Have you ever wondered to yourself while sitting in front of your home computer, “could I make a gripping political ad?” We have some bad news–without experience, preferably some professional training or (God forbid) a college education in video production, the answer is most likely no. Once in awhile somebody stumbles into a good concept Blair Witch Project style, but generally speaking the cutting room floor of political history is littered with bad, sometimes really bad, amateur video.
So it goes with the above minute of low-res mashup footage and extremely dramatic royalty free music, fresh from the struggling “Official” Polis recall campaign and bad enough that a high school student would lose points for turning it in. But lest you think this was a volunteer effort, the campaign actually lists an expenditure of several hundred dollars to a “videographer.”
That’s right–apparently they paid for this.
On the other hand, here’s something we already know about the Polis recall campaign–since anyone who possesses “political experience” either knows it’s a fool’s errand or is taking part only to siphon off the campaign’s money. Given the likelihood that all of the competing Polis recall operations will be footnotes in history by Labor Day, preserving this example of their low-budget folly for posterity was the least we could do.
For several months now, we’ve been closely following the competing efforts working toward the possible but highly unlikely recall of Gov. Jared Polis–a campaign that would be unprecedented in size and expense, and so far hasn’t attracted even a fraction of either the financial or popular support that would be necessary for a successful outcome. That hasn’t stopped a number of local conservative political usual suspects like Jon Caldara’s Independence Institute and former Secretary of State Scott Gessler from raking in the dough providing “services” to the campaigns. In recent weeks, however, the early split between two principal Polis recall groups further has blossomed into still another group hoping to put previous highly negative press behind them and unify the fractious groups into one cohesive effort.
Into this mess wades local reporter Sandra Fish for the Colorado Sun in a must-read story today that diligently follows up all of these confusing characters and storylines, bringing readers to the undeniable conclusion that the campaign to recall Gov. Polis is, as we’ve maintained all along in this space, a financial black hole where the “backlash” against Colorado Democrats for daring to win an election in 2018 is headed to die. There is no way that we can adequately recount the full details of this nearly 2,000 word story, so make sure you click through and read it all:
Juli-Andra Fuentes, who leads the Official Recall committee, confirmed the current situation. She said she estimates it will take at least $4.4 million, and her group won’t initiate the recall process until it has more money, enough volunteers and a candidate to replace Polis…
Some GOP political observers say the gargantuan effort to recall a governor in Colorado — especially one who spent $23 million from his own pocket to get elected — requires more financial and strategic resources than any of the groups appear able to marshal.
“They’re good people,” said Jon Caldara, a prominent Polis critic and president of the Denver-based libertarian Independence Institute, referring to those behind the recall efforts. “I don’t think anyone really believes they’re going to recall Polis.” [Pols emphasis]
Given the fact that Caldara’s organization has directly profited from the fundraising for the “Official” Recall Polis campaign by hosting the transaction page and charging fees more than double that charged by GoFundMe, this frank admission that no one “really believes” the Polis recall will succeed is nothing short of astonishing. We noted earlier this month that the “official” campaign appears to have migrated away from Caldara’s Freedomfy site to another platform with (presumably) lower fees. Perhaps they realized Caldara’s not really there to help?
Fish reports that the campaign finance complaint we originally wrote about on June 17th has been dismissed by the Secretary of State, not terribly surprising given its amateurish literally handwritten composition. But the Sun’s own investigation confirms major problems with the recall committee’s reporting, including multiple unexplained corrections to fundraising reports with respect to Freedomfy fees in particular and in numerous cases donations appearing to lack proper itemization. Any future complaint can build on this much more credible investigation, and if not written in crayon should go over better with the Secretary of State.
Despite all of this uncertainty and the admission that they won’t be able to kick off their campaign on schedule, Fish reports the “Official” Recall Polis is warning its 41,000+ supporters to not sign on to any other petition or ally with the competing campaigns. There’s nothing stopping any of these groups from simply pulling a petition and starting their 60-day clock to collect the over 600,000 valid voter signatures required, but once a voter signs any recall petition the first petition turned in is the only one that will count.
As Sun Tzu famously observed, “tactics without strategy is the noise before defeat.” From the outset the desire of Colorado Republicans for retaliation against Democrats after their victory in the 2018 general elections at all levels has been stymied by infighting and terrible political judgment. Republicans frittered away crucial weeks when they arguably possessed momentum from the legislative session pursuing a recall against the worst possible target in Rep. Tom Sullivan, and now a longshot recall against Polis that might have at least had utility coat-tailing a couple of legislative recall petition drives is mired in division and scandal.
Bottom line: Jon Caldara is right that Gov. Polis won’t be recalled, and legislative recalls at this point are a distraction from the general election getting closer every day. If all of this doesn’t amount to a compelling argument for Colorado Republicans to give it up and start focusing on the next election where majorities are actually in play, it’s tough to know what does.
As the New York Timesreports, production of new programming at the controversial NRATV outlet operated by the National Rifle Association is ending and the channel will go dark, following a decision by the organization’s leadership after a spate of infighting between the storied gun-rights organization and its unruly media arm:
“Many members expressed concern about the messaging on NRATV becoming too far removed from our core mission: defending the Second Amendment,” Wayne LaPierre, the N.R.A.’s longtime chief executive, wrote in a message to members that was expected to be sent out by Wednesday. “So, after careful consideration, I am announcing that starting today, we are undergoing a significant change in our communications strategy. We are no longer airing ‘live TV’ programming.”
…N.R.A. officials had grown leery of the cost of creating so much live content for NRATV, which was started in 2016, and wondered whether it was worth the return on its investment. The site’s web traffic was minuscule, with 49,000 unique visitors in January, according to a report provided by Comscore.
Some N.R.A. board members and officials were also unnerved by the breadth of its content, which strayed far beyond gun rights and encompassed several right-wing talking points, including criticism of immigration and broadsides against the F.B.I. A show hosted by Ms. [Dana] Loesch that put Ku Klux Klan hoods on talking trains from the popular children’s program “Thomas & Friends” drew outrage from some within the organization.
Although we had no idea that the reach of NRATV was so small, the sudden end of NRATV is nonetheless significant to Colorado politics. Since its founding in 2016, NRATV has heavily featured Colorado pro-gun activists like Laura Carno of Colorado Springs in their programming. This year, NRATV has already devoted generous airtime to the battle in the Colorado legislature over the state’s new “red flag” law to allow for the temporary removal of firearms from persons ruled by a judge to be a danger to themselves or others. NRATV didn’t exist in 2013 when the gun lobby organized recalls against Democrats over the passage of gun safety bills that year, but the outlet would have doubtless played a big role in publicizing the “backlash” against Democrats in 2019 over red flag despite the law’s overwhelming popularity.
Except now, due to a power struggle at the top of the organization’s leadership and a recognition that NRATV has strayed from its core mission into multi-issue right-wing advocacy that divided rank-and-file gun owners, that’s not going to happen. Carno and friends will have to find legitimate media outlets to pitch their stories. And we don’t expect that will be nearly as accommodating as in-house paid media.
