Walker Stapleton on PERA Reform: Eight Years of Zilch

State Treasurer Walker Stapleton

Long periods of inactivity occasionally interrupted by pointless platitudes.

If you were going to summarize Republican Walker Stapleton’s history with his self-professed signature issue of PERA reform, this is about where you’d end up.

As Brian Eason writes for the Colorado Sun, Stapleton has spent the last eight years as State Treasurer talking about the importance of reforming PERA (the Public Employees’ Retirement Association) but rarely bothering to actually do much to support his rhetoric. This won’t likely come as much of a surprise to anyone who is even remotely familiar with Stapleton, but the details are still pretty damning:

“Everything I said about the need to fix this problem seven or eight years ago I think has been borne to be true,” he told The Colorado Sun in an interview. “I’m proud of the fact that I was right on a lot of the things that I said were wrong.”

But when it came time to actually fix it? Stapleton — by his own admission — was largely absent from the public debate. [Pols emphasis]

By his own admission…

By Stapleton’s own admission, he wasn’t even conscious when lawmakers were voting on the most significant piece of PERA legislation (SB12-200) in the last decade. This is a direct quote from Stapleton via Colorado Public Radio:

“I was not physically even at the legislature. I think I was asleep by the time they finally passed the deal.”

It’s been pretty clear for awhile now that the Republican nominee for Governor is not a good candidate, but Eason’s story reinforces a more fundamental problem voiced by Democrats and Republicans alike: Walker Stapleton just doesn’t show up, and he’s not really interested in arguing otherwise. His legacy at the State Capitol is an empty parking spot.

Stapleton’s poor attendance as State Treasurer has been well-documented. Eason’s story in the Colorado Sun is different in that it takes a more focused look at Stapleton’s “involvement” with the one cause he has championed above all others:

In the fall of 2017, he trashed the board’s plan in interviews and editorials. In December, he offered suggestions of his own. But in the spring of 2018, when lawmakers set about to craft the final product, he went uncharacteristically silent.

He wasn’t at the negotiating table when the bill was drafted. Nor did he testify publicly on the measure, as he’d done on pension-related bills in years past.

“At the time it was really hard to tell whether he was a critic of what was being proposed or whether he was supporting it,” said Terry Campbell, PERA’s lead lobbyist.

Largely absent” will be the inscription on Stapleton’s political gravestone. 

Hate Group Rally At Capitol Features Colorado Republican Speakers and Stapleton Super PAC

(Holy crap – Promoted by Colorado Pols)

Rep. Winkler speaks at hate group rally
Rep. Alexander Skinny Winkler (R) (top right, speaking).

Dozens of far-right conservatives and hate group members held a rally on the west steps of the Capitol Saturday afternoon to protest what they perceive to be censorship by Facebook. One Colorado Republican state rep helped produce the event and Walker Stapleton’s Super PAC was there to recruit staff.

Proud Boy rally at Capitol, 9.15.18 The event was hosted by Major League Liberty, a far-right pro-Trump social media podcast, along with the Proud Boys, a far-right men’s organization that describes itself as representing “Western chauvinists.” The Southern Poverty Law Center describes the Proud Boys as a hate group “whose leaders regularly spout white nationalist memes and maintain affiliations with known extremists. They are known for anti-Muslim and misogynistic rhetoric.”

hate group Colorado Proud Boys post promoting far-right anti-censorship rally, 9.15.18Officially titled the Rally To Protest Internet Censorship, the event drew approximately 60 people as well as 40 or so counter-protesters. Nearly as many Colorado State troopers maintained a wide perimeter between those attending the event and those protesting it.

Speakers included State Rep. Alexander “Skinny” Winkler (R-Northglenn) and Republican Congressional candidate Mark Barrington, who is challenging Democratic Congressman Ed Perlmutter. In his speech Rep. Winkler said he supported free speech and liberty unequivocally. He mentioned that his sound company provided the audio equipment and that he was “happy to help out.”

Stapleton Super PAC recruiting staff at hate group rallyAlso in attendance was a representative of Better Colorado Now, the Super PAC supporting Republican Walker Stapleton’s campaign for governor. Wearing a Better Colorado Now polo shirt that read, “Elect Walker Stapleton,” Ben, who did not give his last name, said he was hoping to hire people to knock doors for his group. He said they “help elect Republicans.” According to the group’s registration with the Secretary of State, its purpose is to “Oppose Democrat candidates for governor and support Walker Stapleton for governor.”

