Mike Pence: Stop Admitting Police Racism Exists

Mike Pence, Donald Trump.

Mike Pence, Donald Trump.

AP via 9NEWS reports from GOP vice presidential candidate Mike Pence’s campaign stop in Colorado Springs yesterday:

Republican vice presidential nominee Mike Pence says U.S. society should “set aside talk” of institutional racism in the wake of more police killings of black men.

Pence told a group of evangelical church leaders Thursday in Colorado Springs that recent police shootings in Oklahoma and North Carolina require officials to “speak with compassion” and assure the public that “justice will be served.”

But he added that “Donald Trump and I both believe that there’s been far too much of this talk of institutional bias or racism in law enforcement.” [Pols emphasis] Pence said “we ought to set aside this talk” that he described as “the rhetoric of division.”

Corey Hutchins at the Colorado Independent further documents Pence’s comments:

“Sadly, our opponent once again refers to what she calls the institutional racism in law enforcement,” Pence said. “We’ve heard this week, again, the systemic racism in law enforcement in this country.”

His voice rising, Pence said he and Trump believe police “are not a force for racism in America,” but “a force for good,” deserving support and respect.

Police violence against minorities is one of the most controversial topics of debate we have in America today, and the recent heightened awareness of the issue following numerous high-profile police killings of African-Americans and resulting protests has forced basically everyone in the country to form an opinion. The truth is that minorities are indeed disproportionately killed while interacting with police compared to whites, and investigations into places like Ferguson, Missouri have revealed what very much appears to be systemic racism in the targeting of black communities with traffic enforcement and other small-time high-fine violations.

Whichever side you fall on with regard to the issue, we cannot imagine any scenario in which not talking about a problem is helpful to the goal of solving it. That seems like the worst possible way to, you know, govern.

But here we are.

Friday Open Thread

“That which is not good for the bee-hive cannot be good for the bees.”

–Marcus Aurelius

Post’s Editorial Page Promotes Coffman and We Lose

(Promoted by Colorado Pols)

Denver Post editorial/news guy Chuck Plunkett.

Denver Post editorial/news guy Chuck Plunkett.

“Good for Mike Coffman.” That’s the first line of an August Denver Post editorial, and, as it turns out, it’s an excellent summation of the The Post editorial page’s singular stance toward Coffman over many years.

I just finished reviewing five years of Post editorials mentioning Coffman, and, of the 43 editorials citing the Aurora Republican Congressman during that period, including two endorsements, he’s been criticized only four times, while being praised in 34 editorials. The newspaper has lauded him mostly on issues related to the Veterans Administation but also on immigration, Selective Service, Afghanistan, marijuana, the federal budget, and more.

Yet, during these five years, Coffman has run seriously afoul with the broad positions/principles taken by The Post: on Planned Parenthood (Coffman voted twice to defund just last year, after putting the organization’s logo in a campaign ad the previous year.) and on immigration (Coffman opposed a 2013 bipartisan comprehensive immigration reform bill, and he reiterated his opposition to birthright citizenship, even stating so in an interview with a Post editorial writer.).

In 2013, Coffman threatened to shut down the government instead of raising the debt ceiling. Nothing from The Post. And nothing from The Post when Coffman belittled global-warming science in 2013.

The Post was silent in 2012 when Coffman said Obama was not an American “in his heart,” and Coffman strangely told 9News’ Kyle Clark five times:  “I stand by my statement that I misspoke, and I apologize.”

Coffman’s positions over many years have been at odds with stances The Post has taken. But the newspaper has been mostly silent.

To be fair, a more cursory analysis shows that The Post doesn’t criticize U.S. Sen. Michael Bennet much either, and he was also endorsed by The Post.

The difference? Bennet’s policy positions, on the issues mentioned above and others, align very closely with The Post’s, while Coffman’s do not.

