Yes, (Some) GOP Senators Did Something Objectively Good

Rep. Lois Landgraf (R) and Rep. Brittany Pettersen (D) celebrate passage of HB17-1186 in the House.

Colorado Capitol observers are still getting their collective heads around a fairly surprising development in the Republican-controlled Colorado Senate: House Bill 17-1186, a bill requiring insurers to cover dispensing 12 months worth of contraceptives to women with insurance coverage, has passed the chamber and is now awaiting Gov. John Hickenlooper’s signature. Similar legislation died in committee in the Senate last year–but with bipartisan sponsorship this session, Colorado Senate GOP leadership not only let the bill go to the floor but celebrated its passage out of the Senate’s “kill committee” in a press release:

Republican Bill Guaranteeing Women’s Health Care Passes Committee

House Bill 17-1186 asks health insurers that are required under current law to provide contraception coverage to extend coverage to provide 12-month’s worth of oral contraceptives for a woman with a prescription…

Reducing barriers to health care for women, and improving access to contraception improves the overall health and well-being of Colorado,” said Coram. “Women’s health care needs require near-constant attention and lifelong commitments. In rural Colorado, the nearest pharmacy can be an hour away and frequent trips are not a reality many Coloradans can afford. Today, we helped improve access for those who need it most, and took a crucial step in decreasing the number of unwanted pregnancies, and the associated repercussions in Colorado.”

After this “Republican” bill passed Senate State Affairs, Planned Parenthood Votes Colorado sang its praises:

“This is an incredible step toward for women and families. It means fewer trips to the pharmacy for people with busy lives or who live in rural areas with longer travel times. It also will result in reducing the number of unintended pregnancies, with a longer reliable supply of birth control. It just gives more stability to women and gives families’ ability to plan their lives,” said Sarah Taylor-Nanista, Vice President of Public Affairs of Planned Parenthood Votes Colorado.

The bill’s final vote in the Senate before heading to the Governor’s desk was 22-11–while certainly not a majority of the Republican Senate caucus, a much healthier margin than many expected. In large part this can be attributed to the work of Sen. Don Coram in the Senate, winning swingable votes on policy by explaining how supporting this measure would also be good politics.

For those of you looking for a “but,” or a last-minute twist that allows for a clean partisan vilification, in the case of House Bill 17-1186 there isn’t one. What happened here was an objectively good thing; reasonable bipartisan cooperation on an issue that hasn’t seen nearly enough bipartisanship. Republicans who supported it can feel good morally and politically, while Democrats achieved a long-sought policy victory for women.

American politics need more stories like this. Many more.

So, Um, About Mike Johnston’s Big Haul…

Michael Johnston.

Nic Garcia writes at Chalkbeat Colorado about Democratic gubernatorial candidate Mike Johnston’s eye-popping first quarter of fundraising–a big haul of money that, under the hood, raises many questions even as the money helps make Johnston a contender:

Nearly 70 percent of the money donated to former state Sen. Michael Johnston’s gubernatorial bid in the first quarter of 2017 came from outside Colorado, records show.

The list of out-of-state donors includes several supporters of the national education reform movement.

They include Sheryl Sandberg, chief operating officer of Facebook; Howard Wolfson, director of education at Bloomberg Philanthropies in New York; and Wendy Kopp, founder of Teach for America, the program that gave Johnston his start as an educator.

Johnston raised $632,834 between Jan. 1 and March 31, his campaign reported to the Secretary of State. Of that, $445,389 came from outside Colorado.

What you’re seeing here is the product of Johnston’s leadership in the Colorado legislature on the issue of education reform. As a former teacher and school principal, education has always been central to his campaign message, and left-trending education reformers have been very well funded indeed by wealthy philanthropists. It’s important to note that we’re not talking so much about the far-right Betsy DeVos wing of education reform, with its emphasis on “freedom” for religious schooling and homeschooling–well beyond Johnston’s record of support for school innovation and teacher accountability.

