Cory Gardner’s Abysmal Poll Numbers

Sen. Cory Gardner (R-Yuma) does not fare well in new polling results from Keating Research.

The Denver Post reports today on new polling numbers from Keating Research showing that 54% of Colorado voters would rather save or improve Obamacare instead of eliminating or replacing the healthcare law — numbers that have been fairly consistent among Coloradans. But the more eye-popping numbers come in response to questions about the favorability of Sen. Cory Gardner (R-Yuma):

…the 503 Colorado voters surveyed in the new poll were less than happy with President Donald Trump: 43 percent viewed him favorably, compared to 55 percent who do not like the new commander-in-chief.

It’s a different story for U.S. Sen. Cory Gardner, a Republican who jettisoned his support for Trump last year and has spent much of 2017 trying to walk a fine line with the new administration on policies ranging from Russia to healthcare — all the while taking heat from Democrats and liberal activists for other issues, such as supporting Trump’s Cabinet picks.

The poll found a near-split on his approval ratings: 39 percent viewed Gardner favorably compared to the 38 percent who viewed him unfavorably.

But Gardner’s efforts to keep Trump at arm’s length may be hurting his support among Republicans. His approval among GOP voters was 63 percent — a far cry from the 83 percent of Colorado Republicans who approved of Trump.

Gah!

These are absolute horrid numbers for Gardner…and they are also easily explainable. As we’ve said in this space many times, the cardinal sin for any politician is to ignore your constituents, which Gardner has done regularly since the 2016 election. It doesn’t help Gardner that he tries so hard to be all things to all people, but the bigger albatross is his very public decision to avoid having contact with Colorado voters (despite what he has said himself in the past).

When a cardboard cutout is more popular than the man himself, you’ve got problems.

Gorsuch/Anschutz Exposé Puts Bennet on Hot Seat

Phil Anschutz.

The New York Times put out a story late yesterday that’s driving a lot of discussion in Colorado–detailing very close ties between U.S Supreme Court nominee Neil Gorsuch and Colorado billionaire Phil Anschutz that raise a number of previously unasked questions:

Mr. Anschutz’s influence is especially felt in his home state of Colorado, where years ago Judge Neil M. Gorsuch, a Denver native, the son of a well-known Colorado Republican and now President Trump’s nominee for the Supreme Court, was drawn into his orbit.

As a lawyer at a Washington law firm in the early 2000s, Judge Gorsuch represented Mr. Anschutz, his companies and lower-ranking business executives as an outside counsel. In 2006, Mr. Anschutz successfully lobbied Colorado’s lone Republican senator and the Bush administration to nominate Judge Gorsuch to the federal appeals court. And since joining the court, Judge Gorsuch has been a semiregular speaker at the mogul’s annual dove-hunting retreats for the wealthy and politically prominent at his 60-square-mile Eagles Nest Ranch.

“They say a country’s prosperity depends on three things: sound money, private property and the rule of law,” Judge Gorsuch said at the 2010 retreat, according to his speaker notes from that year. “This crowd hardly needs to hear from me about the first two of the problems we face on those scores.”

As an outside counsel for Anschutz’s business empire, Gorsuch reportedly worked on a number of high-profile cases. But the big news in this story, something we and we’re pretty sure most Coloradans were not aware of, was Anschutz’s apparent heavy lobbying for Gorsuch’s appointment as a federal judge in 2006. Since his appointment, Gorsuch has apparently recused himself from some–but not all–cases that came before his court with a relationship to Phil Anschutz.

A surprising omission from this New York Times story is the fact that Gorsuch’s service as counsel to Anschutz overlaps with Sen. Michael Bennet’s tenure as Managing Director of the Anschutz Investment Company. Bennet’s employment by Anschutz is of course a matter of record, but obviously disclosure of these ties between Neil Gorsuch and Phil Anschutz invite new questions about how that association might affect Bennet’s vote to confirm Gorsuch to the U.S. Supreme Court. Sen. Bennet has been very reserved about Gorsuch’s nomination, and is publicly undecided on whether to support him.

