Scott Gessler Wants You For His Army

(Honey Badger wants YOU – Promoted by Colorado Pols)

Former Colorado Secretary of State Scott Gessler never shied from the spotlight while in office, but he’s kept a lower profile since returning to private practice. He recently made the news for his work on behalf of the long shot campaign to recall Gov. Jared Polis (D-CO).

It turns out he’s also been working on another project- an under-the-radar effort to mobilize grassroots conservatives called The Colorado Alliance. Its stated goal: “build an army to defend our state.” So what does he have to show for it?

Gessler’s been using this group to sporadically communicate with (and raise money from) conservative Coloradans for the two plus years since it was founded a week after Trump’s election.

He’s using it to support another statewide effort to overturn a vote- repealing the bill passed by the legislature and signed by the Governor that will would add Colorado to those states awarding their electoral votes to the winner of the national popular vote.

Gessler, a Republican, didn’t found the Colorado Alliance by himself. He listed a partner on his federal filing documents: Ben Engen.

Engen, who also runs Constellation Political Consulting, made news this week for comments he made during a recall training in Buena Vista. Video of his instructions to strategically schedule a recall election to “blindside” voters, hopefully lowering turnout as much as possible, was posted on Facebook by those he was training.

According to the Colorado Alliance website, its mission is:

“holding liberal officeholders accountable, mobilizing voters and activists, and helping restore common sense policies to our state. We are building an army to defend our state and invite you to join the movement.”

So far, however, the “army” appears to be little more than a website, email list and a bank account.

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Who Will Be the Democratic Nominee for President? (April 2019)

Who fills this spot in 2020?

Who is it gonna be? It’s time again that we asked Colorado Pols readers to predict the name of the eventual 2020 Democratic nominee for President. When last we asked, you were still rolling with California Sen. Kamala Harris as the most likely nominee.

Mike Harden of the publication formerly known as the Colorado Statesman is pretty excited about the fact that former Gov. John Hickenlooper may have moved from 1% to 2% in national polling. Of course, the Monmouth University Poll that sparked his enthusiasm has a margin of error of +/-5.4%, so it’s possible that Hick is actually polling in the high sevens. The leader in the Monmouth poll is still former Vice President Joe Biden, who has yet to officially enter the race.

As always, we want to know what you think will happen here — not what you want to happen or who you personally might support. If you had to place a bet on the outcome TODAY, who do you predict will be the Democratic nominee for President in 2020?

And since there are still a bagillion candidates and we don’t want to take up the entire screen with this one poll, you’ll have to cast your vote after the jump…

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“Horrifying” Sex Ed Bill Is Top Reason To Oust Polis, Says Recall Leader

(Promoted by Colorado Pols)

The President of the Official Polis Recall campaign thinks the “worst of it,” when it comes to the transgressions justifying Polis’ removal from office, is a proposed comprehensive sex ed law working its way through the Colorado legislature.

In a KNUS radio conversation replete with misinformation, Juli-Andra Fuentes, the group’s president, called Colorado’s proposed sex ed law “horrifying” because “you must include the experiences” of LGBTQ students, and “abstinence will not be taught”

And no “religious connotation” can be included, said Karen Murray, a co-chair of the Official Recall Polis site, who was also on the show.

Juli-Andra Fuentes

KNUS radio host Peter Boyles, amplifying misinformation promoted by right-wing anti-LGBT hate groups, chimed in with, “Why does the third-grade boy need to know how to put a put a prophylactic on a banana?”

Which prompted Fuentes to say, “Well, it’s not only that. They’re basically saying you cannot employ gender norms, and that by doing that, that’s shame-basing and stigmatizing.”

In fact, the sex ed bill allows schools to not offer sex ed at all, but if they do, the curriculum must be comprehensive, meaning both abstinence and LGBTQ-related information should be offered and religious perspectives can be included.