You can’t blame Post editorial page editor Chuck Plunkett for much of this, since he took over the job exactly three months ago, but I called him anyway for his take on whether the newspaper deliberately refrains from criticizing Coffman, even when his positions clash with the newspaper’s editorial views.

“I think this is an election year stunt, not a genuine analysis,” he told me, arguing that there was no news hook for my blog post and I was not focusing on The Post’s treatment of other elected officials. “You’re picking Mike Coffman, when Morgan Carroll is struggling. Why is that? It looks like you’re trying to aid Morgan more than you are legitimately trying to critique an institution.”

I explained to Plunkett that as a progressive media critic, I look for instances where news outlets tilt rightward. That’s my bias, and with the election coming up, now is a valid time to analyze The Post’s editorial-page approach to Coffman, which I found inexplicable.

“As a journalist, I think trying to analyze a newspaper’s position over time is very tricky, especially if you only look at one particular angle,” Plunkett told me. “There are all kinds of things that go into thinking about an editorial or an endorsement or what have you.”

“You’re right,” Plunkett acknowledged, “when a newspaper endorses someone, that same board is going to be, understandably, more protective of that person.”


Darryl Glenn Just (Awkwardly) Talking to the People

Republican Senate candidate Darryl Glenn is not the most accessible candidate in Colorado. Glenn easily (and surprisingly) won the June Republican Primary for the U.S. Senate nomination, but since then he’s been harder to track down than an Hispanic female supporter of Donald Trump.

Glenn likes to spend his campaign time speaking only in front of friendly audiences, which is why he has shunned most Colorado reporters and is rarely seen outside of highly-partisan right-wing events. With just a few weeks left until ballots drop in Colorado, Glenn is turning to Facebook to spread his anti-collaboration message.

Glenn is answering questions during a “live” town hall event on Facebook that was scheduled to begin at 3:00 today. Glenn has been in Washington D.C. this week, and he took some time during his travels to shoot an incredibly-awkward video promoting his Facebook outreach.

Here’s Glenn standing in front of The Capitol Hill Club (?) in Washington D.C., pretending not to be reading off of a script or teleprompter or something. Enjoy!

“I look forward to being your next Senator…[pause]…In Colorado.”

Randy “The Stache” Baumgardner’s Got Some ‘Splaining To Do

Randy Baumgardner.

Randy Baumgardner.

UPDATE: David O. Williams updates his story with another document that directly contradicts Baumgardner’s own statement that “I don’t know anything about that.”

And documents obtained in the CORA request also show the senator does know about the incidents in question: baumgardner-sand-release-april-2015(pdf).


Freelance journalist David O. Williams has a new story out today that could spell trouble for Colorado’s “Capital Cowboy,” state Sen. Randy Baumgardner–who has allegedly been beating the high cost of living by misusing state property for his personal needs:

In a recent interview with the Rocky Mountain Post, [Democratic opponent Emily] Tracy accused Baumgardner of ignoring constituents, violating the public trust and playing politics over critical economic and safety issues such as highway funding. She was particularly pointed over revelations the senator may have use state property for personal gain while working for the highway department.

“It’s a violation of public trust,” Tracy said. “It’s public money. It’s taxpayer’s hard-earned money that goes to funding all of this. It just shouldn’t be misused.”

The Rocky Mountain Post obtained the results of a Colorado Open Records Act request filed with the Colorado Department of Transportation last spring revealing that Randy and Lori Baumgardner were involved in three different incidents of personal use of state property.

Randy Baumgardner worked for the state highway department for 11 years starting in 2000, and his wife Lori still works for CDOT. Lori Baumgardner received multiple Performance Documentation Forms for incidents that also involved her husband, including the improper use of a fuel card PIN number in 2009, using CDOT sand on their ranch in 2014, and earlier this year using CDOT office photocopy machines to duplicate their tax returns.

Baumgardner’s response to these questions…is not good:

“I don’t know anything about any of that,” Randy Baumgardner told the Rocky Mountain Post. “I’m not addressing any of that. Like I said, you can make out of that whatever you want to. I don’t know. I’ve not worked for them since 2011. [Lori] still works for them. I’m not going to get into the weeds on that.”