Two of the attendees sported a popular Proud Boys T-shirt that reads “Pinochet did nothing wrong!” with the letters “RWDS” on the left sleeve. The acronym stands for “Right Wing Death Squad.”

The back of the shirt, kept covered by both men during the rally, depicts people being murdered by being dropped from a helicopter.

Stapleton SuperPAC staffer at rally w/ hate group close up

Stapleton Super PAC representative looks to hire canvassers at hate group rally. Man on right’s sleeve displays RWDS: “Right Wing Death Squad”

Many of attendees wore protective clothing, from tactical gloves with hard plastic knuckles to helmets and various types of arm padding. One man sported a set of hockey pads. Two others wearing street clothes said they fought with some “black bloc” types in Civic Center Park on the way to the event, with one saying he was struck in the head by a baton. He noted that the attackers were not part of the protestor group on the sidewalk.

The rally was livestreamed by Major League Liberty as well as many attendees.

Weird And Creepy In SD-15

SD-15 GOP candidate Rob Woodward.

Saja Hindi and Nick Coltrain of the Fort Collins Coloradoan report on what we sincerely hope was a random incident in which a Democratic Colorado Senate candidate’s car was apparently shot at last week–with the candidate inside:

It’s not clear if Rebecca Cranston, a Democrat running for a district that largely covers Larimer County outside Fort Collins, was targeted or if the shooting was related to other reported shootings in northwest Fort Collins.

Cranston had just pulled into her driveway Wednesday night and was on her phone when she heard something hit her truck. She first thought it might have been a rock.

“It didn’t occur to me that it would be a gunshot at first, until we saw the bullet hole,” Cranston said Monday morning.

Now, Rebecca Cranston is running to succeed Sen. Kevin Lundberg, one of the most conservative members of the Colorado Senate. In 2014, Lundberg cruised to re-election by almost 20 points, so this is not a race that Democrats are depending on to retake the chamber from Republicans in November. With that said, Cranston is doing everything she can to make the race competitive, one of two dozen Emerge Colorado-trained candidates on the ballot this year.

With regard to this shooting incident last week, as of this writing there are no suspects, and Cranston herself makes it clear that it could be a completely random act. There are been a number of unexplained random shootings in Northern Colorado in recent years, and it’s entirely possible that’s the explanation–enough that we weren’t initially sure this story rose to the level of coverage.

But then something rubbed us the wrong way:

Cranston wondered if she was targeted in Wednesday’s shooting because of her campaign, though she did not accuse her opponent of having anything to do with it.

However, she accused supporters of Republican Rob Woodward’s campaign of harassment tactics such as staking out her house and at one point almost driving her off the road while fleeing earlier in the summer. She said her mail — including campaign donation checks — was also stolen around that time…

And Republican Rob Woodward, who was accused of voter intimidation in 2012 after he basically said if Barack Obama was re-elected he would fire a majority of his employees, doesn’t completely deny her allegations:

[Woodward Campaign manager JD] Key said the Woodward campaign took a photo of Cranston’s home early on in the election only to settle a question about district residency. [Pols emphasis]

Full stop, folks. You do not need to physically travel to anyone’s home and photograph it in order to “settle a question about district residency.” You can find out if someone owns a home, and what district(s) that home resides in, from the comfort of any desk with a computer and an internet connection. However, if you’re looking to harass someone about their residency by tracking their comings and goings from home, that would be more of a stake out-type operation.

We don’t know if this “one-time photo session” of Cranston’s home occurred at the same time as she says somebody staking out her house almost forced her off the road while fleeing, but if this all happened, either at once or as multiple incidents–and we have no reason to doubt Cranston’s word–it would create a backdrop of creepy that a bullet hole in Cranston’s car cannot help but make worse. 

Obviously, we hope it’s a coincidence. But we’ll be watching closely for any more “coincidences.”

