In Odd Decision, GOP Will Fill Lebsock Vacancy

UPDATE: Just so there is no confusion, State GOP Chair Jeff Hays confirms that Republicans could have made a smarter choice but decided against it:


Senate President Kevin Grantham

As 9News reports, Colorado Republicans have decided that they will indeed fill the vacancy in House District 34 that was created when the State House voted to expel Democrat Republican Rep. Steve Lebsock last week:

Colorado Republicans announced Friday morning that they have formed a committee to fill disgraced Rep. Steve Lebsock’s seat following his expulsion from the state House of Representatives, saying that “it would be dereliction of duty to punt the appointment to Governor John Hickenlooper” and that they’re doing it because of what they’re calling a “cover up” by Democrats…

…Lebsock, who was a Democrat, covertly switched parties shortly before his expulsion last Friday. Five women filed formal sexual harassment complaints against Lebsock, with allegations ranging from him propositioning them for sex to unbuttoning the top button of a woman’s blouse…

…The Colorado Republican Committee has not announced when the Republican Central Committee of House District 34 will meet to fill Lebsock’s vacancy, but they said it could be later this month.

Because of Lebsock’s last-minute change to the Republican Party, the GOP could have declined to fill Lebsock’s vacancy and left it to Gov. John Hickenlooper to appoint a replacement. It made perfect sense for Republicans to leave this alone for a number of reasons, not the least of which is the fact that HD-34 is not a winnable seat for the GOP. Picking up one more seat in the House has no strategic value for Republicans where the 2018 legislative session is concerned; Democrats will still hold a seven-seat advantage for the final six weeks of the session, and they will almost certainly regain this seat in the November election.

State Republican Party Chairman Jeff Hays

Here’s what Colorado Republican Party Chairman Jeff Hays said about the decision in a statement:

“Statute clearly assigns our vacancy committee the authority and responsibility to fill this seat. After careful consideration, we concluded it would be dereliction of duty to punt the appointment to Governor John Hickenlooper. We owe it to the people of House District 34 to give them the experience of ethical representation, which the Democrats, when they controlled the seat, signally failed to provide.”

By deciding to fill this seat, Republicans are in effect acknowledging the legitimacy of Lebsock’s late registration change. In other words, the GOP is confirming that the State House expelled a Republican legislator last Friday — the first expulsion of a sitting legislator in more than 100 years. Lebsock was a Democrat and his transgressions occurred while he was a member of the Democratic Party, but this decision by the GOP leaves no doubt that the record will forever show that it was a Republican legislator who was expelled in 2018. Furthermore, news accounts of the upcoming vacancy committee will note that it is a Republican Party process, which will likely convince many voters that Lebsock was a Republican lawmaker all along.

Former Rep. Steve Lebsock (R-Thornton)

Republicans are doing all of this for one reason: To provide cover for the inaction of Senate Republicans in their own sexual harassment scandal. Senate President Kevin Grantham steadfastly refuses to take any sort of punitive action in the wake of sexual harassment charges made against Senators Randy BaumgardnerJack Tate, and Larry Crowder, despite the fact that independent investigations deemed complaints against all three Senators to be credible. It is no coincidence that Republicans hold a narrow one-seat advantage in the State Senate; even a temporary removal from office would deprive Grantham of his majority.

After Lebsock’s ouster, the ongoing story of sexual harassment at the State Capitol shifted to the State Senate exclusively. The GOP is desperately sticking with its message that the Lebsock mess involved some sort of cover-up by State House Democrats because it is their only hope to distract from Grantham’s abdication of responsibility. This strategy isn’t really working for Republicans, but they have no other response as the story keeps spinning out of their control.

Stay Classy, Jon Caldara (Die in a Fire Edition)

Early Wednesday afternoon, a large fire broke out at an apartment construction site in the Uptown neighborhood of Denver. It’s unknown as of yet how the fire started, but it quickly exploded into a three-alarm blaze that forced the evacuation of neighboring buildings, literally melted nearby parked cars, and resulted in two deaths and numerous injuries, including injuries to responding firefighters.

