Walker Stapleton Sweating Signatures

Does Walker Stapleton have enough petition signatures to make the Republican Primary ballot for Governor?

We mentioned this briefly on Tuesday in a story about the gubernatorial candidacy of Republican Barry Farah, but it’s worth revisiting as the days drag on without word from the Secretary of State’s (SOS) office. Stapleton started talking about participating in the party caucus/assembly process soon after he was the first Republican gubernatorial candidate to submit petitions for ballot access, perhaps out of concern that he might not have enough valid signatures.

Consider: Stapleton submitted 21,000 signatures to the SOS office on February 23, just two days after Democrat Michael Johnston became the first candidate for Governor to turn in nominating petitions. On March 16, Johnston learned that he had qualified for the Democratic ballot, but just barely — Johnston’s petitions only carried a 56% validity rate. Johnston also submitted 1,500 more signatures than Stapleton, so the Republican has less of a margin for error.

Today is March 23, and there is still no indication from the SOS that Stapleton has qualified for the June Primary ballot (candidate petitions are supposed to be checked in the order they were received, so Stapleton’s numbers theoretically could have been ready earlier this week). Several candidates for state legislative seats learned today that they had gathered enough signatures for ballot access, but not Stapleton.

Of course, Stapleton could still make the primary ballot through the assembly process, but it would be a significant blow to his frontrunner status if he isn’t able to qualify by petition alone. Stapleton’s campaign has no shortage of money thanks to his Bush family ties, so failing to make the ballot through the petition process would be an indication of mismanagement rather than a lack of resources. Farah’s surprise entry into the GOP field is no doubt related — at least somewhat — to unease in Stapleton’s campaign; Farah wouldn’t likely have jumped into the race so late if he didn’t have some indication that the GOP frontrunner was beatable.

GOP caucus-goers in Jeffco go for Stapleton, Everett

(Promoted by Colorado Pols)

The Jefferson County Republican Party has released its caucus results, in advance of tomorrow’s Jefferson County meeting where delegates from caucuses will select representatives for the state-wide GOP convention April 14.

Treasurer Walker Stapleton was the clear winner in Jeffco with 436 votes, with Attorney General Cynthia Coffman second at 126 votes, businessman Victor Mitchell third at 99, followed by former Parker mayor Greg Lopez at 81, and former Trump campaign official Steve Barlock at 75. A whopping 377 caucus-goers were undecided.

For state treasurer in Jeffco, State Rep. Justin Everett scored a decisive victory, with 355 votes. State Sen. Kevin Lundberg got 204. There were 435 undecided votes.

The Denver County Republican Party also released results on Facebook, showing Stapleton won with 44 percent of votes, followed by Coffman at 34 percent, Barlock at 33 percent, and businessman Doug Robinson at 28 percent, followed by other candidates.

The Denver GOP totals exceed 100 percent, so they must be discounted as meaningless at press time.


Colorado Lawmaker Says Walkout Didn’t Stop Maryland Shooting

(Promoted by Colorado Pols)

With teenagers and adults from around the country set to rally in Washington DC tomorrow for expanded gun safety laws, one Colorado lawmaker is apparently dismissing recent student activism because it wouldn’t have prevented a school shooting this week.

Reacting to Tuesday’s shooting at a Maryland high school, Colorado State Rep. Hugh McKean (R-Loveland) wrote on Facebook:

“Apparently, the #walkout these students participated in last week didn’t serve as any means to stop this kind of violence, but a #walkUp certainly could have,” wrote McKean on Facebook.

The “walkUp” referred to by McKean is a idea promoted by conservatives to offer help and kindness to those who appear to need it. It’s person-to-person approach, offered as an alternative to the public activism in support of policy changes that’s been undertaken by teenagers, led by students from Florida.

McKean did not immediately respond to a voicemail seeking to know if he thinks the walkout and other activism by students should be completely halted in favor of the WalkUp approach.

New laws, like those sought by student activists, could not possibly have prevented the Maryland shooting because such laws are not in place yet.


A Few More Words On Matt Arnold, Preeminent Political Gadfly

Secretary of State Wayne Williams.

