Caption This Photo: The Face of Fear

MONDAY UPDATE: TBS’ Samantha Bee immortalizes Jon Keyser’s meltdown:

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UPDATE: You knew the remix would not be far behind. From a real high school student, so you know it’s cool:

 

 

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Here’s an animated .GIF to remember: the first few telling seconds of Denver7 reporter Marshall Zelinger’s confrontation with GOP U.S. Senate candidate Jon Keyser over allegedly fraudulent petition signatures submitted by his campaign. It’s all about that subtle look of sheer terror that breaks across Keyser’s face, for just a brief fleeting moment until he regains his robotic composure:

keyserfear

No matter how little sympathy you may feel for Keyser, you know that look.

MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow Destroys Jon Keyser

After a wild week in local news, the rapidly escalating scandal over allegedly forged petitions that helped Republican U.S. Senate candidate Jon Keyser qualify for the 2016 primary ballot made its way to MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow last night.

There’s really nothing quite like an in-depth Rachel Maddow takedown:

Maddow replays lots of details from Denver7 reporter Marshall Zelinger’s reports this week, including Tuesday’s story breaking the existence of many more forged petitions than the first example uncovered over a week before. She goes on to discuss Keyser’s disastrous public appearances Thursday, in which Maddow reports Keyser’s recitation of the words “I’m on the ballot” a total of thirteen times between the debate and Keyser’s calamitous interview with Zelinger afterward.

The point of all this, and this is where Maddow takes the question above the back-and-forth of local news and punditry, is that Colorado’s U.S. Senate race is pretty much the only GOP hope of picking up a Senate seat–in a year that is increasingly looking like a rout for the Republican Party, from Donald Trump all the way down the ticket. Keyser has been successfully sold to the Republican Party elite in Colorado and Washington, D.C. as the only contender who can challenge incumbent Democratic Sen. Michael Bennet in November. With the national Republican Party much more straightforward these days about “meddling” in primary races to avert further Todd Akin (or for that matter, Ken Buck) catastrophes, and with no big name like Cory Gardner to turn to, the decision had already been made to fall in behind Keyser.

Today, after almost two weeks of nightmarishly bad press, and having metastasized into a nationwide press spectacle after Keyser boorishly horrified every reporter in America on Thursday, the decision by Republican kingpins to vest their hopes for taking out Bennet in Jon Keyser looks like a very bad decision indeed. Whether Keyser is forced to withdraw from the race or he limps on to defeat in June, this once-promising “wunderkind” is politically done for. At best, maybe he takes a Scott McInnis-style sabbatical and reappears someday to run for Delta County Jefferson County commissioner.

And to Democrats reveling in Keyser’s destruction, we’d say it’s time to shift focus to the candidates left standing.

BREAKING: Extensive Fraud Uncovered In Keyser Senate Petitions


UPDATE: Marshall Zelinger’s story is up. It is without exaggeration one of the most devastating Colorado political news stories we have ever read. Excerpt, needless to say you need to click through and read it in its entirety:

Forged signatures appear on the petition that may have helped former State Rep. Jon Keyser qualify for the U.S. Senate Republican primary ballot…

Denver7 has now confirmed with 10 voters that they did not write their names, addresses and signatures that appear on his petition.

The 10 signatures that voters told Denver7 were forged were collected in Congressional District One, where Keyser was credited with 1,520 valid signatures. If he had turned in fewer than 1,500, he would not have qualified for the primary ballot. [Pols emphasis]…

…”I don’t think this is a liberal stunt, I think it’s backpedalling by the Keyser group to cover their tracks. They got caught and they’re trying to cover it now,” said Niemczyk.

“Do you know who Jon Keyser is?” said Zelinger.

“I do not,” said Niemczyk.

“Do you want to know who he is?” asked Zelinger.

“I do. Probably not for the reasons Jon Keyser wants me to know who he is. I don’t know how anyone could trust you after this,” said Niemczyk.

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Last week, liberal group ProgressNow Colorado held a news conference to announce petition signatures for GOP U.S. Senate candidate Jon Keyser that were wrongly validated by the Secretary of State’s office–a potentially very serious development for Keyser, after he barely qualified for the ballot via a court challenge. GOP Secretary of State Wayne Williams initially ruled Keyser’s petitions insufficient due to problems with a circulator’s credentials, and in addition, Keyser came perilously close to failing to qualify in several congressional districts including Denver’s CD-1.

And then the story got worse.

One of the CD-1 duplicate signatures wrongly accepted for Keyser’s campaign, a Republican voter in Littleton named Pamela Niemczyk. But on easy visual examination, Niemczyk’s signature on the petition for Senate candidate Jack Graham looked nothing like the signature on the petition for Keyser. Using this information, KMGH-TV reporter Marshall Zelinger went to Niemczyk’s home, and obtained a devastating video of this Republican voter accusing Keyser’s campaign of forging her signature.