Unfortunately for former Sen. Johnston, the legacy of his “landmark” teacher accountability legislation, SB10-191 has been almost entirely negative for the overwhelming majority of Colorado teachers. Even teachers who rate highly under the new law complain it has forced them to change their teaching style and subject matter to meet arbitrary benchmarks. SB10-191 is at least in part responsible for the growing shortage of teachers in Colorado, with less onerous opportunities available to the declining number of licensed teacher graduates elsewhere.

About 10 percent of Gov. John Hickenlooper’s first-quarter campaign donations in 2010 came from outside Colorado, records show. Less than 1 percent of former Gov. Bill Ritter’s first quarter donations in 2005 were from out of state.

Clearly, by historical standards Johnston’s lopsided majority of out-of-state donors is very unusual. It suggests that Johnston’s real base of support in Colorado is quite limited, and that in turn could well limit his ability to sustain his very high initial fundraising. Especially in a Democratic primary, we just don’t see an education reform-based single issue campaign gaining traction.

And that appears to be Johnston’s sole claim to fame and fortune.

DO NOT Stand Up 9NEWS’ Kyle Clark

Rep. Ken Buck (R).

Yesterday, Rep. Ken Buck cancelled his scheduled appearance on Next with Kyle Clark on 9NEWS.

Note to politicians everywhere, we don’t recommend doing that:

Next hoped to let you hear from Congressman Ken Buck on Monday. He’s back in Colorado on break, and to push his new book called Drain the Swamp.

But Buck, a Republican who represents Northern Colorado, backed out of our long-scheduled interview this morning. Buck’s been making the rounds for his book on a lot of Republican friendly media outlets like Fox News and Brieitbart. Despite cancelling his interview with Next, Buck was on conservative talk radio and Christian radio Monday.

His publisher emailed this morning to say, “Congressman Buck just called me to say that something immovable came up.”

Hey, you know, stuff comes up right? The trouble is, Clark had some specific questions for Rep. Buck:

We hope he didn’t have an issue with the fact that we were obviously going to ask him why he tried to re-write history on his Obamacare repeal stance, in addition to the book.

He told us, and you after the plan failed that he hadn’t decided whether to support it.

Days later, he won praise from President Trump for claiming he did support the repeal bill.

We’d like to ask him if that’s swampy… or just sticky.

As we noted earlier this month, Rep. Buck’s ex post facto claim that he had supported the “Trumpcare” Affordable Care Act repeal bill didn’t comport with what he had told the very same 9NEWS right after the bill was pulled for lack of support. Buck’s attempt to explain his rather obvious dishonesty to the Denver Post’s Mark Matthews didn’t come across very well, and we would hope that the ensuing couple of weeks would have given Buck time to come up with a better answer.

Or not, in which case you get ridiculed by the state’s highest-rated television news station.

Colorado Democrats Want To Make ‘Em Show The Numbers

UPDATE: Before using Republican attempts to make Barack Obama “prove” his citizenship as a foil, Republicans in the Colorado legislature might want to re-read Senate Concurrent Resolution 11-003, requiring “any person elected to public office in the state of Colorado to provide proof of citizenship along with the oath of office.” If they have any questions, they can direct them to co-sponsor Sen. Kevin Grantham.



President Donald Trump.

As the Colorado Independent’s Marianne Goodland reports, Democrats in the Colorado House have introduced legislation directly addressing the hot potato of President Donald Trump’s tax returns–the refusal by Trump to disclose them having emerged as a major point of dispute as questions swirl about Trump’s loyalties and liabilities:

Two days after an estimated 7,000 people took to Denver’s Civic Center Park to demand that President Donald Trump release his tax returns, a House committee okayed a bill to require presidential candidates to make their returns public.

The measure, which is sponsored by Democratic Reps. Edie Hooten of Boulder and Chris Hansen of Denver, would require both presidential and vice-presidential candidates to submit the most recent five years of tax returns. Those who don’t submit those documents won’t appear on Colorado’s presidential election ballot, under the bill.