We’re working to get more information about fresh reported infighting between organizers of a highly improbable recall effort against Gov. Jared Polis and Rep. Ken Buck, chairman of the Colorado Republican Party. The above message from leader “Official” Recall Polis organizer Shane Donnelley is from late last week, the day after we wrote about a third Polis recall organization starting up with the goal of supplanting the two previous troubled efforts.
But as you can see, Donnelley isn’t saying Buck is merely against his Polis recall campaign. If Donnelley is to be believed, Colorado GOP chairman Ken Buck doesn’t support recalling Gov. Polis at all. That distinction is important, since during Buck’s election campaign for GOP chairman he praised recalls against Democrats in general and promised the state party’s support.
What happened? First and foremost, it’s generally agreed that the state party was badly burned by the ill-fated recall campaign against Rep. Tom Sullivan, which despite a lame attempt to distance the effort from the state party vice chair who started it severely impacted both the Colorado GOP’s reputation as well as the overall enthusiasm for pushing recalls in retaliation for the 2019 legislative session. While Republicans spent a month unsuccessfully defending the Sullivan recall, the passage of time dissipated momentum the recall movement writ large may have had last May.
Again, we’re operating from limited and unconfirmed information–but if it’s true that Ken Buck is working behind the scenes to quash the recall of Gov. Polis, it’s a major development that needs to be reported. What this tells us is that the failure of the Sullivan recall was a much bigger loss than Sullivan’s HD-37 seat would have been worth to the GOP had it succeeded, having effectively tainted the whole idea of recalls in response to the 2019 session. As we said from the outset, making Sullivan the face of the GOP’s recall movement was a stupendous mistake.
So it seems that, after winning his chairmanship pushing recalls, Buck may be backing down.
► And…we’re back to the “threaten to destroy Iran” stage of Trump diplomacy, as CNN reports:
President Donald Trump threatened Iran with “obliteration” on Tuesday, saying that an attack on “anything American will be met with great and overwhelming force.”
“In some areas, overwhelming will mean obliteration. No more John Kerry & Obama!” the President tweeted.
Earlier Tuesday, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani said the White House is “suffering from mental disability” and behaving as “no sane person” in the wake of new sanctions imposed by US this week — partly in retaliation over the downing of an American drone.
Those comments prompted a response from Trump who said “Iran’s very ignorant and insulting statement, put out today, only shows that they do not understand reality.”
It is frightening to see just how little it might take to provoke conflict with the United States under President Trump. All it takes is a couple of childish insults and Trump threatens destruction.
► U.S. authorities are scrambling to deal with a growing humanitarian crisis along the U.S.-Mexico border. From the Washington Post:
U.S. immigration and health authorities, facing what they say is a financial and logistical crush, have scrambled to move hundreds of migrant children out of an overcrowded Border Patrol station after lawyers who visited the facility last week described scenes of sick and dirty children without their parents, and inconsolable toddlers in the care of other children.
The alleged conditions at the U.S. Border Patrol station in Clint, Tex., raised the specter that hundreds of children — some still in infancy — who had arrived unaccompanied or had been separated from their relatives after crossing the U.S.-Mexico border are being exposed to additional undue trauma as they languish for days or weeks in ill-equipped Border Patrol stations, lawyers said.
House Democrats are pushing new legislation aimed at delivering emergency aid to the border, though the White House is threatening to veto the bill.
Meanwhile, Acting Customs and Border Protection Commissioner John Sanders announced on Tuesday that he will resign from his job, effective July 5.
By my count there are three distinct groups working to recall Gov. Polis. The Spite Wars they’re waging on Facebook is sowing confusion among the newbies who think such a simple thing as recalling a sitting governor shouldn’t be complicated. A frequent comment is “Look what we did in 2013!”
Yeah, about 2013. After an horrific mass murder modest gun safety laws were passed that annoyed Dudley Moore of the Rocky Mountain Gun Owners. A fairly mendacious campaign followed that did lead to the recall of two others, including Angela Giron from my home, Pueblo. Recall elections quickly filled those recall vacancies with solid Republicans.
BUT… (I love the occasional dramatic gesture) at the very next regular election both of those Republicans were voted out of office and replaced with Democrats. Further, the laws that prompted those recalls remain on the books to this very day.
In the end, the recall campaigns accomplished nothing but the invalidation of the votes of the majority, which promptly voted to undo that recall at the next opportunity. Yet this blunt, ineffective method is the only tool wielded by the Recall Polis crowd today.
Signature collection starts July 8 and can only extend 60 days. With three competing recall groups circulating petitions it’s hard to imagine a scenario where one of them gets the nearly 700,00 valid signatures required to trigger a recall election. Weirder things have happened, but if this effort is successful in recalling a governor who won by 10.6 percentage points, it’s sobering to imagine the electoral backlash the majority might unleash at the next opportunity. Should these hardcore conservatives succeed, it could mean the death of their movement in this generation.
We’ve discussed at length in this space about the nascent “official” campaign to recall Gov. Jared Polis, which has raised somewhere north of $25,000 online despite not being able to start a petition campaign due to a constitutional requirement that a sitting governor be in office for six months before being recalled. The signature requirement to initiate a recall of the governor is well in excess of 600,000, which would require an unprecedented petition drive with a presumed cost in the millions. This raises questions the feasibility of the campaign, and invites questions about how the tiny fraction of the required total raised so far is being spent.
We’ve discussed the role of local political organizations like the Independence Institute in the Polis recall campaign’s fundraising, with Jon Caldara’s Freedomfy website skimming an unusually large percentage from online donations to the campaign and former Secretary of State Scott Gessler the group’s largest expenditure so far for “legal expenses.” During the past month, the campaign’s online fundraising has apparently moved away from Caldara’s platform, but it’s evident that fundraising is slowing not exponentially growing in the manner that would be needed for this campaign to ever get off the ground.
To this climate of uncertainty and questionable objectives you can now add a finance complaint filed last week against the campaign alleging potentially thousands of dollars of unaccounted for funds–a complaint sure to make donors to this campaign feel much better:
In short, this complaint alleges that the campaign has raised funds that have not been reported, and juggled fundraising platforms to obfuscate the total amount raised. The Secretary of State’s office is now evaluating this complaint to determine whether to proceed to an investigation, but this is very much in line with the concerns we’ve been raising about this campaign for months now. Once you realize that recalling the governor is logistically so difficult that an effort dwarfing the scale of anything that has been attempted in Colorado history would be needed, it’s obvious that even if they’re hiding a percentage of the money they’ve raised this is never going to happen. Money donated to this campaign would be better used to literally light a charcoal grill.
And that’s before the grifting! Usual suspects like Caldara and Gessler got their cut, but at least there was some disclosure. If it turns out that much larger percentages of the campaign’s take have been pocketed along the way as this complaint suggests, we’re talking about a whole new level of “ScamPAC”–perhaps even a matter to be referred from the Secretary of State to a criminal prosecutor.
In the meantime, we can only say again: if you’re dumb enough to make a donation to the Official Recall Polis Campaign, please don’t spend your SSI check. It stops being funny when needy folks get scammed.
