Alex Cranberg Steps In Oily Foreign Policy Scandal (Again)

Alex Cranberg.

AP reported yesterday via the Colorado Sun and a host of other news outlets on a sweetheart deal apparently obtained by Energy Secretary Rick Perry on behalf of American oil speculators including Alex Cranberg, a former Colorado Republican megadonor with a long and dubious history of turning up where fossil fuel and foreign policy intrigue meet:

Perry’s efforts to influence Ukraine’s energy policy came earlier this year, just as President Volodymyr Zelenskiy’s new government was seeking military aid from the United States to defend against Russian aggression and allies of President Donald Trump were ramping up efforts to get the Ukrainians to investigate his Democratic rival Joe Biden.

Ukraine awarded the contract to Perry’s supporters little more than a month after the U.S. energy secretary attended Zelenskiy’s May inauguration. In a meeting during that trip, Perry handed the new president a list of people he recommended as energy advisers. One of the four names was his longtime political backer Michael Bleyzer.

A week later, Bleyzer and his partner Alex Cranberg submitted a bid to drill for oil and gas at a sprawling government-controlled site called Varvynska. They offered millions of dollars less to the Ukrainian government than their only competitor for the drilling rights, according to internal Ukrainian government documents obtained by The Associated Press. But their newly created joint venture, Ukrainian Energy, was awarded the 50-year contract because a government-appointed commission determined they had greater technical expertise and stronger financial backing, the documents show.

The Texas Observer recaps some of the details about the close ties between former Gov. Perry and Cranberg since Cranberg relocated to Texas, after several years of Cranberg trying unsuccessfully to beat back the growing tide of Democratic political victories in our state. Among other mutual showings of affection, Cranberg supplied Perry with a private plane for Perry’s ill-fated 2012 presidential run:

Perry appointed Cranberg to the UT Board of Regents shortly after the man registered to vote in Texas following a move from Colorado. Cranberg served from 2011 to 2017 and was a controversial figure on the system’s governing board…

Democrats on three U.S. House committees last month subpoenaed documents from Perry as part of their impeachment inquiry into allegations that President Donald Trump asked Zelensky to investigate Democratic U.S. presidential candidate Joe Biden’s son.

…An attorney for Aspect Holdings, Cranberg’s company, told the AP that American officials supported “a fair, competitive process.”

Back in 2008, as some long-time readers may remember, Cranberg’s Aspect Energy became a significant liability to Republican U.S. Senate candidate Bob Schaffer–among many other scandals such as Schaffer’s involvment with now-disgraced lobbyist Jack Abramoff in a scheme to cover up labor abuses in the Northern Mariana Islands–after a deal Schaffer had helped broker to produce oil in northern Iraqi Kurdish-controlled territory ran afoul of the U.S. State Department. U.S. occupation policy required such deals to be approved by the Iraqi national government in the in-retrospect well-founded interest of not provoking sectarian conflict in Iraq.

Schaffer and Cranberg, on the other hand, were in it for the money–not American interests.

With all of this in mind, we’ll have to wait and see what shakes out from this lucrative deal between Ukraine and Cranberg’s energy company, brokered by the now-outgoing U.S. Secretary of Energy who resigned in no small part so he wouldn’t have to talk about Ukraine. This is a bigger deal than anything Republicans have accused Joe Biden’s son of involvement in, and if Cranberg’s below-market winning bid wasn’t above board there is actual wrongdoing in this case which doesn’t credibly exist in Biden’s.

And that’s not going to help the Republicans Cranberg supports win in 2020.


Get More Smarter on Tuesday (November 12)

Happy World Pneumonia Day; please celebrate responsibly. Now, let’s 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 an audio/visual learner, check out The Get More Smarter Show or The Get More Smarter Podcast. And don’t forget to find us on Facebook and Twitter.


► The U.S. Supreme Court will hear oral arguments today about whether or not President Trump can legally end the Obama-era DACA program. From The New York Times:

The Supreme Court’s conservative majority on Tuesday appeared ready to side with the Trump administration in its efforts to shut down a program protecting about 700,000 young immigrants known as “Dreamers.”

The court’s liberal justices probed the administration’s justifications for ending the program, expressing skepticism about its rationales for doing so. But other justices indicated that they would not second-guess the administration’s reasoning and, in any event, considered its explanations sufficient.

Still, there was agreement among the justices that the young people who signed up for Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or DACA, were sympathetic and that they and their families, schools and employers had relied on it in good faith.