At least eight other states are working on similar legislation to require those tax returns, Hooten said; six are states carried by Trump in the 2016 election. In other states, although not Colorado, the legislation is referred to as the Tax Returns Uniformly Made Public Act, or TRUMP Act. [Pols emphasis]

We assume that the decision to not go with the “TRUMP Act” as the title of the legislation in Colorado was in hope of persuading a few Republicans to place principle ahead of partisanship and help pass it. Presidential candidates disclosing their financial history has routine for the last 40 years, after all, and it won’t be long before the shoe is on the other proverbial foot. But as the Denver Post’s Brian Eason reports, Republicans couldn’t get past the fact that the legislation was inevitably a response to a fellow Republican’s actions:

Suzanne Staiert, the deputy secretary of state, told lawmakers that in the past, the U.S. Supreme Court has resisted state-level efforts to impose new qualifications on candidates for federal office — except for things such as petition-gathering or filing fees designed to deter insincere candidates.

National legal experts have opined on both sides of the issue in recent weeks as similar efforts have proliferated. So if nothing else, Staiert said, lawmakers should expect the measure to be challenged in court if it became law…

A number of Republicans Monday said they favor transparency, but fear that the bill would only attract such a lawsuit. And, they added, despite Democrats’ insistence that it shouldn’t be a partisan issue, the measure appeared to blatantly target a particular Republican candidate.

Rep. Susan Beckman, R-Littleton, recalled Republicans across the country mounting a similar effort to require candidate birth certificate disclosures while Barack Obama was president, in response to debunked questions about his citizenship. [Pols emphasis]

We’d say there’s a very large difference on the merits between requiring financial disclosure from a presidential candidate and the racist campaign to make Barack Obama “prove” his citizenship–which persisted for years after Obama did just that. In fact, that absurd comparison from a Republican lawmaker is an offensive reminder of the double standard Obama was subjected to for his entire presidency.

It will be even more absurd when Colorado Senate Republicans kill this bill.

Get More Smarter on Tuesday (April 18)

Happy Tax Day, everybody! It’s time to Get More Smarter! If you think we missed something important, please include the link in the comments below (here’s a good example). If you are more of a visual learner, check out The Get More Smarter Show.



► Colorado Democrats are taking the occasion of Tax Day to push legislation that would make it more difficult for politicians like Donald Trump to refuse to release tax returns. As Marianne Goodland writes for the Colorado Independent:

Two days after an estimated 7,000 people took to Denver’s Civic Center Park to demand that President Donald Trump release his tax returns, a House committee okayed a bill to require presidential candidates to make their returns public.

The measure, which is sponsored by Democratic Reps. Edie Hooten of Boulder and Chris Hansen of Denver, would require both presidential and vice-presidential candidates to submit the most recent five years of tax returns. Those who don’t submit those documents won’t appear on Colorado’s presidential election ballot, under the bill.

At least eight other states are working on similar legislation to require those tax returns, Hooten said; six are states carried by Trump in the 2016 election. In other states, although not Colorado, the legislation is referred to as the Tax Returns Uniformly Made Public Act, or TRUMP Act.

Trump is the first major party candidate in 40 years (since President Gerald Ford ran for election in 1976) to not provide his returns, according to Politifact.

At least a dozen Congressional Republicans also agree that Trump needs to release his tax returns before they will take any sort of action on a Trump tax reform plan.

Meanwhile, the Colorado legislature remains gridlocked over the state budget, with both Democrats and Republicans accusing each other of mucking things up. The legislature is scheduled to adjourn on May 10.


President Trump is embracing the idea that today’s special election in Georgia could be a referendum on Trump. It’s true that the special election to replace Republican Rep. Tom Price (now President Trump’s Secretary of Health and Human Services) is being watched closely as a sign of how voters are feeling about the first 90-odd days of the Trump administration. But as Chris Cillizza explains, Trump may be getting louder about today’s election because he could be getting word that Democratic candidate Jon Ossoff is unlikely to surpass 50% of the vote and thus avoid a runoff election with one of 11 Republican candidates.