CBS4’s Brian Maass reports, the busiest watchdog in Colorado politics is at it again–and this time he’s gotten quite a ways down the proverbial field, with a Denver grand jury now investigating alleged official misconduct on the part of GOP Secretary of State Wayne Williams:

CBS4 has learned a Denver grand jury is investigating criminal complaints against Colorado Secretary of State Wayne Williams.

The grand jury began meeting this month, hearing from witnesses and listening to evidence alleging “official misconduct” on the part of Williams and his office. First-degree official misconduct is a misdemeanor.

Ken Lane, a spokesperson for Denver District Attorney Beth McCann, responded to a CBS4 inquiry, ”I can confirm there is an open investigation in the Denver grand jury relating to the Colorado Secretary of State, and that it concerns campaign finance complaints and the collection of campaign finance penalties. Per the rules and procedures governing grand jury proceedings, we cannot comment further on pending grand jury investigations.”

Matt Arnold, a longtime conservative Republican activist and one-time candidate for the CU Board of Regents, deeply embarrassed high-level Republican operatives associated with two-time gubernatorial loser Bob Beauprez after he won a court ruling against Colorado Pioneer Action–an “independent” political group set up by Beauprez that targeted a number of right-wing Republicans in 2016 primaries. Arnold’s suit provoked an ethically dubious series of attacks from the Phil Anschutz-owned Colorado Springs Gazette on Arnold both by the editorial board and a reporter for the paper’s political blog–both of which had financial ties to Beauprez’s group.

So no, Matt Arnold is not very popular at Republican insider cocktail parties. We can’t speak to the motivations behind all of Arnold’s mercurial actions, but in Pioneer Action’s case it would straightforwardly be in defense of the incumbent Republicans Beauprez targeted. Whatever was going on behind the scenes there, it’s not hard to understand why Arnold–like other conservative Republicans who support those candidates–did what he did.

As for Arnold’s complaint against Williams, there are two parts: first being a fine of almost $10,000 owed by a Colorado Springs-area political committee for which Sen. Bob Gardner is the registered agent. The second part, as we’ll let Arnold himself explain, concerns Williams’ intervention in numerous campaign finance cases on behalf of defendants Arnolds says are Williams’ cronies:

Arnold says a more serious problem being examined by the grand jury is Williams office using at least $25,000 in state money to legally intervene in at least half a dozen campaign finance cases.

According to Arnold’s complaint, ”Williams, in committing state resources to essentially act as defense counsel for several lawbreaking organizations and individuals, all of whom are his allies and/or contributors, acts unethically and is without parallel on the record. Consequently, Secretary Williams has, in an unauthorized exercise of his official function, directed the misuse of over $25,000 of taxpayer (public) funds for the benefit of the above-listed committees – all of whom are run by associates and political allies of Secretary Williams, who has put favors to friends above his duties to his office, the state of Colorado, and the citizens of this state, from late 2015 through at least the end of 2016 (and continuing).”

As you can imagine, Williams doesn’t agree! We want to wait to see what the grand jury investigating concludes before waxing definitive, but here’s what we’ll say in the meantime: the Secretary of State in Colorado, as a partisan elected official in charge of the elections process, may honestly be inherently conflicted in the way the duties of the office are carried out. Long before Wayne Williams, there was former Secretary of State Scott Gessler who offered to appear in a dunk tank to raise money to pay off Republican Party fines. You had Secretary of State Mike Coffman’s brush with scandal over a high-level aide caught peddling voter data to Republicans on the side. Gigi Dennis’ controversial attempts to throttle Democratic money in the last days before the 2006 election. The list of these conflict-y situations involving our Secretaries of State frankly goes on and on, and we could see a court somewhere along the line finding fundamental and systemic problems with the office’s duties and responsibilities.

In that regard, Williams would not be unique from his predecessors–but if the accountability for a much larger problem comes down on Williams’ watch, he’d still be the one to take the fall. Either way, we have no intention of blowing this off the way Arnold’s critics have always insisted we do with every one of his many accountability campaigns.