Boyles said on air that the “truth always knocks these suckers down,” but his own inflaming comment about the third grader, the condom, and the Banana is not true. The legislation states that the information in sex-ed classes should be age appropriate. Boyles said later in the interview that teaching sex ed to older LGBTQ kids would be “fine.”

Fuentes’ comments reflect her Recall Polis group’s website, which lists the sex-ed bill, described as “Radical Sexual Education Overhaul in Our Schools,” among the top reasons to recall the governor–which is widely seen as an extreme long shot to succeed.

Republican efforts to recall other Colorado lawmakers refer to the sex ed bill in a similar manner.

The Recall Colorado website backed by Colorado House Republican leader Patrick Neville of Castle Rock lists the proposed law as a top reason that three legislators should be removed from office, describing the comprehensive sex-ed bill as “State Sexuality Indoctrination: A state indoctrination plan to undermine parental rights to educate their children about sexuality.”

So far, only one of three state lawmakers listed on the Recall Colorado website is facing an actual petition drive that, if successful, would trigger a recall vote.

That’s State Rep. Rochelle Galindo, a Democrat from Greeley.

A Greeley leader of the recall campaign called Galindo, who is gay, a “homosexual pervert,” and said he’d told Galindo to vote against “this homosexual sex education bill,” according to Colorado Politics.

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Holy Crap, Mark Kennedy is a Disaster

Former Rep. Mark Kennedy (R).

Yesterday, the newly-minted “sole finalist” for the position of President of the University of Colorado, former GOP Rep. Mark Kennedy of Minnesota, began his tour of the CU system’s four campuses–a crucial opportunity for Kennedy to ingratiate himself with students and faculty, and address the many questions about Kennedy’s anti-LGBT, anti-reproductive choice record in Congress that have resulted in angry protests over his selection to lead Colorado’s flagship public university.

As FOX 31’s Evan Kruegel reports, yesterday’s introduction did not go well:

“Mark Kennedy as a leader is problematic, and he’s unqualified,” said CU Law Student Perdeep Singh-Badhesha. “I think this is going to be the easiest of all the forums he goes to. These were softball questions, and I think he still did a very poor job.”

Singh-Badhesha says he’s concerned with Kennedy’s political views, at a school system known for welcoming and promoting LGBTQ rights…

Kennedy fielded numerous questions from the crowd, saying his political past won’t have an impact on how he handles businesses as president.

“None of those votes are going to come into play, they’re just not going to come into play. [Pols emphasis] The real question is, how good are you at running a university? That’s the question we really ought to be focusing on.”

The Denver Post’s Elizabeth Hernandez:

“None of the beliefs that have caused much of the controversy are going to have any impact,” [Pols emphasis] said Kennedy, whose votes against gay marriage and in favor of abortion restrictions as a Minnesota congressman in the early 2000s have drawn protest in some quarters.

“And (those beliefs) are largely irrelevant to what the president does. … I would hope I could gain your trust, respect and support and have that strong working relationship because faculty are the heart of any university.”

Here’s the deal: if you do not think the President of the University of Colorado’s voting record in Congress against LGBT and abortion rights is relevant to his duties, you are probably not a member of those two classes of people. If you are an LGBT student, staff, or faculty member, having a President of your university who has proven himself inimical to your rights is a huge problem. It’s worse than the present example of Bruce Benson, who although certainly a conservative Republican does not have a voting record as a lawmaker openly hostile to LGBT rights.

To us, this statement perfectly captures the disconnect between a man who cast his lot long ago, and present ambitions that simply don’t fit with his record. Mark Kennedy may not be “running for Congress,” but it’s absurd to suggest that his record in Congress is not germane to the decision of whether he is appropriate to serve as President of the University of Colorado. Perhaps most damning, there’s no evidence of contrition over these votes against the rights of large portions of the CU community at all, only the insistence that “the beliefs”–meaning Kennedy’s beliefs–are “largely irrelevant to what the President does.”