Naturally, this week in politics is coming to a close with ANOTHER absolutely idiotic recall attempt of a sitting lawmaker who was easily elected to office last November. This time, Republicans aren’t trying to recall a man who lost his son in a mass shooting over his support of gun safety legislation, but they found the next-worst look for a recall effort. As Marianne Goodland reports for the publication formerly known as the Colorado Statesman:
Republican Nancy Pallozzi says she will mount a recall attempt against state Sen. Brittany Petterson of Lakewood in Senate District 22.
Petterson defeated Pallozzi in a 2016 race for a state House seat by 19 percentage points. [Pols emphasis]
On a closed Facebook page Pallozzi set up for the recall effort, she announced Thursday that “[e]verything is moving along and we are hoping to have the petitions in hand by July 16th, if not sooner. We are finalizing the wording to submit to the secretary of state’s office in July.”
According to the page, the Pettersen recall effort is intended to coordinate with a recall attempt against Democratic Gov. Jared Polis.
You read that correctly, dear readers: The Republican candidate who lost to Pettersen in a State House race by nearly 20 points in 2016 wants to recall her then-opponent, nevermind that Pettersen was swept into a State Senate seat two years later by a 16-point margin.
Republican Nancy “Don’t Call Me Pelosi” Pallozzi believes that Pettersen should be recalled because of…well, there’s probably some sort of reason in there somewhere, but Goodland’s story doesn’t mention anything specific.
Following the Colorado Times Recorder’s reporting that corporate donors Xcel and Noble Energy were surprised to learn that money they donated to Colorado House Republicans was possibly being spent on recalls, House Minority Leader Patrick Neville’s Recall Colorado entity has formed a new independent group, presumably to collect and spend money on recall campaigns.
On May 30 the Colorado Secretary of State approved paperwork filed by Patrick’s brother, Joe Neville, to create “Recall Colorado,” a 527 political committee. Despite its name, the stated purpose makes no mention of recalls, nor of elected officials currently in office. Rather, it says it will “educate and inform Colorado voters regarding candidates for the Colorado legislature, primarily supporting Republicans and opposing Democrats.”
The Recall Colorado website and brand was created and funded by another 527 committee, Values First Colorado (VFC), which serves as the House GOP caucus fund.
As previousreporting by the Colorado Times Recorder has indicated, at least two prominent corporate donors have publicly stated that they did not expect money from their 2018 election cycle donations to be spent on recalls. As of election day last year, Values First Colorado and other Neville-controlled independent expenditure committees still had approximately $300,000 — or about one-fourth of its total amount raised during the election cycle — still in the bank.
VFC has since published the “Recall Colorado” website, paid for legal support for the recalls, and solicited donations under the Recall Colorado brand, listing Patrick Neville as “Director.”
Until its collapse earlier this week, VFC was supporting the campaign to recall Rep. Tom Sullivan (D-Centennial). Republican Vice Chair Kristi Burton Brown, who initially filed the recall petition, announced Tuesday that she shutting down the recall and “refocusing” her efforts on Senate Democrats who aren’t up for reelection next year. Brown has worked closely with VFC: she served as the group’s registered agent for the 2018 cycle.
Entering the second day of reaction to the failure of the Republican campaign to recall freshman Democratic Rep. Tom Sullivan of Centennial, the conversation is moving beyond initial shock into the important follow-up questions–how high up does the blame for this fiasco extend? And how exactly did this incredibly bad idea even get off the ground?
With the effort now officially dead, pointy fingers are converging on the Colorado Republican Party itself, and the central role of vice-chair Kristi Burton Brown in launching the campaign against Sullivan–9NEWS yesterday:
Kristi Burton Brown, Vice Chair of the Colorado Republican Party, posted on Facebook that the recall effort she initiated against the first-year lawmaker was ending.
“While we are pulling the recall today to focus on other essential efforts, Sullivan does not get a free pass. 2020 is the year to oust him, with the support of voters who now know how extreme he is,” wrote Brown.
The obvious first question–who is “we?” Wasn’t this done in her “personal capacity?”
That was of course farcical. After the recall petition against Rep. Sullivan was approved, Colorado Republican Party chairman Ken Buckinsisted that his vice chair was acting “in her personal capacity, not as part of her leadership role with the state party.” But Colorado GOP “CEO” Steve House had already eagerly explained how the Colorado GOP would support recalls for electoral advantage–not to mention Buck’s own speech before his election as state party chair promising to teach Democrats “how to spell R-E-C-A-L-L” (video above). Combine that with the vice chair’s “personal” leadership role in the Sullivan recall, and it’s simply absurd to not hold the Colorado Republican Party directly responsible for the outcome.
And that opens the door to more pressing questions that Republicans must reckon with. Is Ken Buck’s absentee leadership of the state party while he tries to serve in Congress at the same time creating a leadership vacuum? Did Buck simply not have time or the presence of mind to recognize that the vice chair leading the Sullivan recall would indelibly link the party to the recall? Who exactly is in charge over there?
As the saying goes, victory has a thousand fathers. But as much as many Republicans want to lay the blame for this massive defeat at the feet of Dudley Brown, the man everyone loves to hate and has little credibility to lose, this is the Colorado Republican Party’s in-house disaster. The party’s vice chair is centrally to blame–and the statements of the party’s chairman and the “CEO” who runs the day-to-day operations on behalf of the absentee chairman oblige them to take the blame as well.
It’s time for Chairman Buck to own up to this disaster and clean house.
Or make way for someone who, for whatever reason, can.
Former GOP congressional candidate George Athanasopoulos defended Colo House GOP leader Patrick Neville, pro-gun activist Dudley Brown, and others today against accusations that they botched a recall campaign against Democratic lawmaker Tom Sullivan of Centennial.
“Anybody who’s trying to finger [Patrick Neville, Joe Neville, or Dudley Brown] for the blame is either misguided or is straight lying for their own benefit,” said Athanasopoulos on KNUS’ Chuck and Julie Show this afternoon.
“The story I heard is that [Brown] contracted [a firm to gather] signatures,” said Athanasopoulos. “There was a contract. There were benchmarks. There were stipulations. There were agreed-upon prices, and [the signature-gathering firm] absolutely failed to deliver. Instead of throwing good money after bad, they did the responsible thing, which was [to] say, ‘Hey, we’re going to pull the plug.'”
“This illustrates the fact that we have a political class, consultants here in Colorado, who are inept, who lie, who cannot meet contractual obligations. It’s the same thing we’ve been talking about on the air for years,” said Athanasopoulos “It’s a never ending clown show of pigheaded buffoonery, to use a colorful term.”
So why aren’t there better GOP consultants in town? Athanasopoulos traces the problem to moneyed Republicans hiring their consultant friends for short-term gigs instead of developing local firms who are both competent and trusted.
“Instead of hiring fly-by-night firms, who hire anybody with a pulse, who may or may not be Republican — in fact, are probably not — we need to stand up something organic,” said Athanasopoulos on air. “There are lots of young Republicans in the state of Colorado, lots of them, who would love to have a part time job supporting the Republican cause.”
Co-host Julie Hayden, a former Fox 31 Denver reporter, says the established consulting firms squash the newcomers.
“If you come in here and try to open up another consulting agency, they will destroy you,” said Hayden. “And they make it impossible. So we have this group, as you said, of incompetent clown shows that won’t let go of the reins and won’t let the voters do what they want.