The arguments in the case, one of the most important of the term, addressed presidential power over immigration, a signature issue for President Trump and a divisive one, especially as it has played out in the debate over DACA, a program that has broad, bipartisan support.

Coloradans who back DREAMERs are rallying in Washington D.C. today, as CBS4 Denver reports. Closer to home, Colorado Attorney General Phil Weiser is leading a DACA rally on the campus of Metro State University.


Colorado gun shops are using a loophole in state law to continue selling equipment that is supposed to be banned. As Marshall Zelinger reports for 9News:

A state law banning the sale and transfer of large-capacity gun magazines has not stopped the sale and transfer of magazines that hold more than 15 rounds of ammunition.

An undercover investigation by 9Wants to Know found examples of gun stores in Colorado either ignoring the law altogether or finding a loophole to get around the law…

…Our undercover investigation found gun stores selling these “parts kits” in Arapahoe, Douglas, El Paso and Larimer counties. The kits are large-capacity magazines sold in pieces, ready to be assembled after they are purchased.

“This is a 30-round mag; we have to sell it as parts,” said the employee at Iron Horse Armory. “That’s one of Colorado’s retarded laws.”


Public impeachment hearings begin Wednesday on Capitol Hill. As Politico explains:

The hearings alone are a historic moment; only three presidents have been subject to an impeachment inquiry before. And though the probe was launched by Speaker Nancy Pelosi in September, this is the week when it all becomes real…

…Democrats plan to hold two weeks of hearings in the House Intelligence Committee and will later hold hearings in the Judiciary Committee, which will draft any articles of impeachment.

Three key witnesses will testify before the committee this week. On Wednesday, William Taylor and George Kent are expected to appear; on Friday, it’s Marie Yovanovitch.

As the Colorado Independent notes, two Colorado Congressmen — Rep. Joe Neguse (D-Lafayette) and Rep. Ken Buck (R-Greeley) — will play an important role in upcoming impeachment hearings. 


Axios got hold of the plan Congressional Republicans have put together for defending President Trump against impeachment. If you were hoping the GOP had prepared a bold new strategy…you’re going to be disappointed. The big problem of this approach, as Greg Sargent writes for The Washington Post, is that President Trump himself keeps kicking sand into the gears.


► Check out this week’s episode of The Get More Smarter Podcast for more post-election analysis and other political jabberings:



Get even more smarter after the jump… (more…)


New Polling in New Hampshire Shows Same Four at Top

Last week we took note of a new poll from Quinnipiac University showing that the race for the Democratic Presidential nomination in Iowa appears to be centering on four candidates: Elizabeth Warren, Joe Biden, Bernie Sanders, and Pete Buttigieg. According to new polling results out today from Quinnipiac, the battle for New Hampshire looks much the same:

Biden receives support from 20 percent of New Hampshire likely Democratic primary voters, with Senator Elizabeth Warren getting 16 percent, South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg getting 15 percent, and Sen. Bernie Sanders at 14 percent.

Rep. Tulsi Gabbard gets 6 percent, businessman Andrew Yang gets 4 percent, and Sen. Amy Klobuchar and businessman Tom Steyer are each at 3 percent. No other candidate tops 1 percent, and 14 percent of likely voters are undecided.

Just as with last week’s Quinnipiac polling from Iowa, the top four Democratic candidates are essentially tied when you consider the margin of error. There’s still time for other candidates to move up (keep hope alive, Sen. Michael Bennet!), but it’s looking more and more like a four-candidate race at the moment.


Hick Ethics Complaint Careens Toward Nothingburger

SUNDAY UPDATE: Frank McNulty’s not going to like the Denver Post’s editorial bottom line:

As Scott Gessler can tell you, all “scandals” are not created equal.


Former Gov. John Hickenlooper (D).

As the Denver Post’s Justin Wingerter reports, the Colorado Independent Ethics Commission has released a fact-finding report on allegations in an ethics complaint against former Gov. John Hickenlooper regarding trips Hickenlooper took while governor — filed by former GOP House Speaker Frank McNulty:

Colorado’s Independent Ethics Commission released a report Thursday into former Gov. John Hickenlooper’s travel, including interview notes that show a private jet trip to Connecticut last year was paid for by a billionaire friend’s company.

The report, which drew no conclusions, will be used by the ethics commission as it conducts a hearing into Hickenlooper’s travel and whether it violated the Colorado Constitution. The report is primarily made up of interview summations, along with documentation such as checks and travel itineraries.