In short, everyone who imagined this guy would make a good President of the University of Colorado, including his partisan Republican supporters on the Board of Regents, made a mistake that invites fundamental questions about their own competence. Not only is it time to start over with the search for a new CU President, but the next candidate(s) need first and foremost to not insult the CU community’s intelligence like Mark Kennedy did.

Republican Training Exposes the Naked Truth About Recalls

TUESDAY UPDATE: The internet is forever, folks–as Constellation Political is learning belatedly:

You’re welcome (see below).

—–

UPDATE: David O. Williams picks up the thread for RealVail.com:

Eagle County is indeed a very blue county these days, with Sheriff James van Beek the only elected member of the GOP currently serving.

Still, that clearly won’t thwart Republican efforts to regain power. But instead of moderating and trying to win over independents, the state GOP, which recently inducted Eagle County Republican Party Chairwoman Kaye Ferry into its hall of fame (despite that record of just one elected party member), is going the recall route…

…Extremism and recalls taking precedence over moderation and reaching out to the state’s growing electorate of registered independents. That’s the modern Colorado GOP approach. How’s that working?

—–

People are going to be traveling for Christmas. They’re not going to care. They’re not going to know that there is an election happening because they probably just turned a ballot back in a month earlier.”

We’ve demonstrated at length in this space about how Republican efforts to recall freshman Rep. Rochelle Galindo (D-Greeley), Gov. Jared Polis, and other Democrats are as much about political grift as they are about legitimate policy gripes. For those who don’t stand to profit financially off of recall election “fundraising,” the real motivation for these recall efforts is about trying to win seats that Republicans can no longer defend in a regularly-scheduled election.

This may seem like a cynical view of Republican politics in Colorado, but it is not merely an opinion. Behind closed doors, Republican operatives are completely open about the real reason for trying to recall Democrats across the state.

Republicans first started talking openly about recall elections in November 2018 — just days after the General Election took place. The current legislative session was barely a week old when House Minority Leader Patrick Neville threatened recall elections in an interview with 9News.

The video below was posted to Facebook by someone who attended a recall election training seminar on April 11 in Buena Vista, Colorado. The “recall training” is conducted by Ben Engen of Constellation Political Consulting, a Republican political consulting firm with clients that include the Colorado Republican Party and the GOP-led Senate Majority Fund. This is the full version of a video that was later redacted by Engen over concerns about what might happen if regular folks happened to get a glimpse behind the curtain. The frank discussion that takes place is almost unbelievable.

 

You can watch the entire 90-minute training session at your leisure, but let’s start by jumping ahead to the 37:30 mark where Engen explains why recall elections are the best chance for Republicans to steal a few seats while most Colorado voters aren’t paying attention:

ENGEN: Recalls are uniquely powerful because they change the dynamic of the electorate. You know, people are generally aware of midterm elections. They’re very aware of Presidential elections – everyone shows up and votes in those. They aren’t as aware, you know, of a special election like a recall that just comes out of nowhere and blindsides them. [Pols emphasis] That was one of the things that really helped us in 2013. We aren’t going to be able to count on all of those advantages again, so we have to be extra cognizant of the timing and executing things in a way that will preserve that power.

Opening screenshot from recall campaign training conducted by Constellation Political Consulting

Engen references a pie chart on a screen at the front of the room showing the voter makeup in Senate District 11 (Sen. John Morse) during the 2013 recall effort:

So, what you’re looking at here is the difference between the electoral mix in a midterm and in a recall. So this is Senate District 11. In a typical midterm for a Republican, to win Senate District 11, they would have to get 65% of the Unaffiliateds to break their way. I mean, that’s huge. Republicans in the Metro area are never going to be able to do that. [Pols emphasis]

But in the recall, in 2013, a Republican would have only had to get 46.3% of the Unaffiliateds to break their way. That is supremely doable. That’s, like, right on the cusp of what Republicans do in the Metro areas without really trying. So, the fact that people weren’t really as aware of this election – there was a differential in the motivation [that] made a big difference…