With Democrats generally hardening in opposition to Gorsuch as confirmation hearings prepare to begin, this could be a big moment for Sen. Bennet to refute some of the persistent criticism he gets on his left. A vote against Gorsuch–and especially against cloture to proceed to the simple majority confirmation vote itself–is an opportunity for Bennet to prove he’s his own man, at a moment it would really count.

Whether he likes it or not, Bennet is now front-and-center in the Gorsuch confirmation battle. Stay tuned.

Get More Smarter on Wednesday (March 15)

The NCAA Tournament starts tomorrow morning, so get those brackets filled out. Scroll down for more from Get More Smarter, which is also available through microwave ovens. If you think we missed something important, please include the link in the comments below (here’s a good example). If you are more of a visual learner, check out The Get More Smarter Show.

TOP OF MIND TODAY…

► Trumpcare appears to be in trouble. Following a brutal Congressional Budget Office review of the GOP healthcare plan, many moderate Republicans are abandoning ship. As CNN reports:

Florida Republican Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen said publicly Tuesday that she wouldn’t be able to support the GOP health care legislation after the CBO score revealed the high number of people who would lose insurance.

“I plan to vote NO on the current #AHCA bill. As written the plan leaves too many from my #SoFla district uninsured,” the Florida congresswoman wrote in two consecutive tweets. “As #AHCA stands, it will cut much needed help for #SoFla’s poor + elderly populations. Need a plan that will do more to protect them.”

Republican Rep. Leonard Lance, a moderate from New Jersey who Democrats believe will be vulnerable in 2018, told CNN that he believes the House bill will fail in the Senate. As he eyes his own reelection campaign next year, Lance said he doesn’t want to support a legislation that would be rejected by his Republican colleagues across the Capitol.

“I do not want to vote on a bill that has no chance of passing over in the Senate,” Lance said. “The CBO score has modified the dynamics.”

In light of the new CBO report, Lance said House leaders must make changes to their existing bill and only bring to the floor a version that can survive in the Senate.

It’s not difficult to see the political calculations taking place here. Skittish House Republicans are going to oppose Trumpcare as written because they’ll say that it can’t pass the Senate. Meanwhile, Senate Republicans will demand changes to the bill and just refuse to do anything unless/until the legislation passes through the House.

For a terrific breakdown of Trumpcare, check out this page from the Denver Post.

 

► Allies of President Trump, meanwhile, are warning the big orange man that the GOP healthcare legislation is doomed and are encouraging the President to cut bait before he gets sucked too far into the debate (we’d argue that this has already happened, but, whatever). From the Washington Post:

A simmering rebellion of conservative populists loyal to President Donald Trump is further endangering the GOP health-care push, with a chorus of influential voices suspicious of the proposal warning the president to abandon it.

From headlines at Breitbart to chatter on Fox News Channel and right-wing talk radio, as well as among friends who have Trump’s ear, the message has been blunt: The plan is being advanced by congressional Republican leaders is deeply flawed – and, at worst, a political trap. [Pols emphasis]

Trump’s allies worry that he is jeopardizing his presidency by promoting the bill spearheaded by House Speaker Paul Ryan, Wis., arguing that it would fracture Trump’s coalition of working- and middle-class voters, many of them older and subsisting on federal aid.

It is a bit strange to hear Republicans referring to the American Health Care Act as a “political trap.” If it is indeed a trap, it is one that the GOP set for itself.

 

► Fringe right-wing interest groups in Colorado are demonstrating that they are absolutely not interested in any sort of constructive outcome on, well, anything.

 

 

Get even more smarter after the jump… (more…)

Another Try At “Rolling Coal” Ban This Year?

“Rolling coal” is not sexy.

As the Fort Collins Coloradoan’s Nick Coltrain reports–after a substantial outcry over the killing of bipartisan legislation from GOP Sen. Don Coram and Democratic Rep. Joann Ginal to outlaw “rolling coal,” modifying your diesel vehicle to spew clouds of black smoke on demand, Sen. Coram is planning to try again before the end of the legislative session with a new bill introduced in the GOP-held Colorado Senate:

The effort to outlaw rolling coal may have stalled out early on this legislative session, but don’t count it out just yet.

State Sen. Don Coram, R-Montrose, plans to introduce a similar bill later this session targeted at stopping drivers who harass others by blasting smoke from their diesel trucks. It would not seek to make the modifications that make doing so possible illegal.

