So Long, Bruce Ben$on

CU President Bruce Ben$on.

We would be remiss if we failed to note yesterday’s announcement that University of Colorado President Bruce Benson, a former Republican candidate for governor and top-tier GOP financier/kingmaker for many years, will retire at the end of the 2018-19 academic year. Denver7 reports:

Benson, 80, has served as president of the university system since March 2008. A CU graduate himself, Benson’s tenure as president was the longest at the university in decades. He is the former chairman of the state Republican party and unsuccessfully ran for governor in 1994…

In a statement Wednesday, Benson said he made the announcement this week so the board of regents can have enough time to find his successor.

“It has been my honor and privilege to serve as president of the University of Colorado for the past decade,” Benson said in a statement.

In the statement, he said the university has a “bright future” ahead of it and praised the CU system’s four campuses, students, alumni, employees and his wife, Marcy. He also touted the system’s contributions to the state economy and health care systems, and its work with state lawmakers to pass higher education changes.

Appointed by Democratic Gov. Bill Ritter, Benson earned credit from lawmakers and administration of the state’s flagship university for stabilizing the school’s shaky finances–a considerable feat of both philanthropy and statecraft given Colorado’s notoriously stingy budgeting that frequently left higher education to fend for itself over the past two decades.

In terms of the university’s reputation for academic leadership, however, that has suffered considerably under Benson’s political agenda to impose greater “ideological diversity” on campus. Benson and the conservative members of the CU Board of Regents have made “conservative affirmative action” a central plank in their agenda, and the results haven’t been pretty–from the “visiting scholar in conservative thought” who insulted LGBTQ people and to the PR debacle of a Republican presidential debate in October 2016 before a mostly empty stadium while protests raged outside. And today, the conservative majority on the Board of Regents remains as focused as ever on this highly questionable objective:

During their annual summer retreat in Tabernash, several of the Republican regents gave impassioned speeches about the need to prioritize encouraging diversity of political thought and measuring how each campus does so. Some said increased support for conservative perspective programs was a critical issue that would also help the university raise money.

As much as the shiny new buildings on the University of Colorado’s four campuses, Benson’s political quest to shoehorn more “conservative thought” into the academic programs of the university is a major and controversial part of Benson’s legacy. If you believe, as Benson and the GOP majority on the Board of Regents does, that conservatives need affirmative action to be better represented among university faculty, you’ll love what he’s done. If you believe that scholarship should not be tainted by political trends at all, in either direction, ever, you’re in agreement with the overwhelming majority of actual scholars–as opposed to politician university presidents of elected board members.

The reality is, Benson’s campaign for “ideological diversity” on the CU campuses, backed by the Republican majority on the Board of Regents has become a grave threat to the integrity of the University of Colorado’s scholarship. While it’s maybe not as important as choosing a Supreme Court Justice, the choice of Benson’s successor next summer needs to be part of the debate over who will be Colorado’s next governor this year.

Thursday Open Thread

“Honesty is the fastest way to prevent a mistake from turning into a failure.”

–James Altucher

How YOU Can Enforce Colorado’s New Campaign Finance Rules: To Appeal Or Not?

(Promoted by Colorado Pols)

Walker Stapleton (R-CT).

If you’ve been following the Colorado Times Recorder, you know that we’ve been explaining the Colorado Secretary of State’s (SOS) new rules for enforcing campaign finance laws, which allow everyday citizens to lodge official complaints with the Secretary of State.

To clarify the process, we lodged a complaint, alleging that candidate for governor Walker Stapleton forgot to disclose his wife’s income on forms that he was required to file with the SOS as part of his candidacy.

The SOS dismissed our complaint, writing that he didn’t have authority to decide whether our specific allegation was true or not. He said the district attorney would have to decide.

Meanwhile, Stapleton admitted to ColoradoPolitics that, in fact, he did did not include his wife’s $30,000 income from the Harmes C. Fishback Foundation on his mandatory disclosure form.

He fixed the form and alleged that no laws were broken, without explaining what caused the lapse. Did he think his wife was a volunteer for his family’s foundation? Did he try to donate the 30K and failed? Was the $30,000 actually inserted in his bank account? Did his layer screw up? His accountant? No one knows, as of this writing.