This next section is particularly damning:

…So, it’s changing this makeup of the electorate that allows us to be successful in recalls, and for Republicans to carry seats that traditionally would not break our way. Or, in the case of, you know, these seats in 2013, we’ve NEVER been able to hold. So, as you’re moving through this, that’s the thing you want to keep in mind. What you’re really trying to achieve is this re-weighting of the electorate, and there are some more points here about timing to make that happen. [Pols emphasis]

A few minutes later, Engen walks the audience through forming official committees in order to start raising money for their recall efforts. Take a look at how Engen responds to a question about whether these committees can accept donations from businesses:

Yeah, so this just happened up in Weld – that Weld recall that just started. The whole reason they kicked off right now is because they had a business cut a $100,000 check to get them started.

“What you’re really trying to achieve is this re-weighting of the electorate.”

Engen is likely referencing Steve Wells, the businessman/rancher who donated $100,000 to one of the Galindo recall efforts. Engen then explains the importance of creating a website for your recall effort — or, rather, that the only reason to have a website is so that you can collect donations. Engen even recommends a specific platform for fundraising and wonders openly about the cost of other recall fundraising efforts (such as those directed by Jon Caldara of the Independence Institute):

What you want to use is a platform called Anedot to raise your money. It’s just a wee bit more expensive than using something like PayPal, but it’s a lot less expensive than whatever the Polis [recall] guys are using for some reason. [Pols emphasis]

At the 44-minute mark, Engen gets a question about how to differentiate between different recall groups. His response is telling:

UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN: I find it hard to differentiate between which ones are real and which ones are not. There’s a ‘Recall Polis’ and there’s a ‘Resist Polis.’

ENGEN: You and me both. I don’t know how to help you with that (room erupts in laughter)…

…You want to make sure that the committee that you’re giving to is the committee that’s approved for that [purpose]. There are already three separate committees up in House District 50 trying to do this recall. Only one of them has any money. Only one of them actually has petitions. But now these other guys are just sowing confusion. So, for the love of God, people, work together… [Pols emphasis]

…Try not to get yourself in that trap that they are [caught] up in Weld. Granted, they’re well-funded already, so they’ll probably still be successful, but it’s going to hurt them because people are giving money now to other organizations that aren’t going to do anything with it. You know…who knows, it’s just up in the wind. [Pols emphasis]

We’ve written previously about these red-on-red recall turf battles that Engen is referencing.

At the 45:50 mark, Engen gets a question about involvement from the State Republican Party:

This question has come up a lot, kind of amongst the Republicans, about how involved the Republican Party can be or should be. At the state level, the way that this used to work – the state party would get involved after petitions were accepted. So, like in 2013, that’s when the State Party really got involved. They contributed money and resources to help get that done.

But the reality is, there is an infinite number of candidates that can be recalled, and the Republican Party doesn’t have the resources to be going around handing out money to recall every single person under the sun. [Pols emphasis]  And it’s too tough to call which ones are going to take off and which ones aren’t, so generally the state and in most cases the county parties just avoid that whole thing. Even if they aren’t formally engaged in it, there’s a couple of things they can do to help you. Like, they’ll have access to the voter file and they can give you access to that. The state party does have a “walk app” that they can probably let you use.

As Engen next tells the audience, they are more likely to get help from the State GOP in Senate District 5, which is represented by Democratic Sen. Kerry Donovan:

Now, if your petitions are successful and you do initiate a recall, the state party will almost always find money to support you – and especially if it’s against Kerry Donovan.

Engen goes on to emphasize the importance of finding an actual Republican candidate to run against a lawmaker targeted for recall, at which point another audience member says this:

UNIDENTIFIED MAN: Our biggest challenge will be Eagle County. That’s our biggest problem with Kerry Donovan, because Eagle County is a really blue county, and that’s where the majority of the population is. So, if that county just decides to vote for her in the recall, then she might stay on.