“George, I think you’ve hit it on the head, and it’s why we keep harping on this, about the establishment people, the donors and the consultant class who control Colorado politics in this state, and they’re just doing a horrible job!” said Hayden on air. “They can’t get anybody elected.”
Weld County is letting it be known that there’s more than one way to interpret Senate Bill 181 — Colorado’s sweeping oil and gas law giving local governments appreciably more power to regulate energy extraction.
The Weld commissioners unanimously passed a resolution Monday designating the unincorporated parts of the county as a “mineral resource area of state interest.”
Previous discussion of SB 181 has focused on municipalities that want to tighten restrictions on the oil and gas industry, but commissioners Monday expressed a clear interest in making sure the industry remains a formidable force in a county that relies heavily on mineral extraction for jobs and tax revenues.
“SB 181 changed a lot of things,” said Commissioner Barbara Kirkmeyer during Monday’s meeting. “We are going to use the additional authority … that was given to us so that we have a fighting chance — so that the men and women in this county have a fighting chance.”
Despite the factually deficient warnings by opponents of this year’s landmark reform of oil and gas drilling regulations that Senate Bill 19-181 would “destroy the oil and gas industry in Colorado,” the reality of the new law is nothing like a ban or even major curtailment of oil and gas drilling. Although some local governments have taken action to restrict drilling within their boundaries under the new law’s “local control,” areas of the state who are friendly to the industry have the ability to remain friendly.
We wrote early in May about a resolution passed by the Weld County Board of Commissioners in support of the oil and gas industry during the heated debate over Senate Bill 19-181. Commissioners paid almost $2,000 out of petty cash for signs and bumper stickers celebrating Weld County’s love for the industry–a clear indicator that the county government would remain every bit accommodating to drillers as they were before. And now, Weld County is wasting no time using local control to declare their little slice of feedlot heaven a “drill baby drill” zone!
This move however does create a major contradiction for Weld County Commissioner Barbara Kirkmeyer, the board of commissioners’ ideological lightning rod who supported the failed laugh-track secession ballot question in 2013 and was herself threatened with a recall attempt just last year. In today’s Greeley Tribune, the contradiction stands out rather painfully:
In a letter responding to the recall attempt last year, Kirkmeyer, the Board of Weld County Commissioners chairwoman, said “The recall of a duly elected commissioner should be reserved for serious offenses and violations of public trust — not to retaliate for policy decisions that a handful of individuals or special interests don’t like, nor used to take over county government between regular elections and four-year commissioner terms.”
Polis, she said, violated the public’s trust in supporting and signing SB 181, which proponents say will give local governments more control over oil and gas, but opponents are concerned it will greatly decrease oil and gas in the state, especially after another oil and gas regulation bill failed to pass a public vote last November.
Let’s briefly walk through the tangled web Kirkmeyer weaves. Recalls “should be reserved for serious offenses and violations of public trust,” and not to take over governments “between regular elections!” Now, Kirkmeyer tells the Tribune that in her opinion SB-181 “violated the public’s trust,” clearing a path to support a recall of Gov. Jared Polis–but did she give that quote before or after she invoked SB-181 to protect the oil and gas industry in Weld County Monday night?
Folks, the reality of this is very simple. Months of overheated rhetoric is coming apart now that the bill is law and its true effects are becoming apparent. SB-181 is not the end of oil and gas in Colorado, and it’s certainly not the end of the industry in friendly places like Weld County. Once you understand this, it becomes evident that the real problem for SB-181’s opponents is that the industry will be less able to impose its will on communities who are not slavishly loyal to the oil and gas industry like Weld County is.
And that sounds a hell of a lot more like policy–defensible at that–than a violation of public trust.
“This gives Rep. Sullivan and the Democrats a victory,” said Dick Wadhams, a former Colorado GOP chairman. “Clearly, it was unwise to start this fight.”
Wadhams said he thinks recalls have a place in Colorado’s political process, but they need to be “well thought out.” And he isn’t convinced it’s a good idea for state party leaders to wade into the process before one gets on the ballot — even acting as a resident, as Kristi Brown said she was — because it makes any failed attempt look like it’s a failure of the GOP.
“The Colorado Republican Party was all over this aborted recall attempt,” Wadhams said. [Pols emphasis]
“If there was any chance of this recall succeeding they wouldn’t be running away from it, and their statement shows that they learned nothing from this failed attempt,” said a statement from Our Colorado Way of Life, the issue committee fighting the effort. “We hope that they will cease this endless election cycle and let voters decide Colorado’s future during normal elections, but we are ready to beat them again if they launch additional recalls.”
One GOP operative called the decision to pull the plug a devastating blow to Republicans that could hurt efforts to get money behind other potential recall efforts. [Pols emphasis] He said there were internal disagreements on messaging and strategy.
UPDATE #3: Rocky Mountain Gun Owners head honcho Dudley Brown has posted a statement to RMGO’s official Facebook page that is fairly defensive about how donated funds are/were being spent:
“I take the responsibility of spending RMGO donors’ money quite seriously,” said Dudley Brown, RMGO’s Executive Director. “At this point, the best use of our resources is to refocus on other efforts.” [Pols emphasis]
“It’s clear from our work on the ground in HD-37 that Sullivan is out of step with his constituents and Colorado at-large,” continued Brown.
The statement goes on to include this nonsensical assertion: “Our work on the ground in HD-37 has made it clear that voters are ready for a change.”
Obviously, it is completely illogical to claim that “voters are ready for a change” in an announcement about ending a recall attempt in HD-37, but nothing in this recall attempt ever made sense anyway.
UPDATE #2: Here’s a video clip from Colorado GOP chairman Ken Buck’s election as party chairman that hasn’t aged well:
Note enthusiastic applause from Sen. Cory Gardner too! We look forward to the follow-up questions.
UPDATE: 9NEWS’ Marshall Zelinger asks the next logical question:
Will those who contributed to the recall effort get their money back? I asked that question to @RMGunOwners@dudleywbrown: “Donors expect us to fight. That’s why they give: they’re mad (at gun control) and want a solution.” #coleg#copolitics
Word breaking from numerous sources that Colorado Republican vice chair Party Kristi Burton Brown is ending the hotly controversial attempt to recall freshman Democratic Rep. Tom Sullivan of Centennial:
The Democrats were so scared by this recall that they pulled out every stop to defend Sullivan: from Attorney General Weiser to Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders, Democrat Socialists screamed their “outrage” and exposed their true colors. Nearly $100,000 of out-of-state money was spent almost immediately to defend the Democrats’ radical agenda.
We have been able to confirm everything we already knew: Tom Sullivan’s days as a State Representative are almost over. While we are pulling the recall today to focus on other essential efforts, [Pols emphasis] Sullivan does not get a free pass. 2020 is the year to oust him, with the support of voters who now know how extreme he is. The best strategies are unified strategies and, in order to accomplish the most good in the shortest time, we have decided to pull essential resources from this recall and free up volunteers to help finish the National Popular Vote petition effort and to focus on recalling Democrat Senators who are not up for re-election in 2020.