 

 

In the U.S. Senate race, the last week since ProgressNow Colorado’s presser has mostly been focused on the legal challenges from Robert Blaha and Ryan Frazier–but behind the scenes Zelinger has been working to figure out how many forged signatures we may be talking about. It’s simple reasoning to conclude that, with one fraudulent signature in hand, there must be more. After all, when does something like that only happen once?

Well folks, as it turns out, there’s more. A lot more. We’re waiting for Zelinger’s full reports at 6 and 10PM tonight, but what we can tell you now based on Zelinger’s initial reports is that Jon Keyser’s Senate campaign is now officially on the brink of disaster. Zelinger is reporting at least ten cases now of Republican voters identifying validated Keyser petition signatures as fraudulent.

If that’s true, this is the biggest scandal to impact Colorado Republican electoral politics in many years–far worse than 2010 gubernatorial candidate Scott McInnis’ race-ending plagiarism scandal. The implications for Keyser and the high-level Republican operatives he hired to run his petition drive and campaign are nothing short of calamitous. Without any real scrutiny, the extent of the fraud in these petitions a real criminal investigation may uncover could shake the entire Colorado political world to its foundations.

Withdrawing from the race could be just the beginning of Keyser’s problems now. Stay tuned.

BREAKING: Apparent Fraud Uncovered in U.S. Senate Race

(Promoted by Colorado Pols)

POLS UPDATE #4: The Denver Post’s John Frank:

The signature of one voter, Pam Niemczyk of Littleton, raised particular questions because it appeared on two petitions in different handwriting.

Niemczyk said she remembers signing a petition for Graham outside a local grocery store but not Keyser.

“I have seen my signature for Jack Graham and I have seen my signature for Jon Keyser and I can definitely say the one for Jon Keyser is not my signature,” she said in an interview. “It’s forged.” [Pols emphasis]

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POLS UPDATE #3: Coincidentally, a former candidate for Denver city council was just sentenced today by the Denver District Attorney’s office for falsifying signatures on a petition for ballot access.

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POLS UPDATE #2: Marshall Zelinger at 7NEWS reports, bad news for Jon Keyser:

Pamela Niemczyk of Littleton told Denver7’s Marshall Zelinger on Tuesday that she had signed a petition for Jack Graham, another Republican U.S. Senate candidate. She said the signature on the Keyser petition was not hers, calling it a “fraud.” [Pols emphasis]

…The Keyser campaign issued a statement blasting U.S. Sen. Michael Bennet, the Democratic incumbent whom he and other Republican candidates are vying to challenge in the November general election.

“Senator Michael Bennet’s liberal friends, ProgressNow Colorado, embarrassed his campaign yet again today with a flailing stunt that clearly telegraphs to the entire political world how scared Michael Bennet is to face Jon Keyser in November,” Keyser spokesman Matt Connelly said in the statement. “…The entire political world knows Jon Keyser will be on the ballot and we appreciate Progress Now’s invitation to highlight for conservatives across the country that Jon Keyser is Senator Bennet’s worst nightmare.”

Whether or not it was political stunt, Denver7 confirmed that the Littleton voter said someone forged her signature on the Keyser petition.

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POLS UPDATE: This could be about to get very serious for Jon Keyser, as 7NEWS’ Marshall Zelinger confirms apparent fraud in Keyser’s submitted petitions:

Watch this space for updates, uh-oh…

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With time running out on a temporary injunction against the finalization of the 2016 Republican U.S. Senate primary ballot, ProgressNow Colorado, the state’s largest online progressive advocacy organization, called on the Colorado Secretary of State’s office to re-examine petition signatures submitted in the U.S. Senate race. This request comes after a cursory investigation of the Secretary of State’s own data revealed several invalid petition signatures that evidently slipped through the cracks, and at least one wrongly accepted duplicate signature that appears to be fraudulent.

“Our review of just a sample of Jon Keyser’s petitions in one congressional district has found enough uncaught invalid signatures to raise serious questions about whether Jon Keyser has in fact qualified for the Republican primary ballot,” said ProgressNow Colorado political director Alan Franklin. “The Secretary of State must immediately rescind their statement of sufficiency for Jon Keyser, and request an extension of the temporary injunction now in place to revisit errors and potential fraud in the signature validation process. ‘Close enough’ isn’t good enough for Colorado voters.”

After petition documents were made available for inspection by the Colorado Secretary of State’s office, a cursory review of Jon Keyser’s signatures in one congressional district found at least six invalid duplicate signatures that were not discarded in the Secretary of State’s signature validation process. The signatories appear in the accepted signature reports for both U.S. Senate candidates Jack Graham and Jon Keyser. Based on Keyser’s total validated petition signatures in one congressional district (CD-1), fourteen additional invalid signatures would put Keyser below the minimum number required to appear on the 2016 ballot.