It is indeed quite a challenge to initiate this here recall when you consider that voters in SD-5 actually want Donovan as their State Senator. Donovan was just re-elected to another 4-year term in November 2018 BY A 20-POINT MARGIN.

Before we get to the Q&A section at the end of the discussion, Engen returns to emphasize that the key to winning a recall election is basically to fool the majority of registered voters in a given area:

This is the most important consideration: Do not go out half-cocked. The reason we succeeded in 2013 is because those elections could not be conducted as mail [ballot] elections. So we can’t bank on that this go-round. But we can choose when the election happens. [Pols emphasis]

So you need to think this through and count backwards in time. Once you turn in your petitions, you have 60 days. Once you turn them in for validation, they have 15 days to approve them. After that, the Governor has 30 to 60 days to set the election. So you need to think about that: When is the worst time possible for Kerry Donovan to be dealing with this? Do you want to wait and start this in September so that the [legislative] session is back in and its harder for her to defend maybe? Do you want to try to do this during the holidays, when people are distracted and only your supporters are going to turn in their petitions. Like, start in August and the thing will have to happen in December.

People are going to be traveling for Christmas. They’re not going to care. They’re not going to know that there is an election happening because they probably just turned a ballot back in a month earlier. [Pols emphasis]

Think this through. Don’t run out of the room here and go pull petitions. Give this some thought to when you want the election to happen, because this (timing) is what ultimately determines your success. You can go out and get your petitions validated and approved, initiate the recall, and then get crushed so easily if you don’t have a favorable electoral mix. So, this is the thing, more than anything, that will determine your success – is choosing when you want to have the election and have it happen on your terms. [Pols emphasis]

Colorado voters keep electing Democrats in election after election, so Republicans are focusing their efforts on recall campaigns as a way to get around this pesky problem of Democracy. This isn’t our take on the situation — this is what Republicans are saying to each other. You can see it for yourself.

Click below for more references regarding the recall training and Constellation Political Consulting.

 

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Tuesday Open Thread

“The best way to convince a fool that he is wrong is to let him have his own way.”

–Josh Billings

Gardner Aggressively Promotes his Private Meetings With Colo Groups–After They Take Place

(Catch him if you can! – Promoted by Colorado Pols)

Sen. Cory Gardner (R).

U.S. Sen. Cory Gardner (R-CO) plans to speak Wednesday at 1 p.m. at the Colorado Chamber of Commerce in Colorado Springs.

Why’s that news? Because Gardner hasn’t held a public town hall meeting in over a year, instead meeting regularly with private groups, like the Colorado Springs Chamber of Commerce.

But if you want to go see Gardner at one of his private meetings, or stand out front with a sign, don’t get your hopes up. It’s usually impossible to find out about his private meetings. No press releases. No tweets Gardner.

That is, until after the private events occur, when Gardner promotes his private meetings in a big way, as if the create the perception that meeting with Gardner is easy, constant, and fun.

Here’s a sample after-his-meeting tweets from last week. when Gardner was apparently touring Colorado:

GARDNER: “While in Boulder this week I toured @archerdxinc and @MentalHealthCO’s Ryan Wellness Center and met with staff to discuss the innovative research being done at these facilities.”
GARDNER: I enjoyed visiting local Main Street businesses with Greeley Mayor John Gates yesterday. Check out this video from @GreeleyTribune to learn more about my meetings with local business owners on the growth of the local economy [No article appeared in the newspaper prior to his meetings]
GARDNER: Impressed touring @coschoolofmines this week to learn more about their ADAPT center and research related to PFAS exposure and contamination. I’ll continue my work in Congress to ensure Coloradans have clean and safe drinking water.
GARDNER: It was great to hear from staff and veterans at the Western Region One Source Center while in Grand Junction yesterday and see first-hand the resources being provided to our veterans to ensure they receive the care and support they have earned.
GARDNER: Today I hosted a business forum in Loveland alongside the Northern Colorado Manufacturing Partnership & small business leaders. Thx to all those who joined to give feedback on ways the federal government can better support workforce development & protect against cyber threats.