According to interviews with Hickenlooper and an attorney for MDC Holdings, a company that builds single-family homes and is owned by billionaire Larry Mizel, MDC paid to fly Hickenlooper to Connecticut, where he spoke at a USS Colorado commissioning.

The ethics commission’s report discusses the circumstances of a number of trips that Hickenlooper took as governor in 2018. Wingerter cites Hickenlooper’s trip to New London, Connecticut for the commissioning ceremony of the USS Colorado attack submarine–which seems difficult to cast aspersions on, since it’s very much within the scope of the governor’s duties. Other trips cited in the report include a trip to the conspiracy theorists’ favorite Bilderberg conference in Italy that Hicklenlooper says he paid for entirely on his own, and a trip to Texas to preside over the wedding of Boulder restauranteur Kimbal Musk, brother of Elon Musk of SpaceX fame. Hickenlooper’s attorneys say the trip to Texas for the Musk wedding falls under an exemption in the state’s ethics law allowing trips paid for “by a personal friend and on a special occasion.”

With that said, this report is not intended to be conclusive, and any ethics violations determined from the report will be made by the IEC. But it’s pretty clear from these long-awaited details that the facts underlying this complaint do not come close to, for example, the IEC’s determination that former Secretary of State Scott Gessler abused the public trust by spending taxpayer dollars on trips to partisan political events. Some of our readers may find the idea of Hickenlooper flying with Larry Mizel, a kingpin Republican donor to be politically intriguing, but the trip itself to speak at the USS Colorado’s commissioning seems perfectly appropriate–and it’s hard to see the political advantage in ensnaring one of the GOP’s own top donors in an ethics complaint.

Wingerter reports that former Speaker McNulty’s “ethics group,” known as the The Public Trust Institute (PTI), was created only two days before the complaint was filed in October of 2018 against Hickenlooper, and shares an address with a principal GOP “dark money” group known as Defend Colorado which has played heavily in attacks on Gov. Jared Polis over the oil and gas regulation bill SB19-181 as well as the factually-challenged but successful campaign against Referendum CC. All told, this is about Republican political operatives checking a task box they would have checked against Hickenlooper regardless of what office he’s running for.

So we’ll all have to wait for the ethics commission’s conclusions now, but it’s evident from this report that there isn’t a whole lot of “there” there–not enough, anyway, to justify more than a year of faux-outraged chestbeating from Republicans.


Warren Campaign Holding Its Fire

Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.)

We ran across an interesting story in Politico today detailing a somewhat-unconventional communications strategy being employed by the campaign of Democratic Presidential hopeful Elizabeth Warren. In short, Warren’s campaign is making a conscious decision to disengage from the standard practice of returning fire on all fronts:

Her surrogates and campaign aides aren’t going on cable TV to defend her — even as her rivals and their aides are constantly on shows bashing her. Warren advisers haven’t taken to Twitter to shape “the conversation.” There’ve been no statements from Warren HQ calling out rivals by name. Even when former Vice President Joe Biden portrayed Warren as an out-of-touch elitist — while he was attending a fundraiser with real estate moguls, offering the corruption-focused Warren a freebie rebuttal — the campaign kept quiet.

The only response of note to the elitist charge was a subtweet the Warren campaign posted Wednesday with a video about her humble upbringing and challenges as a young mother.

The campaign’s refusal to engage this week has baffled rival campaigns and some Democratic strategists. But it’s not an outlier. Internally, communications director Kristen Orthman refers to the approach as “blinders and bulletin board” — as in, put your blinders on to the horserace drama and stick your retorts on a bulletin board rather than tweeting them out. (Orthman has an actual bulletin board on which she also posts critical stories about Warren as a motivation tool.)

“Fighting on Twitter most of the time does not advance our goals,” said one campaign official in explaining Warren’s refusal to follow “The War Room” ethos that political campaigns have hewed to for decades. In short: All attacks must be publicly returned, and then some.

Warren’s communications strategy is baffling to the likes of James Carville, the longtime Democratic political consultant who popularized the idea of a campaign “war room” during Bill Clinton’s 1992 campaign for President.

“There is much more to be lost in attacking fellow Democrats than there is to be gained for a news cycle or two.”