After the fires were under control, two bodies were pulled from the rubble, believed to be construction workers who were caught in the rapidly-spreading conflagration.

For some reason, Jon Caldara, the head of Colorado’s leading conservative advocacy group the Independence Institute thought Wednesday’s tragedy would be appropriate to use in a lame joke about climate change. It’s not the first time Caldara has crassly used local disasters as political punchlines, like back in 2013 when he faked an excuse about the deadly floods in September of that year to help him beat a charge of election fraud.

But once again we’re compelled to ask–who does this? And why does the entire press and political establishment in Colorado take someone who does this seriously? And don’t tell us you don’t. Caldara gets earned media on a regular basis, and local luminaries line up to appear on his mostly-unwatched cable access show.

We all deserve better, not least the conservatives for whom this asshole purports to speak.

Friday Open Thread

“Power is not revealed by striking hard or often, but by striking true.”

–Honore de Balzac

Trump Does Tariffs

As the New York Times (and everyone else) reports:

President Trump defied opposition from his own party and protests from overseas on Thursday as he signed orders imposing stiff and sweeping new tariffs on imported steel and aluminum. But he sought to soften the impact on America’s closest allies with a more flexible plan than originally envisioned.

After a week of furious lobbying and a burst of last-minute internal debates and confusion, Mr. Trump agreed to exempt, for now, Canada and Mexicoand held out the possibility of later excluding allies such as Australia. But foreign leaders warned of a trade war that could escalate to other industries and be aimed at American goods…

…Mario Draghi, the president of the European Central Bank, said on Thursday that a plan to impose broad tariffs that hit allies was “dangerous” and could undermine national security.

“If you put tariffs against your allies,” Mr. Draghi said at a news conference in Frankfurt, “one wonders who the enemies are.”

The tariffs will officially take effect in 15 days.

Online Conservative Group Turns on Republicans

(Whatever happened to… – Promoted by Colorado Pols)

Divisiveness among Colorado Republicans is a familiar challenge for the state party. Extreme social conservatives and gun rights advocates have challenged the more moderate establishment for years.

Over the past year, however, a previously ordinary Republican entity has launched surprisingly aggressive attacks against its own party. The reason? It’s under new management.

Advancing Colorado is a 501(c)4 entity that in past years has been essentially an online brand used by conservatives to promote “edgy” messages against progressive policies and -obliquely- Democratic candidates. From a 2015 Colorado Independent profile of its former executive director Jonathan Lockwood:


Bennet Deservedly Takes Heat Over Banking Bill

Sen. Michael Bennet (D).

As the Denver Post’s Mark Matthews reports, sometimes you’ve just got to shake your head and wonder:

A bill that would weaken oversight of the banking industry is up for debate this week in the U.S. Senate, where Colorado Democrat Michael Bennet’s support of the measure is drawing heat from its liberal opponents who warn the proposal could lead to a repeat of the 2008 financial crisis.

Bennet was one of more than a dozen Democrats who joined with the Republican majority on Tuesday to help the measure clear a procedural hurdle and set up a final vote in the coming days.

Its advance drew fire from Democrats such as U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., who said the legislation was “all about helping big banks.”

The New York Times’ Mike Konczal sums up the dismay of liberal Democrats over the number of Democrats who joined with the GOP majority in the Senate to advance this legislation:

Why would some Democrats provide support for a rollback of Dodd-Frank? Proponents argue that this bill provides much needed relief for community banks and credit unions, which, these proponents claim, face enormous difficulties. They also say that it doesn’t endanger financial reforms aimed against the largest and most dangerous players.

But that view is mistaken: This bill goes far beyond the health of community banks and credit unions. It removes protections for 25 of the top 38 banks; weakens regulations on the biggest players and encourages them to manipulate regulations for their benefit; and saps consumer protections.