In any case, the question is, what do you do now, if you’ve filed a complaint?

The SOS’ new rules allow for an appeal. The rule states, “The dismissal is a final agency action, and subject to review” under Colorado law governing “rule-making and licensing procedures by state agencies.”

If you file a complaint, and want to appeal, Colorado law spells out the process this way:

any person adversely affected or aggrieved by any agency action may commence an action for judicial review in the district court within thirty-five days after such agency action becomes effective; but, if such agency action occurs in relation to any hearing pursuant to section 24-4-105, then the person must also have been a party to such agency hearing. A proceeding for such review may be brought against the agency by its official title, individuals who comprise the agency, or any person representing the agency or acting on its behalf in the matter sought to be reviewed. The complaint shall state the facts upon which the plaintiff bases the claim that he or she has been adversely affected or aggrieved, the reasons entitling him or her to relief, and the relief which he or she seeks.

In our example of Stapleton forgetting his wife’s 30K, the core problem has been fixed, but an appeal could be lodged to assess penalties for forgetting his wife’s income for so long.

Also, he may face misdemeanor charges for failing to disclose the 30K in the first place.

At least that’s how I read the law.

The Stapleton campaign sees it differently, arguing that the mistake wasn’t willful, but just a run-of-the-mill stumble, according to the ColoradoPolitics post. Therefore, all’s forgiven, as long as the lapse was fixed within 30 days of his becoming aware of it, which it was, Stapleton says.

At this point, if you’re an ordinary citizen trying to navigate this SOS process, you probably need a lawyer. And you probably don’t have one. And frankly, at least in this example, you might pat yourself on the back and say, hey, he fixed his lapse, in direct response to the complaint, even if he didn’t pay fines and get convicted of anything.

So I’m not going to appeal or sue in court. The Stapleton example served its purpose of showing how the new rules work.

I hope this series of blog posts inspires you to file your own complaint, whether it be against a Democrat or a Republican like Stapleton. Colorado deputizes you as the enforcer of its campaign finance laws, and now you know how to do it.

White House Scrambles to Explain Trump on Russia

President Trump on Wednesday responded to questions from reporters about his disastrous Helsinki summit with Russian President Vladimir Putin — a response that has the White House scrambling to explain what the Big Orange Guy really meant to say.

As the Washington Post reports:

At a White House press briefing, Sarah Huckabee Sanders said that President Trump was saying “no” earlier Wednesday to whether he would take further questions from reporters.

“The president said, ‘Thank you very much,’ and was saying ‘no’ to answering questions,” Sanders said. “The president and his administration are working very hard to make sure that Russia is unable to meddle as they have done in the past.”

Earlier Wednesday, Trump said, “Thank you very much, no,” in response to a question from a reporter about whether Russia is still targeting the United States. He also asserted no president has been tougher on Russia than him.

At least you’re not the White House Press Secretary.

Rep. Tim Leonard Compares Women’s Rights Marchers to Nazis

Rep. Tim Leonard (R-Evergreen) shown here wearing jailhouse orange.

As Marianne Goodland reports for the publication formerly known as the Colorado Statesman, State Rep. Tim Leonard (R-Evergreen) is again making an ass of himself:

Republican state Rep. Tim Leonard of Evergreen is under fire for a Facebook post in which he compared women marchers to Hitler’s brownshirts, the Nazi militia members who began the campaigns of violence against Jews in pre-World War II Germany.

Leonard has two Facebook pages, one for his personal life and another for his political office and campaign. The Facebook page generating controversy is on the page that he uses to communicate with House constituents and supporters.

The post refers to a Washington Times article that poked fun at the Women’s March, which sent out a press release after President Donald Trump announced his pick for the latest U.S. Supreme Court vacancy. The press release said “Women’s March opposes XX,” leaving out the name of Judge Brett Kavanaugh.

Screenshot from Tim Leonard’s Facebook page.