Today’s announcement comes on the heels of a Denver Post story this morning in which Rocky Mountain Gun Owners’ Dudley Brown expressed doubts that the signature drive would be successful:
“We’re not confident,” Rocky Mountain Gun Owners Executive Director Dudley Brown said Monday when The Post asked whether the recall will get onto the ballot. “It’s been tough work.” [Pols emphasis]
The audaciousness of the recall campaign against Rep. Sullivan, who was elected on a platform of gun safety legislation after his son Alex was killed in the 2012 Aurora theater mass shooting, has dominated headlines and effectively stymied the GOP’s declared strategy for initiating recalls in numerous legislative districts–and in doing so severely weakened the momentum Republicans arguably possessed toward the end of the 2019 legislative session.
The division this recall attempt has caused within the Republican Party is not going away either, particularly given the role of GOP leadership figures like Kristi Burton Brown and Minority Leader Patrick Neville. Republicans disgusted by the overreach of attempting to recall Rep. Sullivan over other more vulnerable Democrats–and there are a considerable number of such Republicans today–must also reckon with the fact that this “faction” is in effective control of the Colorado Republican Party. Are Colorado House Republicans really prepared to go into the 2020 election cycle with the Nevilles at the helm after they waded into this misguided recall? Right after losing 2018 in an historic landslide?
We’ll be updating this post throughout the day with coverage and reactions. It’s anybody’s guess what happens next. The magnitude of this defeat for the whole Republican Party in Colorado, no matter which side of this particular recall individuals came down on, will take some time to become fully evident. At the very least, this is a cold bucket of water for anyone with “recall fever.”
It’s a very big deal though. The game, once again, has completely changed.
The campaign to recall Gov. Jared Polis’ fundraising appears to have stalled out over the past few weeks. Almost a month ago on May 6, the Independence Institute’s “Freedomfy” fundraising page for the Polis recall showed $23,740 raised toward the effort. As of this writing on June 3, the page shows only $24,046 raised–less than $500 in a month, seemingly a dramatic slowdown from their early trajectory. But that might not be the whole story–if you visit the “Official Recall Polis”website, they’re now directing to a non-Freedomfy fundraising page. We’re not sure exactly when that change was made, but the new page does not publicly show donations or a cumulative total raised.
Regardless as we’ve discussed in detail, the campaign to recall Gov. Polis has such a meager chance of success that its true goal cannot be to actually get a recall question on the ballot. Unlike recalls against state lawmakers, a successful petition to force a recall election of the sitting governor would require over 600,000 valid Colorado voter signatures–many times the amount required for any statewide ballot question, and far in excess of what has ever been collected for any purpose in this state. The logistical requirements to conduct a petition drive on that scale are infeasible and at a cost that’s frankly difficult to accurately estimate.
To anyone who understands the extreme difficulty of making good on the Recall Polis campaign’s eponymous promise, it’s clear that the real purpose of the operation is the funds being raised to support it. The Independence Institute’s Freedomfy “fundraising platform” skimmed a large percentage off the top of every online donation for the $24,000 raised through that site, more than double what GoFundMe charges–and the largest recipient of the funds raised so far has been to former Secretary of State Scott Gessler for legal fees. If they can’t raise the untold millions they would need to actually recall Gov. Polis, and it definitely looks at this point like they can’t, the consolation prize is the cash reaped by conservative organizations and lawyers.
That’s a comment late last week from the Official Recall Polis Facebook group, administrator Karen Murray fleecing the faithful for more donations. The comment in response promises a donation to the campaign when “my SSI arrives.” This is a reference to Supplemental Security Income, federal benefits paid to people with limited income and resources who are disabled, blind, or over 65. SSI is not Social Security, but a direct cash benefit paid from general tax revenues to elderly and disabled people who are still too poor to make ends meet.
Would you take this woman’s SSI money for a futile Recall Polis campaign?
Would you sleep well if you did?
One thing’s for sure. We can’t call this a “victimless crime” anymore.
Today is Eid al-Fitr, which marks the end of Ramadan, the Islamic holy month of fasting. 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.
TOP OF MIND TODAY…
► Ah, diplomacy. President Trump is on a brief visit to Europe this week, with the main focus being a stop in England so that he can have tea with the Queen and insult a bunch of Brits. From the Washington Post:
President Trump met Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Charles at Buckingham Palace on Monday, beginning three days of royal feting and carefully calibrated diplomacy. The royals had lunch and a tea with Trump. They showed him old paintings of George Washington and an honor guard in scarlet tunics.
But first, Trump mocked the relatively popular London mayor as a “stone cold loser” — and short in stature. And then Trump complained at length on Twitter about CNN news coverage of his trip, which had only just begun. [Pols emphasis]
Headline from The Washington Post (6/3/19)
Before he had even landed in England, Trump was already tossing barbs at the Royal Family; in an interview with the Sun, Trump called Megan Markle “nasty” in response to remarks Markle made long before she became Duchess of Sussex. During the 2016 Presidential campaign, Markle called Trump “misogynistic” and “divisive” — descriptions that Trump essentially affirmed in his comments to the Sun.
It’s no wonder that 2 in 3 Britons have unfavorable unfavourable opinions of Trump. Large anti-Trump demonstrations are planned for Tuesday, and the Trump baby balloon (see image at right) is expected to make another appearance.
► Congress is back in session after a long Memorial Day weekend. As the New York Times reports, budget and debt issues loom large for Congressional leaders:
A Congress that has struggled all year to legislate returned Monday to face two urgent deadlines that, if not met, could lead to a disastrous default on the federal debt and to automatic spending cuts that would sweep like a scythe through the military, federal health care and other popular programs.
In October or early November, fiscal analysts predict that the Treasury will run out of room to borrow money to keep the government operating, a catastrophe that could damage the stability of the United States economy and force the government to default on its debt.
That is about the same time that back-to-back budget deals would expire and strict spending caps enacted in 2011 would come back into force, automatically cutting military and domestic spending across the board by $125 billion. Lawmakers say they need to act now, before recesses in July and August, to avert a crisis. But so far, a divided Congress has found even usually easy things hard — like passing disaster relief…
…“We don’t have a lot of people in government right now who know how to govern or who want to govern,” said Representative John Yarmuth, Democrat of Kentucky and the chairman of the House Budget Committee. [Pols emphasis]
As CNN notes, outgoing White House economist Kevin Hassett says that tariffs and deficits are bad for America…which probably explains why Hassett is the “outgoing” White House economist.
Elsewhere, Colorado Public Radio looks at the damage to Colorado businesses from Trump’s economic policies.
Craigslist ad for Sullivan recall petition circulators, taken 5/31/19.
Over the weekend, a number of important details about the for-profit players being brought in to work on the hotly controversial recall campaign against freshman Rep. Tom Sullivan came to light, with a bevy of names longtime readers will remember both directly and indirectly confirmed to be involved.
And for those of you concerned with integrity in our state’s politics, it’s not good news.
Recent petition campaigns in Colorado, in particular petitions for candidates seeking access to the ballot outside their respective parties’ traditional assembly route and in 2013 petitions to force recall elections against Democrats state lawmakers, have been beset with widespread allegations of forgery, fraudulent misrepresentation of petition questions, and the hiring of out-of-state temporary employees with criminal backgrounds to collect signatures leading to all of the aforementioned problems.