What do Democrats get in return? Nothing substantive that they should want. They could demand better funding for regulators or an appointment to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau — or a vote on gun control…

Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) was particularly vocal in her criticism of Democrats who voted for the bill:

Although Sen. Michael Bennet isn’t up for re-election for a number of years, it’s a problem to see him voting with Republicans once again on an issue for which his record has demonstrated a persistent blind spot. And it’s not just problematic for Sen. Elizabeth Warren’s consumer watchdog allies. As a moderate Democratic Senator who has always tried to bring opposing sides to a compromise on issues like protections for finance-product consumers, Bennet is co-sponsoring legislation that overwhelmingly aggrieves one side. Either Bennet is unaware of the staunch opposition to the bill he’s sponsoring or he doesn’t care, and neither seems likely to ingratiate the side of this debate he should be trying to persuade.

And we’ll say it as nicely as we can: although Bennet has little to lose in the short term, collaborating with Republicans to weaken banking protections over the loud objections of a possible 2020 presidential candidate isn’t the way to rally base Democratic voters ahead of the 2018 elections. We would encourage, to the extent a course change for Colorado’s senior U.S. Senator is possible here, that it be considered.

Fact Check: CO Sen. Vicki Marble cites fake news in arguments for gun bill, Sen. Fenberg corrects the record

(Promoted by Colorado Pols)

During debate this morning on the Senate floor of the Colorado General Assembly, Senator Vicki Marble (R-Larimer/Weld) advocated for adopting legislation that would allow Colorado citizens to legally carry a concealed firearm without a permit,  using false information which was later contested and exposed by Sen. Steve Fenberg (D-Boulder).

In her arguments, Sen. Marble states:

[…] I want to read you something.  And please, pay attention.  This came out December 10, 1993. [reading from her cell phone]:  ‘Waiting periods are only a step. Registration is only a step. The prohibition of private firearms is the goal.’ Janet Reno, U.S. Attorney General, on Good Morning America.  I think that explains why we are a strong ‘yes’ for this bill, and why we are a vehemenent [sic] ‘no’ against all and any gun control.

Sen. Fenberg then rose to address the senate. He began by pointing out an inherent contradiction in the proposed legislation (SB18-097) which would, in effect, override existing Colorado law requiring a state-issued permit in order to legally carry a concealed firearm, while leaving the current law in place.

Fenberg then challenged Sen. Marble’s citation of Reno:

[…] I do this with all due respect, but the quote about Janet Reno — who I don’t take direction from, I don’t think anybody in this chamber takes direction from. I think I was 11 years-old, maybe, when she was supposedly on Good Morning America. […] Mr. President, I don’t know if Janet Reno made that quote, but there is — a quick Google search shows says she did not, that it’s a fabricated quote.  […] Again, on this debate and every other debate, I think it’s incredibly important that we base all all of these conversations and decisions for the state of Colorado simply and purely based on fact.  And when we quote memes that might not be fact-based and may not have actually been said to justify the pursuit of legislation, I think we need to take that seriously.

The source of Janet Reno’s quote for Sen. Marble’s argument is not known, but a keyword search on website was confirmed to access a fact check post which deems a meme from 2015 –with the same quote and attribution cited by Sen. Marble on the Senate floor — to be false.


Colorado Senate Sexual Harassment Crisis Nears Breaking Point

UPDATE #2: From the Senate floor moments ago:

Note Sen. “Handsy” Jack Tate in the background looking at the carpet.


UPDATE: The Denver Post and Aurora Sentinel both call out the GOP-controlled Senate’s inaction in hard-hitting editorials:

GOP leaders there don’t want to admit what Winter and a lot of fellow House Republicans made perfectly clear as they took turns testifying against Lebsock and others who perpetrate sexual harassment as lawmakers.