“(Rolling coal) is not done for fuel economy, I can tell you that,” Coram, a rancher by trade, said. “It’s just harassment.” [Pols emphasis]

Each year Ginal’s bill passed the House and failed in a Senate committee on partisan lines with Republicans in dissent. She hoped that Coram sponsoring this year’s version in the Senate would bridge that divide.

Instead, it fell among Republican Sen. Jerry Sonnenberg’s fears that it would lead to California-like emissions regulations for Colorado motorists.

Coltrain reports that Sen. Coram is going to “tweak” the bill in an attempt to allay Sen. Jerry Sonnenberg’s concerns and get the bill through the Senate, and Rep. Ginal will serve at the House sponsor of the new bill. It’s anybody’s guess whether Coram will have more success next time, but it’s face-saving on behalf of his fellow Republican Senators for him to at least try.

Will Colorado finally summon up the will to crack down on the noxious practice of “coal rolling?” We know plenty of pedestrians, bicyclists, and Prius owners who sincerely hope so.

Wingnut Pressure Groups: Why Colorado Can’t Have Nice Things

We mentioned this developing story in today’s Get More Smarter roundup, but the crisis over Republican intransigence on a deal to increase revenue for transportation spending in Colorado is getting worse by the minute–recapping the Denver Post’s report today on an “alternative” to the bipartisan deal between the Senate and House leadership from the #2 Republican in the Senate:

Senate President Pro Tem Jerry Sonnenberg calls his effort “supplemental” but the proposal is a clear alternative to the one put forward by Senate President Kevin Grantham and House Speaker Crisanta Duran.

Sonnenberg, R-Sterling, said his draft bill would not increase taxes and would use $100 million in existing state dollars to cover a much smaller $1.3 billion bond, which is only enough to improve small local roads.

“I am going to do a supplemental transportation bill that may reduce the tax increase, may provide for some help if this transportation bill doesn’t pass,” he said Monday in a briefing with reporters in Grantham’s office.

At the same time, conservative activists led by the Independence Institute are pushing an “alternative measure” called “Fix Our Damn Roads,” which directs the state to find money in the existing budget to pay for roads improvements:

On Friday, Jon Caldara, head of the libertarian-leaning Independence Institute, filed his own ballot measure with the Colorado Legislative Council that calls for $2.5 billion in bonding without the tax increase and without the transit funding. There’s enough money in the existing budget to pay for road improvements, he said, and the legislature needs to stop messing around.

And at the top of the Republican food chain, national conservative advocacy group Americans for Prosperity is leading opposition under the Gold Dome to the bipartisan roads compromise:

Watching Americans for Prosperity tear into Senate GOP leadership is particularly interesting, since there has been famously little daylight between that group and Senate Republicans ever since former Senate President Bill Cadman credited AFP with the Republican majority after the 2014 elections. The spokesman for Senate Republicans, Sean Paige, is himself a former AFP staffer–and taking fire from his former shop must be an unusual experience.

Both AFP and the Independence Institute are demonstrating a dogmatic unwillingness to compromise on this important issue, placing them well outside even the Republican mainstream–the proof of that being their opposition to a plan negotiated by a Republican Senate President. Both AFP and the Independence Institute have celebrated the “fiscal responsibility” that the 1992 Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights requires the state to observe, but still claim there is hundreds of millions of dollars of waste in the budget that can be “reprioritized” to fund road repairs. Obviously, only one of those can be true.

At some point, you just have to understand that these groups are not interested in a constructive outcome. Their proposals can afford to be unworkable because they are not intended to be serious. These “alternatives” only exist to thwart debate on the real deal. It’s fine for outside pressure groups to draw an ideological hard line like this, but that shouldn’t be the final answer from responsible elected government officials. Governing, after all, is all about compromise.

Unfortunately, these groups wield enormous power. And too often, they write the script that Republican lawmakers read.

Gardner Proposes Working Around Congressional Budget Office

(Nobody drives in both lanes like Cory Gardner — Promoted by Colorado Pols)

In response to the growing outcry over the Congressional Budget Office’s estimate that 24 million Americans could lose their health insurance under a proposed GOP replacement plan, U.S. Sen. Cory Gardner (R-Colorado) told a conservative talk radio host today that the Trump Administration should step up repealing the national health care law by taking actions that “won’t ever be scored by the Congressional Budget Office.”