At least one duplicate signature accepted for Keyser, a voter whose signature was also accepted for Jack Graham, appears to be fraudulent. A visual inspection of the signatures plainly shows the same name filled out in different handwriting. [1]

“Our brief look at the petitions for Jon Keyser has raised serious questions, and after he barely qualified for the ballot, every single signature matters,” said Franklin. “Our sample of petition signatures has revealed previously uncaught errors, as well as a potential for outright fraud, that could change everything in this race. Unless the Secretary of State takes the time to re-verify every petition signature, no one can have confidence in the Republican U.S. Senate primary ballot.”

So You Want a Presidential Primary, Do You?

Rush Limbaugh's "Operation Chaos."

Rush Limbaugh’s “Operation Chaos.”

The Durango Herald’s Peter Marcus reports on debate over House Bill 16-1454, legislation that would restore the state’s presidential primary elections–a timely push after both Republicans and Democrats found their own things to hate about the caucus process in 2016:

While the legislation has bipartisan sponsorship, it passed the Democratic-controlled committee on a party-line vote.

Sponsors of the legislation introduced the measure after chaotic March 1 caucuses, where many voters expressed frustration. Reports of long lines and confusion swept the state…

Most everyone agrees that the long lines, low participation rates, and general confusion in the party-operated caucus process stymie the voting public’s access to the presidential nomination process. With that agreed upon, restoring a presidential primary comes down to a much stickier question–who would be able to participate? Presently voters must declare their party affiliation well in advance of the caucus.

Bernie Sanders, Hillary Clinton.

Bernie Sanders, Hillary Clinton.

Under the proposed new system, there would be at least some opportunity for crossover voting shenanigans–but proponents say it beats the alternative.

The legislation would stop short of creating a full, open primary, but it would allow unaffiliated voters to temporarily choose a party preference in order to participate.

Thirty days after the election, the preference would default back to unaffiliated. There would, however, be a public record of what preference that voter chose for the election.

One thing that makes it more difficult to “protect” the partisan primary from malicious “Operation Chaos” style meddling by the other party is Colorado’s progressive voter registration law passed in 2013–which allows eligible voters to register and vote on Election Day. If you want same-day registration, some other provision must be made for primary elections unless you want to throw the doors wide open and have a fully “open” primary. The “temporary affiliation” proposal is an admittedly awkward workaround, but would at least try to uphold these competing ideals of access vs. party participation.

Ted Cruz, Donald Trump.

Ted Cruz, Donald Trump.

We recognize that one’s preference for or against an open primary in this presidential election year may well be biased by circumstances that might help or hurt a favored candidate. But insofar as political parties continue to exist, the logical argument still resolves in favor of parties retaining control over their nominating process–including preferring primary voters be bonafide party members.

And as the Denver Post’s Joey Bunch reports, if you don’t like this idea, there are much worse ideas in the wings:

A group called Let Colorado Vote is proposing a ballot initiative to allow unaffiliated voters to vote in every race and receive ballots from major parties.

“I think the proposed system is infinitely better than the system that has gone through my office during the ballot-title setting that would involve sending everyone multiple ballots,” said Secretary of State Wayne Williams.

There’s no question that mailing both primary ballots to every voter would be a much more sinister blow to the power of political parties in Colorado, and an open invitation to crossover voting games beyond Rush Limbaugh’s wildest dreams. Even if you rankle at the idea of weakening party membership requirements to vote in a presidential primary, the compromise represented in HB16-1454 may well be your best shot at retaining some measure of control in today’s fluid political landscape.

Because whether you’re a fan of the status quo or not, it’s going to change. Whatever the solution is, the train wreck of this year’s caucuses for both parties is not to be repeated.

It’s Official: The Colorado GOP Lied About #NeverTrump Tweet

Two weeks ago this coming Saturday, a Tweet from the Colorado Republican Party’s official Twitter account sent aggrieved local supporters of GOP presidential candidate Donald Trump into an outraged tizzie:

nevertrump1

Colorado GOP chairman Steve House.

Colorado GOP chairman Steve House.

Eli Stokols, local political correspondent now writing for Politico, was quick to report the party’s denial of any responsibility for the Tweet, but the moment it appeared the damage was done:

Even though it only existed in the ether of cyberspace for a few minutes, the optics of such a tweet coming from the neutral arbiter of Saturday’s delegate selection process amidst a hard-fought trench war between Cruz and Donald Trump to secure the Republican presidential nomination rankled a number of Colorado Republicans.