Because Bob Beauprez tried that, and Matt Arnold had the last laugh.

The Big Budget Deal, Guns, and Gardner

Trump sign bill, but Trump still mad!

After briefly threatening a veto — and randomly asking Congress to give him line item veto powers (and eliminating the filibuster) — President Trump today signed a massive $1.3 trillion spending deal that includes changes to background checks for gun purchases that Sen. Cory Gardner (R-Yuma) opposed to the very end. If that sentence seems complicated…well, it is. There’s no easy way to unpack the giant omnibus spending bill rammed through by Congress early this morning.

Let’s start things off with the Washington Post reporting from the White House:

Just hours after threatening a veto, President Trump said Friday afternoon that he had signed a “ridiculous” $1.3 trillion spending bill passed by Congress early Friday and averted a government shutdown…

…But speaking to reporters at the White House about four hours later, Trump said he had decided to sign the bill despite his reservations, arguing that it provides much-needed funding for the military, including a pay increase for troops and new equipment.

In his remarks to the media today, Trump was in full angry old man mode. From the New York Times:

In a rambling and disjointed 20-minute statement from the Diplomatic Reception Room, Mr. Trump denigrated the bill, which was rushed through the House and the Senate by members of his own Republican Party, as “crazy” and vowed to never “sign another bill like this again.”

“Nobody read it,” Mr. Trump said of the sweeping funding measure drawn up by Republican leaders in the House and the Senate. Echoing criticism from those who voted against the measure, Mr. Trump added, “It’s only hours old.”

Trump specifically addressed his anger about the 2,322-page spending bill that lawmakers could not have possibly even begun to have read before voting on the measure. The House version of the bill made it to the floor on Thursday after just 16 hours of debate; all four Colorado Republican members of Congress voted to end discussion, moving things along with a narrow 211-207 result. Colorado Reps. Mike Coffman (R-Aurora) and Ken Buck (R-Greeley) were ultimately able to vote “YES” and “NO” on the proposal (Coffman and Buck voted YES on the procedural move before pressing the “NO” button on the final vote).

Senator Cory Gardner (R-Yuma).

Over in the Senate, the spending bill passed with 62 votes; Sen. Michael Bennet (D-Denver) voted “YES” and Sen. Cory Gardner (R-Yuma) was a “NO.” Gardner’s vote is particularly interesting because the bill included the “Fix NICS” background check provision that Gardner had been blocking for weeks. The next time Gardner pretends to be concerned about gun violence, remember that he prevented the popular background fix measure from being debated in the Senate and ultimately voted against its final approval.

What else do we know about the giant omnibus spending bill? As CNN’s Gregory Krieg explains, it’s important to consider everything that was NOT bundled into the legislation, such as: 1) DACA and immigration reform, 2) Billions of dollars for Trump’s border wall, and 3) Serious attempts at preventing gun violence, including no new limits on gun purchases.

How did this all happen so quickly? As Sarah Binder writes for the Washington Post, this was Republican strategerie at work:

One of the reasons GOP leaders were keen to rush the bill to a vote is that they didn’t want their partisan base to notice that it both funds innumerable Democratic priorities and blocks the Trump administration from doing such things as expanding detention of immigrants, defunding sanctuary cities, and ending federal funding for the arts, to name a few. [Pols emphasis] The Trump White House and many conservatives wanted deep cuts to domestic programs. Party leaders ignored that. The more quickly the two chambers vote, the less time potential opponents have to unearth details that could outrage the GOP base, who might pressure their representatives to vote against the deal.

To summarize, Congressional Republicans rammed through a humongous spending bill that they didn’t read and didn’t really like that does very little to address their political vulnerabilities on gun violence and immigration reform…and will also likely anger their base of supporters.

Colorado Week in Review: 3/23/18

Your deliberately oversimplified glance at what happened in Colorado this week.

They’re Mourning McMaster In Colorado Springs

H.R. McMaster.