“We also, I believe, need the Administration to move forward with some of its executive actions [to repeal parts of Obamacare],” Gardner told KHOW 630-AM’s Ross Kaminsky. “Those executive actions they can take won’t ever be scored by the Congressional Budget Office. That’s not what the Congressional Budget Office does. But if they take those actions, it could result in significant improvement in the current system.”

Gardner is referring to Trump Administration actions that, analysts say, could throw the national healthcare law into a “death spiral,” even without any action by Congress. Broadly, those actions, some of which have already been taken, would undermine enforcement of the requirement that Americans buy health insurance, undermining the core of the law. At the same time, Trump could make it more difficult and less attractive for people to buy insurance through the exchanges.

With respect to Gardner’s previously stated desire for the Obamacare replacement to provide more stability for those on Medicaid, Gardner said he wants to see unspecified changes in the proposed House bill to address his concerns, released in a joint letter.

(more…)

Get More Smarter on Tuesday (March 14)

If you’re having trouble reading today’s edition of Get More Smarter, note that we are also sending it out via microwave ovens. If you think we missed something important, please include the link in the comments below (here’s a good example). If you are more of a visual learner, check out The Get More Smarter Show.

TOP OF MIND TODAY…

► Republicans from Capitol Hill to the White House may publicly insist that Monday’s CBO score of Trumpcare is bogus, but reality is likely to intervene. As the Washington Post reports:

The worse-than-expected Congressional Budget Office forecast seems certain to force meaningful changes to the Obamacare repeal bill now under consideration in the House.

An alarm bell for GOP leadership: Rep. Rob Wittman (R-Va.) is exactly the kind of mainstream conservative whose support House Speaker Paul Ryan needs to secure passage of his pending legislation. After reading the CBO report last night, he came out against the plan…

…Senate Republicans are making it increasingly clear that the House bill, as presently constituted, will be dead on arrival in their chamber.

The Congressional Budget Office estimate that Trumpcare would leave 24 million Americans without health insurance might have actually been generous compared to a separate analysis from the White House. As Politico reports:

A White House analysis of the GOP plan to repeal and replace Obamacare shows even steeper coverage losses than the projections by the Congressional Budget Office, according to a document viewed by POLITICO on Monday.

The preliminary analysis from the Office of Management and Budget forecast that 26 million people would lose coverage over the next decade, versus the 24 million CBO estimates. [Pols emphasis] The White House has made efforts to discredit the forecasts from the nonpartisan CBO.

 

► An increasing number of prominent Republicans are backing away from Trumpcare in the wake of Monday’s news (“Let’s say the CBO is half-right; that should be cause for concern,’’ said Sen. Lindsey Graham), but Congressional leaders are still trying to convince members to choke down this shit sandwich. The Republican-aligned “American Action Network” is running advertisements praising Congressional Republicans — including Rep. Mike Coffman (R-Aurora) — for committing to support the Trumpcare disaster. On Monday, Coffman said that he supports the GOP healthcare bill “in its current form.”

 

► Conversations at the State Capitol about a potential sales tax increase for road construction are getting more convoluted as conservative Republicans balk at the idea. From the Denver Post:

How troubled is the much-acclaimed deal at the Capitol to spend $3.5 billion on Colorado roads to relieve traffic congestion?

Here’s the best indication to date: The No. 2 Republican in the state Senate said Monday he is proposing an alternative to the measure unveiled last week by the Senate’s No. 1 Republican.

Senate President Pro Tem Jerry Sonnenberg calls his effort “supplemental” but the proposal is a clear alternative to the one put forward by Senate President Kevin Grantham and House Speaker Crisanta Duran.

Sonnenberg, R-Sterling, said his draft bill would not increase taxes and would use $100 million in existing state dollars to cover a much smaller $1.3 billion bond, which is only enough to improve small local roads. [Pols emphasis]

Way to get a handle on your caucus, Sen. Grantham.

 

 

Get even more smarter after the jump… (more…)

Jeff Sessions Sure Sounds Like He’s Coming For Your Weed

Attorney General Jeff Sessions.