In the immediate aftermath, the party claimed to have insight into the Tweet’s origin, as 7NEWS reported at the time:

House wouldn’t say how many people on staff have access to the account, but said they “had a process going on to find out who actually knew the password to the account.” House added “it’s only a matter of time,” before they find out who sent that tweet, as they knew the IP address the tweet went out from. [Pols emphasis]

But as the Colorado Statesman’s Ernest Luning reported yesterday (paywalled), that’s not true.

Saying that the state GOP “has been engaged in dialogue with Twitter in an attempt to identify the source of the Tweet,” Colorado Republican Party Chairman Steve House wrote in an email sent Tuesday evening that it appears Twitter will require state Republicans to “initiate a lawsuit and issue a subpoena” before the social media company will reveal more information about where the #NeverTrump tweet originated…

“Because of the seriousness of this matter, the party intends to pursue such legal process to compel Twitter to produce the IP address from which the tweet originated,” the email reads. [Pols emphasis] “The Colorado GOP is confident that once it has the IP address it will be able to identify the individual or company that issued the tweet. It will then seek recovery from the individual and/or company that issued the tweet for the cost associated with its investigation, legal efforts and the harassment of its officials and staff.”

So…they were lying when they said they had the IP address the first time? These statements can’t both be true. But wait, there’s more!

According to the email — sent to individuals and companies who “have had access to the @ColoGOP Twitter account” — the state GOP has turned up “evidence this tweet was sent via Twitter for iPhone” [Pols emphasis] but is unable to determine more without filing a lawsuit and obtaining a subpoena.

Now, where do you suppose they obtained “evidence” the Tweet was sent via an iPhone?

Oh, wait, never mind. It’s in the Tweet.

nevertrumpiphone

In short, the Colorado Republican Party has learned absolutely nothing about the origin of the #NeverTrump Tweet, and lied when they claimed to have the IP address. We’re not sure what the grounds would be for a legal action for compel Twitter to produce that information, but it should be noted that the IP address of the sending device may not help identify the sender at all–more likely simply identifying what cellular carrier was used, or if they’re lucky, maybe the IP address to a hard-line internet service provider. Presumably, another legal action would be necessary to compel that company to produce its logs.

The fact that the party demonstrably lied about what it knew regarding this Tweet, with this admission that they don’t have the IP address, is just another blow to the Colorado GOP’s credibility with Trump supporters who already deeply suspect foul play. It’s possible that the party’s legal action (if any) will at some point bear fruit, and belatedly reveal the identity of the person with access to the party’s official GOP account who committed this “unauthorized” action.

If and when that ever happens, there’s a good chance nobody will care. Because they’ve seen enough.

Wayne Williams Touts Colorado Election Law But Still Opposes It

(Chutzpah, baby – Promoted by Colorado Pols)

Secretary of State Wayne Williams.

Secretary of State Wayne Williams.

Last month, on Rocky Mountain Community Radio, Colorado Secretary of State Wayne Williams praised a Pew study for, as Williams put it, “highlighting some of the improvements and the innovations that we try to look at in Colorado.”

The Pew study gushed about Colorado’s 2013 law, which, among other things, mandated that mail-in ballots be sent to all voters, authorized same-day registration, and shortened the length of residency required for voter registration.

The reforms, according to Pew, reduced election costs by 40 percent, and over 95 percent of voters surveyed were satisfied or very satisfied.

Even though he opposed Colorado’s election-modernization law when it passed in 2013, Williams subsequently praised Colorado’s election reforms, well before the Pew Study was published. For example, he lauded the new voting centers and options in Colorado Springs.  And prior to touting Colorado’s wide use of mail-in ballots at a 2015 conference, he issued a news release saying, “Colorado continues to lead in a host of areas.”

So it was an interesting journalistic moment, after the Pew study came out last month, when Colorado Community Radio’s Bente Birkeland asked Williams if he’d oppose Colorado’s election law again, after seeing how it’s worked.

Yes, Williams said he would oppose it, “Because it didn’t include the kind of give-and-take that we’ve tried to do since I’ve been Secretary of State, which is to sit down with the stakeholders of both sides ahead of time and work things out.”

I wondered if Williams had substantive reasons for his opposition, or if it was just a procedural problem for him. His office provided a detailed list of alleged “improvements” made after the 2013 bill, which was referred to as HB13-1303, passed. A list of  bills that would fix current “issues” was also provided, as well as a list of “additional issues that still need to be addressed.” (See these lists below.)

“HB13-1303 made a number of good changes,” Williams said in a statement,  “but because of the above issues and because it violates Colorado’s Constitution with respect to recall (even with the changes made), I could not support it because of my oath to uphold the Constitution. If introduced today, I would work to fix the above issues through the amendment process—something that was denied in 2013 because of lockstep votes to approve by the controlling party.”

Asked to respond to Williams’ lists, Elena Nunez, Director of Colorado Common Cause, told me via email:

Secretary of State Williams has shown a great willingness to partner with stakeholders on election issues, and we’re proud of the work we’ve done together this year.