The Colorado Springs Gazette’s Tom Roeder reports on the local reaction to the sudden announcement yesterday that National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster was being replaced in his position by the controversial and brashly political former U.N. Ambassador John Bolton. At Fort Carson in Colorado Springs, those who knew McMaster from his time as commander of the 3rd Armored Cavalry Regiment have nothing but praise:

McMaster led the 5,200-soldier regiment of Colorado Springs troops through one of the biggest fights of the Iraq war in the 2005 battle of Tal Afar. The two weeks of combat saw one of Iraq’s most dangerous places converted to one of its safest as the regiment pioneered what would become America’s future strategy against insurgents with “clear, hold, build.”

“He’s the smartest guy I ever met in uniform,” said retired Command Sgt. Maj. John Kurak, who was a senior enlisted leader under McMaster during the Tal Afar fight…

“He can explain to young enlisted soldiers why its important for them to be that ambassador,” Kurak said. “Then he can become a statesman and have a conversation on a whole different level.”

McMaster in Colorado Springs could be fiery, especially when his motives were questioned. Kurak said that fire may have led to his downfall at the White House. [Pols emphasis]

The contrast between the hero of Tal Afar and John Bolton, a man who helped deceive the entire world into launching the war in Iraq on a false allegation that Iraq’s military was stockpiling weapons of mass destruction, could not be more stark. It’s not unreasonable to suggest that one of the most level-headed and professional national security advisors possible is being replaced with one of the most hotheaded and unprofessional figures in American foreign policy. The overwhelming historical consensus that the Iraq war was a preventable mistake, and the American public’s rejection of the war that helped drive Republicans from power in 2006-08, makes the choice of Bolton today politically as well as practically a worst-case scenario.

And if Bolton’s appointment as national security adviser goes to hell, soldiers at Fort Carson could be the ones tasked with cleaning up the mess. Again.

Trump Tweets New National Security Adviser

John Bolton

As the New York Times reports, bring on the ‘stache:

Lt. Gen. H. R. McMaster, the battle-tested Army officer tapped as President Trump’s national security adviser last year to stabilize a turbulent foreign policy operation, will resign and be replaced by John R. Bolton, a hard-line former United States ambassador to the United Nations, White House officials said Thursday.

General McMaster will retire from the military, the officials said. He has been discussing his departure with President Trump for several weeks, they said, but decided to speed up his departure, in part because questions about his status were casting a shadow over his conversations with foreign officials…

…Mr. Bolton, who will take office April 9, has met regularly with Mr. Trump to discuss foreign policy, and was on a list of candidates for national security adviser. He was in the West Wing with Mr. Trump to discuss the job on Thursday.

Bolton will be Trump’s third National Security Adviser in 14 months. Trump made the official announcement via Twitter.

As David Rothkopf writes for CNN, this is probably not good:

Bolton has distinguished himself as one of America’s most hawkish and ineffective diplomats for decades. He is known as an architect of the Iraq War, an enemy of multilateralism and foe of the United Nations, where he served during the George W. Bush administration through a recess appointment when he could not win Senate confirmation. He is also a harsh critic of the Iran nuclear deal and of North Korea, and is seen as someone who might promote conflict in both cases.

Few prominent national security figures are as ill-suited to the job of national security adviser as Bolton when you consider his views, his temperament and his ability be an honest broker. In fact, he is actually one of the few people on earth who would be worse than Mike Flynn, who was the worst national security adviser of all time.

Yup. Not good.

Progressive group aims to hold Western Slope Congressman Scott Tipton accountable for ‘abysmal voting record’

A new progressive organization has launched a campaign to hold U.S. Rep. Scott Tipton (R-CO) accountable for what it sees as the Western Slope Congressman’s record of attacking working families and health care.

Colorado United for Families will, among other things, conduct educational campaigns about Tipton’s votes in favor of repealing the Affordable Care Act and in support of the Republican tax bill, signed late last year by President Donald Trump.

“Rep. Tipton has made it clear that his allegiances lie with big healthcare profiteers and not with the families in southern and western Colorado,” said Joel Dyar, a member of the advisory board of the campaign and a member of Grand Junction Indivisible said in a statement. “Today, we declare our intention to make sure every resident in our communities know Tipton’s abysmal voting record against healthcare for our neighbors, and for tax breaks for his ultra-wealthy campaign donors.”

