.

That’s how much Colorado consumers saved in 2011 thanks to changes in the state’s payday lending law, according to data in a report released Monday by Attorney General John Suthers.

The report shows the impact of the first full year of reforms, which were a major achievement of the 2010 legislative session. A key feature of the reforms is a minimum six-month term for payday loans, which gives borrowers an opportunity to pay them off without rollovers.

According to data in Suthers’ report, consumers saved an average of $223.90 per loan on 444,333 loans, for a total savings of $99.5 million. The report says that about 77 percent of loans were paid in full before their maturity date.  

The report also shows that the number of loans dropped almost 60 percent, from 1.1 million in 2010 to 444,333 in 2011; the dollar amount of those loans fell from $409 million to $167 million.

The numbers show that consumers had an easier time of managing the loans. In 2010, about a third of all loans were refinanced or rolled over, resulting in additional fees. In 2011, after the reforms, there were none.

“The attorney general’s report shows that 2010’s reforms are helping hard-working Colorado families. They are saving money, which will help meet basic needs, and this money will stay in the community,” said Rich Jones, the Bell’s director of policy and research, who worked on the reforms as part of Coloradans for Payday Lending Reform.

Here is a comparison of costs and fees after reforms, according to the attorney general, and costs and fees under the previous law:

Actual fees for 2011 (from AG’s report)

Origination fee           $40.37

Actual interest           $31.56

Monthly maintenance fee   $50.84

Total loan costs          $122.77

Cost under old law (from AG’s press release)

Number of loans (average 104-day borrowing period)   5.78

Cost per loan (average finance charge)   $60

Total loan costs (5.78 x $60)   $346.67

Savings under the new law

Savings per loan      $223.90

Total payday loans    444,333

Total statewide savings $99,484,678

Fun With Press Releases: You’ll Be Rapping in Jail!

We get a lot of press releases here at Colorado Pols. While some are good, others are, well…not. The following press release falls into the latter category. The office of Attorney General John Suthers seems pretty excited about the fact that one of the people convicted was a “rapper.”

The Colorado Attorney General’s Office announced today that an Adams County District Court jury found six individuals, including the rapper known as “Dame Fame” of Brighton, Colorado, guilty in a pattern of racketeering activity. The six committed credit card and bank fraud as well as aggravated motor vehicle theft. They were all found under the Colorado Organized Crime Control Act. The verdict was returned on September 20, 2012.

“This rapper and his group of cohorts engaged in a multi-state crime ring to steal and intimidate,” said Attorney General John Suthers. [Pols emphasis] “We’re pleased the jury recognized this criminal enterprise and held the perpetrators responsible.”

Sounds pretty scary, eh?

We don’t profess to know much about the current state of “rap music,” but “Dame Fame” (real name Stacy Damon Harris) doesn’t even have an album available on iTunes. He seems to be a “rapper” like your cousin who waits tables in New York City is an “actor.”

So why does Suthers go out of his way to define Harris as a “rapper?” The press release doesn’t indicate how being a “rapper” relates to the crimes committed (full release after the jump), which adds an unnecessary tinge of racial and class bias.

Put it this way: if Harris worked at Starbucks, would Suthers have said, “This barista and his group of cohorts…”

Somehow we doubt it.


DENVER – The Colorado Attorney General’s Office announced today that an Adams County District Court jury found six individuals, including the rapper known as “Dame Fame” of Brighton, Colorado, guilty in a pattern of racketeering activity. The six committed credit card and bank fraud as well as aggravated motor vehicle theft. They were all found under the Colorado Organized Crime Control Act. The verdict was returned on September 20, 2012.

“This rapper and his group of cohorts engaged in a multi-state crime ring to steal and intimidate,” said Attorney General John Suthers. “We’re pleased the jury recognized this criminal enterprise and held the perpetrators responsible.”  

Beginning in July 2009, Stacy Damon Harris, a.k.a. Dame Fame (38 years old); Tangelar Annette Houston, a.k.a Tangie Houston (36 years old); Dumarco Marty, a.k.a. Deco (23 years old); Salina Patrice Lactaoen (24 years old); Darnell Plazmarell Meal (24 years old) and Tenisha Nicole Kuykendall (35 years old) began operating a national bank fraud ring. Harris was the leader of the enterprise and coordinated the details of the scheme defrauding the Dolores State Bank, Montrose Bank, Valley Bank & Trust, Colorado Community Bank, Montrose Bank as well as stealing from other commercial businesses including Enterprise Rent-a-Car.