Here’s what Leonard wrote, word-for-word:

I usually like to avoid national politics, but the insanity and incoherency of the “Women’s March” radicals has to be pitied. They are so angry, they cannot even think straight. They could care less who the Supreme Court nominee is, they resist everything everywhere all the time from this President. Who can even take them seriously? They have nothing to offer to any logical discussion of ideas. They are in the political arena just to cause chaos — like Hitler’s Brownshirts. [Pols emphasis]

Of course, the guy comparing women’s rights activists to Hitler’s Brownshirts is notorious for wearing his own unique colors. Leonard holds the distinction of being the only sitting lawmaker in at least 40 years in Colorado to serve time in jail while holding elected office.

Democrat Lisa Cutter is running against Leonard in HD-25.

Sorry Not Sorry: Trump Praises Trump for Helsinki

UPDATE: Speaking at a Cabinet meeting today, President Trump says “there has never been a President as tough on Russia as I have been.”

Yes, this really happened.

On Monday, President Trump orchestrated one of the biggest international relations disasters in the history of the United States. On Tuesday, Trump returned to the White House and offered a half-assed explanation for his relentless public defense of Russian President Vladimir Putin that was based on the premise that he mistakenly forgot to use an apostrophe in one of his comments.

Today Trump completed the circle by “walking back his walk-back,” as Politico aptly explained:

President Donald Trump on Wednesday returned to a defiant posture, insisting his deeply controversial meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin will prove to be a great success “in the long run” and complaining that his critics are suffering from “Trump Derangement Syndrome.”

One day after issuing a rare mea culpa — in which Trump claimed he meant to say there’s no reason to believe it “wouldn’t” have been Russia that meddled in the U.S. election — Trump appeared to be walking back his walk-back…

…Those who have been critical of him, the president said, are “haters” upset that he has a warm relationship with Putin, a former KGB agent who the U.S. intelligence community has concluded with “high confidence” ordered the 2016 cyberattacks targeting the U.S. election process…

…Trump’s tweets capped a whirlwind few days in which Trump found himself perplexed by the severe blowback to his remarks in Helsinki.

If none of this makes sense to you, according to Trump, it may be that you just aren’t smart enough to understand:

Also, smart people spell “Colusion” with only one ‘L.’

Trump Blames Helsinki Disaster on Missing Apostrophe

As CNN reports:

Reading prepared remarks to reporters at the White House, Trump reiterated that there was no collusion between his campaign and Russia and that the country’s efforts had no impact on the final results.

He said that when he returned from the summit with Putin in Helsinki, Finland, he “realized there is some need for clarification” about his remarks on Russian interference in the 2016 election.

“In a key sentence in my remarks I said the word ‘would’ instead of ‘wouldn’t,'” Trump said. He explained he reviewed a transcript and video of his remarks.

“The sentence should have been: ‘I don’t see any reason why it wouldn’t be Russia,'” he said. “Sort of a double negative.”

“I think that probably clarifies things pretty good on itself,” Trump said.

Not so much, no.

Caption This Photo: Bedhead Frank McNulty!

Jeff Hunt of the conservative Christian Centennial Institute graces the Twitters with this memorable photo of former GOP Colorado Speaker of the House Frank McNulty–who remains active on the margins of Colorado politics despite costing Republicans their House majority in 2012:

Get a comb through that mop, Frank! But we’re glad you’ve come to grips with the fact that you will never be President. Otherwise you’d never let this photo see the light of day.

Get More Smarter on Tuesday (July 17)

Of course President Trump is surprised that people are not reacting well to his Helsinki summit. 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.



► For those of you who might just now be emerging from underneath a rock somewhere, you’ll be concerned to learn that President Trump committed one of the most egregious international relations face-plants in American history on Monday when he stood next to Russian President Vladimir Putin and defended him from claims by U.S. intelligence experts that Russia interfered in the 2016 election. Leading Republicans are scrambling to distance themselves from Trump as even Fox News is offering criticism of the President. The word “treason” is making regular appearances.

Leading Colorado Republicans, meanwhile, are largely giving Trump a pass for Helsinki.