Lang Sias Dedicated To Backing Trump Now And Re-Electing Him In 2020

(Promoted by Colorado Pols)

The Colorado Republican Party’s candidate for lieutenant governor apparently backs Trump not only now but also in the 2020 election.

State Rep. Lang Sias (R-Arvada), who’s Walker Stapleton’s running mate, became a “new member” of a Facebook group called “MAGA Trump Colorado” last week, according to a Facebook post obtained from a source.

MAGA Trump Colorado describes itself as “dedicated to supporting President Donald Trump and committed to his reelection in 2020.”

“Let’s work together to fulfill his vision of making, and keeping, America great,” states the group’s Facebook page.

Recent posts on the MAGA Trump Colorado website show bigotry to Muslims and hostility toward people of color generally.

For example, one post states, “WHY WOULD ANYONE BELIEVE THAT ISLAM CAN BE PART OF A MULTICULTURAL SOCIETY.”

Another post states, “AS A WHITE PERSON, I AM SICK AND TIRED OF BEING JUDGED BY THE COLOR OF MY SKIN BY PEOPLE WHO HAVE COMPLAINED FOR DECATES ABOUT BEING JUDGED BY THE COLOR OF THEIRS.”

Stapleton’s campaign did not return an email to confirm his MAGA Colorado membership and seeking to know if Sias 1) was aware of the bigotry on the MAGA Trump Colorado site and 2) would consider withdrawing his name from the site.

Another question for Sias that went unanswered: Is there anything Trump could do, or information that could be revealed, that would stop Sias from voting for Trump again, as Sias is apparently committed to doing?

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Tuesday Open Thread

“We are not here to curse the darkness, but to light the candle that can guide us through that darkness to a safe and sane future.”

–John F. Kennedy

State Rep. Steve Humphrey Posts Image Of Flyer Attacking Colleague Over Violence Against Women

(Promoted by Colorado Pols)

Rep Humphrey Shares RMGO Wist Attack, 9.15.18

Colorado state representative Steve Humphrey (R-Severance) shared a photo of a flyer that accuses his party’s Assistant Minority Leader, Rep Cole Wist (R-Centennial) of wanting to prevent women from being able to defend themselves.

Rep. Steve Humphrey posts photo of RMGO flyer attacking Rep. WistRocky Mountain Gun Owners distributed the flyer at this weekend’s Centennial Gun Club Firearms Festival. Humphrey  posted a picture of the RMGO table, including the flyer, with the caption “Meeting and greeting and supporting conservative Second Amendment candidates at the RMGO booth.”

 

The flyer, one of two on the table attacking Wist, labels the House’s number two Republicans as “anti-gun” and says he “wants to leave you defenseless,” below an image of a woman being assaulted on the street.

 

RMGO, along with Minority Leader Patrick Neville, attacked Wist repeatedly during this year’s legislative fight over his proposed “red flag” bill. The bipartisan bill would have created a civil legal process called an Extreme Risk Protection Order to enable family members and law enforcement to temporarily remove guns from an individual who poses danger to themselves or others.

Sponsored by Assistant Minority Leader Wist, the bill was also supported by District Attorney George Brauchler and Douglas County Sheriff Tony Spurlock, both Republicans. It passed the House 37-23, with Wist and Rep. Dan Thurlow (R-Grand Junction) joining all Democrats in support, but failed to get out of committee in the Senate.

Rep. Humphrey’s post was “liked” by two of his colleagues, Rep. Perry Buck (R-Windsor) and Rep. Shane Sandridge (R-Colorado Springs). Joe Neville, who runs the House GOP independent expenditure committee and is a former RMGO lobbyist, also liked the post.

Voicemail messages requesting comment were not immediately answered by either Rep. Humphrey or Rep. Wist. This post will be updated with any replies received.

This post was first published by the Colorado Times Recorder.

Kavanaugh Confirmation Process Upended

UPDATE #2: President Trump voices his support for another hearing. From the Washington Post:

“We want to go through a full process,” Trump told reporters at an event on workforce development. He added that the Senate will “go through a process and hear everybody out.”