Harris directed the members of the enterprise to commit crimes and then kept significant proceeds of stolen money and merchandise for himself. Muzi obtained phone numbers that were placed on the fraudulent credit cards and used to facilitate the thefts. Houston and Alder answered phones and deceived bank employees into manually overriding the bank computers for cash advances and/or other merchandise purchases. Alder is alleged to have advised the group where to target its activity and Marty and Stenschke recruited people, including Lactaoen, to go into businesses to complete the fraudulent transactions. Lactaoen and Harris then presented fraudulent credit cards to get cash and other merchandise. Meals and Kuykendall received the stolen money via money wires and turned most of the stolen funds over to the higher ranking enterprise members. In total, the value of their crimes in Colorado equaled approximately $30,000.  

The group originated in California and committed their crimes in Colorado, Illinois, Missouri, Nebraska, North Dakota, Utah and Wisconsin. The Colorado Bureau of Investigation was the lead investigating agency and worked in cooperation with the Cortez Police Department. The Office of the Attorney General prosecuted the case in the District Court City and County of Denver. Sentencing will occur on November 26, 2012 at 8:30 a.m..

TABOR Challenge May Continue, Says Federal Judge

Big news breaking this morning on TABOR. As Tim Hoover of the Denver newspaper reports, a federal judge rejected arguments from Attorney General John Suthers intended to prevent a legal challenge to the 1994 ballot measure that greatly restricts the State’s ability to raise and spend money.

Today’s decision means that the lawsuit will be heading for a trial. At issue is whether TABOR violates a U.S. Constitutional guarantee that every state is guaranteed a republican form of government as opposed to a direct democracy (where citizens govern themselves, essentially).  

Gessler’s brazen partisanship should make even the Mike Rosens of the world mad

(Split to fit…more after the fold – promoted by ClubTwitty)

As Secretary of State Scott Gessler’s term drags on, you’d think even the stomachs of conservatives like KOA’s Mike Rosen would turn when Gessler re-launches the partisan attacks he’s been on about since day one in office.

Maybe you wouldn’t expect Rosen to be sick of it, but everyone else, yes?

It’s almost laughable to suggest again that Gessler should take his office seriously and start sounding like our state’s top election official, instead of like a Republican attack dog, because no one expects Gessler to change his ways at this point.

But still, his partisan rhetoric is, to use an over-used word in political commentary, unacceptable, and even the likes of Rosen should call him on it.

For example, on Rosen’s show last week, Rosen read Gessler a Denver Post quote from Joanne Kron Schwartz, the Director of the progressive group ProgressNow, saying that Gessler’s attempt to find noncitizens on the voter rolls could intimidate some eligible voters, particularly Latinos, and result in their not voting.

A Secretary of State in his right mind, who wants people to have faith in elections, would answer Schwartz’s reasonable objection with a fact-based response, sticking to his lines about how the voting rolls must be scrutinized.

But Gessler’s immediate response sounds like something Rush Limbaugh might blast out.

“Unfortunately this is part of the left’s common tactic,” Gessler told Rosen, “just to scream voter intimidation whenever anything comes up they don’t like.”

Let me just say, I’m part of the left and I don’t scream voter intimidation “whenever anything comes up” that I don’t like. I never scream it at my 15-year-old son, for example, when he leaves a pig-pen-like trail of debris around the house.

Maybe Gessler means to say that the left is too concerned about voter intimidation.

But why would you expect a person with Gessler’s job title to stick to a measured response?

Gessler’s un-statesmanship continued, with Rosen’s approval:

Gessler: “I mean if you look back, back in 2004, you know, the Kerry-Edwards presidential campaign actually published a Colorado election-day manual, and in that, they specifically said, if no signs of intimidation techniques have emerged yet, launch a preemptive strike. And they go through a whole list of things where the Democrats are supposed to launch a preemptive strike, accusing Republicans of intimidation, rounding up minority people. And that’s their word. It says, quote minority leadership denouncing tactics that discourage people from voting. So it’s really sort of a cynical way for the Democrats to try and rile up, and I should say the left as well, to rile up their base by making these accusations whether or not there are any facts to support it.”

Even if you accept Gessler’s facts about the Kerry-Edwards campaign, and why should you, do you really want your secretary of state to dismiss a historically legitimate concern about voter intimidation by accusing Democrats of cynically riling up their base?