► British Prime Minister Theresa May shocked European political observers — and even those in the United States who even sorta understand how the British election system works — by calling a surprise election on June 8. Here’s a helpful summary from CNN about what happened and why it is such a surprise (and why you should care):

British governments generally last for five years, and the Conservative Party’s administration — then led by May’s predecessor David Cameron — was elected in 2015. The next election was not due to take place until May 2020…

…May, who took over when Cameron resigned in the wake of Britain’s decision to leave the European Union, wants to seek a stronger mandate in Brexit talks.

The UK government formally served divorce papers on the European Union last month, signaling the beginning of the end of a relationship that endured for 44 years.

But her party only has a slim majority in Parliament, and opposition parties have attempted to throw rocks in her path towards Brexit.


Get even more smarter after the jump…


Days Before Contentious Town-Hall Meeting, Coffman Praised Trump at GOP Meeting

(Joke’s on you! – Promoted by Colorado Pols)

In contrast to his appearance Wednesday at a town hall meeting in Aurora, where he was reportedly “pummeled” by constituents and tried to distance himself from Trump, U.S. Rep. Mike Coffman (R-CO) praised the president and was “very well received” at a meeting of the North Suburban Republican Forum four days before the town-hall event.

“I would say he was very well received,” said Kaarl Hoopes, the Republican Chair of House District 31, who attended the meeting with Coffman April 8.

“[Coffman] gave the sense that the Republicans have a strong agenda, and he’s very optimistic that with President Trump’s leadership, he’s going to be able to accomplish it,” said Hoopes.

After the meeting, Hoopes stated on Facebook that Coffman specifically cited the imperative for Republicans to pass tax reform and an Obamacare replacement. And Coffman praised Trump’s handling of the military, Hoopes said.

Asked if Coffman called Trump a “real leader,” as implied in his Facebook post, Hoopes replied, “I think he actually did say that. [Trump] met with Coffman in a small group, and he said that, and I may have posted this, he said that he’s a very commanding presence. He fills the room. And people pay attention.”

Hoopes said he was “personally offended” by Coffman last year when Coffman ran advertisements saying he’s stand up to Trump. “That bothered me for quite a while,” said Hoopes.

“I think [Coffman] is more in line with Trump as a leader now,” said Hoopes. “You know, if there’s something he strongly disagrees with him on, I’m sure he will  stand up to him. But his attitude was very positive towards President Trump. I think he really supports the strong leadership that he’s bringing.”

Lamborn Not Spared Constituent Backlash As Primary Looms

Rep. Doug Lamborn (R).

As the Colorado Statesman’s John Tomasic reports, the Brick Tamland of Colorado’s congressional delegation Rep. Doug Lamborn has been holding town halls in across the beating red heart of his El Paso County constituency–and like fellow Republicans across the state and nation with the temerity to stick their heads out during the Easter recess, Lamborn got chewed out but good:

Town hall season in Colorado Springs is not only of interest for the way angry crowds are meeting Republican Congressman Doug Lamborn, it’s also of interest for Colorado election politics watchers looking for pregame action by which to gauge a likely top primary race in the state.

Lamborn is gamely wrestling at town halls across his conservative 5th District with angry constituents alarmed mainly by Trump administration bumbling and the Republican health care reform plan.

He was jeered by an overflow crowd at a meeting in Colorado Springs on Wednesday, as the Gazette reported. The crowd mocked him when he said he supported renewable energy. They pushed him on climate change. They shouted out “Affordable Care Act” whenever he said “Obamacare.”

As Tomasic reports, Lamborn is smiling his way through the recess with the kind of indestructible confidence that can only come from a complete lack of self-awareness. Or perhaps not–Lamborn’s very safe Republican seat means the biggest threat he will likely face would come in a Republican primary, not the general election. Hard-right Republican primary challenger state Sen. Owen Hill is a fresh face, but he certainly doesn’t offer anything to appeal to the independent-left voters Trump has mobilized to resistance at town halls.

Bottom line: Lamborn is the poster child of Congress’ 11% approval rating and a 96% incumbent re-election rate.