A call and email to Tipton’s Washington Office seeking comment were not returned.

Tipton, who represents what’s widely seen as a fairly conservative district, took heat last year from constituents about his vote to repeal Obamacare. A KFQX-TV Grand Junction report about Tipton’s April town-hall meeting, which took place in a packed gymnasium in Montrose, stated:

“The Congressman won his re-election bid in the fall with two-thirds of the vote in Montrose County, though it didn’t seem like it in the Montrose High Gymnasium as the democrats were out in force.”

Colorado United for Families points to a report produced by the liberal Center of American Progress stating that the Obamacare bill, backed by Tipton, would have resulted in about 45,000 people losing health insurance in Tipton’s district.

Eric Sondermann, who comments frequently on Colorado politics, doesn’t think Tipton, who was first elected in 2010, is in much danger of losing his seat in November.

“If Tipton were to fall, it would only be part of a national tidal wave of tsunami proportions,” said Sondermann. “If Scott Tipton is in jeopardy, then the better part of 150 Republican Congresspeople are in jeopardy, because he is nowhere near the top of anyone’s target list.”

To mark the eighth anniversary of the signing of the Affordable Care ACT, Colorado United for Families is organizing an event tomorrow in Grand Junction to urge Tipton to protect health care.



Ken Buck: Leave Donald Trump Alone!

Rep. Ken Buck (R).

As the Greeley Tribune’s Tyler Silvy reports, Rep. Ken Buck, the former District Attorney for Weld County before being elected to Congress, is tired of all this investigating of our Dear Leader already:

Rep. Ken Buck said Wednesday he’s concerned the special counsel investigation has gone beyond its original scope, saying the law allowing the special prosecutor undermines the integrity of U.S. elections.

The Greeley Tribune reached out to Buck and Sen. Cory Gardner, R-Colo., in the wake of the firing of former FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe, statements from President Donald Trump’s attorney regarding the special counsel investigation and tweets from the president on the same topic…

Buck, a former federal prosecutor, didn’t directly answer whether he ever found things he wasn’t looking for during the course of his investigations. Instead, he said he was never given unlimited resources or unlimited time to investigate someone.

“No federal prosecutor has ever worked on a case like this,” Buck said. “This law is fundamentally flawed. It undermines the integrity of our elections if we’re going to investigate anything a president could have done wrong.” [Pols emphasis]

Rep. Buck seems to forget the expansive prosecutorial discretion enjoyed by the special prosecutor charged by Republicans in Congress to investigate…well, anything they could possibly find or conjure to impugn the integrity of former President Bill Clinton. An investigation that began with real estate deals ended up producing articles of impeachment over oral sex with an intern. The fact remains that crimes committed during the course of an investigation, like perjury and obstruction, are still crimes. By contrast, the investigation into the Trump campaign’s alleged collusion with Russians to win the election has been hewing pretty closely to the original stated scope–and, we might add, fruitfully.

But seriously, folks. If you poll 100 people about whether we should “investigate anything a president could have done wrong,” we’re pretty sure the answer is going to be an enthusiastic yes in about 99% of cases. The only exception to that would most likely be sycophant cronies of the president.

Perhaps Rep. Buck just self-ID’ed as one?

Cynthia Coffman’s campaign chair gave maximum donations to both Coffman and Democrat Donna Lynne

(Insurance – Promoted by Colorado Pols)

Attorney General Cynthia Coffman.

The chair of Republican Cynthia Coffman’s gubernatorial campaign donated the maximum allowable amount this election period not only to Coffman but also to Democratic Lt. Governor Donna Lynne, who’s also running for governor.

L. Roger Hutson, whose role in the Coffman campaign was announced just last week, has a history of donating mostly to Republicans but to Democrats as well.