CDOT officials would not comment on the CORA findings, citing personnel reasons, but officials did verify the results of the records request, which included emails from supervisors who were very concerned about the misuse of state property by the Baumgardners. [Pols emphasis]

It’s of course extremely unlikely that Baumgardner doesn’t know about these incidents, which left a paper trail of emails that prove it was a known problem within the Colorado Department of Transportation. Any appropriation of government resources for personal use by a government employee is unacceptable, and it’s naturally worse when that government employee also happens to be a sitting state lawmaker.

We’ll have to see how this story develops–but if you’re looking for the type of scandal that might actually cost a quasi-safe legislator their seat with elections only a few weeks away, we’d say this could fit the bill.

Ivanka Trump Stiffs Coloradoan Reporter

Donald Trump’s daughter, Ivanka Trump, is in Colorado stumping for her father’s Presidential campaign. She seems to have inherited her father’s grumpy disposition toward the media:

How dare you attempt to do journalism in the presence of a Trump!

Get More Smarter on Thursday (September 22)

Get More SmarterHappy “Autumnal Equinox,” everybody! Try saying “Autumnal Equinox” three times fast. It’s time to Get More Smarter with Colorado Pols. 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.


► Last week some polls showed Republican Presidential candidate Donald Trump apparently gaining momentum on Democrat Hillary Clinton. This week, it seems, that narrative is no longer accurate. A new poll from Colorado Mesa University and Rocky Mountain PBS shows Clinton with a 44-35 lead over Trump in Colorado — right about where Clinton had been polling prior to last week’s outlier results.


► Opponents of Obamacare in Colorado are unabashedly cheering the news that health insurance premiums are expected to rise in 2017, but that’s only a piece of the story. Insurance premiums are not rising 20% across-the-board, as Charles Ashby notes for the Grand Junction Daily Sentinel.


► Republican State Senator Randy Baumgardner is running into some trouble as he campaigns for re-election. As journalist David O. Williams reports, Baumgardner is having trouble answering questions about repeated instances of using state resources for his own benefit through the Colorado Department of Transportation:

The Rocky Mountain Post obtained the results of a Colorado Open Records Act request filed with the Colorado Department of Transportation last spring revealing that Randy and Lori Baumgardner were involved in three different incidents of personal use of state property.

Randy Baumgardner worked for the state highway department for 11 years starting in 2000, and his wife Lori still works for CDOT. Lori Baumgardner received multiple Performance Documentation Forms for incidents that also involved her husband, including the improper use of a fuel card PIN number in 2009, using CDOT sand on their ranch in 2014, and earlier this year using CDOT office photocopy machines to duplicate their tax returns.


Get even more smarter after the jump…


CMU/PBS in Colorado: Clinton 44%, Trump 35%

Donald Trump, Hillary Clinton.

Donald Trump, Hillary Clinton.

As the Grand Junction Sentinel’s Charles Ashby reports, a new poll from Colorado Mesa University and Rocky Mountain PBS today resets the presidential race in Colorado to where it was before a recent “surge” for Republican Donald Trump in a spate of early September polls–a solid lead in our state for Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton:

Hillary Clinton, the Democratic candidate for president, leads her Republican rival, Donald Trump, by 9 percentage points in Colorado, according to a new poll released Wednesday.

The poll of 540 registered Colorado voters, the first ever done by Colorado Mesa University, with Rocky Mountain PBS, also showed that Trump’s unfavorability rating of 38 percent among Colorado voters is nearly as high as Clinton’s favorability rating of 40 percent…

For the presidential race, the poll shows that Clinton holds a four-point advantage over Trump with male voters and a nine percentage-point lead with females. While the number of Democrats who favor Clinton and Republicans Trump were about the same, with about three-quarters of them favoring their party’s candidate, the split among unaffiliated voters went strongly for Clinton.