Alicia Wallace reporting at the Denver Post’s Cannabist news site on an interview last week of Attorney General Jeff Sessions by conservative pundit Hugh Hewitt–in which Sessions gets even more specific about his options for cracking down on the legal marijuana industry:

Sessions’ latest remarks on marijuana legalization and enforcement came during a radio interview Thursday with conservative talk show host Hugh Hewitt.

Hewitt broached the topic of marijuana by asking Sessions whether he would apply the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations (RICO) Act to “end this facade and the flaunting of the Supremacy Clause.”

“…And I’m not in favor of legalization of marijuana. I think it’s a more dangerous drug than a lot of people realize. I don’t think we’re going to be a better community if marijuana is sold in every corner grocery store.”

Asked about whether he could send a message by bringing a RICO case against one retailer, Sessions said the Justice Department is analyzing its options.

“Well, we’ll be evaluating how we want to handle that,” he said. “I think it’s a little more complicated than one RICO case, I’ve got to tell you. This, places like Colorado, it’s just sprung up a lot of different independent entities that are moving marijuana. And it’s also being moved interstate, not just in the home state. … And neighbors (Oklahoma and Nebraska) are complaining, and filed lawsuits against them. So it’s a serious matter, in my opinion.”

That Sessions specific cited the example of Colorado, as opposed to other legal marijuana states with functioning retail markets like Washington or Oregon, should indeed worry local marijuana industry supporters. Without the resources to deploy thousands of federal agents to shut down marijuana stores and growhouses, it’s much more likely that Sessions would choose to file suit against one example state, or even prosecute an individual business under federal marijuana laws in order to send a chilling message to the industry. The real objective for Sessions would not be to use federal resources to stamp out the marijuana industry, but to induce states to do so themselves.

Politically, this would be a destructive development for Colorado Republicans ahead of the 2018 midterm elections. The question is whether our one small swing state would count for enough politically to give someone like Sessions pause–or for that matter, any of the marijuana states, most of whom are reliably blue.

Most likely, Sessions doesn’t give a crap about the politics. And if you care about Colorado’s marijuana industry, it’s quite possible that the best chance to defend it was before November 8th, 2016. Federal law is what it is, and the only thing that allowed this new industry to flourish without changing federal law was a permissive executive branch.

And because elections matter, those days are over.

Lipstick on a Pig: Ad “Thanks” Coffman For GOP Health Disaster

Rep. Paul Ryan with now-Sen. Cory Gardner.

The news yesterday from the Congressional Budget Office that the much-anticipated Republican repeal/replacement legislation for the 2010 Affordable Care Act would leave 24 million Americans uninsured by 2026 has rocked the debate over former President Barack Obama’s signature health reform law. We haven’t seen much in the way of response to the CBO’s damning analysis from Republicans, some of whom were fully intending to dismiss the estimate until the White House’s own numbers projected an even larger loss.

Politico obtained one of the only responses from Sen. Cory Gardner we believe has been made public as of now:

“We’ve got work to do here,” said Sen. Cory Gardner (R-Colo.), who had raised concerns about the bill’s effect on Medicaid. [Pols emphasis]

Whatever that means! Sen. Gardner’s decision to join with three other vulnerable Republicans in expressing concern about Medicaid patients under the House GOP’s plan was contradicted by Gardner’s appearance at a press conference with Vice President Mike Pence to support the plan a day later. This contradiction has yet to be resolved, but we have to believe that time is running out for Gardner to continue skating.

On the other hand, as Jason Salzman reported yesterday, Rep. Mike Coffman has explicitly committed himself to voting for the House GOP legislation “in its current form.” Coffman said that before the CBO score was made public, and there’s been no subsequent statement to suggest otherwise. Not that it would matter much anyway, after the Paul Ryan-orbit American Action Network started running ads today praising Coffman for his support of Ryan’s American Healthcare Act:

Today the American Action Network (@AAN) begins a new $1.5 million issue advocacy campaign to further momentum as conservative lawmakers fight to pass historic health care reform with the American Health Care Act (AHCA). The ad highlights key elements of the plan and encourages lawmakers to deliver on their health care promise. Over the next two weeks, the ads will air nationally on MSNBC’s Morning Joe and in 15 congressional districts nationwide…

“This is a historic opportunity to reverse the trajectory of health care in our country. Many conservative lawmakers are fighting for strong, conservative solutions to the Affordable Care Act that has failed and will only get worse unless Congress passes the American Health Care Act,” said Corry Bliss, AAN Executive Director. “We want constituents to know about their representatives’ efforts as they fight to keep their promise and deliver a plan that will provide access to quality, affordable health care of their choice.”