— Unnamed Democratic strategist quoted in Politico (11/8/19)

Warren is polling well and raising good money for her campaign, so this strategy of not engaging in a tit-for-tat with her opponents is a decision she has the luxury to make at the moment; candidates who are struggling on both fronts may not feel as though they have the same sort of choice. If Warren loses ground in the next month or two, of course, then this strategy could go out the window.

We certainly agree that it makes sense to not get stuck responding to the story of the day on a regular basis, and it’s hard to argue that Warren’s decisions haven’t been paying off to this point. Critics will argue that a candidate must always be on the offensive against a potential opponent like President Trump, but perhaps not engaging in Trumpian distractions is exactly the correct way to deal with his vitriol.

Overall, we’re a bit undecided on this approach. What say you, Polsters?


Trump Torpedoes GOP Talking Points on Impeachment

It was two weeks ago that Republican Members of Congress stormed a Sensitive Compartmented Information Facility (SCIF) in the basement of the Capitol in order to highlight their protest that impeachment investigations were unjust because hearings were held behind closed doors (nevermind that Republican members of these particular House committees were always able to attend the hearings).

Two days later, Sen. Cory Gardner (R-Yuma) co-sponsored a resolution in the Senate criticizing the House for a lack of openness on impeachment matters. “I hope people will read the resolution and that everyone supports a fair and transparent process,” said Gardner. This was more than Gardner had said previously about President Trump’s actions; Gardner infamously bombed in front of a group of reporters when asked whether it was appropriate for the President of the United States to ask a foreign government to interfere in American elections.

Today, Gardner and his fellow Republicans learned once more that following Trump’s lead will only get you hopelessly lost:

Via CNN (11/8/19)


President Trump now says that Democrats should NOT hold public impeachment hearings after he and Republicans spent weeks bemoaning the fact that hearings were being done outside the public view. “They shouldn’t be having public hearings,” said Trump on Friday. “This is a hoax. This is just like the Russian witch hunt.”

None of this should be a surprise to anyone who has paid even a lick of attention to national news in the last couple of years. Republicans are continually sticking their necks out for a President who won’t even blink at doing something to contradict their every word. Congressman Ken Buck (R-Greeley), who moonlights as the State Republican Party Chair, ran into a similar problem just a few days after supporting the GOP’s SCIF Storming when it became clear that officials involved with Trump’s Ukraine dealings were confirming every bit of the whistleblower’s fears.

House Democrats had already effectively neutered the Republican’s “lack of transparency” strategy by agreeing to make everything public (on-camera testimony in House committees will begin next week). That hadn’t stopped the GOP from continuing with their attacks on the legitimacy of the “process” for impeachment discussions, but Democrats don’t really need to undermine the Republican strategy when President Trump will do it for them.


Caption This Photo: Cory Gardner at Trump’s Last Supper

The cover art for today’s Politico Magazine top story, a photo collage of AP and Getty images by Zach Meyer, is turning heads–a depiction of President Donald Trump and key Republican lawmakers in the style of the Last Supper painting by Leonardo da Vinci. On the left you’ll find Sen. Cory Gardner of Colorado, who has embraced Trump in recent months despite the state he represents turning decidedly hostile toward the President (and the President’s party) in recent elections. The thinking here we assume is that despite Gardner’s steadfast support of Trump up to now, Gardner’s personal vulnerability could well make a turncoat of him before the end.

With that said, we will grant that this depiction is a little better imagewise for Gardner than the Politico Magazine headline he earned after his narrow win in 2014:

Not much better, but a little.


2019 Election Winners and Losers

The 2019 election isn’t quite finished yet, but we’re not waiting for Aurora to announce our Winners and Losers from the cycle.


Incumbent mayoral candidates won re-election in several cities, including Lakewood, Arvada, Longmont, and Greeley. Voters in Broomfield also welcomed back former Mayor Pat Quinn. Incumbent victories might have more to do with the quality of their opponents than the power of the office itself (see Ramey Johnson below), but Tuesday was generally a good night for Mayors seeking another term.


Mike Coffman
The former Congressman from CO-6 appears likely to have won his race for Mayor of Aurora, which extends Coffman’s 30+ years in elected office.


Non-White Candidates
As the Associated Press reports, the 2019 election results included some encouraging signs of diversity:

People of color made history this week by winning municipal races in places their families were once ignored or prevented from voting, including a New Mexico mayor whose father was forced into a Japanese internment camp during World War II.

From Arizona to Massachusetts, the gains highlight the ongoing demographic changes in the nation but also the growing political power of black, Latino and Native American voters ahead of the 2020 presidential election.