To Senate President Kevin Grantham, R-Canon City and outed pervy GOP state senators Randy “Spanky” Baumgardner and Jack “Oh, Leery” Tate, it’s not that big of a deal. They say no law was broken, so move along, folks…

There were crimes committed by these men. There’s just no law — yet — against a legislator using his or her position to extort sex from or bully Capitol staffers, lobbyists or each other.

The only difference between other forms of bribery, blackmail and assault is that the sexual kind is perfectly legal for state elected officials.



“Full Frontal” on TABOR and Doug Bruce

Colorado was a big topic of discussion on the TBS comedy show “Full Frontal With Samantha Bee” on Wednesday. If you haven’t already seen it, you need to stop whatever you are doing and watch the full six-minute bit below.

The segment features Mike Rubens exploring Colorado’s fiscal problems thanks to TABOR titled “Doug Bruce Ruined Colorado.” The video includes Governor John Hickenlooper in a plum-colored shirt, as well as the following verbatim quotes from Doug Bruce himself:

“People would be very foolish to say that civil rights just has to do with benefits to black people…hispanics, blacks, orientals, whatever.”

“Martin Luther King and I are both…” [pause while Bruce burps — literally] “…freedom fighters.”

“‘Communal’ is a word…the derivation of which is ‘commune,’ which is…’communism.'”

“I wasn’t aware that this proceeding was going to turn into a homosexual encounter.”


Get More Smarter on Thursday (March 8)

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



► The State Senate is on the verge of grinding to a halt because Republican Senate President Kevin Grantham is completely abdicating responsibility on taking action against members of his caucus accused of sexual harassment. Both the Denver Post and Aurora Sentinel published editorials on Wednesday afternoon that were highly critical of Grantham’s inaction.


President Trump appears to be wavering on his proposals for imposing strict steel and aluminum tariffs. As the Washington Post explains:

President Trump said Thursday he would soon announce tariffs on steel and aluminum imports, but he said he would be “very flexible” and exempt Canada, Mexico and an unspecified number of other allied nations, including possibly Australia.

Trump’s remarks at a midday Cabinet meeting came as his White House was enveloped in an air of uncertainty over when Trump would effectively launch a trade war with the tariffs and how many countries would be affected by them.

Trump reiterated that the tariffs would be 25 percent on steel and 10 percent on aluminum imports, but he promised flexibility in how the government levies them…

…Republican congressional leaders and even some of Trump’s own advisers were scrambling to convince the president to hold off on his announcement and abandon his plan for tariffs, warning of severe domestic economic ramifications and possible retaliation from global trade partners.


► Florida lawmakers approved a mixed bag of changes on gun control, as NBC News reports:

Florida’s House of Representatives on Wednesday voted to approve a gun and school safety bill that would raise the age to buy all firearms to 21 and impose a three-day waiting period for most gun purchases — and potentially put guns into the hands of some educators…

…The bill passed by the Florida House also provides new mental health programs for schools and provisions to keep guns away from people who show signs of mental illness or violent behavior.

The measure also prohibits “bump stocks,” devices which allow semi-automatic firearms to fire faster, and which police said were used in an Oct. 1 mass shooting in Las Vegas that left 58 people dead.

It also would create a so-called guardian program that would let some school employees and teachers carry handguns if they go through law enforcement training and if the school district decides to participate in the program.

Florida Gov. Rick Scott says he is unsure about whether he will sign the legislation because of his disagreement over the provision that would put guns into the hands of teachers and support staff.


► Senator Michael Bennet (D-Denver) is taking a lot of heat from Democrats over his support for legislation that would weaken oversight of the banking industry. Critics say the Economic Growth, Regulatory Relief and Consumer Protection Act would significantly weaken the Dodd-Frank Act that was passed after the last recession.