At some point, we expect Coffman to issue a statement on whether he, you know, wants their “thanks!” With Coffman already committed to the bill prior to the analysis of its effects being released, the ad makes sense–as of right now.

But for politicians with an interest in their own career survival like Coffman, these things have a way of changing. The stark human costs of the House GOP repeal bill, weighed against any economic benefit it might have for the nation, invite the most basic questions about what the point of this entire exercise even is. And it breaks the central promise that has been made by Republicans throughout the long debate over Obamacare: to replace it with something quantifiably better.

For Sen. Gardner and Rep. Coffman, this is a fateful moment. Six years of posturing and misinformation just hit the wall of reality. It is not hyperbole to suggest that what they do next will make or break their careers.

Trumpcare Would Leave 24 Million Without Health Coverage

Vice President Mike Pence announcing support for Trumpcare last week (Sen. Cory Gardner is on the left of the photo)

The numbers are in! As the Associated Press reports, the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office (CBO) has reviewed the House Republican healthcare plan, also known as Trumpcare, and the math doesn’t look good:

Fourteen million Americans would lose coverage next year under House Republican legislation remaking the nation’s health care system, and that figure would grow to 24 million by 2026, Congress’ nonpartisan budget analysts projected Monday. [Pols emphasis] The figures dealt a blow to a GOP drive already under fire from both parties and large segments of the medical industry.

The report by the Congressional Budget Office flies in the face of President Donald Trump’s aim of “insurance for everybody,” and he has been assailing the credibility of the CBO in advance of the release. Administration officials quickly took strong issue with it.

Congressional Republicans and The White House had anticipated poor marks from the CBO, which is why they spent much of the last week talking about how little confidence they had in the CBO’s forecasting abilities. But today’s CBO report may be much worse than Republicans could have predicted; remember those claims that Obamacare is unstable and on the verge of collapse? Yeah, not so much:

“Insurance for everybody!”

— President Trump speaking about GOP healthcare plans in January.

 

It also undercuts a central argument that he and other Republicans have cited for swiftly rolling back former President Barack Obama’s health care overhaul: that the health insurance markets created under the 2010 law are unstable and about to implode. The congressional experts said that largely would not be the case and the market for individual health insurance policies “would probably be stable in most areas either under current law or the (GOP) legislation.”

“Nobody will be worse off financially…”

— Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price, speaking about Trumpcare on Sunday.

Today’s report also undercuts statements made by President Trump just this morning, when he said, “Things are gonna be very bad this year for the people with Obamacare. They’re gonna have tremendous increases.” As it turns out, according to the CBO, Trumpcare would cost Americans much more than Obamacare:

…The budget office found that average premiums for individuals would rise in 2018 and 2019 by 15 percent to 20 percent compared to current law, because Republicans would eliminate the penalties designed to induce people to buy insurance coverage.

Aside from the fact that Trumpcare will leave 24 million people uninsured and will be more expensive for those who can still manage to get coverage, this is a great piece of legislation!

Marshall Zelinger Wins Cronkite Award For Keyser Fraud Story

Local TV news reporter Marshall Zelinger.

Today, the University of Southern California’s Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism announced the winners of the prestigious Walter Cronkite Awards for Excellence in Television Political Journalism. A couple of familiar Colorado reporters made the roster, including Marshall Zelinger (formerly of Denver7 now with 9NEWS) and his breaking of arguably the biggest Colorado political story of 2016:

At the awards event in 2005, Cronkite warned that “it’s going to be, to a large degree, up to us in television and radio, in broadcasting” to equip Americans “to perform the act of intelligently selecting our leaders…. If we fail at that, our democracy, our republic is, I think, in serious danger.” Announcing the winners, USC Annenberg Professor and Lear Center Director Marty Kaplan said, “Today, at this seriously dangerous moment for our democracy, these Cronkite Awards honor journalists, stations and networks stepping up to their civic responsibility to tell Americans the truth.”