Here’s the details from CMU’s website.

In the U.S. Senate race, today’s poll shows the same double-digit lead for incumbent Democratic Sen. Michael Bennet over GOP challenger Darryl Glenn that most other polls have indicated, even while Clinton’s advantage over Trump narrowed. Turning to statewide ballot measures, the poll shows the end-of-life options proposal up by a whopping 70%, and the minimum wage increase polling at a respectable 58%. The “Raise The Bar” measure to make ballot measures harder to qualify is up by only 52%, which is troubling for its supporters given the natural tendency for ballot measures to slip in support as Election Day approaches. The “ColoradoCare” Amendment 69 measure is down heavily in this poll with 56% opposed and only 30% in favor.

Whatever caused the temporary dip in Clinton’s polling numbers in the last few week, which was undeniable being replicated in many polls here and in other battleground states, here we have evidence–in need of corroboration like any poll–that the overall trajectory of that race hasn’t really changed much.

With October almost upon us, that’s welcome news for Team Blue.

Thursday Open Thread

“Whoever seeks to set one religion against another seeks to destroy all religion.”

–Franklin D. Roosevelt

Raise The Bar: Lower Liberty

Colorado voters will will get the opportunity to limit Liberty in the November election. Amendment 71 will alter the method used to change the Colorado Constitution.

Special interest groups have joined forces to make it more difficult for Citizens to address the way Government impacts their life. When you look at the list of supporters, it’s filled with groups that contain the name “Chamber of Commerce”. The next large group of supporters is ” elected officials”.

The beef these groups have with the current method is that it is too easy for “Outside” special interest groups to promote Constitutional changes. It appears they prefer “Inside” special interest groups control this turf. The political class is also miffed that Citizens can bypass the legislative wisdom possessed by the “elites” in the State House.

Supporters also list, what they claim is problematic with the current process. 1. Rural areas are disproportionately impacted because of population density, Denver produces all the necessary ballot signatures for amendments. 2. The State Constitution has too many amendments that sometimes conflict. 3. It only takes a simple majority to pass.

Of course the real reason this is an issue is money. The “Supporters”, or more commonly known as “Special Interest” don’t want to have to spend money to protect the piece of the pie they have carved out for themselves. The harder it is to institute change/reform the better they sleep at night.

Our Constitutional process is just fine. Don’t let the “Special Interest” put one over on you with Amendment 71 and lower the bar for Liberty. Vote “No” on 71.

“Sand paper on the conscience of politicians and group thinkers”

Get More Smarter on Wednesday (September 21)

Dad says to vote for Hillary Clinton.

Dad says to vote for Hillary Clinton.

Enjoy the last day of summer before the Autumnal Equinox. We really just wanted to write the phrase, “Autumnal Equinox.” It’s time to Get More Smarter with Colorado Pols. 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.


► Issues of race relations and police brutality continue to boil across the country. As the Washington Post reports:

A riot in North Carolina overnight is a fitting bookend to three months of heightened tensions between the police and the people. From Louisiana to Minnesota to Texas, a host of incidents have again and again put racial tensions back on the front burner of the presidential campaign. They’ve also inspired the national anthem protests that have roiled the National Football League.

The killings of unarmed black men at the hands of police and the murders of cops in Dallas and Baton Rouge did not lead to a period of national healing or sustained soul searching.

The stories might have disappeared from the front pages, but the incidents have continued. Temporarily-bandaged wounds are re-opening around the country this week, as frustrations boil over.

Tuesday’s riot in Charlotte came after a police officer shot and killed Keith Lamont Scott while responding to an incident that was completely unrelated to the victim.


► The campaign for Republican Presidential candidate Donald Trump is responding to new allegations that Trump uses funds from the “Trump Foundation” to pay for personal or business-related expenses. As Chris Cillizza writes for “The Fix,” that response isn’t working particularly well:

On Tuesday morning, the Washington Post published a story headlined: “Trump used $258,000 from his charity to settle legal problems.” Written by David Fahrenthold, who has written extensively about the Trump Foundation, the piece details how Trump directed more than $250,000 of the charity’s money to help pay fees related to his businesses. Those payments could qualify as “self-dealing” and violate laws governing how the leaders of non-profit organizations can use the money they receive in donations .