Having said that, it is discouraging to hear the Secretary laud Colorado’s election law nationally while trying to roll back the parts of the law that make it such a success. Our approach is innovative because it gives Coloradans convenient options to both register to vote and cast ballots, while creating administrative efficiencies.

…All of his examples of “1303 fixes” in the bipartisan cleanup bill, SB16-142, are election issues that would need to be addressed even if HB13-1303 had never become law.

Here’s is Williams’ statement and list in its entirety.

(more…)

At Least He’s Not Your Congressman (Spilling The Beans Edition)


Milwaukee’s WTMJ-TV reports on a Republican member of Congress from Wisconsin, Glenn Grothman, who waxed a bit too honest about how requiring voters to present a photo ID in his state will help his fellow Republican candidates:

In comments made to TODAY’S TMJ4’s Charles Benson on election night, U.S. congressman Glenn Grothman (R-Campbellsport) said he thinks Wisconsin’s new voter ID law will help the eventual GOP nominee win in the state…

“You know that a lot of Republicans, since 1984 in the presidential races, have not been able to win in Wisconsin,” Benson said. “Why would it be any different for Ted Cruz, or a Donald Trump?”

After explaining he thought Hillary Clinton would be a weak nominee for the Democrats, Grothman said “now we have photo ID, and I think photo ID is gonna make a little bit of a difference as well.”

As anyone who has followed the debate over voter ID here in Colorado or elsewhere knows, requiring such identification to exercise one’s right to vote creates a significant barrier: especially for elderly and low-income voters. Because those populations have a demonstrated tendency to vote Democratic, voter ID laws tend to reduce Democratic turnout and boost Republican turnout.

But of course, you’re not supposed to say that. There is no evidence of systemic voter fraud in American elections, including any evidence beyond the highly occasional anecdote of fraud that might actually be thwarted by presenting a photo ID. On the other hand, many more otherwise eligible voters who can’t obtain an acceptable ID are effectively disenfranchised.

In short, either Rep. Grothman is alleging there was fraud in Wisconsin elections that this law is now stopping, a claim for which there is no evidence, or he’s admitting that voter ID laws will have the effect of suppressing Democratic votes.

Seems like it’s probably the latter one, folks.

Redistrictpalooza: The Faces Tell The Story

Updating our occasional track of the growing number of proposals and counterproposals for “reform” of the state’s congressional redistricting and legislative reapportionment process that have piled up at the Colorado Secretary of State’s office since last year’s disastrous effort spearheaded by former GOP House Speaker Frank McNulty. As of Friday’s deadline for ballot initiatives there are a total of seven–seven–proposals under consideration not including last year’s.

Rather than trying to explain all the technical details of these different proposals, what we can tell you is that four of them originate from a single source–McNulty’s coalition of lawmakers and former elected officials. What hasn’t been widely discussed is the much less-known political hack working behind the scenes:

GOP operative Alan Philp.

GOP operative Alan Philp.

Alan Philp is a longtime conservative operative in Colorado politics. Philp is an employee of the Koch network through Aegis Strategies along with Jeff Crank and Dustin Zvonek–both with their own longtime associations with right-wing Koch ubergroup Americans for Prosperity. Philp’s ties to Colorado Republican political strategies go back many years before AFP set up shop in Colorado–just as one example, Philp helped run the failed Trailhead Group, set up in 2006 to “synchronize electioneering efforts” for Republicans.

Philp was also a major player in the last redistricting and reapportionment cycle in 2011, which witnessed innumerable attempts by Republicans to skew the process toward maps more favorable to their incumbents and long-term strategy. Philp’s firm also appears to have been paid by the Republican State Leadership Committee (RSLC), which has played a big role in redistricting fights through their Redistricting Majority Project.

In short, there’s a straightforward reason why Philp and McNulty have relied on surrogates–including some token Democrats. It’s very difficult to trust “nonpartisan” motives for anything Alan Philp is involved with.

And that means anyone looking at these proposals, no matter who the public face may be, needs to be very skeptical.

Trump Slushes Up Controversial Local Mail Vendor

Donald Trump.

Donald Trump.

As the Washington Post reports, a Commerce City-based Republican aligned political mail shop known as WizBang Solutions keeps popping back up as a major vendor, for both Donald Trump’s official presidential campaign and a “SuperPAC” set up to help him:

Donald Trump’s campaign has paid more than $1.2 million to a small Colorado printing firm connected to a Republican operative who ran a short-lived super PAC in support of Trump — shelling out $624,000 to the company just last month, new filings show.

That made WizBang Solutions, where GOP operative Mike Ciletti works as a director, the campaign’s third-highest paid vendor in February. The Commerce City-based company — which was paid for printing and design services — collected more from the Trump campaign last month than it had in all previous months combined.