► President Trump returned to the White House on Tuesday and promptly declared his summit with Putin in Helsinki to be a great success (presumably he didn’t mean to say that it was a great success for Russia). Trump’s high praise for himself is not being reciprocated by most Republicans, though Congressional leaders seem remarkably reluctant to take any sort of action whatsoever.

As the Washington Post reports, President Trump’s stunning summit with Vladimir Putin did not go according to plans scripted by White House staff:

Administration officials had hoped that maybe, just maybe, Monday’s summit between President Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin would end differently — without a freewheeling 46-minute news conference in which Trump attacked his own FBI on foreign soil and warmly praised archrival Russia.

Ahead of the meeting, staffers provided Trump with some 100 pages of briefing materials aimed at laying out a tough posture toward Putin, but the president ignored most of it, according to one person familiar with the discussions, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to disclose internal deliberations. Trump’s remarks were “very much counter to the plan,” the person said.

“Everyone around Trump” was urging him to take a firm stance with Putin, according to a second person familiar with the preparations. Before Monday’s meeting, the second person said, advisers covered matters from Russia’s annexation of Crimea to its interference in the U.S. elections, but Trump “made a game-time decision” to handle the summit his way.

Just how bad was Trump’s Helsinki meeting? Chris Wallace of Fox News is getting credit for being tougher on Putin than Trump.


► CNN reports on Monday’s news that the Justice Department has arrested a Russian national named Mariia Butina under suspicion that she was conspiring against the United States as a secret agent. Butina also has close ties to the NRA.


► Senator Cory Gardner (R-Yuma) is one of four Republicans who could be in serious trouble after being connected to apparent campaign finance violations related to support from the National Rifle Association (NRA).


Get even more smarter after the jump…


You Call This “Condemnation?” Seriously?

UPDATE: New York Times columnist David Leonhardt takes note of Cory Gardner’s lack of testicular fortitude:

A few Republicans, like Senator John McCain, offered strong rebukes to President Trump’s anti-American, pro-Russian ramblings yesterday. More Republicans, unfortunately, offered weak excuses. (My vote for the single weakest statement goes to either Senators Cory Gardner of Colorado or Bill Cassidy of Louisiana — both of whom complained about previous presidents.)

A true profile in courage.


Sen. Cory Gardner, Rep. Mike Coffman.

Local news headlines today proclaim what seems to be the desired Republican headline today, blanket bipartisan condemnation of President Donald Trump’s disastrous press conference in Helsinki in which he made an historic fool of himself, sided with a foreign adversary over the consensus of the entire nation’s political and intelligence establishment, and handed Russian President Vladimir Putin such an incredible propaganda victory that Putin should be embarrassed to accept it. 9NEWS:

Colorado’s Congressional delegation is reacting to a joint-press conference held Monday between President Donald Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Senator Cory Gardner and Rep. Mike Coffman join the chorus of Republicans who want to keep an arm’s-length between the U.S. and Russia…

CBS4 Denver:

Colorado’s Republican Sen. Cory Gardner and Republican Congressman Mike Coffman reacted to Monday’s meeting between President Donald Trump and Russian President Vladmir Putin.

Gardner tweeted in part, “Vladmir Putin’s Russia remains an adversary to the United States and nothing should change as of today.”

The Denver Post’s Christopher Osher:

Colorado’s members of Congress on Monday heaped bipartisan scorn on President Donald Trump’s statements during a joint press conference with Russian President Vladimir Putin that challenged U.S. intelligence agencies’ conclusion that Russia interfered in the 2016 presidential election.

Both U.S. Sens. Michael Bennet, a Democrat, and Cory Gardner, a Republican, quickly released statements of condemnation.

As you can see there’s a lot of hot taking going on, doggedly pushing a narrative that condemnation of President Trump’s performance in Helsinki was universal and without regard to partisan lines. But if you take a look at the actual statements from both Sen. Cory Gardner and Rep. Mike Coffman, there’s a distinct lack of, well, condemnationGardner:

I encourage the Administration to avoid the mistakes of past Administrations in normalizing relations with Russia at zero cost to Putin and his regime.