On Tuesday night, Trump communications director Jason Miller issued a statement disputing David’s reporting. Sort of. Actually not really…

…And then there is the name-calling — the assertion that Dave is a “biased reporter” who is intentionally misleading the public to distract from the problems with the Clinton Foundation. “Bias” is a nasty word tossed around all took often these days about reporters — almost always with too little and, by that I mean no, proof of the claim. A reporter isn’t biased because you don’t like the facts he or she has uncovered or those facts don’t comport with your broader vision of this race.


► Here come the Trumpians! Republican Presidential candidate Donald Trump is sending his daughter, Ivanka Trump, as the featured guest at a Denver-area fundraiser for the candidate today. On Thursday, Donald Trump, Jr. will talk “sportsmen’s issues” on the Western Slope, and Vice Presidential candidate Mike Pence will make (another) stop in Colorado Springs. Trump himself was just in Colorado Springs on Saturday.


Get even more smarter after the jump…


A Fresh Dose of Bogus “Obamascare”

THURSDAY UPDATE: A commenter correctly notes below that while the nationwide rate of policyholders who receive tax credits to help cover insurance premiums is 85%, Colorado itself has a somewhat lower percentage of individual insured who get tax credits–61.9%, attributable to higher personal incomes in the state.

It’s certainly a big enough difference to merit clarifying, though the fact remains that the large premium hikes reported without any distinction as to who is affected are incorrect. We’re still talking about 7.7% of Colorado’s population, of whom a large percentage receive tax credits to reduce and even reverse the impact.


Nothing but Obamascare on the Denver Post's front page today.

Nothing but Obamascare on the Denver Post’s front page.

Headlines across the state are blaring an alarming message today about large increases in health insurance premiums for Colorado proposed for next year–and as we’ve seen repeatedly now after premium hikes became political with the passage of the Affordable Care Act, a.k.a “Obamacare,” factual reporting is taking a back seat to sensationalism.

AP via CBS4 is a good example:

Coloradans shopping for health insurance will see double-digit rate hikes next year, a result of insurers leaving the market and cutting plans.

The lack of any qualifiers in that sentence is enough to grab the attention of…well, everyone who pays for health insurance in Colorado–individuals, businesses, everybody. And it shouldn’t be necessary to remind our readers that the political opponents of Obamacare have no interest in clarifying. Today’s Denver Post story from reporter John Ingold, titled “Individual rates in Colo. to jump an average 20%,” does little to clear up the confusion:

The finalized numbers confirm the worries that began in June when the steep increases were first proposed. In a speech on the floor of the U.S. Senate on Tuesday, Colorado Sen. Cory Gardner, a Republican, blamed the increases on President Barack Obama’s signature health care law, which led to the creation of the exchanges.

“The people of Colorado can’t afford Obamacare,” Gardner said. “Obamacare can’t keep its promises.”

Marguerite Salazar, Colorado’s insurance commissioner, said the increases are the result of rising health care costs overall. The increases for people who buy their plans on the state’s Obamacare exchange and those who buy insurance off of it will be roughly the same. [Pols emphasis]

That last statement, like the lede in the AP wire story most people are reading today, is extremely misleading with context. Without a expert’s understanding of the subject of health insurance, these news reports could easily lead ordinary citizens to believe that the cost of all health insurance in Colorado is dramatically spiking.