Darryl Glenn, Political Consultant

Darryl Glenn

Former Republican Senate candidate Darryl Glenn opened his own political consulting company after the 2016 election, which we found amusing considering how poorly Glenn ran his own campaign. As we said at the time:

We can all agree that “DLG Esquire” is a horrendous name for any business that isn’t an escort service; try telling your boss that you want to hire “DLG Esquire” for any reason and make sure to let us know how that conversation turns out. Of course, if you’re interested in paying Darryl Glenn for political advice (or to come up with advertising ideas) then the name you write on your check is probably the least of your problems.

If you’re wondering who would possibly hire Glenn as a political consultant — and we know you are — we’ve got the answer for you. Larimer County Commissioner Lew Gaiter is apparently paying Glenn as a consultant as he seeks the 2018 Republican nomination for Governor. Here’s the proof from Gaiter’s Q1 campaign finance report that was just made available today:

Gaiter reported total contributions of $3,840 in Q1, though $3,500 came from Gaiter’s own pockets. Basically all of his money is going to Glenn.

Good luck with that.

Get More Smarter on Monday (April 17)

You know there is still a rogue Easter Egg in your backyard somewhere. It’s time to Get More Smarter! If you think we missed something important, please include the link in the comments below (here’s a good example). If you are more of a visual learner, check out The Get More Smarter Show.



► We’re halfway through the month of April, and there is still no end in sight to the large-scale protests of Congressional Republicans and the Trump administration. Denver7 has more on a big Denver rally on Saturday:

Thousands took to the streets in Denver demanding to see President Donald Trump’s tax returns.

Protesters gathered at Civic Center Park and rallied together Saturday afternoon to ask for transparency and honesty from the president when it comes to his financial dealings.

The Tax March in Denver, one of more than 150 held across the nation, was also held in the hopes of creating pressure for Congress to enact legislation forcing elected officials to release their tax returns.

More rallies are planned for this weekend with a focus on addressing Climate Change.


► One of the biggest political stories in the country this week is taking place in Georgia, where the outcome of a special race to replace Republican Rep. Tom Price (now President Trump’s Secretary of Health and Human Services) could foretell big changes in the 2018 election. Democratic candidate Jon Ossoff may be able to get better than 50% of the vote in Tuesday’s election and avoid a runoff election with one of 11 Republican candidates. As CNN explains:

That’s what makes this race so fascinating: It shouldn’t be competitive. When Rep. Tom Price was tapped as Donald Trump’s health secretary, Georgia politicos were readying for what was likely to be an all-Republican fight featuring a few token Democrats. But Ossoff has jolted the 18-candidate field and unified most of the district’s Democrats and Trump skeptics.

Republicans are concerned enough about this race that President Trump took to bashing Ossoff on Twitter this morning.


► The White House is taking criticism from a late Friday announcement that visitor logs would no longer be made public. As the Washington Post writes:

Donald Trump appears to have made a cynical calculation that he will not pay a high political price for being the most secretive president since Richard Nixon.

All the leaks about infighting among senior staff and the president’s proclivity for tweeting have created a false sense that the public knows what is happening inside his White House. In fact, the administration has gone to great lengths to conceal pertinent information from the American people.

After dodging questions on the subject for weeks, the administration waited until the afternoon of Good Friday to dump the news that it will not follow former president Barack Obama’s policy of voluntarily disclosing the names of most visitors to the White House complex. The president’s communications director cited “grave national security risks” as a justification, even though Obama had made an exception for national security.


Get even more smarter after the jump…


Monday Open Thread

“Meanings are not determined by situations, but we determine ourselves by the meanings we give to situations.”

–Alfred Adler

So You Think They’re Tired of Protesting, Do You?

Because yesterday was a weekend day, April 15th didn’t mark the traditional deadline for Americans to file their federal income tax returns. Nonetheless the significance of Tax Day in the minds of most Americans is a cogent reminder of the laundry list of grievances against President Donald Trump, including Trump’s refusal to release his full tax returns so the nation can finally understand the full nature of his wealth.