—–

UPDATE: Chris Cillizza of CNN explains how everything changed this morning:

What happened here is simple: Ford called Republicans’ bluff. As an anonymous accuser, her allegations weren’t going to change Kavanaugh’s glide path to the Supreme Court. As a named accuser, she complicated that path. As a named accuser who has now expressed a willingness to tell her story — and in public — there is no longer a clear path to Kavanaugh’s confirmation. (That’s not to say he can’t make it. It is to say that there is no clear path by which he makes it.)

The reason Kavanaugh’s path is now so fraught is a unique combination of the moment in which we are currently living, the man in the White House and the onrushing midterm elections.

—–

Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh (left) met with Sen. Cory Gardner (R-Yuma) in late July.

The confirmation process for President Trump’s nominee to the Supreme Court was upended over the weekend when a woman came forward to accuse Brett Kavanaugh of sexual assault when they were in high school.

Christine Blasey Ford confirmed via the Washington Post on Sunday that she is the person behind an accusation of sexual assault that was first revealed last week as a confidential letter to Democratic lawmakers. From the Post:

Speaking publicly for the first time, Ford said that one summer in the early 1980s, Kavanaugh and a friend — both “stumbling drunk,” Ford alleges — corralled her into a bedroom during a gathering of teenagers at a house in Montgomery County.

While his friend watched, she said, Kavanaugh pinned her to a bed on her back and groped her over her clothes, grinding his body against hers and clumsily attempting to pull off her one-piece bathing suit and the clothing she wore over it. When she tried to scream, she said, he put his hand over her mouth.

“I thought he might inadvertently kill me,” said Ford, now a 51-year-old research psychologist in northern California. “He was trying to attack me and remove my clothing.”

The Senate had been scheduled to vote on Kavanaugh’s appointment as soon as Thursday, but Ford’s allegations have cast new doubt on that process. As Denver7’s Blair Miller reports in a series of Tweets, Colorado Sen. Michael Bennet (D-Denver) is among the chorus of voices calling for the process to slow until “full investigation” can be conducted:

Colorado’s other U.S. Senator, Republican Cory Gardner (R-Yuma) won’t go that far…

What Gardner does not say here is more important; he still hasn’t said whether or not he supports delaying Kavanaugh’s confirmation vote. As Politico reports, there are enough Republicans on the Senate Judiciary Committee expressing public support for waiting on Ford’s testimony that a vote this week may not happen:

Less than 24 hours after Ford publicly came forward against Kavanaugh, her attorney said that she “will do whatever is necessary to make sure that the Senate Judiciary Committee has the full story,” including providing testimony. Judiciary Chairman Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) already had begun seeking follow-up calls for senators on Ford’s charges, and said on Monday that he is “working on a way to hear her out in an appropriate, precedented and respectful manner” — which could further imperil a committee vote on Kavanaugh that’s still set for Thursday.

Hatch, a senior Judiciary member, declined to commit senators to a Thursday vote on Kavanaugh and said the timing would be “up to the chairman.” But for the six Republicans who’ve urged the committee to hear from Ford, winding up the process as scheduled this week wasn’t a primary concern.

“This woman is willing to come forward and tell her story and we should listen to her,” said Sen. Ron Johnson (R-Wis.) on Milwaukee radio station WTMJ. “I’m not really sure where this goes from here.”…

Johnson joins calls from GOP Sens. Susan Collins of Maine, Lisa Murkowski of Alasaka and Arizona’s Jeff Flake and Tennessee’s Bob Corker, who told POLITICO Sunday that the committee shouldn’t vote on Kavanaugh until Ford can be heard. And Sen. Roy Blunt of Missouri, a member of Republican leadership, said that “These are serious allegations that need to be looked at closely by the committee before any other action is taken.” [Pols emphasis]

Gardner had expressed his support for Kavanaugh’s nomination before these new allegations were made public. But with so many high-profile Republican Senators already willing to pump the brakes on Kavanaugh, Gardner’s position here is tenuous at best. Gardner doesn’t want to be one of the last Senators to agree to delay a vote on Kavanaugh until after Ford has a chance to testify.

Jason Crow’s Big Lead Kicks Off The Week’s News

We wrote last week about a poll underway in Colorado’s red-hot CD-6 race by the New York Times and Siena College, which showed Democratic candidate Jason Crow opening a double-digit lead over incumbent Rep. Mike Coffman. This poll was especially interesting because the results were released in real time–and after the early results excited Democrats, we’ve all been waiting to see if the results would change before the end.