It’s this sort of brazen partisanship that, at the end of the day, is Gessler’s core downfall as Secretary of State, epitomized in Gessler’s quote to the Greeley Tribune about his job: “You’re here to do something, to further the conservative viewpoint.”

We can disagree with his loose-with-the-facts style, and priorities, but his sullying of the office is what kills me most-and should even kill a civic-minded guy like Rosen.

“You have to sort of wonder at the motivations,” Gessler said later in the interview, speculating about the evil leftists that seem to haunt him. “I think a lot of times, what they are trying to do is play the race card, play the disenfranchisement card, and use it as a political talking point to rile up their base.”

Thanks, Rush Gessler.

DHS Hands Gessler Voter Purge Victory?

UPDATE: Colorado Secretary of State Scott Gessler praises the decision in a brief statement:

“As Colorado’s chief election official, protecting our elections is my top priority. I’m pleased that DHS has agreed to work with states to verify the citizenship of people on the voter rolls and help reduce our vulnerability. Coloradans deserve to know we have these most basic protections for election integrity.”


There are conflicting opinions this morning about the full meaning of a decision this weekend by the federal Department of Homeland Security to cooperate, with important restrictions, with the state of Florida’s request for information on non-citizens their Republican governor and Secretary of State believe may be illegally registered to vote. Politico reports today on what will soon most likely be a major story in Colorado:

Florida Gov. Rick Scott said Monday an agreement between the Sunshine State and the Department of Homeland Security “creates a path” for other states to purge their voter rolls of non-citizens.

An agreement Sunday between DHS and Florida Secretary of State Ken Detzner gives Florida access to the federal SAVE – Systematic Alien Verification for Entitlements – database, which should allow the purge to restart. The database lists legal immigrants and green card-holders who aren’t eligible to vote. It doesn’t contain the names of illegal immigrants…

“The right to vote is a sacred right,” Scott said. “We gotta make sure a U.S. citizen’s right to vote is not diluted.”

…Five presidential swing states – Ohio, Michigan, North Carolina, Colorado and Nevada – are among those hoping to use the DHS database to check their own voter rolls, according to CNN and the Associated Press.

“Hopefully,” Scott said, the agreement “creates a path for other states that have the same concerns.” [Pols emphasis]

We talked this past weekend about the related request from Colorado Secretary of State Scott Gessler for access to information about some 5,000 registered voters he believes may be illegally registered. Based on a “spot check” of immigration detainee records from local jails, Gessler found 85 possibly illegally registered voters, 29 of whom may have voted since 2010. We haven’t seen any response from Gessler yet to DHS’s agreement with Florida, but there’s a possibility that he won’t find it adequate. Even if he does, everything we said about the possibility of “matching mistakes” made by Gessler doing harm in excess of the “gain” of purging a tiny number of illegal voters applies–mitigated only by the restrictions from DHS impeding that.

Like we said, this is more a question of motives. Previous evidence submitted by Gessler has been found wanting based on the normal rate of naturalization of new citizens. Gessler’s “spot check” uncovered possible problem registrations that, while important, must be put in perspective with all kinds of benign errors that occur in every election. How many babies can tolerably be thrown out with the proverbial bathwater? Is one too many?

Gov. Rick Scott makes clear above which side of the debate he’s arguing from, “dilution,” and Gessler will no doubt agree–with Colorado’s GOP Attorney General John Suthers. A different variable in Colorado is the fact that our governor is a Democrat, and John Hickenlooper could change the game here if he decides to start questioning the process (or motives).

We’ll update when we have a clearer sense what this fluid story means here in Colorado.

GOP Setting Up Metro State For Election Year Grandstand?

FOX 31’s Eli Stokols reports:

Republican Attorney General John Suthers issued a formal opinion Tuesday afternoon that Metro State College of Denver cannot legally create a new, lower category of tuition for undocumented students.

The school’s Board of Trustees voted 7-1 earlier this month to do just that, reigniting the debate over tuition equity just a couple of months after state lawmakers again killed a bill that aimed to make college more affordable for qualifying illegal immigrants…

Metro State’s President, Dr. Stephen Jordan, and Trustee Melody Harris are set to meet Wednesday afternoon with the Joint Budget Committee at the Capitol after Chairwoman Cheri Gerou requested a meeting to determine how the school decided to move ahead with its proposal.