Trump spokeswoman Hope Hicks did not respond to a request for details about what work WizBang Solutions is doing for the campaign. Ciletti did not return a call seeking comment.

As the story explains, Mike Ciletti also ran the Make America Great Again SuperPAC, who was closed recently after it became obvious that this PAC using Trump’s slogan was indeed closely connected to his campaign. And that’s not the only connection between Team Trump and WizBang:

Ciletti, the super PAC’s lead consultant, is a longtime business associate of Corey Lewandowski, Trump’s campaign manager. The two men worked together when Lewandowski was a top official at the conservative advocacy group Americans for Prosperity. WizBang Solutions was a major vendor to the organization.

While the super PAC was active last year, the Trump campaign paid two firms connected to Ciletti, including WizBang Solutions.

Now, we haven’t seen any examples of WizBang’s work product for the Trump campaign, but they have a dubious history. Back in 2013, the very same WizBang Solutions was caught sending mail pieces into Southwest Colorado in which numerous black faces in a crowd had been Photoshopped out of the image and replaced with white faces:

You’ll recall that WizBang came in for substantial criticism over this mailer, including national cable news. An employee of WizBang named “Mike,” who could be Mike Ciletti but we don’t know as he didn’t give a last name in 2013, responded (badly) to reporter questions.  We haven’t seen the connection made between Donald Trump’s mail vendor and these racially controversial Photoshopped mailers in the current news cycle.

Based on Trump’s increasingly unstoppable trajectory, it’s probably time to make the connection. Loudly.

2011 Reapportionment Chairman Slams Latest “Reform” Attempt

housef1As Colorado’s political class continues to figure out what to make of Initiative 107, the product of out-of-work legislators and political operatives to “reform” the state’s redistricting and reapportionment process ahead of the 2020 census, the chairman of the Colorado Reapportionment Commission from 2011, unaffiliated voter Mario Carrera, released a statement this morning panning the new initiative:

The national movement to tamper with the maps that dictate the lines for the Legislative and Congressional districts is one of the reasons why voters have such low approval ratings of Congress and other elected bodies. Voters do not trust politicians to make decisions that define our representation. Colorado absolutely needs to get this right.

The Coloradans behind Initiative 107 have taken some very important steps to raise the issue of taking politics out of drawing these maps and their efforts should be applauded, but no less than our democracy is at stake. And, as a result, it’s important that we engage in a more inclusive, thoughtful, deliberate and transparent process. Why the rush?

The laudable goal of ending gerrymandering deserves praise. However, the proverbial gerrymander, is in “the eye of the beholder and only known when seen”. As such, it’s critical that we have a process that accounts for fair representation in our State.

Mario Carrera.

Mario Carrera.

As for the latest version of the proposed ballot measure, Initiative 107, Carrera lays out a range of concerns:

– The mathematics on the voting do not work and, because of the supermajority needed for passage, encourages a logjam;

– As devised, too much burden and responsibility are placed on the non-partisan staff without the due accountability and benefit of a public or elected official appointment;

– The legislative branch has too great a role in appointing members to the commission, at the exclusion of appointments from our judicial system, which is particularly concerning given the goal of reducing partisanship. The inherent checks and balances of our three branches of government do not exist.

The bottom line, as we said on Friday and Carrera notes again in today’s statement, is that this initiative is being pushed on voters at a time when there’s simply no call for it. The last redistricting/reapportionment round in 2011 produced much in the way of partisan fireworks for inside-baseball political types like ourselves, but the actual maps that resulted have stood the test of their intended purpose: compact, sensibly-drawn districts that give diverse communities their voice, and provide a competitive landscape for our state’s closely-divided voters.

In order to successfully campaign for a change to something so fundamental to our political process, it’s necessary to demonstrate how the status quo is a problem–and if it is, how specifically a proposed change would help. Dropping this initiative years before the next round of redistricting and reapportionment, with no clear narrative of a problem needing to be solved, invites straightforward questions about its true purpose.

Without good answers, and soon, this initiative is going nowhere.

Warmed-Over Redistricting Ballot Measure Returns

the-original-ma-gerrymanderedAs the Colorado Independent’s Marianne Goodland reports, a redistricting ballot measure that a “bipartisan coalition” of lawmakers and officials (more on that in a moment) have been threatening to introduce, only to be beaten back by intense criticism, is on the table once again:

Initiative 107 was filed this morning by former Speaker of the House Frank McNulty, a Highlands Ranch Republican, and former lawmaker Kathleen Curry, who was a registered Democrat for years until switching to unaffiliated in 2010.

The proposed ballot measure is the second effort by McNulty and others, including former Secretary of State Bernie Buescher, a Democrat, to change how the state draws the maps for Colorado’s seven congressional districts and 100 legislative seats.