A call to Gardner’s office to find out when his next private meeting in Colorado was–or if he planned to host a town hall meeting–was not returned.

In 2017, Gardner held a private meeting and confronted protesters. A Colorado Springs Gazette article read:

U.S. Sen. Cory Gardner, who has been criticized for his aversion to holding town halls, was ambushed Wednesday by a mariachi band at what was supposed to be a small, members-only meeting with the Colorado Springs Chamber of Commerce and EDC at the Cheyenne Mountain Resort.

Fear of this type of protest might explain Gardner’s pattern of promoting his events after the fact.

“Every Day is Earth Day” and Other Do-Nothing Cliches

(Promoted by Colorado Pols)

Earth Day is not a cliche.

OK, it sort of is, but its not yet too late. Maybe.

The Earth’s atmosphere is a thin blue line.

Yes, it’s been almost 50 years since the “first Earth Day.” Back then fossil fuel companies were just beginning to uncover troubling data on what their products were doing to the planet, and likely to do over the coming century.

These companies put their heads together and decided to do what they could… So now, fifty years later, some may even be sponsoring an Earth Day event near you!

In any case, cliche or not. Now is the time to Act on Climate. If 2018 was the Year of Get-It-Together warnings, 2019 is becoming the Year-of-(Tepid)-Action.

Action, of course, is good — So we should applaud efforts in the state house and in Congress to take steps toward addressing our carbon pollution and acting to limit and reduce it. Some argue that it is not enough, that it is too little. Window dressing. Rearranging deck chairs.

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Open The Door To Stupid, Haters Will Follow

Gov. Jared Polis Tweeted yesterday in support of victims of the bombings in Sri Lanka against Christians celebrating Easter Sunday:

Local blog Colorado Peak Politics, operated by Republican consultant group EIS Solutions, apparently found this message of support less than satisfactory–and proceeded to complain about it, because that’s what internet trolls do:

Oops! Suddenly this cheap little shot on Gov. Polis’ faith, or whatever Peak Politics presumes about Polis’ faith, has veered off course into old-fashioned anti-Semitism. It’s not that this conservative blog itself called Gov. Polis (who happens to be Jewish) a “Christ killer,” but by drive-by slamming Polis on a question of faith while Polis was trying only to offer condolences to Christians in the wake of a terrible tragedy, they opened the door to much cheaper shots. The progression from their dig on Polis’ lack of Christian faith to the anti-Semitic slur that followed is unfortunately not much of a leap.

And that’s the moral of the story. You don’t have to attack over everything.

Mitt Romney Blows Gardner’s Mueller Kumbaya

As you probably know from last week’s news coverage, Sen. Cory Gardner is very much ready to “move on” from the investigation into Russian support for Donald Trump in the 2016 elections, after the release this week of a redacted version of Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s report that supporters of the President desperately want America to think “totally vindicates” Trump.

Gardner is smart enough to avoid the words “exoneration” or “vindication,” but his desire to stop talking about this is clear:

Donald Trump, Cory Gardner.

Despite Attorney General William Barr’s widely-panned attempt to spin the report ahead of its release Thursday, upon which Gardner and a large swath of the GOP based their own “let’s move on” statements immediately after, the report’s actual contents are very far from exonerating–documenting a President who repeatedly attempted to obstruct justice after his presidential campaign, if not collusively than as the willing beneficiary, freely trafficked in information illegally obtained by Russian intelligence agencies to discredit his opponent.