“My goal is not to make this any more political than it already is,” said Gerou Tuesday. “I just want to find out what Metro’s thought process was, why they decided to do this, because they never hinted they were going down this road when they presented to us before.”

As the state’s only 4-year open enrollment “college of opportunity,” downtown Denver’s Metro State would always have been one of the more affected schools from any legislation or policy change easing the burden on undocumented students. Metro’s comparatively low tuition, and relatively high dependence on state funding compared to other institutions, make the school naturally more vulnerable to the political whim of legislators holding the purse strings.

Proponents say there is legal precedent for Metro’s policy change, and point to a California Supreme Court decision, Martinez vs. Board of Regents of the University of California, which held that “exemption from nonresident tuition did not violate statute prohibiting education benefits to unlawful aliens on basis of residence.” An appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court was denied.

Regardless, after Attorney General John Suthers’ non-binding advisory opinion yesterday, there is a great deal of attention focusing on this afternoon’s meeting of the legislative Joint Budget Committee. GOP JBC chair Rep. Cheri Gerou has come uncomfortably close to making threats to Metro State’s funding in news coverage of Metro State’s original decision. There are differing opinions as to the range of options Republicans on the JBC might entertain to deal with this “problem.” But given the free-wheeling lack of discretion with legislative power we’ve seen this year, it’s probably wise to not rule anything out in advance of today’s meeting.

Suthers Forces Lower North Fork Fire Bill Compromise

The AP reports via the Durango Herald:

Colorado legislators agreed Thursday with a compromise suggestion from Attorney General John Suthers, a Republican who chastised members of his own party in the state House for seeking a way to give victims of the Lower North Fork Fire compensation beyond the $600,000 allowed under the Colorado Governmental Immunity Act.

Some Democrats agreed with Suthers, setting up a potentially ugly political confrontation in the closing days of the Colorado Legislature. Suthers’ proposal was to keep the liability cap, but add state-set fires to the exemptions.

The proposal would allow fire victims to seek amounts greater than $600,000 while preserving the overall liability cap, which is in place to protect state taxpayers from unlimited payments in damage claims.

So ends what might otherwise have been an ugly fight between a Republican Attorney General and the GOP-controlled Colorado House. We’ve said all along that there was a powerful case for fairly compensating the victims of the Lower North Fork Fire, but to do so with legislation that only pertains to the one event would be unfair, cheap, political–and as Suthers says, illegal.

With this solution, these and future fire victims in similar circumstances will be fairly compensated, and we’re a bit baffled as to why the House GOP didn’t come up with it originally.

But this whole GOP in favor of bigger damage awards thing is kind of weird for everybody.

Suthers Tries To Screw Shut McNulty’s Can of Worms

The AP reports via the Durango Herald:

The Colorado Attorney General’s office issued a firm warning to lawmakers Tuesday, saying a Republican bill to compensate victims of a deadly wildfire could violate constitutional provision aimed at preventing favoritism.

Assistant Solicitor General Frederick R. Yarger said what lawmakers are considering “cannot possibly be applied to any other class of individuals,” putting the legislation at “significant risk” of violating state law.

That law banning special legislation is “intended to curb favoritism” from lawmakers and block unnecessary laws for limited circumstances.

Yarger’s letter comes on the day the House gave initial OK to the bill. It would create a commission to hold hearings on the events surrounding the Lower North Fork Fire last month and recommend payments to victims.

Our view on this bill hasn’t changed: Republicans have a powerful emotional case on their side for the state abandoning the $600,000 liability cap on damages payable from the Lower North Fork Fire, which began as a controlled burn but ended up destroying homes and killing three people. There is no question with whom the overwhelming majority of voters will sympathize.

The objection from GOP Attorney General John Suthers, in our view, sums up the real problem for Republicans supporting this bill–whether out of genuine compassion, a cynical vote-buying exercise, or whatever the reason is. Why should these victims, as legitimately aggrieved as they may be, be treated differently than any other victim in a similar situation?

First answer that question, then there will be more questions. Should the state have a liability cap at all? What about all the liability caps in the private sector the GOP supports? This is what happens when you jettison your principles for an knee-jerk political grandstand.

Those principles come back to bite you.