Get even more smarter after the jump…


Annnddd…Here Comes Victor Mitchell

Look at all them boxes

Republican gubernatorial candidate Victor Mitchell submitted his petition signatures for access to the GOP Primary ballot today. Here’s a section from the press release, which takes pointed shots at fellow Republican candidates Walker Stapleton and Mitt Romney’s Nephew:

The Victor Mitchell campaign today turned in 26,085 petitions to the Secretary of State, more than any other Republican running for Governor. Previously, media reports said that incumbent State Treasurer and Bush family scion, Walker Stapleton, submitted 21,000 petitions. Doug Robinson, the wealthy retired investment banker and relative of George and Mitt Romney, reportedly submitted 17,000 petitions.

Four boxes of signed and notarized petitions were wheeled into the Secretary of State’s office by the Mitchell campaign’s legal representative, Attorney John Snow, of the Hackstaff and Snow law firm that supervised the petition drive, with the assistance of the Lincoln Strategy Group.

Here’s what the candidate himself had to say about his petition drive:

I saw the petition drive as an outstanding opportunity for grassroots politics that engages with real voters. We wanted to collect the most petitions to show our commitment to winning this campaign, just as we’ve approached our Facebook social media campaign,  where we have more friends and followers than any other gubernatorial candidate, by a wide margin. We did it and there will be many more big wins in the days ahead. Just watch.

Is “just watch” a new slogan, or just an oddly-abrupt way to end a statement? Either way, Mitchell appears to have been very careful in making sure they had enough signatures for ballot access as the third Republican campaign to drop off boxes with the Secretary of State’s office. On the Democratic side of the race, only Michael Johnston has submitted petition signatures thus far; Jared Polis and Donna Lynne (and Noel Ginsburg) are expected to submit signatures, although Polis is also going through the caucus route for ballot access.

For Mitchell, turning in more than 26,000 signatures is an important validation of a campaign that has been relatively quiet thus far (except for that excellent appearance on “The Get More Smarter Show“). Mitchell has already committed $3 million of his own money to his campaign, the bulk of which is likely now earmarked for a barrage of television and digital media ads in advance of the June Primary.

Senior Staff Attrition Rate Higher than Trump Poll Numbers

Top White House economic adviser Gary Cohn resigned from his post on Tuesday, adding to an historically-bad attrition rate among senior staffers in President Trump’s administration. According to an analysis by CNN, 35 top staff members have left the White House since January 20, 2017:

According to calculations made by Kathryn Dunn Tenpas at Brookings, there has been a 43% attrition rate among senior staffers within the Trump administration. That’s massively higher than any recent past president; Bill Clinton had the second highest first-year turnover, with 11%.

Here’s more from the Brookings report:

I find Trump’s turnover is record-setting, more than triple that of Obama and double that of Reagan. In looking at why Trump has experienced such high turnover, I argue he has valued loyalty over qualifications and suffered from a White House that has functioned in a chaotic manner. Both features have made it difficult to retain staff and have contributed to the governance difficulties he has encountered. If history is any guide, staff recruitment and retention during his second year could prove challenging as well.

Trump was asked about the turnover in his staff on Wednesday, and as you might have guessed, he said that everything was fine:

“Many, many people want every single job. You know, I read where, ‘Oh, gee, maybe people don’t want to work for Trump.’ And believe me, everybody wants to work in the White House. They all want a piece of that Oval Office; they want a piece of the West Wing. And not only in terms of it looks great on their résumé; it’s just a great place to work.”

Meanwhile, two new polls show Trump’s approval ratings are solidly below 40%. Numbers from Quinnipiac University give Trump a 38% approval rating (with 41% calling Trump the worst U.S. President since the end of World War II). Monmouth University has Trump slightly better, with a 39% approval rating.

In short, the attrition rate for senior White House staff is at 43%. Trump’s approval ratings are at 38%. Both numbers are very bad.

Decriminalized Magic Mushrooms, Anyone?