Sin Taxes
Colorado voters may not have agreed with forgoing potential TABOR refunds, but they don’t have much of a problem with “sin taxes.” Proposition DD, which permits sports betting in Colorado via a tax on casinos, won a narrow victory on Tuesday. Voters in several communities also approved significant new taxes for cigarettes and vaping products.


Colorado Water Plan
The passage of Proposition DD provides funding for the Colorado Water Plan, one of the signature achievements of John Hickenlooper from his time both as Denver Mayor and Governor of Colorado. The Colorado Water Plan was created to help ensure that the state has enough agua for a population that could double by 2050.


The Denver Classroom Teacher’s Association (DCTA) will have a pro-union majority on the Denver School Board for the first time in many years — a change from the “reform” direction that had enjoyed popular support in recent elections. Denver voters were moved in part by a three-day teacher’s strike last spring.





President Trump and Cory Gardner
Election results in Kentucky and Virginia can be viewed as pretty clear referendums against President Trump, which doesn’t bode well for his chances in Colorado in 2020 (and by association, the hopes of Sen. Cory Gardner). Kentucky voters booted an incumbent Republican Governor, despite Trump’s last-minute campaigning in the state. In Virginia, voters gave Democrats majority control of the state legislature for the first time in decades, affirming progressive policies to curb gun violence that Gov. Ralph Northam has already promised to re-introduce.

Republicans should also be very worried about what is happening in American suburbs, which used to be strongholds for the GOP. As Dan Balz writes for The Washington Post:

For Republicans looking beyond the president’s reelection campaign, the deterioration of support in the suburbs should be cause for major alarm. Democrats won control of the House in 2018 by flipping suburban districts, and there was nothing in the results Tuesday night to suggest that the anti-Trump energy that fueled those victories has slackened. Trump is the master of motivating voters — both those for him and, clearly, those against him.

“This is an overwhelming Trump phenomenon,” said a gloomy Republican strategist who spoke on the condition of anonymity to offer a candid assessment of the party’s plight. “Trump has accelerated everything. There is no path in a swing, suburban district for a Republican — male, female or minority. . . . It’s not a challenge, it’s a hill. . . . There’s no strategy to climb it.”

This strategist said she worries about the GOP losing more suburban swing districts in 2020. If that happens, she said, the diversity of the Republican conference in the House will be reduced to “white men with white hair and white men with gray hair and a few token women, and when [Rep.] Will Hurd [Tex.] leaves, no African Americans and only a couple of Latinos.”


Ryan Frazier and Ramey Johnson
Barack Obama lost a Congressional race before being elected to the Senate and the Presidency. Abraham Lincoln lost a bunch of elections before making it to the White House. Both men are often cited to encourage politicians to keep trying to fulfill their election hopes and dreams.

Conversely, Frazier and Johnson are excellent examples of politicians who should probably do something else.

Frazier finished a distant third in the race for Aurora Mayor, his latest bid for elected office after multiple failed attempts for Congress and U.S. Senate. Frazier even changed his voter registration from Republican to Unaffiliated in hopes of winning another election, but it didn’t make any difference; he’s been stuck in the loss column since finishing his second term on the Aurora City Council in 2011. For whatever reason, voters in Colorado just aren’t interested in what Frazier is selling.

Johnson, meanwhile, was defeated for the second time in her bid to become Mayor of Lakewood (losing both times to Adam Paul). It didn’t help her cause in 2019 when she promoted the Climate Change denial theories of one Tyler Durden, who is in fact a fictional character. Running for office is basically Johnson’s hobby; she’s been a candidate for office in just about every election cycle since at least 2000 — seriously, we’re not exaggerating here — and she’ll probably be on the ballot again for something in 2020. In 20 years, Johnson has won one race for State Representative, another for RTD Board, and has even managed to get elected to Lakewood’s City Council (all while using the same headshot). It’s probably time for the 73-year-old Johnson to do something else.


Medicaid Work Requirements
We’ll let The Washington Post explain this one:

There was a clear loser in last night’s elections: Medicaid work requirements in Kentucky and Virginia.

To accomplish its goals for Medicaid, the Trump administration needs the help of state political leaders – and election results in Kentucky and Virginia yesterday made that less likely as Democrats widened their control in those states. Meanwhile, a Republican won in Mississippi, keeping it in the camp of states aligning themselves with the administration’s vision for the health insurance program for the low income.