In Which Frank McNulty Opens a Can of Worms

9NEWS’ Jeffrey Wolf reports:

Exactly one month after the Lower North Fork Fire started, Colorado House Republicans introduced legislation late Thursday aimed at compensating victims…

“We’re going to move forward, the governor can catch up with us when it gets to his desk,” Republican House Speaker Frank McNulty said on Tuesday while announcing a plan by House Republicans to ignore established limits on what the state will pay.

The state caps liability claims at $150,000 per person and a total maximum of $600,000 per incident…

One fellow Republican strongly disagrees.

“Needless to say they’re not happy with me,” Attorney General John Suthers (R-Colorado) said. “But I don’t think it’s a good idea and I’m not going to say it’s otherwise because they happen to be Republicans.”

Suthers says lawmakers should raise the cap if they don’t think it’s fair, not ignore it for high-profile cases, because the hard truth is it’s not that uncommon for people get hurt or die because of something the state did. [Pols emphasis]

We were quite surprised on Tuesday to see a release from the Colorado House GOP announcing this bill to compensate victims of the Lower North Fork Fire, a state-conducted controlled burn that got out of control, killed three people, and destroyed dozens of homes near Conifer–above and beyond the $600,000 cap on the state’s aggregate liability under the Colorado Government Immunity Act. The biggest reason this move didn’t make sense is the way it undermines a host of other Republican arguments in favor of limiting liability.

Now that the House GOP has opened that discussion in a desire to capitalize politically on this disaster, other Republicans, like Attorney General John Suthers, are understandably getting nervous about where this is going. For one thing, the commission is charged with “investigating” the circumstances of this specific fire. Isn’t that redundant to the investigations that have already been carried out or are underway? And if there’s going to be an independent investigative body looking into the disaster, shouldn’t it be…independent from the state?

In fact there are a whole slew of procedural questions that come to mind, which like we said on Tuesday is very hard to morally oppose. But above all, why shouldn’t this process be taking a harder look at the Government Immunity Act, like Suthers suggests above? We’ve already agreed on principle that these victims should be adequately compensated for their loss by the state. Why shouldn’t this “opportunity” be used to fully examine the Colorado Government Immunity Act, to see if this arbitrary cap on liability is fair on a fundamental level?

No, folks, the Lower North Fork Fire might not be where it ends. Why should it be?

And what about Colorado’s other notorious damage caps in all kinds of personal injury and wrongful-death cases, known as “some of the strictest damage cap provisions of any state?” Do McNulty’s sweeping statements about “responsibility” not apply to the private sector?

When you think about it, it’s easy to understand why John Suthers is freaking out, isn’t it?

On Radio, McNulty says ASSET isn’t ok under federal law, but Suthers says it is

( – promoted by Colorado Pols)

On KHOW’s Caplis and Silverman show Wednesday, Republican House Speaker Frank McNulty tried to make the argument that it’s illegal to give undocumented college students a more affordable tuition rate.

Citing federal laws, McNulty said he doesn’t support “picking and choosing which laws we follow and which laws are okay to ignore.”

“Sure,” McNulty told co-host Craig Silverman.  “I get pulled over for speeding. I get a ticket. I pay my ticket. I have points taken off of my license. So there are penaltties there for ignoring the law.”

“Right,” Silverman responded. “But if your kid is in the car, he doesn’t get a ticket.  You do.”

“Well, that’s true,” McNulty answered and quickly tried to move the conversation back toward picking and choosing laws.

It was a good point by Silverman, and he made it better than I could have, on a show that’s become more and more one-sided these days, when it comes to political topics.

Silverman could have sharpened his questioning earlier in the interview, when McNulty said:

McNulty: “And you know what?  I get it!  I get that these kids are here through no fault of their own. And I understand that that is, that that has a level of compassion that many of us share.  But the bottom line is, the law is the law.  And to say that we’re going to ignore the law in this one simple case, flies in the face of what our nation was founded on and is the main reason why I’m opposed to it.”

Neither Caplis nor Silverman pointed out that the legislation has passed in 13 other states, including Texas.

And even Colorado Attorney General John Suthers admitted on KOA’s Mike Rosen’s Show March 12 that the ASSET bill would be permissable under federal law, though Suthers said he didn’t like the way the bill was devised, saying it was “a complete run-around these two federal statutes.”