“I’m a Republican, but I’m happy to work on both sides of the aisle,” said Hutson in a statement. “Cynthia is my first choice for governor, and I support her 100 percent. Donna Lynne is a friend, and of all of the Democratic candidates, in my opinion, she would be the best Democratic candidate. I hope she defeats Jared Polis for the Democratic nomination because Jared’s policies and lack of leadership skills are a huge threat to Colorado’s economy.”

Campaign-finance records show that, since 2010, Hutson has given to, among others, former GOP Attorney General John Suthers, Democratic Gov. John Hickenlooper, former U.S. Rep. Tom Tancredo, former state Sen. Amy Stephens (R-Colorado Springs), State Rep. Paul Rosenthal (D-Denver), former Republican Secretary of State Scott Gessler, GOP Treasurer Walker Stapleton, and the Democratic Party of Colorado.

Such a history of cross-party political donations isn’t uncommon for a businessman like Hutson, who runs runs a Denver oil-and-gas business and was appointed by Hickenlooper to the Colorado Limited Gaming Commission.

Political observers were surprised that the chair of a campaign would be a top donor to two campaigns, one from each dominant party, during the same primary election cycle, but noted that the donations would have been even more surprising if Hutson made them during the time he was Coffman’s campaign chair.

Hutson’s last donation to Lynne was reported Dec. 6, about a week after he last donated to Coffman’s gubernatorial effort. He’d also given to Coffman’s campaign for attorney general last year, before he first gave to her current campaign.

Lynne’s campaign declined comment.

The Colorado Times Recorder did not yet conduct a thorough investigation of the donation histories of the campaign chairs of all gubernatorial campaigns, but if relevant information is found, this blog post will be updated.

House Passes Omnibus Bill Nobody Had Time to Read

UPDATE #2: All four Republicans in Colorado’s Congressional delegation sided with leadership on a narrow 211-207 vote to move the discussion forward. As CNN explains:

The internal GOP backlash to the amount of spending and the process of rushing the measure through just 16 hours after it was released was on full display on the House floor on Thursday. Twenty-five House Republicans broke with their leadership and opposed the usually party line procedural vote bringing up the legislation. But the measure narrowly passed 211-207.

After the vote to move the omnibus debate forward, the House approved the bill with a 256-167 margin…with Republican Reps. Mike Coffman (R-Aurora) and Ken Buck (R-Greeley) conveniently voting “NO.” In other words, Coffman and Buck voted “YES” before they voted “NO.”


UPDATE: House Republicans rammed through the omnibus bill without even waiting for every member to vote. Here’s more from Politico.


Via @RepJayapal

Chris Cillizza of CNN takes note of the absolutely massive new omnibus spending bill that Congress is trying to pass before tomorrow’s deadline for funding the federal government:

On Wednesday night, congressional leaders unveiled a spending bill that will fund the entire federal government through September — at a whopping estimated cost of $1.3 trillion. The bill is 2,322 pages long. It has be to be passed through both chambers of Congress by midnight Friday or else the government shuts down. Again.

Some quick back-of-the-envelope math shows that if every lawmaker stayed up for 48 straight hours — the time, roughly, between when the so-called “omnibus” bill was unveiled and when it needs to be passed — they would need to read an average of 48 pages per hour, every hour, to read the entire thing. Which seems, um, unlikely.

Congressman Mike Coffman (R-Aurora) is a big fan of pretending to read bills before he votes on them, but it’s going to be tough for him to continue that lark with a new omnibus bill that might be taller than the Congressman himself.

As a freshman in Congress in 2009, Coffman had a speaking role in Republican efforts to promote “transparency” and a “read the bill” initiative. Just last March, Coffman Tweeted a photo of himself “reading” Obamacare repeal legislation at his desk in Washington D.C. — at about the same time he was promoting a radio appearance in Colorado to discuss his support of said legislation.

Perhaps we should give Coffman the benefit of the doubt and assume that he has a superhero-esque ability to read and digest complex information in a matter of minutes. Or, perhaps, there is a simpler explanation here.

Victim-Blaming Broservative, Hack Reporting Do Grantham’s Dirty Work For Him

UPDATE #2: Next question–didn’t all these Senate aides get ordered not to talk to the press?