As the Denver Post’s Anna Staver reports, those results held steady:

Colorado Democrats are starting to believe this could be the year they finally flip Colorado’s most competitive congressional seat.

A New York Times poll of the 6th Congressional District completed Friday put Democratic challenger Jason Crow 11 points ahead of U.S. Rep. Mike Coffman, R-Aurora.

Crow’s 51-40 lead was outside the poll’s margin of error, but it also showed 9 percent of the people who responded haven’t made up their minds or wouldn’t say how they plan to vote.

Years of disappointment in this district have left Democrats extremely wary of signs that Coffman might actually be about to lose his seat. Coffman defeated highly qualified and base-beloved challengers in 2014 and 2016, and the 2018 nominee Jason Crow has worked very hard to convince the party faithful that he has a viable shot.

Given that Coffman was never once caught behind his Democratic opponent in a publicly-released poll before this year, these results are nothing short of electrifying for longsuffering Democrats. The mounting backlash against President Donald Trump is set to be felt first by Trump’s enablers in the Republican Party, and Coffman has been less successful triangulating off the party brand since Trump’s election than ever before. The delicate political balance that Coffman has managed since redistricting has been unbalanced by Trump, and the split tickets that kept Coffman in office while Democrats won the district in every race above CD-6 may finally be set to, as they say, “come home.”

For Democrats in 2018, hope springs eternal.

After Dismissing His KKK Great-Grandfather As Nothing But A Distant Relative, Stapleton Apparently Scrubbed His Office Of Homage To Him

(Promoted by Colorado Pols)

Back in 2011, when Walker Stapleton was freshly elected to be Colorado’s Treasurer, he took time to complain to then Denver Post reporter Curtis Hubbard about how painful it was to get “special permission from maintenance to hang pictures, even if there are already nails on the wall.”

Stapleton eventually got permission to hang his pictures, as you can see in the 2016 photo from his Facebook page on the right.

It turns out that one of Stapleton’s office pictures, just to the left of the American flag in the photo, was apparently a framed newspaper clipping featuring his great-grandfather, Benjamin F. Stapleton, who was mayor of Denver and a leader of the Ku Klux Klan here in the 1920s.

Here’s the headline from an edition of a Denver newspaper called The Monitor: “Denver Must Have Stapleton to Keep Denver Great and Growing.”

You can’t see the newspaper clearly in the office photo, but you get a good idea of what it looks like in the enlarged view below on the right.

It appears to be the same newspaper clipping that’s featured in Stapleton’s 2009 campaign ad, in which he brags about his great-grandfather’s “accomplishments” (parks, airport) without mentioning the fact that he was one of the state’s leading members of the KKK.

In that 2009 video ad, narrated by Walker Stapleton, the camera passes over the old newspaper while Stapleton refers to his great-grandfather and says, “His accomplishments include building the first civic center in Colorado…”

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Monday Open Thread

“There are all kinds of stupid people that annoy me but what annoys me most is a lazy argument.”

–Christopher Hitchens

Seriously, Did Republicans Fire All Their Editors?

We took note Friday of a TV spot targeting rep. Brittany Pettersen of Lakewood from the Republican Senate Majority Fund–an expensive production and ad buy that couldn’t even spell the targeted candidate’s name right. If it’s worth producing and distributing before the eyeballs of thousands of voters, it should go without saying that it’s worth the essential step of copyediting.

This weekend, we’re treated to another spectacular GOP proofreading failure, once again being distributed to live voters in Greeley’s House District 50 by Republican candidate Brian Thuener:

Seriously folks, how the hell does that make it into the hands of actual voters? We understand that typographical errors happen–after all, this is a blog. We commit them all the time. What we wouldn’t do is allow such elementary errors to be printed and then distributed in campaign literature–or in the case of a TV spot, aired to thousands of voters.

Too many more such incidents, and the “amateur hour” impression this kind of thing leaves won’t be a coincidence anymore. It’ll be part of the narrative of 2018.

Brian Watson, GOP Treasurer candidate: “Teachers just collect government checks.”