Suthers: As I say, twelve states have enacted similar legislation:  Texas, California, Utah, New York, Washington, Illinois, Kansas, New Mexico, Nebraska, Wisconsin, Maryland, and Connecticut.  Two cases have been filed.  In California, students paying out-of-state tuition attending California universities filed a lawsuit saying this is just an end-around and I’m still being discriminated against.  The District Court in California said, “No.”  The California Court of Appeals reinstated the lawsuit.  But in November of 2010 the California Supreme Court upheld this method for providing in-state tuition, and said it did not conflict with federal law.  And on June 6, 2011, the United States Supreme Court denied cert in that case.  A similar case was brought by a Missouri resident who was attending college in Kansas, saying that they were being denied the status, and it was unlawful discrimination under federal law, and that case was dismissed for lack of standing, and the U.S. Supreme Court declined cert, way back in June of 2008.

Suthers called ASSET “lawyering at its finest, or worse, depending on your perspective,” but he said it’s legal.

So next time McNulty or another Republican is on Caplis and Silverman, and he or she says how sympathetic they are toward the poor undocumented kids, but, like McNulty said, sorry, the law is the law, so nothing can be done, Caplis and Silverman should pipe up and say, yes, the law is the law, and ASSET is legal.

What are your other reasons for opposing it?

For this year, though, it’s too late to correct McNulty and open the door for him to be the compassionate man he wants to be.

Suthers doesn’t like a federal mandate unless it’s done his way

( – promoted by Colorado Pols)

Colorado Attorney General John Suthers was all over the media last week, talking about what a terrible thing it would be if the federal government forced Americans to buy health insurance.

But in an email back in 2010, Suthers told The Denver Post’s Vincent Carroll that it wasn’t the federal health insurance mandate itself that bothered him, from a legal perspective, but how the mandate was instituted.

In the email, obtained via that Colorado Opens Record Act by Colorado Ethics Watch, Suthers wrote to Carroll:

“The way to constitutionally mandate health insurance would be to incentivize the states to do it,” Suthers wrote.

There’s nothing wrong with a lawyer wanting things done in accordance with how he sees the law, but let’s be clear that Suthers’ federal incentives, if they’re devised to “mandate health insurance,” as Suthers suggests, are simply a more polite form of Obama’s Commerce-Clause mandate.

Conservative objections about alleged federal intrusion or alleged lost individual freedom would,  as a practical matter, be nearly identical if the health-insurance mandate were the result of federal incentives or federal powers under the Commerce Clause.

Either way, it’s federal action, which makes you wonder why Suthers gleefully told KNUS’ Steve Kelley in November:

“Federalism has been on life support for 30 years. We are going to decide if the Court is going to pull the plug or resuscitate it. That is what this case is all about.”

Really? How does that square with Suthers’ view that the feds could accomplish the health-care mandate with incentives?

Anyway, in his media tour last week, Suthers told KHOW’s Craig Silverman that “it shouldn’t be the federal government pushing this down our throats.” But again, this sounds hollow when you know that Suthers simply wants federal throat-pushing of a different manner.

Suthers also told Silverman that the expansion of Medicaid under Obmamcare, as a vehicle to cover uninsured people, is a state burden that’s “so coercive as to violate federalism.” Yet, he told Carroll that a health-care mandate could be achieved with state incentives. If he believes the incentives are constitutional, then you’d think he’d have to believe the Medicaid expansion would be constitutional as well.

In the broader picture, and this is the take-away from Suthers’ behind-the-scenes correspondence with Carroll, conservatives should not be fooled into thinking that Suthers, by joining the lawsuit to stop Obamacare, is taking a principled stand against an alleged loss of individual freedom. He’s clearly not. It’s just this legal pathway he dislikes.

For Suthers, it’s the form, not the substance.

Email exchange between Denver Post columnist Vincent Carroll and Colorado Attorney General John Suthers, March 23, 2010

Suthers: Vince, I’m curious. I understood from my conversation with Alicia Caldwell that the editorial board doesn’t think there is anything unprecedented about Congress using the Commerce Clause to sanction economic activity and force you to buy a product or service it deems beneficial. Even the Congressional Budget Office told Congress that was unprecedented. If Congress can sanction your commercial activity and force you to buy a product, where does it end? Can you enlighten me a bit?

Carroll: I am not sure what our official position will be regarding whether forcing Americans to buy health care insurance is an unprecedented action by the federal government. As you know, though, the Post’s editorials have repeatedly backed a universal mandate, so it is extremely unlikely that the page would now argue that what it has been advocating is unconstitutional. Like many people, I too worry about what a court decision upholding the legislation would say about the reach of the commerce clause. But given recent legal precedents, I suspect the court would uphold the law.