And Coffman:

President Trump should never take Putin’s word at face value and should give greater consideration to U.S. Intelligence agencies over the Kremlin’s rhetoric. As a Marine Corps combat veteran, and member of the House Armed Services Committee, I don’t take lightly my oath to defend our country against enemies foreign and domestic, and neither should the president. Both Bush and Obama learned this the hard way in their first terms.

We’ll give credit to Rep. Coffman for daring to invoke Trump’s name in his statement, something Gardner wasn’t even willing to do. But neither one of them offered anything close to “condemnation” of Trump’s actions, and both of them sought to deflect from the scandal by criticizing previous administrations. If you compare these milquetoast statements with what Republicans like Ben Sasse and Lindsey Graham and even Paul Ryan are saying, they’re pathetically weak.

It’s just another case of our feckless local political press wanting so hard for local Republicans to be on the right side of a bad story for Trump and the party nationally that they write their desired narrative with no supporting evidence whatsoever. The truth is that Gardner and Coffman did not condemn Trump for what he did in Helsinki in any meaningful way–not nearly as much as many other Republicans were willing to do.

And they don’t deserve a word of praise.

Tuesday Open Thread

“How often it is that the angry man rages denial of what his inner self is telling him.”

–Frank Herbert

Mother of Aurora Theater Shooting Victim: Do NOT Elect George Brauchler

TUESDAY UPDATE: It would be difficult to be more tone-deaf than George Brauchler:


Sandy Phillips (left) with daughter Jessica Ghawi.

Last Friday, survivors of the mass shooting in Parkland, Florida visited the Never Again (Colorado) chapter to discuss gun violence prevention at Shorter Community AME Church in Denver. Among the speakers at the March for Our Lives Road to Change event was Sandy Phillips, the mother of Aurora Theater Shooting victim Jessica Ghawi, who made a passionate plea to the audience to oppose Republican George Brauchler’s campaign for Attorney General.

The entire event can be viewed on Facebook. Phillips discusses Brauchler’s campaign at the 52:40 mark:

Having gone through the trial with the Aurora killer, we were very supportive of George Brauchler at the time. I ask everyone in this room: Please do NOT elect him as your AG [Attorney General].

We knew that when he decided to try the case, that he was wanting [to pursue] the death penalty. We also knew that we would never get it. We are grateful that they found out so much during that trial – things that none of you should ever have to know. God forbid that you should. So we were grateful that there was a trial, however, that trial cost over $10 million dollars, I believe. And afterwards – we knew that George was very assertive in his opinions – afterwards we really found out how far right he was. When he was running for Governor and got his endorsement from Ted Nugent, who is on the board of the NRA, that was it. That was our last conversation. 

And he said to me, ‘well, you know, there aren’t any laws on the books that could have prevented what happened to your daughter.’ And I said, ‘as a leader of this state, it is your job to make sure that we do have laws on the books that would prevent this from happening.’ [Pols emphasis]

As your AG, he would have the power to try – or not try – to try his best to roll back [gun violence prevention] laws that are in place. So I urge you, please, whoever is running against him…and I don’t know who it is [several people in the crowd yell out “Phil Weiser”]…I will work for him, from now until the [inaudible].

Brauchler is seeking the open seat for Attorney General in November against Democrat Phil Weiser.

Why Are Republicans Speaking At The ‘Democrats For Life’ Conference?

(For the lulz, obviously – Promoted by Colorado Pols)

Democrats for Life of America (DFLA) is holding its first conference this weekend in Denver, but speakers include no currently-elected Democratic politicians, and several speakers who have been identified as Republicans, Independents, or have no registered party affiliation.

The “I Want My Party Back” conference comes after a recent debate around whether the Democratic Party should make room for candidates who oppose abortion rights.

Some have argued that it’d behoove Democrats who are eager to regain support from Trump voters to field candidates who may not adhere to every single aspect of the party’s platform. But more progressive Democrats say the party’s so-called big tent isn’t big enough for those who would allow limitations on reproductive rights.

But within this debate, one key fact is often ignored: These days, pro-life Democrats are few and far between.