On Friday, Sen. Mitt Romney of Utah, admittedly well known for his on-again off-again criticism of President Trump relative to his own political aspirations, unleashed a broadside against Trump that left Gardner and every other Republican who sent out a “let’s move on” statement on Thursday looking like collaborationist stooges at best:

“I am sickened at the extent and pervasiveness of dishonesty and misdirection by individuals in the highest office in the land, including the president,” the Utah Republican wrote. [Pols emphasis] He said that he was also “appalled” that members of the Trump campaign welcomed assistance from Russia.

However, Romney said at the beginning of his statement that he believed it was “good news” that there was insufficient evidence to charge the president of obstruction of justice. The special counsel’s office punted on the issue, not coming to a conclusion as to whether Mr. Trump obstructed justice.

The report provided evidence of 10 “discrete acts” where the president may have obstructed justice. In one instance, Mr. Trump asked then-White House Counsel Don McGahn to fire the special counsel. McGahn refused to do so. When The New York Times later reported Mr. Trump’s request to McGahn, Mr. Trump asked McGahn to say the president never requested that Mueller be fired. McGahn again refused to do so, as the reports were accurate.

“Reading the report is a sobering revelation of how far we have strayed from the aspirations and principles of the founders,” Romney wrote.

There is speculation this weekend about the possibility that Romney might even mount a primary challenge against Trump next year after these very harsh comments, bitterly at odds with the GOP party line that the investigation found “no crime” and Trump is in the clear. Even if that doesn’t happen, Romney’s very strong attack on Trump’s character and honesty, which he can’t take back even in the very possible event he tries, significantly complicates Gardner’s recent wholesale embrace of Trump.

If he is forced to keep talking about this at all, Gardner would much rather talk about Russia than Trump’s campaign. The problem is, you can’t simply talk about Russian interference in the 2016 elections without reckoning with the universally acknowledged objective of their interference–to elect Donald Trump President of the United States.

And that’s where we arrive at questions that not even Mitt Romney has the courage to ask.

Because the hard questions are not about Russia. They’re about the Republican Party.

Weekend Open Thread

“Leaders who are kind of insecure or egocentric, they basically sabotage themselves.”

–John C. Maxwell

Ruling: It’s Open Season On Politicians’ Social Media

Senate President Leroy Garcia (D).

A significant development for online political poo-flingers we wanted to be sure got a mention, part of a reckoning that has been occurring across the nation as the implications of effortless social media speech–and the equally effortless censorship thereof–are weighed against constitutional rights taken for granted in every other medium. As the Pueblo Chieftain’s Peter Roper reports:

Senate President Leroy Garcia was ordered to pay a $25,000 judgement this month by a Denver district court judge for blocking critical comments from a Pueblo man on Garcia’s Facebook page.

The April 12 decision from Judge R. Brooke Jackson said Garcia was wrong to block a critical comment from Alexander Armijo on Garcia’s Facebook page. The judge said that was a violation of Armijo’s First Amendment rights of free speech.

Courts have ruled that when an elected official operates a social media site in an official capacity, it is much like a public town hall meeting where the public comments generally cannot be censored.

You read that right–a critic of Senate President Leroy Garcia was actually paid $25,000 this month over the removal of a Facebook comment from Garcia’s page! The district court ruling reportedly allows a lawmaker to delete threats, defamatory comments, and advertisements. With those exceptions, your right to say whatever you want on a politician’s Facebook page and not have it deleted or otherwise censored from public view has been upheld in court with a pile of money to incentivize compliance.

All we can say is, we’ve got a lot of online political gadfly types among our readers, and you should all go check to see if you’ve been blocked, had comments deleted or suppressed, or any other kind of limitation placed on your free speech rights by a politician who has a social media presence where he public is allowed to interact with them.

Because that’s illegal now, and we seriously doubt Leroy Garcia is the only politician who’s recently deleted an undesirable comment from their page. So get out there and make this precedent stick, gadflies, while the going rate is still a boatload of money.