In 2008, petition gathering firm Kennedy Enterprises was busted by a 9NEWS investigation after hiring “signature gatherers convicted of sexual assault on a child, theft, harassment, trespassing and drug possession.” In 2013, Kennedy Enterprises petition gatherers hired by Republicans for that year’s recalls signed up dead people, instructed signers to lie about their residence, and were caught on camera admitting to being a band of roving canvassers who “travel around the country, go from city to city, state to state, [and] put issues and candidates on the ballot for basically anybody who has money.”
In 2018, Kennedy Enterprises came under fire once again after fraudulent petitions for Walker Stapleton’s gubernatorial campaign were uncovered by a competitor in the Republican primary–and despite then-Secretary of State Wayne Williamsfailed attempt to cover up the Stapleton campaign’s petition fraud, Stapleton was compelled to rescind his own ballot petitions and seek the ballot through the state assembly.
Suffice to say, petition gathering in Colorado politics has a long and shady history–and that’s before we even get to Jon Keyser! Fast forward to this weekend–the ad you see above for signature gatherers to work in Centennial where Rep. Sullivan’s district is located is from a company called Northwest Petition Management. The registered agent for Northwest Petition Management is Chloe Taylor, daughter of Tracy Taylor–the same operative caught on camera in 2013 spilling the beans about Kennedy Enterprises’ business model. This is all very consistent with our understanding of the network of companies and subcontractors in Dan Kennedy’s orbit–often existing for the purpose of concealing the the better-known individual players involved.
The involvement of these highly dubious operatives in the petition campaign against Rep. Sullivan confirms a few important facts: first, that there is ample funding available to pay the premium per-signature fee charged by these gatherers. But more importantly, a network of unscrupulous operators with an undeniable history of fraud and criminal hires going back years and including last year’s gubernatorial race has been hired once again to go door-to-door in Colorado neighborhoods. The potential problems with this range from simple petition fraud and identity theft to…well, much worse. With all of this in mind, there are both moral, with respect to Rep. Sullivan and the agenda he ran on, and entirely selfish grounds for declining to go near their petition gatherers.
It’s not by accident, folks. At this point no one involved can claim ignorance. If you make the decision to hire these people knowing what everyone knows today, their shady methods are a feature not a bug.
► President Trumpis in Colorado today to give the commencement speech at the U.S. Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs.
► An effort to recall Rep. Tom Sullivan (D-Aurora) continues to reflect poorly on Colorado Republicans. Arapahoe County Republican Party Vice Chair Brenda Stokes says that Sullivan “shamefully politicized his son’s death” in sponsoring red flag legislation this year. Sullivan’s son was killed in the 2012 Aurora Theater shooting.
► President Trump is trying to navigate the aftermath of the first public comments from special counsel Robert Mueller, in which Mueller made clear that his investigation did NOT exonerate Trump. As the Washington Post reports:
President Trump on Thursday attacked Robert S. Mueller III as “totally conflicted” and “a true never-Trumper” and claimed that the special counsel would have brought charges against him if he had any evidence — a characterization directly at odds with what Mueller said in a public statement Wednesday.
Trump’s attacks came in morning tweets and later while speaking to reporters at the White House. In one of his tweets, he also seemingly acknowledged for the first time that Russia had helped him get elected in 2016 — but he strongly pushed back against that notion while talking to reporters as he prepared to leave Washington…
…Trump caused a kerfuffle earlier in the morning after seeming to acknowledge for the first time that Russia had helped him in 2016.
“Russia, Russia, Russia! That’s all you heard at the beginning of this Witch Hunt Hoax,” Trump wrote on Twitter. “And now Russia has disappeared because I had nothing to do with Russia helping me to get elected. [Pols emphasis] It was a crime that didn’t exist.”
Shortly afterward, however, he told reporters at the White House that Russia had not helped him get elected.
Explaining her reasons for supporting a recall of Colorado State Rep. Tom Sullivan (D – Aurora), Arapahoe Republican Party Vice Chair Brenda Stokes told CBS4’s Rick Sallinger that Sullivan politicized his son’s murder.
“You have a politician, who ran on a campaign that sadly politicized the loss of his son… and forgot about the important issues that us parents are faced with, especially with those horrible bills that just passed the state legislature.”
Reached for comment, Stokes reaffirmed her belief:
“Tom Sullivan took out-of-state money –from Bloomberg in particular– and ran on a platform which sadly in my opinion, and it will always be my opinion, he shamefully politicized the death of his son at the Aurora shooting, which tells me he cannot be independent when it comes to some of the legislation that affects other people.”
Sullivan’s son Alex was one of twelve people murdered in the 2012 Aurora theater shooting. Strengthening Colorado’s gun safety laws by establishing Extreme Risk Protection Orders was a primary message of his campaign.
Colorado Republican Party Vice Chair Kristi Burton Brown filed the Sullivan recall petition. She says she did so as a private citizen, rather than as a party official. Party chair Ken Buck affirmed her claim, despite having campaigned for his party position by saying “we need to teach [Democrats] how to spell RECALL!”
Here’s a Facebook ad that started running last Friday from Values First Colorado, the House GOP “independent” message group operated by House Minority Leader Patrick Neville’s family political consulting group Rearden Strategic:
Let’s briefly go over the problems with this ad beyond the distasteful fake mug shot–the allegation that Rep. Tom Sullivan supports “spending tax dollars on heroin” stems from a silly-season amendment proposed to the budget by Rep. Dave Williams as a “gotcha” political gimmick. Although various policies to address the opioid crisis were debated this year, nothing even remotely close to “supporting heroin” was ever even introduced let alone voted on.
In other words, it’s complete bullshit.
But the far more significant development this ad represents is direct spending by the Neville political operation on the Sullivan recall. Although Rocky Mountain Gun Owners headed by longtime single-issue gadfly Dudley Brown has received the majority of the press since the launch of the Sullivan recall two weeks ago, this ad is paid for by House Minority Leader Patrick Neville’s in-house organization. This isn’t an unexpected development, given that Colorado Republican Party vice-chair Kristi Burton Brown who filed the Sullivan recall is also the registered agent for a number of Neville-linked committees.
But this just reinforces a fact that needs restating as many times as necessary until it’s driven home: the Sullivan recall is not just about Rocky Mountain Gun Owners. The Sullivan recall campaign is sanctioned by and operated from the highest levels of the Colorado Republican Party. Kristi Burton Brown’s absurd attempt to distance her actions from her position as vice chair of the Colorado GOP is undermined even further by the GOP House Minority Leader’s political machine directly engaging in the recall against Sullivan.