Colorado Public Radio reports on an initiative Denver voters may soon have the chance to approve–and depending on how pharmaceutically colorful your own adolescence was, it might bring back fond memories:

After a few rousing chants of “free the spores,” a small group of roughly 20 citizens filtered into the Denver city and county building Monday for a meeting with city officials and emerged knowing they may soon have the all-clear to gather signatures on a measure to decriminalize psychedelic mushrooms.

The group calls itself Colorado for Psilocybin after the fungi’s scientific name. Their proposed measure would do away with felony charges for people caught with mushrooms, and make them the lowest enforcement priority for Denver police…

A 2005 appeals court decision in New Mexico effectively legalized the cultivation of psilocybin. Last year, Oregon reduced possession charges for many illegal drugs from a felony to a misdemeanor. California voters approved a similar measure in 2014.

Another state may beat Colorado to the ballot: California may vote on a similar measure later this year.

Although to the uninitiated any drug identified as “psychedelic” conjures up visions of wild-eyed naked hippies running through the forest in hot pursuit of elves/gods/whatever it is they’re seeing at the time, in truth the effects of psilocybin mushrooms are quite mild with little to no danger of lethal overdose or addiction. It’s certainly nothing you would want to operate machinery under the influence of, but on objective scale of public safety hazards, magic mushrooms rate low enough that in the era of legal marijuana it’s just not something to get worked up about–not to mention the benefits some users cite from consumption.

If this passes, the next generation of hippies might have yet another reason to include Denver on their gap year world tour! Please trip responsibly.

Reyher’s “Mistakes” Draw a Republican Primary Challenger

(Hint: Reyher was the mistake – Promoted by Colorado Pols)

Newly appointed State Rep. Judy Reyher (R-La Junta) has drawn a primary challenge from fellow Republican Don Bendell, as reported first by Peter Roper of the Pueblo Chieftain.

Asked why he’s challenging Reyher, Bendell said:

“I had been asked by a few people privately to get involved because they felt like there had been a few mistakes made that are going to be used by the Democrats against us,” Bendell said. “And we can’t lose that seat. And they felt like I would have a better chance to beat the liberal they are running from Pueblo in the general election.”

Bendell launched his campaign by making mistakes of his own, however, telling potential donors on Facebook that they “can donate privately and confidentially” and that such donations would be “tax-deductible.”

He removed the erroneous information from his Facebook page, and expressed gratitude to those who pointed them out. Donations to candidates are neither private nor tax-deductible.

Bendell declined to name the people who privately encouraged him to run against Reyher.

Neither did Bendell specify the mistakes he thinks Reyher has made.

A trail of  Facebook posts and comments immediately engulfed Reyher in controversy when she was appointed to the state house last year.

Reyher told The Denver Post, for example, in November that black people “hate white people with a passion.” The Post questioned her after reviewing her Facebook feed which had posts like these and these, first reported by this blog. Reyher issued a partial apology to The Post.

“I welcome any challenger,” Reyher said Wednesday.

“My opponent has already asked me to step out, which I don’t intend to do,” said Reyher.

“I thought to myself, ‘Doesn’t everyone want to tell their challenger to take a walk?'” Reyher said. “You know? It kind of took me by surprise. I just said, ‘I’m not going anywhere. I’m in it to win it. I’ve got the experience the seat calls for.'”

“I’m not here to trash her,” Bendell said. “She’s a very nice person. In fact, She and I have been Facebook friends for a long time.

“She may not like me, but I like her,” Bendell said, referring to Reyher. “I think she’s a nice person. I have nothing against her whatsoever. I’m not here to talk about her. I’m here to talk about me.”

Bendell said he “never wanted to run for political office before, although he’s been involved in politics for years, having “hosted” rallies for Donald Trump and Eric Trump prior to the last election.

A Republican vacancy committee, in a close vote, appointed Reyher last year to the state house seat after Clarice Navarro, who won re-election in 2016, resigned to work for the Trump Administration.

The winner of the GOP primary race between Reyher and Bendell will take on the Democratic nominee for the seat in the November election.