The first attempt, submitted in November, immediately drew howls of protest from voting rights activists and minority groups who claimed the ballot measure would have disenfranchised minority voters…

As we discussed the last time this proposal surfaced last November, nobody really understands what is driving it–other than sour grapes that Republicans apparently still have stemming from the last redistricting and reapportionment round  in 2011. You’ll recall that Republicans complained mightily that the process was being stacked against them as Democrats focused on competitive districts. The problem is., dire predictions from the GOP that the maps resulting from that process would shut them out of political power unfairly have not come to pass–as of today, Republicans have a one-seat majority in the congressional delegation, and the state legislature is split between a Democratic House and a Republican Senate.

So what’s the problem this ballot measure would try to solve? It’s anybody’s guess:

Sen. Jessie Ulibarri, a Commerce City Democrat, has been vocal and angry about the way the redistricting effort has been handled. He told The Colorado Independent this morning that he saw the latest version just last night, so there hasn’t been enough time to properly vet the draft with voting rights or minority groups.

“The entire proposal, in least in what I’ve seen, is designed to fail and to guarantee an outcome for partisan interest over the interests of communities,” he said. [Pols emphasis]

Hutchins reports that James Mejia, a Democrat who took withering fire from colleagues after signing on in support of the last version, has withdrawn from the campaign. The Republicans heading up the campaign as of this writing are former House Speaker Frank McNulty and longtime GOP operative Alan Philp, who most Democrats will rightly not trust any further than they can throw. That leaves former House Speaker Mark Ferrandino and former Secretary of State Bernie Buescher to try to sell this plan to Democratic voters, assuming they themselves remain on board as the initiative proceeds.

One interesting theory we’ve heard about why this initiative is being pushed so hard this year involves another proposal from Republican strategist Josh Penry to increase the threshold to pass constitutional amendments from a simple majority to 55%. Much like the passage of the “single subject rule” not long after passing the Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights created a situation where TABOR could not be easily repealed, locking a bad redistricting plan into the constitution before raising the bar on passing amendments makes a lot of sense.

But for everyone else–Democrats for whom the current process worked fine, reasonable Republicans who can see today it was fine for them too, and above all voters being asked to make big changes to solve a contrived “problem”–none of it makes any sense.

Coloradans Reject “Liar Keyser”

Following a petition drive in January to expose the ethically questionable record of Rep. Jon Keyser, ProgressNow Colorado, the state’s largest online advocacy organization, released comments from the public showing Coloradans are tired of dishonest right-wing politicians who will say and do anything to win elections. This comes after Washington, D.C.-based ethics group American Democracy Legal Fund filed a complaint with the Federal Elections Commission alleging Keyser broke campaign finance laws. Last month, ProgressNow Colorado filed a complaint with the Judge Advocate General regarding Keyser’s alleged campaigning for office on government time.

“From playing politics on the taxpayer’s dime to lying about our elections, Jon Keyser has very serious ethical problems that make him unfit to serve,” stated Alan Franklin, political director of ProgressNow Colorado. “When we inform Coloradans about the truth of Keyser’s record, they want nothing to do with him.”

Here are just a few comments received from ProgressNow Colorado members about Keyser’s ethics scandals:

Karen in Littleton: “Jon Keyser–really? what lengths you have gone to mislead the public! I would be embarrassed to put my name out there again. You have to know that you will be thoroughly vetted and those looking for the truth will shine a spotlight on past indiscretions. Coloradans deserve trustworthy politicians to represent their interests in Washington.”

Clinton in Parker: “Why would you setup the ‘straw man’ of voter fraud? There was little evidence, and your false documents just emphasize how political you made this and the danger you pose to honest citizens.”

Sylvia in Boulder: “I’m a teacher. If one of my students had falsified information the way it appears you’ve done, I would have given him a couple of extra assignments, asked for a public apology, and hoped he’d learned a lesson about honesty. Character building, I’d call it. Do you have any such plans for yourself?”

Lyn in Lakewood: “What you did was deliberately mislead Colorado voters in a partisan ruse to make us think there was massive, deliberate voter fraud. We’ll keep your snake-oil hocus-pocus in mind come time for us to vote.”

Elisa in Hotchkiss: “Lying to influence issues important to the voters, or on any issues, is unethical and shameful.”

Alice in Wheat Ridge: “We don’t trust a liar and we don’t vote them into Congress.”

“Once the voters have a chance to see Jon Keyser for who he really is, they can see he is not ready to serve in the U.S. Senate,” said Franklin. “What sounds good on paper or in a Washington, D.C. backroom doesn’t always work on the ground here in Colorado. After Cory Gardner’s deceitful campaign in 2014, the message we’re getting from Coloradans is clear: we won’t be fooled again.”