In all three of these states, Medicaid work requirements and its expansion through the Affordable Care Act were on the line. The Trump administration can only do so much in carrying out its vision for the Medicaid program, which includes requiring able-bodied enrollees to work or volunteer and generally trying to limit further dependence on public benefits by discouraging Medicaid expansion. It’s up to governors and legislators to decide whether to expand Medicaid under the 2010 health-care law and what types of eligibility requirements to impose.


Local Ballot Measures in Big Counties
Voters in both Arapahoe and Jefferson counties, respectively, rejected ballot measures to allocate more funding for jails. Arapahoe County wanted to raise property taxes, while Jeffco was asking to keep more of the money it is required to return because of TABOR. Both measures suffered from poor campaigns that failed to adequately explain why the changes were needed; Jeffco has seen several particularly bad ballot measure campaigns in recent years and will need a different approach in the future.


Younger Voters
Colorado saw decent ballot returns in 2019 thanks primarily to older voters. Younger voters may be getting more involved in even-year election cycles, but they aren’t showing a lot of interest in off years.



Get More Smarter on Thursday (November 7)

Happy Hungarian Opera Day! Please celebrate responsibly. Now, let’s 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 an audio/visual learner, check out The Get More Smarter Show or The Get More Smarter Podcast. And don’t forget to find us on Facebook and Twitter.


► Attorney General William Barr may be a Trump lackey, but he’s not a complete fool. As The Washington Post reports:

President Trump wanted Attorney General William P. Barr to hold a news conference declaring that the commander in chief had broken no laws during a phone call in which he pressed his Ukrainian counterpart to investigate a political rival, though Barr ultimately declined to do so, people familiar with the matter said.

The request from Trump traveled from the president to other White House officials and eventually to the Justice Department. The president has mentioned Barr’s demurral to associates in recent weeks, saying he wished Barr would have held the news conference, Trump advisers say.

In recent weeks, the Justice Department has sought some distance from the White House, particularly on matters relating to the burgeoning controversy over Trump’s dealings on Ukraine and the impeachment inquiry they sparked…

…The request for the news conference came sometime around Sept. 25, when the administration released a rough transcript of the president’s July phone call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky.

Can you guess what President Trump is saying in his defense? If you selected “Fake News,” then you can move your piece ahead three spaces on the board.


Jennifer Williams, an aide to Vice President Mike Pence who was listening in on the infamous July 25 call between President Trump and Ukraine’s President, is testifying behind closed doors today as part of the House impeachment investigation. The White House had attempted to block Williams from testifying despite a Congressional subpoena. Former National Security Adviser John Bolton was requested to testify today but is not expected to appear.


Public impeachment hearings will begin next week in the House of Representatives, and nobody in Trumpland is looking forward to what happens next. As Politico notes, this week’s release of transcripts from recent closed-door testimonies have one thing in common: They’re all BRUTAL for President Trump.

Rudy Giuliani was President Donald Trump’s enforcer, circumventing official channels and bewildering professional diplomats as he pressured Ukraine to target Trump’s political opponents.

Along the way, career foreign service officers became collateral damage — and questions of a Trump-authorized quid pro quo emerged, blowing up into a scandal that now imperils the Trump presidency.

Those are the unchallenged details revealed so far in five transcripts of depositions released this week as part of the House impeachment inquiry. And as Democrats prepare for public hearings next week, they are underscoring the common thread running through the witnesses’ accounts.

“I think you will see throughout the course of the testimony — not only their testimony but many others — the most important facts are largely not contested,” House Intelligence Chairman Adam Schiff said Wednesday.

Dana Milbank of The Washington Post wonders if the meticulous note-taking habits of diplomat Bill Taylor might be Trump’s equivalent of the “Nixon tapes.”


► There are still a number of races in Aurora waiting to be called, as the Aurora Sentinel reports — including the question of whether or not former Congressman Mike Coffman has been elected Mayor:

As of 5 p.m. Nov. 6 about 15,000 ballots remain un-tabulated, according to Arapahoe County clerk spokesperson Winna MacLaren. Counting will resume Thursday…

…Though pressed by reporters to claim victory Tuesday night, Coffman agreed that thousands of outstanding ballots could still sway the vote. The candidate currently in second-place in the race for Aurora mayor, Omar Montgomery, had not conceded as of Wednesday evening.