More than 100 Senate staff, aides and interns have been warned against speaking to journalists about workplace issues, including sexual harassment, and the trainings aimed at preventing it…

Grantham responded: “As staff members they should understand that confidentiality is important and blowing something up via the media is not what I would expect from a senator or from staff.”

And yet GOP legislative aide Andrew Knarr did talk to the press. And that’s interesting because:

Knarr said he was fired by Smallwood, but claimed the Senate Republicans “didn’t want to do it.”

Does that mean Knarr had permission to violate the directive that he not talk to the press? Perhaps because he intended to help an accused Republican? Given the big deal that was made about clamming all these staffers up, this is a question crying out for an answer.

Lots here for the press to run down–just not by Joey Bunch please. He should probably clock out.


UPDATE: So much for “broservative” legislative aide Andrew Knarr’s career in politics, ladies and gentlemen:

Sen. Jim Smallwood’s statement:

Today, screenshots from my legislative aide’s Snapchat account were shown to me for the first time, and within minutes, I made the decision to dismiss Andrew Knarr. Andrew’s actions were unacceptable and unbecoming of an employee of the Colorado State Senate, and I hope he takes the time to reflect and build upon this experience in his future endeavors.


GOP legislative aide Andrew Knarr (via Snapchat).

Yesterday afternoon, the ongoing controversy over allegations of widespread sexual harassment by members of the Colorado General Assembly took an unexpected and ugly turn. A story published by Joey Bunch of the Phil Anschutz-owned Colorado Springs Gazette discussed the public release of the investigative report that found credible an allegation of harassment against GOP Sen. Jack Tate. The alleged victim in that case, having waited almost two months for action from Senate President Kevin Grantham since the investigation was completed, released the report in hope of moving the process along.

Bunch’s story went in a very different direction, quoting a legislative aide who claims to have known the victim. The original version of Bunch’s story, since heavily edited, featured aide Andrew Knarr (undoctored Snapchat photo above right) disparaging the victim’s so-called “personal indiscretions” and asserting that although he does not “know everything about Senator Tate’s interactions” with the victim, he doesn’t believe her story.

Sometime yesterday evening, the story was edited to remove all of Knarr’s smearing of the victim. It retains the comments about not believing her story, even after the investigation found her allegations credible, but removed the comments about her “personal integrity.”

And then last night, we were forwarded the Snapchat photo of Mr. Knarr you can see above, where he lets known his true views on the matter of sexual harassment. Needless to say, it’s very difficult to accept him as a credible source after seeing this–and the journalistic malpractice on the part of Joey Bunch that allowed this sickening victim-blaming invective into the printed record is all the worse for it. We’re obliged to note that this is the second instance of the Anschutz-owned Gazette engaging in ethically dubious reporting to defend Sen. Tate from harassment allegations, the first being a story by another reporter featuring a gaggle of lobbyists who as it turns out had lots of business before Tate’s committee “vouching” for him.

But this was worse. Much, much worse. It would be tempting in this case to vent all the outrage over this latest ham-fisted attempt to shield a Republican Colorado legislator from sexual harassment allegations on the junior staffer who was willing to put his name on this kind of despicable victim-blaming, or the reporter who unconscionably and knowingly printed his smears.

But this is not about Andrew Knarr, and it’s not about Joey Bunch. Their misdeeds are, in the end, merely symptoms: of a toxic environment of permissible sexual harassment that has been created by Senate President Kevin Grantham. Grantham’s unilateral declaration that only instances of sexual harassment rising to the level of a crime would be punished in his chamber, and continuous undermining of the outside investigations into the actions of Republican Senators at every step of the process, has created the climate in which victims of harassment by Republican Senators are subjected to further abuse. Where victim’s allegations are presumed false, where accountability is farcical to nonexistent, and where men come out of the woodwork to smear your reputation even after an investigation proves you right.

All told, what is unfolding here is truly one of the most disgraceful episodes we’ve ever witnessed in over a decade writing about Colorado politics. And every time we think it can’t get worse, something happens to prove us wrong.

The end of this legislative session–not to mention November–cannot come quickly enough.