(Promoted by Colorado Pols)

Brian Watson, candidate for Treasurer of Colorado, is kind of a jerk. He demonstrated that recently in a Club 20 debate with his Democratic opponent, Dave Young,  captured on video by Colorado Education Association. Dave called out Brian Watson for owing nearly a million dollars in unpaid taxes and loans for seven years: “How can you manage our state’s finances if you cannot manage your own?,” Dave Young asked.

Watson replied, ” I’m so glad you asked that question. Because while you were a junior high math teacher, collecting a check from the government, which you have done your entire career, <snip>, we job creators were on the front line.”

Watson is a “job creator”? He’s a real estate developer, and pledges that he won’t take a salary if elected to the Legislature. (Hint: he plans to moonlight at Northstar Commercial Partners, the company he founded, which owns buildings all over Colorado. Watson doesn’t need a treasurer’s $68K a year salary )

Watson, like Trump, loves debt, and spins his deadbeat history as a net positive:

I’ve restructured complex debt….I’m battle – tested

But since Watson has a history of unpaid taxes and liens, Watson has been a net drain on the economy. He finally paid off his business debts right before the Republican primary in 2012. The contractors who had to wait for payment, or had to write off debts, were probably unimpressed by Watson’s “battle testing”.

Can you say, “Conflict of interest”?

As Treasurer, Watson would be making decisions and helping to make policy that would directly impact his company’s bottom line. For example, included in Northstar’s portfolio of buildings are several renting to charter schools in Colorado. As Treasurer, Watson’s business stands to profit by renting to charter schools, which are generally taxpayer-supported public schools, while he continues to work at his real estate investment company – just like the current Treasurer, Walker Stapleton, who continued to collect a $150,000 salary consulting  at Sonomawest , / Stapleton Acquisitions), all while “moonlighting” as Colorado’s Treasurer.

At least, if elected, Watson could take a lunch break at one of the buildings his company owns near the Capitol.

For a longer , higher quality video of the two Treasurer candidates debating, see the Aaron Harber show, Parts 1 and 2.   I’ve highlighted their statements about PERA below.

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“It’s a Cult” – The Society of Science-Denying Politicians

(Promoted by Colorado Pols)

Hurricane Florence gathering in the Atlantic, several days before landfall near Wilmington, NC.

Its still too early to tell how damaging Hurricane Florence is going to be, and those aiding in the rescue under way and the recovery to come deserve our, and the government’s, full support.

But there is one thing we can almost certainly be sure of. Whether the storm lives up to its worst fears, or not, science-deniers will point to it to make fun of climate change.

“Oh,” they will say in the first case, “if it’s dry—blame climate change, if it rains—blame climate change. Well, the climate changes all the time!” Or they will say, in the second case, “Oh, see! No ‘super-storm’ ergo no climate change! Just more eco-hysteria!”

The usual brigade of followers and amplifiers will tweet and blog and push out whichever false narrative fits the ideology, and then we’ll get back to business as usual: Gutting the Clean Power Plan, slashing methane pollution regulations that protect taxpayers and the environment, walking away from the world, rolling back the clean car rules. The list of bad things done, and climate wrongs committed by this administration is noteworthy.

However you graph it, the trends are clear. Climate change is real.

For no string of extreme weather events, no list of new records replacing the last new records that replaced the ones before, no data of climbing temperatures and escalating droughts, can penetrate the bubble insulated by the love of cold hard cash. Their gain is your loss, of course. Remember, you can’t spell “trickle down” without “trick.”

By ending the methane rule Ryan Zinke’s Interior Department admits taxpayers stand to lose more than $1 billion in wasted resources. Replacing the Clean Power Plan with the Dirty Power Scam could cost 1,400 American lives every year. And no matter that the methane waste rule has support from across the nation, and in Colorado. Earlier this year, a Colorado College poll found that 7-in-10 western voters support methane waste requirements for federal public lands, including most Republicans in all states surveyed.

In May 2017, a bipartisan group of Senators rejected a Congressional Review Act resolution to repeal the BLM methane rule. For this we can thank the hundreds of thousands of Americans who contacted Congress, and who resisted efforts to sell America out to oil and gas lobbyists. But we can’t thank Cory Gardner, Colorado’s junior senator, who voted against taxpayers and our climate, and voted to repeal the methane waste rule.