The trophies will be presented at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C., on Friday, April 28 at an invitation-only ceremony. For more information, including the winning entry videos, visit www.cronkiteaward.org…

SPECIAL COMMENDATION FOR LOCAL INVESTIGATIVE JOURNALISM

• Marshall Zelinger and KMGH-TV, Denver, CO, the Scripps-owned ABC affiliate, are recognized for breaking the story of a signature forgery scandal that rocked a U.S. Senate race. His dogged research tracking down voters whose signatures were forged, as well as finding the forgery suspect, triggered an official investigation and eventual policy change. Zelinger, now at KUSA, showed “the impact that journalism can have on politics.”

The discovery of forged signatures in GOP U.S. Senate frontrunner Jon Keyser’s ballot petitions upended the race against incumbent Democratic Sen. Michael Bennet, and was the largest single factor ensuring that a qualified candidate did not emerge from the Republican primary. To prove the extensive fraud in Keyser’s petitions was a very tall order for a local news journalist, but Zelinger’s persistence in tracking down the truth–and steely nerve confronting Keyser with the evidence–was a factor that no one was counting on. Not only did Zelinger uncover fraud, he proved over the frantic objections of Keyser’s many defenders that the facts can still trump a favored candidate’s ambition.

In doing so, Zelinger struck a blow for more than just good journalism. It was nothing short of a win for truth, justice, and the American way–and Zelinger’s career deserves the upswing this award is likely to give him.

Congratulations also to 9NEWS’ Brandon Rittiman, honored with a Cronkite of his own for his generally excellent Trust Test series of political fact-checks. For as much as we complain about what’s wrong with local political journalism, here are a couple fine examples of what’s working.

More like them, please.

Coffman would vote for GOP health care bill “in its current form”

(Coffman commits to “Trumpcare” – Promoted by Colorado Pols)

POLS UPDATE #2: Rep. Diana DeGette weighs in strongly on the CBO’s new analysis:

“The truth is now plain for all to see: This Trumpcare bill will take a terrible toll, both in human and financial terms,” DeGette said. “It will deprive 14 million people of insurance in its first year alone, and 24 million by 2026. Premiums will spike by 25 percent 2018 and 20 percent in 2019, on top of projected increases under the current law. It will raise health costs on the middle class while giving tax breaks to the very wealthy, while pushing working families out of health coverage altogether.

“Rather than jamming this bad bill through the House for a lopsided, party-line vote as the majority leadership is trying to do, we should sit down together and work on bipartisan solutions to improve what we already have.”

—–

POLS UPDATE: Apropos, the Congressional Budget Office released its analysis of the GOP health care bill Monday.

Rep. Mike Coffman should have kept his mouth shut.

An estimated 14 million Americans could lose their health care coverage in 2018, and 24 million by 2026 under a Republican bill to replace Obamacare, the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office said Monday in an analysis that could make the controversial legislation even tougher for GOP leaders to push through Congress…

The number of Americans who lose their coverage could rise to 21 million in 2020 and 24 million in 2026 as the GOP plan phases out Obamacare’s Medicaid expansion, the CBO said.

“In 2026, an estimated 52 million people would be uninsured, compared with 28 million who would lack insurance that year under current law,” the analysis said.

The CBO report came as Republican leaders in Congress were already scrambling to keep their fractious caucus together on the bill. Some conservatives have denounced the plan as “Obamacare lite,” arguing that it does not go far enough in scrapping the Affordable Care Act and creates new entitlements by replacing the current law’s federal subsidies for low-income people with tax credits. At the same time, some moderate Republicans in the Senate fear their low-income constituents will lose coverage because the legislation phases out the expansion of Medicaid that Obamacare helped fund in many states.

—–

Rep. Mike Coffman (R).

If passed, the health care law put forward by congressional Republicans would probably mean six to 15 million Americans would lose their health insurance, according to various outside analysts.

Particularly at risk are people who’ve gained insurance under Obamacare, and U.S. Rep. Mike Coffman’s (R-Aurora) own district has 14,000 such people, according to a report by the Kaiser Family Foundation. And it could be even worse, if you believe U.S. House Democrats, who report that 37,800 Medicaid recipients in Coffman’s district could lose their Medicaid health insurance under an Obamacare repeal.