As Colorado Public Radio’sBente Birkelandreports–as word spreads nationally about the attempt by Colorado Republicans to recall freshman Rep. Tom Sullivan, whose son was murdered in the July 2012 Aurora theater shooting leading to Sullivan’s run for office on a platform of gun safety, everybody and their mother is lining up not just to defend Sullivan, but plant the flag on this pivotal issue with Sullivan as the standard-bearer:
National Democrats are getting involved in the effort to help Democratic state Rep. Tom Sullivan survive a recall challenge that threatens to remove him from office…
“When the gun industry attacks one of our own, it’s important for us to respond in kind and demonstrate that our movement to save lives is just as powerful as they are,” wrote Democratic U.S Sen. Chris Murphy from Connecticut in a fundraising email he sent on Sullivan’s behalf. Murphy asked people to split a $35 donation between Sullivan’s recall effort and his own work to change gun laws.
“The gun lobby is trying to force a recall election to try to defeat Tom and the other Democrats who sponsored the bill. If our side wins, it’s a devastating blow to an already reeling gun lobby. And so Tom needs our help right now to defeat this recall effort.”
Birkeland reports that prominent Democrats from across the country have been in touch with Rep. Sullivan since the announcement of the recall effort against him. Sen. Chris Murphy in particular has been a leading proponent on the issue since the Newtown, Connecticut school shooting that occurred a few months after the Aurora theater shooting. We expect the involvement of these national players will escalate as the mid-July petition deadline approaches.
This is happening for an important reason. The recall campaign against Sullivan has received far more and far wider press coverage because of who Sullivan is. Although Rocky Mountain Gun Owners and their allies in GOP House Minority Leader Patrick Neville’s political machine promised lots of recalls, it’s been nearly two weeks since the launch of the Sullivan recall by state party vice chairKristi Burton Brown with no new petitions approved to circulate as of this writing. Even if more recall petition announcements are made today or after the long holiday weekend, Tom Sullivan has been firmly planted in the public consciousness now as the principal target.
And that, gentle readers, is a messaging disaster for the GOP.
By singling out the lawmaker with the most powerful story to tell in defense of his vote for 2019’s popular gun safety law, the Extreme Risk Protection Order bill, Republicans have chosen the battlefield–and it’s by far their riskiest choice politically, and has the greatest chance of backfiring with lasting consequences for Republicans both in and outside of HD-37. If Republicans were to successfully recall Rep. Sullivan over a law enjoying 80% public support, the moral outrage against them would further stigmatize the party ahead of the next general election with no real effect on the Democratic majority.
On the other hand, if Democrats successfully defend Sullivan, Republicans look no less like soulless villains going into 2020 and the seat is lost for the rest Sullivan’s term. We’ll confess to some surprise that Republicans chose Tom Sullivan as the centerpiece of a strategy they have staked so much on. It’s even more surprising that they’ve let two weeks go by with no attempt to get control of the message while the Sullivan recall became national news.
It’s how a bad idea gets worse. And there’s no end in sight yet.
A second Republican who represented the Aurora state house district now occupied by Democrat Tom Sullivan is expressing skepticism about the recall campaign against Sullivan, which is spearheaded by the conservative Rocky Mountain Gun Owners.
“We had an election last year and we’re going to have another election next year. And so the recall makes me skeptical because a recall provision is about getting representatives, or your elected representatives out of office due to serious issues of malfeasance, maybe criminal behavior, something that is really just outside the pale in terms of providing a function of being an elected representative. So, if you think about why there are recalls, it is about getting people out of office when we need to. But at the same time, you have to have some discipline. You can’t set up a situation where people who you elect — maybe under a trustee model, more than a delegate model — to make tough decisions are constantly facing an every-month a recall, based on having made tough decisions. If constituencies don’t like the decisions politicians make in the fray, then that’s what a normal election is for. So, I have a degree of skepticism.”
“…And now we have these recall efforts. And it’s like, there’s something that’s just too partisan, too much of a do-over with a different voting base than I am comfortable with. So I’m thinking through this issue right now, Jimmy. “
Tate’s comment follows a sharp denunciation of the Sullivan recall effort by Republican Cole Wist, who was defeated by Sullivan in last year’s election. Wist won the house district after Tate ran for state senate.
State Rep. Tom Sullivan (D-Centennial) speaks about his support for “Red Flag” legislation earlier this year.
After the announcement last week of approved recall petitions to circulate against freshman Rep. Tom Sullivan of HD-37 Centennial filed by Colorado Republican Party vice-chair Kristi Burton Brown, a major disagreement has erupted within the Republican coalition with a significant faction including Sullivan’s ousted Republican predecessor Cole Wistcondemning the effort of both morally and strategically self-destructive for the GOP.
Faced with this unexpected intraparty criticism, as Colorado Public Radio’sBente Birkelandreports, there’s an effort underway now to distance the actions of the Colorado GOP vice chair from the party as a whole:
“I would like definitely like to emphasize I’m doing this in my individual capacity as a citizen and a parent in House District 37,” Brown said. “Yes, I happened to be the vice-chair of the party, but I considered filing this recall before I got elected.”
Brown was elected to party leadership alongside Chairman Ken Buck on March 30. The “red flag” gun bill, one of the chief irritants that critics cite as the reason for the recall, passed the legislature April 1 and Gov. Jared Polis signed it 11 days later. Buck has called for the state party to be more active in recalls, but didn’t say what the official role would be in this instance.
“Kristi initiated the recall effort in her personal capacity, not as part of her leadership role with the state party. We will evaluate the HD 37 recall as it proceeds, just as we do with any potential recall or election,” Buck said.
Colorado GOP chairman Rep. Ken Buck (R).
The distinction between a Colorado Republican Party which has openly embraced the recall strategy to blunt increasingly landslide Democratic victories in general election and one of the state party’s highest officer’s personal action to initiate the recall of Rep. Sullivan is, in a word, preposterous. It’s a direct result of the condemnation of this recall attempt in particular by fellow Republicans, which makes it difficult for the party apparatus to publicly engage as party chair Rep. Ken Buckpromised they would.
As readers know, vice chair Kristi Burton Brown’s principal allies in her “personal” campaign to recall Rep. Sullivan are House Minority Leader Patrick Neville and the Rocky Mountain Gun Owners, both of whom view recalling Sullivan as a step to restoring their own damaged credibility after 2018’s heavy losses.
To summarize, you have a Colorado Republicans led by officials who have promised to support recalls, and a recall effort against a freshman House member initiated by the party’s vice chair and supported by the House minority leader’s political machine. Yet we’re being asked to believe that this is not a campaign sanctioned by the highest levels of the Colorado GOP–which is conveniently also what allows the Sullivan recall’s Republican opponents to focus their anger on the lightning rod of RMGO instead of acknowledging the bigger problem.
The campaign to recall Rep. Tom Sullivan, whose son was murdered in the Aurora shooting leading to Sullivan’s run for office on a platform of gun safety, is being run in-house by the Colorado Republican Party far more than any previous effort–including the recalls of 2013. Being by orders of magnitude the most divisive recall effort yet undertaken, including everything that happened in 2013, this is either a sign of a brazenness we haven’t seen before from a major state party or severe mismanagement that is going to further damage an already severely weakened coalition.
If you’re a Republican and against the Sullivan recall, it’s not enough to idly say so while hunting scapegoats.
It’s time to make a choice. What are you willing to live with and still call yourself a Republican?