So it shouldn’t necessarily come as a surprise that DFLA, which has aimed to elect anti-choice Democrats since its inception in 1999, apparently struggled to find true-blue Democratic speakers for their upcoming conference.

The only Democratic politicians speaking are two former Congressmen — Bart Stupak of Michigan and Lincoln Davis of Tennesse, both of whom haven’t held office since 2011.

And many of the speakers aren’t Democrats at all, according to a voter database. Lauren Castillo, for example, is the National Church Relations Director for Students for Life of America, and she’s registered in Colorado as a Republican. Castillo didn’t respond to a request for comment and confirmation.


Gardner, NRA Tied Up in Campaign Finance Fiasco

And that’s how you make Cory Gardner’s famous “loophole sausage”

Last week Politico Magazine outlined the strange case of a “mystery” organization that received millions of dollars from the National Rifle Association (NRA) to produce a plethora of advertisements promoting Republican candidates for U.S. Senate in 2014. Colorado Sen. Cory Gardner (R-Yuma) was one of the primary beneficiaries of this spending, though his campaign’s involvement with the entire process reeks of illegal coordination.

From Politico Magazine:

To get its message out, the NRA turned to an unknown consulting firm, Starboard Strategic, paying it $19 million. More than a third of that money was invested in must-win Senate seats in Colorado, North Carolina and Arkansas — three of the most expensive in the country — paying for a host of television, radio and internet ads…

…Acquiring business of this magnitude would be an incredible feat for a firm with no reputation. The question is whether it was really accomplished by Starboard, or another outfit called OnMessage.

Well-established and well-connected, OnMessage is as transparent as Starboard is opaque. What the Federal Election Commission and the public do not know is that the two entities appear to be functionally one and the same. [Pols emphasis]

Friday’s story from Politico Magazine prompted an official complaint today from the Campaign Legal Center “alleging that the National Rifle Association (NRA) violated federal law by using a common vendor to coordinate illegally with four U.S. Senate campaigns.”

“There is substantial evidence that the NRA funneled millions through a shell corporation to unlawfully coordinate with candidates it was backing,” said Brendan Fischer, director, federal reform at CLC. “The NRA using inside information about a candidate’s strategy to create ‘independent’ ads supporting him creates an unfair advantage, and it violates the law. According to the Supreme Court, groups like the NRA can only make unlimited expenditures if they are independent of the candidates they support, and it falls to the FEC to enforce the laws that preserve that independence and prevent corruption.”

As you can see from the graphic at right, OnMessage and Starboard Strategic are essentially the same company, which is a problem when you finish connect the dots on this sordid affair. Let’s go back to Politico Magazine:

In 2014, among OnMessage’s most prominent clients were three Republican challengers vying for Senate seats in the same races where the NRA would pay Starboard some of its biggest outlays of the cycle: Thom Tillis, in North Carolina; Cory Gardner, in Colorado; and Tom Cotton, in Arkansas. All of these candidates would defeat Democratic incumbents, cementing the result for which GOP leaders and the NRA had mobilized: a Republican majority in the upper chamber to match the one in the House. Each challenger paid OnMessage $5 million to $8 million, far more than they paid any other vendors.

Campaign-finance rules prohibit coordination between official campaigns and outside groups, such as the NRA, who support the same candidate. Those restrictions, in turn, give force to a fundamental law governing political spending. Outside groups can independently disburse unlimited sums to influence elections. But they can give no more than $5,000 when giving directly to a candidate…

…Two former FEC chairs, one Republican and the other Democrat, reviewed the findings of Politico Magazine and The Trace, and said they found them troubling. “This evidence raises substantial questions about whether OnMessage and Starboard Strategic were used as conduits for coordination between the NRA and the candidates it was supporting,” Trevor Potter, the Republican, said. “It’s pretty serious,” added Ann Ravel, the Democrat. “It doesn’t seem right.” Both former chairs independently came to the same conclusion: “The FEC should investigate.“

The NRA was apparently funneling millions of dollars to Starboard Strategic at the same time that Gardner’s 2014 campaign was also spending millions of dollars with OnMessage for campaign consulting work. This is about as obvious a case of illegal coordination as we’ve ever seen.