Progressives Demand Accountability As “Liar Keyser” Pattern Emerges

(As originally reported here and here – Promoted by Colorado Pols)

Last week, ProgressNow Colorado requested an investigation of Keyser with the Judge Advocate General of the Air Force for violating rules while campaigning behind the scenes during his time in the Air Force Reserve. Keyser claimed in response that he was not actually “in uniform” when he conducted the interview, but admitted he was campaigning behind the scenes while serving. Today, ProgressNow Colorado called on Keyser to apologize for misleading voters with unfounded allegations of fraud in Colorado’s mail ballot elections.

In 2013 Jon Keyser, then a candidate for the Colorado House, posted a photo on social media of “two ballots” he received, claiming this was evidence of a “failed system” passed by Democrats that year. In truth, Keyser’s “second ballot” was for a single ballot question related to property he owned elsewhere in the state. The photo Keyser posted intentionally concealed the return address of the second ballot to falsely imply he had received two complete ballots for the same election. [1]

“Jon Keyser knew exactly what he was doing,” said ProgressNow Colorado political director Alan Franklin. “Colorado Republicans led by then-Secretary of State Scott Gessler were desperate to convince voters that Democrats had somehow sabotaged the election system. Gessler’s friend Keyser was more than happy to help promote this fiction, then had to make silly excuses for his antics when debunked by fellow Republican county clerks.”

“The fact is, Colorado is a leader in modernizing our election system to increase participation,” said Franklin. “When the new law was passed, opponents immediately claimed it would result in massive election fraud that, as it turns out, never happened. But some Republicans like Jon Keyser were so eager to protect the status quo they invented bogus ‘fraud’ cases out of thin air.”

“Voters deserve an elected official who plays by the rules and is honest with the people of Colorado,” said Franklin. “The more we see from Jon Keyser, the more it becomes clear he is simply not an honest player.”

Ill-Conceived Redistricting “Fix” Collapsing Under Own Weight

James Mejia (in the Democratic doghouse).

James Mejia (in the Democratic doghouse).

If there was ever a time in which the sudden push for a “fix” for Colorado’s arguably unbroken system of redrawing congressional districts we’ve seen in recent weeks made sense, that time is rapidly passing as questions about the timing and true purpose of a “bipartisan” ballot initiative grow. As the Colorado Independent’s Marianne Goodland reported Friday:

“It’s backroom politics at its worst,” said state Sen. Jessie Ulibarri, D-Westminster. [Pols emphasis]

Initiative 55, as the measure is known, seeks to take the politics out of an inherently political process — the drawing of Colorado’s Congressional and legislative districts. The Congressional maps have been drafted by the General Assembly, with most of those efforts ending up in court for final resolution. State legislative districts are drawn by an independent commission that’s appointed by lawmakers and other state officials. Those results often end up in court, too.

The original language of Initiative 55 — submitted last month by former Speaker of the House Frank McNulty, R-Highlands Ranch and former Secretary of State Bernie Buescher, D-Grand Junction — triggered concerns that the measure would disempower voters of color, which the Voting Rights Act attempted to strengthen…

Ulibarri told The Colorado Independent that the language of 55 isn’t the same as other redistricting efforts that have been passed in other states, and that the fine print of the measure intends to break up communities of color and fracture their political voices. He has raised his concerns with the ballot measure sponsors McNulty and Buescher, and asked for a chance to be at the table for discussions about the language. That hasn’t happened. Instead, Ulibarri is being told to submit concerns to Mejia.

The Denver Post’s Joey Bunch also covered this story Friday.

Former Denver Public Schools board member James Mejia is emerging as a major loser in this faltering effort, as it’s becoming increasingly clear that he is the “Democrat” primarily responsible for branding the proposal as “bipartisan.” It’s unknown how much Mejia has been paid by organizers of the ballot measure, but it’s hard to imagine the check was worth the loss of face Mejia is experiencing as fellow Democrats line up against him.

A key meeting Thursday organized by Sen. Jessie Ulibarri and other legislators seems to have sealed the fate of this proposal, at least in terms of it attracting any significant Democratic support in its present form. As of this writing, just about every stakeholder to the left of the Republican Party has seen the facts of how it could harm minority voters.

But beyond that, as the controversy grows over this proposal, its whole logical basis comes into question. Yes, the redistricting and reapportionment process in Colorado happened last time under Democratic control. But the current Republican majority making up Colorado’s congressional delegation and split control of the legislature between the two parties very straightforwardly demonstrates the lack of a problem with the status quo. The fact is, we have very competitive districts in Colorado. Our current process for drawing legislative maps gets testy at times, but the results would seem to speak for themselves. If you accept that, this whole business is a solution in search of a problem.

And when you ask the next logical question, why is it happening at all? James Mejia has no good answers.