Suthers: One last point. The way to constitutionally mandate health insurance would be to incentivize the states to do it.

“Obamacare’s” Big Week

Our friends at the Washington Post report:

The Supreme Court began its constitutional review of the health-care overhaul law Monday with a fundamental question: Is the court barred from making such a decision at this time?

After decisions on other cases were announced, the justices started hearing 90 minutes of argument about whether an obscure 19th-century law – the Anti-Injunction Act – means that the court cannot pass judgment on the law until its key provisions go into effect in 2014.

It is the rare issue on which both sides agree: the Obama administration lawyers and those representing the states and private organization challenging the new law argue that the Supreme Court should decide the constitutional question now.

The question being argued today is just a preliminary match to the main event, of course:

At the heart of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act is the requirement that almost all Americans obtain health insurance by 2014 or pay a penalty.

But first they’ve got to figure out of they can do that before someone actually has to pay that penalty. Since both sides agree they would rather not wait until 2015, we assume the Supreme Court will agree that the penalty isn’t a “tax” in the formal sense. This concession to expediency, largely by the Obama administration who could have argued that nothing can be challenged until such a penalty had actually been levied (that is, well after re-election), might have repercussions down the road–but the administration’s decision to press for a Supreme Court decision is said to reflect their confidence that the court won’t upend decades of Commerce Clause precedent to strike an admittedly massive blow against an incumbent President in an election year.

Opponents including Colorado Attorney General John Suthers very much hope they would do that–and would happily pick up the pieces of federal law later.

Safe to say, the immediate political stakes are rarely this high. A poll follows.

[poll id=”1445″]

AG Suthers supports PILLS that KILL

Nonmedical use of painkillers in Colorado is 19 percent higher than the national average, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. TO ILLUSTRATE THE “EPIDEMIC” NATURE OF OPIOID ABUSE, THE CDC SAID ENOUGH OF THE PAINKILLE…RS WERE SOLD IN 2010 TO MEDICATE EVERY AMERICAN ADULT WITH A TYPICAL 5-MILLIGRAM DOSE OF HYDROCODONE EVERY FOUR HOURS FOR A MONTH.…


Will someone explain to me why the Attorney General is focused on pot when his Big Pharma campaign contributors are killing Coloradoans at an alarming rate?

Will someone explain to me why people are in jail for choosing to smoke pot to ease pain?

Will someone explain to me why we are so supportive of whatever Big Pharma makes billions of dollars on, yet we choose not to protect the public?

On radio, Suthers says legal mandate to give undocumented kids public education is bogus

( – promoted by Colorado Pols)

KOA’s Mike Rosen agreed with Colorado Attorney General John Suthers Thursday that the legal decision forcing states to offer a grade-school education to undocumented children is bogus.

If you don’t think this tidbit deserves to be my first blog post of the week, you would be wrong.

The federal requirement to give a basic education to all children, regardless of immigration status, is a long-settled legal matter.

No reporter, no teacher, no chef, no mom, no dad, not even a Republican talk-radio host, should let Colorado’s top-dog lawyer trash this Supreme Court decision in favor of undocumented kids without any discussion or scrutiny whatsoever.

Too much is at stake. We’re talking about grade-school education for some of the most vulnerable children in our country. And Suthers’s unsympathetic tone on Rosen’s radio show seems to indicate that it’s not just the legal issues that bother him, but the notion that children of illegal immigrants should be offered a public-school education in the world’s richest nation.

Here’s what Suthers had to say on the topic, which came up during a discussion of  the ASSET bill, granting a tuition break to children of illegal immigrants, which Suthers called the “a complete run around” of two federal statutes.

Colorado Attorney General John Suthers: For some incredible reason, in 1982, the United States Supreme Court in a case called Plyler v. Doe, I think it was a San Antonio case, said any child regardless of immigration status is eligible for a free primary or secondary education. I’ve never been able to find that in the United States Constitution, but they said it’s in the 14th Amendment.

Rosen: Yes, which was all about slavery by the way, but that’s another story.

Rosen should have Suthers back on his radio show to illuminate more details on this topic, and, meanwhile, Rosen should bring a guest on air who will defend the basic humanity — and legal reasoning — for giving undocumented children a public-school education.