If you’re a politico or (more likely) a staffer reeling in horror at the prospect of your pages being overrun with angry trolls, don’t. Deleting such content is never the answer, as satisfying as it may be. It only emboldens your opponents to be censored, and denies your supporters the chance to sharpen their proverbial claws. It’s a far better practice in the long run to engage and defeat ideological opponents in any forum–and our own comment threads are a fine example of this principle working just fine over the course of many years.

So let a hundred flowers bloom! It’s the law, and it’ll be fine.

Bennet Beats Cancer, Readies for Presidential Run

Sen. Michael Bennet (D-Denver)

Justin Wingerter of the Denver Post reports on some good news for Sen. Michael Bennet (D-Denver):

U.S. Sen. Michael Bennet’s office said Friday that his surgery to remove prostate cancer was successful, seemingly clearing the way for a 2020 presidential run.

“Last weekend, Michael underwent surgery and is recovering at his home in Colorado,” said Courtney Gidner, Bennet’s spokeswoman. “His doctors report the surgery was completely successful and he requires no further treatment.

“Michael and his family deeply appreciate the well wishes and support from Coloradans and others across the country, and he looks forward to returning to work after the recess,” she added.

Bennet announced earlier this month that he had been diagnosed with prostate cancer and was putting his Presidential campaign inquiries on hold while he focused on his health. Bennet said at the time that he would commence a full-scale Presidential campaign pending successful cancer treatment.

Cory Gardner Cashing Big Amway Pyramid Scheme Checks

The Colorado Independent’s Robin Bravender reports on the big donations by the billionaire DeVos family of Michigan to Sen. Cory Gardner’s re-election campaign this year, a substantial piece of his $2 million Q1 that was heavily reliant on out-of-state money. In the case of the DeVoses, that money has a backstory:

Education Secretary Betsy DeVos’s family members spent $22,400 so far this year to help fund Colorado Republican Sen. Cory Gardner’s re-election campaign, according to federal campaign finance data released this week.

DeVos’s in-laws — Michigan conservative donors and heirs to the Amway fortune — have plowed cash into the coffers of Republican Senate candidates across the country who are up for re-election in 2020, the records show.

DeVos’s husband, Dick, has three siblings — Doug, Daniel and Suzanne — each of whom contributed $5,600 to Gardner’s campaign in March. Doug’s wife, Maria DeVos, also contributed $5,600 to the campaign. That’s the maximum contribution allowed per election cycle under federal election law.

Although it was discussed to a limited extent during Betsy DeVos’ rocky confirmation hearing as Education Secretary, when it comes to tens of thousands of dollars in Amway money going directly into Cory Gardner’s campaign coffers the facts should be clearly understood. Amway, the multilevel marketing operation that made the DeVos family billionaires, is arguably one of the most exploitative business models in the history of American capitalism. Sold to naive new “independent business owners” as a surefire path to financial independence, the reality is that half of the “business owners” in the Amway pyramid scheme lose everything they paid in to join– and the ones who “make money” make somewhere around $200 per month on average, all the while alienating friends and family who are reduced to nothing more than increasingly desperate sales prospects.

The DeVos family’s primary method of avoiding consequences over the predatory reality of their multibillion-dollar pyramid scheme has been to become major financial supporters of the Republican Party. Lavish political giving from the profits reaped via their exploitative business model propelled the DeVoses into the upper ranks of the GOP elite–squelching criticism of their business and resulting among other things in the comically unqualified Betsy DeVos’ appointment as Secretary of Education by Donald Trump. Sen. Gardner was an enthusiastic supporter of DeVos, which makes sense after the DeVos family donated almost $50,000 to him ahead of his vote to confirm her.

In a world with more accountability than the one we currently reside in, the DeVoses would be vilified for the way they made their billions–and everyone who has benefited from their ill-gotten gains would be obliged to return the money and apologize to the victims of the DeVos family’s pyramid scheme.

At the very least, it would be nice to hear Sen. Gardner’s thoughts–since he’s at the top of the pyramid.

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