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Tailhook Scandal Resurfaces for Stapleton Running Mate Lang Sias

Walker Stapleton (left) introduced running mate Lang Sias at the Wings Over the Rockies Air Museum in Denver on July 11, 2018.

As John Frank reports today for the The Colorado Sun, Republican Lieutenant Governor candidate Lang Sias played a not-insignificant role in the infamous Tailhook scandal of the early nineties. We’d encourage you to read the entire story for yourself, but we’ll try to summarize the key points here as best we can.

For those of you who don’t remember the Tailhook scandal (or were too young to recall the story, or maybe not even alive yet), let’s pause to recap. Tailhook was a major national story at the time and remains one of the biggest black marks in the history of the American military. The name stems from “The Tailhook Association,” a private organization for Navy pilots that held an annual “conference” in Las Vegas that brought 5,000 current and former aviators together for a drunken bacchanal. The most disturbing accounts include multiple allegations of sexual assault – women were reportedly forced to walk a hallway called “the gauntlet,” where they were groped and fondled – as well as reports of prostitutes performing sex acts on military members in front of an entire room full of people.

To understand how out of control the Tailhook parties had become, consider this line from a Department of Defense (DOD) report in 1993: “Investigative activity to date has confirmed more than isolated instances of men exposing themselves, women baring their breasts, shaving of women’s legs and pubic areas, and women drinking from dildos that dispensed alcoholic beverages.” [Pols emphasis]

As Frank explains for The Colorado Sun:

In total, a Pentagon report determined that 117 officers were implicated in one or more cases of assault, indecent exposure or conduct unbecoming an officer and 51 additional individuals made false statements during the investigation. “Furthermore, several hundred other officers were aware of the misconduct and chose to ignore it,” the investigation concluded.

In 1997, William McMichael published a book about Tailhook titled “Mother of All Hooks,” that included extensive detail from testimony made to DOD investigators and plenty of references to Sias. In 1991, Sias was a naval pilot with the VAF-83 squadron, also known as “the Rampagers.” Sias was not disciplined for his involvement with Tailhook, though the scandal essentially ended the career of his commanding officer, Robert Stumpf.

Now, here’s how all of this becomes a problem for Sias:

In order to reach the Tailhook Conference, Sias and Stumpf flew in an F/A-18 jet from a naval base in Florida to a military airfield in California that was a few hours drive to Las Vegas. We don’t need to explain why taking a military jet to a giant party is a bad look. Sias and Stumpf shared a room at the Las Vegas Hilton, where the parties took place. Sias was among those in attendance when a pilot received oral sex from a prostitute in front of a room full of people – an incident that later became a focal point of the DOD investigation.

Rep. Lang Sias (R-Arvada)

During the DOD investigation, Sias told officials that he didn’t remember seeing Stumpf in the room when another pilot was with the prostitute. Stumpf later admitted to being in the room, which didn’t do much for Sias’ credibility.

Fast-forward 27 years, and Sias remains pretty tight-lipped about the entire incident. As Frank reports for The Sun:

But Tailhook is a topic Sias is not willing to discuss in detail. In an interview this week, The Colorado Sun asked Sias at least nine times in a 17-minute interview about what he saw at Tailhook, but Sias refused to directly answer each time. Instead, he repeated iterations of the same line.

“I was never accused of doing anything wrong ever by anybody at any time,” he told The Sun and its television partner, CBS4. “You’ve seen my records, and there’s no way that I would have the fitness reports that I have … if there were any blemishes on my record.”

Okie, dokie. What about the fact that Sias flew a fighter jet across the country to attend the Tailhook “convention”?

Asked about the flight three times, Sias eventually told The Sun: “I think we behaved appropriately, and I think that’s documented in the record.”

Um…sure. And what about Sias claiming that he didn’t see Stumpf at the party?

In an interview with The Sun, Sias declined to address the apparent inconsistency. “I would simply say the record and the facts stand for themselves,” Sias said. “If I had said something that created a conflict or otherwise was illegitimate on my part that would have been reflected in my record.”

According to Frank, Stapleton’s campaign knew all about Sias’ involvement with the Tailhook scandal when he was tapped to be Stapleton’s running mate in early July.

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