We’ve been accused from time to time of posting photos of protest events that don’t quite capture the size and power of a crowd turning out to rally at the Capitol. Sometimes, like with the Women’s March events whose crowd size could literally be determined from orbit, this isn’t really an issue–but for Republicans hoping to avoid what seems to be perpetual embarrassment, it’s really very important that we get their crowd sizes “right.”
So above you can see what we think is the most flattering view of yesterday’s Rally For Our Rights protest at the Colorado Capitol–that’s everybody, right? We haven’t done a formal count of every visible head in this photo but we can’t imagine it’s more than a hundred people. It would be interesting to compare the list of attendees at yesterday’s pint-sized rally with the similarly underwhelming crowd at the previous week’s “Stand For Colorado” rallies and see how many of them attended both.
And again, for comparison, this is what a protest march in Denver can look like:
This year, Republicans have complained as loudly as they have since (not coincidentally) the last time Democrats had full control of lawmaking in this state in 2013, and vowed revenge. To listen to conservative activists tell the story to their gullible base, Democrats have taken Coloradans’ voting rights, gun rights, parental rights, and mineral rights all in one 120-day session–enough to drive any talk radio listener to distraction.
So where are the crowds of angry protesters?
The short answer is, they don’t exist. There is a core group of local conservative protesters who organize these recurring events, attend them all, yet despite all their agitation fails to grow into a mass movement no matter how much “momentum” conservatives feel they have at any given time.
On the issue chiefly motivating political backlash among gun owners thus year, the state’s new Extreme Risk Protect Order law to temporarily remove guns from persons judged in court to be a treat to themselves or others enjoys north of 80% public support in Colorado polling. We wouldn’t be surprised if that number has softened in the face of widespread misinformation about the law’s effects during debate this year, but it’s still heavily supported both here in Colorado and across the nation.
Setting aside their limitless bluster, the reason these people can’t build a crowd to support there issue is there is no such crowd. This is now, just like in 2013, an angry sliver of the electorate making threats above their fighting weight. Does that mean they don’t matter, or can’t do political damage? Of course not.
► Supporters of President Trump would love for you to believe that the investigation into Trump’s campaign and potential collusion/obstruction involving contacts with Russia should be classified “case closed.” The reality is much more complicated, as the Washington Post reports:
A federal judge on Thursday ordered that prosecutors make public a transcript of a phone call that former national security adviser Michael Flynn tried hard to hide with a lie: his conversation with a Russian ambassador in late 2016.
U.S. District Judge Emmet G. Sullivan in Washington ordered the government also to provide a public transcript of a November 2017 voice mail involving Flynn. In that sensitive call, President Trump’s attorney left a message for Flynn’s attorney reminding him of the president’s fondness for Flynn at a time when Flynn was considering cooperating with federal investigators.
The transcripts, which the judge ordered be posted on a court website by May 31, would reveal conversations at the center of two major avenues of special counsel Robert S. Mueller III’s investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election…
…Sullivan also ordered that still-redacted portions of the Mueller report that relate to Flynn be given to the court and made public.
At nearly every turn of the probe into Russian interference into the 2016 election, President Donald Trump was working to make sure Michael Flynn, his former national security adviser, knew that the White House was on his side — and that the President himself thought Flynn was a good guy.
Now we seem to know why.
Trump was worried — and it turns out, rightly — that Flynn knew things that would be problematic for the President as it related to Russia. And that if Flynn cooperated with special counsel Robert Mueller’s probe — as he eventually did — it would have negative consequences for the administration. Court records released Thursday night revealed previously unknown details of Flynn’s cooperation.
► Senator Cory Gardner (R-Yuma) is working hard on trying to brand himself as a supporter of LGBTQ rights. The organization “One Colorado” isn’t buying it.
► Colorado’s outdoor industry is bracing for massive financial hits because of President Trump’s trade war with China; one local retailer says that “people will be shocked” at the extent of necessary price increases. Colorado’s economy in general is not well-positioned to withstand heavy losses from rising tariffs.
Cory Gardner with Dudley Brown of Rocky Mountain Gun Owners.
The week’s political news in Colorado has been dominated by the approval of petitions to recall freshman Democratic Rep. Tom Sullivan of Centennial, a campaign kicked off by the vice chair of the Colorado Republican Party Kristi Burton Brown with support from Rocky Mountain Gun Owners and House Minority Leader Patrick Neville’sfamily political consulting operation. As most of our readers know, Tom Sullivan’s son Alex was murdered in the July 2012 Aurora theater mass shooting, which led to Tom’s run for office on an unapologetic platform of enacting gun safety legislation.
The announcement of the recall against Sullivan has been met with severe and in some notable cases bipartisan backlash, with Democrats morally outraged by the threat to Sullivan for keeping his most sacred campaign promise and some moderate Republicans fearfully warning that the attempt will backfire with the voting public in HD-37–cementing Democratic control of a winnable swing seat for Republicans, and sideswiping the credibility of attempts to recall lawmakers in other parts of the state.
In a Denver Postcolumn today, conservative writer Krista Kafer sums up the desired frame for Republicans who see the danger of going ahead with the recall of Rep. Sullivan, laying 100% of the blame for the situation at the feet of RMGO–to the exclusion of “Republicans” Kafer calls on to stand up to RMGO as though they are a distinct entity:
It is not enough to condemn behind closed doors RMGO’s depraved behavior, as many do. The GOP needs to openly rebuke these tactics and to act to ensure they fail. I am calling on my fellow Republicans and fellow gun owners to refuse to sign the recall petition against Rep. Tom Sullivan and to vote against the measure should it come to that.
There will be opportunity in the 2020 election to hold this legislature accountable for its actions. The legislature passed several pieces of legislation that are antithetical to economic prosperity, personal freedom, and constitutional rights. Ideas have consequences and the cost of these harmful laws will be evident over time. Republicans can make a strong case that new leadership is warranted. If, however, Republicans do not oppose the morally corrupt tactics of RMGO, we will not deserve to make a comeback.
Since news of the Sullivan recall broke early this week, there’s been a consistent effort by Republicans who don’t support it to insulate the Colorado Republican Party as a whole from the recall effort. The problem with this, of course, is that the recall was filed by the vice chair of the Colorado Republican Party. With the party making no attempt to distance themselves from the actions of Colorado GOP’s vice chair, no one else should either.
But even that’s not the full picture: over many years and accelerating after the 2013 recall elections, RMGO has worked successfully to install their favored candidates by winning Republican primaries. That reshaping of the Republican caucus is a major reason why close RMGO ally Patrick Neville was able hold on to his minority leadership position even after 2018’s devastating losses and allegations of mismanagement.
Whether it’s a genuine moral objection as is plainly the case from Rep. Sullivan’s Republican predecessor Rep. Cole Wist, who admits now that he was “in denial” of the extent of RMGO’s control of the Colorado Republican Party, or simple lucidity of the destructive political consequences of recalling the father of an Aurora shooting victim over gun safety legislation, the bottom line is the same: the problem is bigger than Rocky Mountain Gun Owners. In fact, vilifying RMGO while the party they effectively control carries out RMGO’s agenda makes everyone who engages in that diversion culpable.
And until the “civil” Republican talking heads accept that, Kafer is right: they don’t deserve a comeback.