As a result, yesterday featured large protests in cities across the nation, including what may be the biggest protest in downtown Denver since the January 21st Women’s March drew an estimated 200,000 people to the streets–Denver7’s Oscar Contreras:

Thousands took to the streets in Denver demanding to see President Donald Trump’s tax returns…

The Tax March in Denver, one of more than 150 held across the nation, was also held in the hopes of creating pressure for Congress to enact legislation forcing elected officials to release their tax returns.

“The taxes would release a great deal,” said Donna Victor, a protester who spoke with Denver7. “He needs transparency. He’s President of the United States of America and it’s very important to be transparent.”

But the rallying cries didn’t come just from his opponents.

“I’m actually hoping to find out that he has no questionable business dealings,” said Lisa Curwen. “I would rest easier. I feel like I could get behind my president.”

FOX 31:

It turns out, people still care about President Trump’s tax returns.

On Saturday, thousands of protesters descended on Denver’s Civic Center Park that he make his most recent tax returns public. After hearing from a number of speakers that included activists and state lawmakers, they went on a march through downtown Denver…

Trump has said that Americans “don’t care at all” about his tax returns, but polls show 74% of Americans say he should release them. Many lawmakers, including some Republicans, have also called on him to make them public. And a petition demanding that Trump release his returns has garnered more than 1 million signatures.

Nearly 7,000 people had signed up to attend the event on Facebook, and the ideal weather yesterday in downtown Denver cooperated to help organizers beat that number by most accounts. The last three months since Tump’s inauguration have featured protests almost every weekend regardless of the weather, but yesterday’s march was substantially bigger than most of them. The protest was also entirely peaceful, with no reports of arrests or violence.

After Trump’s unexpected victory shocked the left out of its infighting-riddled complacency, the protests against Trump’s presidency have set new records. The Women’s March was by most estimates the largest single day of protest in American history. The Tax Day March yesterday was date-driven, but the continuing robust protests against Trump on the whole range of issues–next Saturday it’s the March for Science–offer a glimpse of the energy waiting to be unleashed in the increasingly plausible event of a constitutional crisis or other major negative developments within Trump’s administration.

It’s quite a time to be alive, really.

How Many Coloradans Would Trumpcare Kill?

As the Colorado Statesman’s John Tomasic reports, a new report from the Center for Budget and Policy Priorities puts a fresh number on the damage the moribund American Health Care Act, a.k.a. Trumpcare, would do in Colorado–and just in case you weren’t already clear on this, it’s pretty bad:

A new report on the House Republican American Health Care Act finds the plan would leave $15 billion in Medicaid costs for Colorado to pay, end the Obamacare Medicaid expansion and likely leave more than 420,000 residents without health care coverage.

The bleak findings of the progressive Center on Budget and Policy Priorities are shocking but not surprising. The organization seeks to move budget debate toward policies that reduce poverty and inequality — and the Republican plan has been critiqued widely for slashing program and funding cuts that would eliminate health coverage for millions of Americans — many of them children and many more of them rural elderly people who backed Trump for president.

“The cuts would be deepest precisely when need is greatest, since federal Medicaid funding would no longer increase automatically when public health emergencies like the opioid epidemic or a natural disaster increase state costs,” the report on Colorado reads. “The [plan] also wouldn’t take into account demographic changes, such as the rise in seniors’ Medicaid costs as they age, meaning states would face even larger cuts over the long run. The share of Colorado seniors who are 85 or older will increase by 42 percent between 2025 and 2035.”

Negotiations on resurrecting Trumpcare have stalled out in Washington, and legislation in the Colorado legislature to repeal the Connect For Health Colorado health insurance marketplace is also stuck. The consensus seems to be that the attempt to repeal the Affordable Care Act was disastrous for Republicans, and there is nothing to be gained even by pushing the repeal of the state exchange to its certain death in the Democratic-controlled Colorado House.

Even though Republicans at the state and federal level were happy to vote for health reform repeal measures when they were strictly hypothetical, now that the damage repeal would do is quantifiable and (most importantly) feasible under a Republican majority in Washington, Republicans are unwilling to follow through.

The numbers above tell you all you need to know. It’s political suicide.