But turning to the Grand Junction Sentinel’s Charles Ashby, we finally see a story that doesn’t try to sensationalize first and explain later:

Health insurance premiums on Colorado’s individual market for 2017 will be about 20 percent higher than those from this year, but not everyone will have to pay so much. [Pols emphasis]

Wait, what? Didn’t you just read from the Associated Press that “Coloradans shopping for health insurance will see double-digit rate hikes next year?” As Ashby reports to his small media market, that’s not the whole story. Not even close:

That large increase applies only to individuals who get their insurance through the state’s health care exchange — known as Connect For Health Colorado — who don’t qualify for federal tax credits, according to the Colorado Division of Insurance. [Pols emphasis]

Those who are qualified for credits and continue to have the same or cheaper plan as this year could see an average decrease in rates of about 11 percent to 29 percent, while others on the exchange can minimize their increase to about 13 percent by switching to a lower cost plan, the division said.

Meanwhile, the average person on employer-sponsored plans, which make up about 51 percent of all insured Coloradans, all will see an increase of about 2.1 percent, said Marguerite Salazar, Colorado’s insurance commissioner.

In truth, the “average 20% increase” only applies to individual plans sold via the state’s insurance exchange–less than 8% of Colorado’s population according to the Colorado Health Foundation. What’s more, 85% 62% (see above) of individual policyholders through the insurance exchange receive federal tax credits to ease the burden–so much so that most of them will in fact see a decrease, not an increase, in their premiums. For the majority of Coloradans who get their insurance through their employer, that 2.1% increase you see buried in these stories–even though it applies to vastly more people–is considerably less alarming.

So with all of this in mind, what the hell is (almost) every media outlet in the state doing misinforming the public like this? This kind of grossly misleading sensationalism in journalism is never okay–and just weeks from a major election, it’s a serious problem.

Obamacare’s enemies have flooded the debate with preposterous lies from the moment the law was introduced in Congress. This is another opportunity to ask our friends in the fourth estate to please stop helping them.

Texas Oil Industry Fights Self-Governance In Colorado

(Promoted by Colorado Pols)

The headline in the Denver Business Journal almost tells the story:

Colorado oil and gas industry backs tighter rules on changing constitution

But it misses the opportunity to take a deeper dive into which companies, and where they operate from, are working to “Raise the Bar” in Colorado via Amendment 71.

For that we can go to TRACER–Colorado’s campaign finance tracker, to see that the major contributor is the questionably named “Protect Colorado” (registered with the Secretary of State as Protecting Colorado’s Environment, Economy and Energy Independence) set up by former Denver Post journalist Karen Crummy. 

Wow, a cool million from this innocuous-sounding group in just the last filing.

Hmmm. It seems a curious journalist might want to poke around a little more, rather than just quote Greg Brophy, as the DBJ article does:

“We’ve received funding from a whole bunch of businesses and trade groups, all of whom in the past have been subject to constitutional amendment proposals and have had to fund the defense against all these constitutional amendments,” said former state Sen. Greg Brophy, a co-chairman of the Raise the Bar campaign. 

That’s true, contributions have come from numerous special interest groups, but the majority of dollars comes from oil and gas companies, a large number of whom are not based in Colorado at all. 

Rather they are headquartered in Texas. For instance Pioneer Natural Resources of Irving Texas put in $100,000 according to company disclosures. Noble Energy (Houston Texas) has put up quite a bit of financial backing for the dubiously named “Protect Colorado.”  And Anadarko (The Woodlands Texas) has contributed millions of dollars to make it more difficult for Colorado citizens to self govern. 

It may indeed be that Colorado’s Constitution is too readily amended. However the root of that issue may not be ballot rules, but rather that the deck is stacked, it seems to many, against local communities.

The cause may be that the State Legislature and “Blue Ribbon Task Forces” fail to address a clear and present need to make sure that oil and gas operations don’t unduly impact or harm local residents.

If that is the case then “Rigging the Bar” may seem a useful tactic to the out-of-state interests that want Colorado citizens to sit down and shut up. But over time it could very likely prove to be be a losing strategy.

Wednesday Open Thread

“The first virtue in a soldier is endurance of fatigue; courage is only the second virtue.”

–Napoleon Bonaparte