In the at-large contest, councilwoman Angela Lawson and challenger Curtis Gardner led the race for the two posts up for grabs. For Ward 4, incumbent Charlie Richardson was edging challenger Juan Marcano. In Ward 5, incumbent Rob Roth held a narrow lead over Allison Coombs, and in Ward 6, incumbent Francoise Bergan was comfortably ahead of Bryan Lindstrom.


► Senator Cory Gardner (R-Yuma) is taking part — along with President Trump — in a “save the Senate” retreat/fundraiser today and tomorrow at the Trump International Hotel in Washington D.C. Gardner had better make sure he has his campaign credit card handy.


Get even more smarter after the jump… (more…)


Iowa Could Be Bananas


Quinnipiac University released a new poll this afternoon on the Democratic race for President in Iowa. It’s gonna be a wild couple of months:

…the Democratic race for president in Iowa is wide open, as the top 4 candidates are in a close contest, according to a Quinnipiac (KWIN-uh-pea-ack) University poll released today. Senator Elizabeth Warren receives 20 percent support among Iowa likely Democratic caucus- goers, with South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg getting 19 percent, Sen. Bernie Sanders at 17 percent, and former Vice President Joe Biden at 15 percent.

Sen. Amy Klobuchar gets 5 percent, Sen. Kamala Harris is at 4 percent, and businessman Tom Steyer, Rep. Tulsi Gabbard, and businessman Andrew Yang are each at 3 percent. No other candidate tops 1 percent…

…The race remains very fluid as about half, 52 percent, of those who express a first choice say they might change their mind before the caucus, while 46 percent say their mind is made up. Sanders voters appear to be the most committed as 61 percent of Sanders voters say their mind is made up, compared to 48 percent of Biden voters, 44 percent of Warren voters, and 40 percent of Buttigieg voters.

In a race without a clear frontrunner, there has been a lot of discussion about Iowa’s “first-in-the-nation” status taking on even greater importance in 2020. Four Democrats — Elizabeth Warren, Bernie Sanders, Pete Buttigieg, and Joe Biden — are essentially tied here when you consider the margin of error.

Colorado won’t vote until March 1, but because we’re a largely mail-ballot state, campaigns could start putting significant resources here not long after Iowa has spoken.


Trump Really COULD Shoot Someone and Keep Support

President Trump infamously said that his base was so loyal that he “could shoot someone on Fifth Avenue” in New York City and not lose any support. Last month, one of Trump’s attorneys made an honest-to-goodness real legal argument that Trump could indeed shoot someone and not be prosecuted, but would his supporters really stick with him in such an event?

Probably, as it turns out.

As Mediaite explains:

CNN New Day featured on Wednesday a panel of Pennsylvania voters from swing districts that was moderated by anchor Alisyn Camerota — and two had a jaw-dropping answer when asked what President Donald Trump could do to lose their vote.

The segment had fascinating insights into the minds of voters in a state that is considered critical for whoever will win the 2020 presidential election. CNN’s panel consisted of women who had switched from voting Republican to Democrat or vice versa in previous elections.

The last question in the segment was put to Crystal, who was the most ardently pro-Trump. Camerota asked “Crystal, is there anything he could do that would make you not vote for him?”

Crystal replied “No.”

Camerota then cited an infamous hypothetical scenario once proposed by Trump during the 2016 election, asking “If he shot someone on 5th avenue, would you vote for him?”

Another (unidentified) panelist interjected: “You’d have to know why he shot him.” Crystal agreed, saying, “Yeah, why did he shoot him?” [Pols emphasis]

“You’d have to know why he shot him.”

There’s probably a lesson in here somewhere. We’ll be sure to let you know if we figure it out.


The Get More Smarter Podcast: Impeachment, Bribes, and Election Day

This week on The Get More Smarter Podcast, hosts Jason Bane and Ian Silverii try to figure out how Republicans will defend President Trump now that more impeachment information is becoming public; consider what amounts to a bribe for Sen. Cory Gardner; and play another round of “Duke or Donald,” this time with guest contestant Geof Cahoon, a longtime labor union activist and MoveOn organizer.

The Get More Smarter Podcast is available on Apple Podcasts, Buzzcloud, Spotify, and Overcast. You can also follow the Podcast on Twitter @MoreSmarterShow. Thanks for listening!


Get More Smarter on Tuesday (November 5)

Friends don’t let friends mail their ballots when it is too late for them to be received in order to be counted. Visit to find out where to drop off your ballot before 7:00 pm tonight. Now, let’s 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 an audio/visual learner, check out The Get More Smarter Show or The Get More Smarter Podcast. And don’t forget to find us on Facebook and Twitter.