Yet, on KNUS 710-AM Saturday, Coffman said he’d vote for the GOP healthcare bill, “in its current form,” if it came up for a vote today.

Silverman: If you had to vote today, would you vote for the bill that Speaker Ryan has put forth with the blessings of Donald Trump?

Coffman: …In its current form right now, I would vote for it. Obviously, I’m concerned about it being changed and what changes may happen. And I certainly do have some changes to it that I’m pushing. But if I had to vote today on the form that’s there, I would support it.

Coffman’s endorsement of the GOP’s American Health Care Act comes before the Congressional Budget Office is set to release this a much-anticipated analysis of the costs and impact of the GOP bill.

Coffman’s office told 9News last month that he wanted to maintain coverage for people who received it under Obamacare, but the GOP bill does not guarantee this.

“Coffman’s office told us he wants to keep the changes Obamacare made for pre-existing conditions, the ability for parents to keep children on their plans until age 26, and maintaining coverage for people who gained it under the ACA—including the Medicaid expansion, which has been criticized by some of Coffman’s fellow Republicans,” 9News Brandon Rittiman reported Feb. 21.

Coffman’s stance on the Republican bill will surely invite questions from low-income residents of his competitive district.

And it might draw more attention to the image of Coffman exiting early the back door of a library full of people waiting to talk to him about health care.

In their report, Democrats on U.S. House Committees state that the uninsured rate went from 15.8 percent to 7.9 percent in Coffman’s district since Obamacare became law (here at page 99).

Listen to Coffman on KNUS 710-AM’s Craig Silverman Show March 11:

Jared Polis Owns The Town Hall

Rep. Jared Polis (D).

As the Boulder Daily Camera’s Jennifer Rios reports–this weekend, Rep. Jared Polis of Boulder held two public in-person town hall events in Broomfield and Fort Collins, both by all accounts highly successful and packed to the proverbial gills:

A warm welcome and words of gratitude greeted Rep. Jared Polis in Broomfield where the congressman answered community questions at the first of two town halls Sunday.

A mariachi group serenaded the approximately 1,000 constituents from Broomfield, Boulder, Longmont, Erie, Lafayette and Louisville who formed a line outside the Broomfield High School gymnasium.

Polis, who represents the 2nd congressional district, gave a short address before turning microphones over to residents who asked questions on topics that ranged from education and health care to the environment, as well as general fears and disdain about the Donald Trump administration.

And the Loveland Reporter-Herald’s Saja Hindi reports from Fort Collins:

Earlier, he held a town hall in Broomfield that drew 1,000 attendees. The CSU event attracted 800.

“So many people are engaged and worried about what’s going on or want to know what’s going on,” Polis said in an interview.

Despite the Republican majority in both houses of Congress and the White House, Polis told attendees at the event that he’s working on several bipartisan bills and said he would work with the president if there’s a way on tax policy and infrastructure.

However, that doesn’t mean he doesn’t hold serious concerns, ones that attendees at the event appeared to share from their questions — the repeal of the Affordable Care Act and replacement with one many won’t be able to afford; anti-immigrant, anti-Semitic and anti-Muslim rhetoric and policies; taking a step back on LGBTQ equal rights; and defunding Planned Parenthood; among others.

And with that, Rep. Polis just showed up every other member of Colorado’s congressional delegation! Polis isn’t the only Colorado congressional representative who makes a point of retail politicking–Rep. Ed Perlmutter regularly holds his “Government in the Grocery” outreach events as well, and Rep. Diana DeGette regularly engages locally including a press conference today in Denver on the future of the Affordable Care Act. Although GOP Rep. Scott Tipton hasn’t held any in-person town hall events since the beginning of he year, Tipton did show up unannounced to an in-absentia town hall in Paonia organized by the Indivisible group.

But as of now, Polis has set the standard that every other representative in both parties should live up to. That includes both of Colorado’s U.S. Senators. Yes, he faced a friendlier audience than a Republican would today, and found common ground with attendees where Republicans would meet with hostility.

But this, as much as anything, is their job.

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