► It’s Election Day today! Here are the latest ballot return figures analyzed by GOP polling outfit Magellan Strategies. For you last-minute voters, here’s a handy voting guide from The Denver Post. The Colorado National Guard will be assisting the Secretary of State’s office with cybersecurity matters.

For more of a national perspective, check out NPR’s Election Day guide. The biggest races are in Kentucky and Mississippi, where Democrats have a chance to win their respective battles for Governor in traditionally red states. The gubernatorial race in Kentucky could also be a significant moment for the issue of Medicaid work requirements.


► According to a new Washington Post/ABC News poll, President Trump’s approval ratings remain stagnant and he’s not looking good compared to potential Democratic rivals:

The new poll highlights the degree to which most of the country already has made a judgment about the president’s performance and their voting preferences next year. Among the 39 percent of registered voters who approve of Trump’s job performance, Trump is winning at least 95 percent support against each of five possible Democratic opponents. But among the 58 percent of voters who disapprove of Trump, he receives no more than 7 percent support.

Former vice president Joe Biden, Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) and Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) run strongest against the president nationally, with Biden leading by 17 points (56 percent to 39 percent), Warren by 15 points (55 percent to 40 percent) and Sanders by 14 points (55 percent to 41 percent).

South Bend, Ind., Mayor Pete Buttigieg and Sen. Kamala D. Harris (D-Calif.), the other two Democrats tested against Trump, also lead the president among registered voters, with Buttigieg up by 52 percent to 41 percent, and Harris ahead by 51 percent to 42 percent.

This data is all wrong, argues President Trump, who says “I have the real polls.” As CNN’s Chris Cillizza explains:

Faced with a slew of national polls that show roughly half the country supports not only his impeachment but also his removal from office, President Donald Trump did what he always does: Just say stuff.

Regardless of whether Trump’s super-secret polls really do exist, there are other numbers that murky the picture for 2020. As Nate Cohn notes for the New York Times, Trump opponents still have that pesky Electoral College thing to worry about:

Despite low national approval ratings and the specter of impeachment, President Trump remains highly competitive in the battleground states likeliest to decide his re-election, according to a set of new surveys from The New York Times Upshot and Siena College.

Across the six closest states that went Republican in 2016, he trails Joe Biden by an average of two points among registered voters but stays within the margin of error.

Mr. Trump leads Elizabeth Warren by two points among registered voters, the same margin as his win over Hillary Clinton in these states three years ago.

The poll showed Bernie Sanders deadlocked with the president among registered voters, but trailing among likely voters.

As we wrote in this space in September, there’s a very obvious and straightforward reason for why Republicans don’t want to move away from the Electoral College and toward a popular vote system of choosing our Commander in Chief.


► The Trump administration has formally notified the United Nations of its intent to remove the United States from the Paris Climate Accords. Not one Republican member of Colorado’s Congressional delegation is commenting on the decision. Not. A. Single. One.


► House Democrats released a second round of transcripts from recent impeachment hearings; today’s batch includes testimony from US Ambassador to the European Union Gordon Sondland and former US Special Envoy for Ukraine Kurt Volker.

On Monday, the House Intelligence Committee released transcripts from the testimony of former US ambassador to Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch and former State Department adviser Michael McKinley. CNN takes a look at some of the key lines in each transcript, as does The Washington Post. It appears that at least one section of McKinley’s testimony contradicts comments made by Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.

Sondland, meanwhile, must be taking a lot of Ginko Biloba or something; he apparently now remembers that Trump was seeking a “Quid Pro Quo” type of deal with Ukraine.


Get even more smarter after the jump… (more…)


Williams’ Appointment as Trump Liaison Could Fire Up Already-Flaming GOP Chaos in El Paso County, Critics Say

(Promoted by Colorado Pols)

Rep. Dave Williams (R), with Congressman Steve King (R-IA).

In what some are calling yet another utterly-dysfunctional move by the El Paso County Republican Party, which is already in chaos, an outspoken right-wing state legislator was selected last week to serve as a liaison between the Trump Campaign and Republicans in El Paso County, which has the most GOP voters of any county in Colorado

Sate Rep. Dave Williams (R-Colo Springs) was picked by El Paso County GOP Chairwoman, Vick Tonkins, to “work hand-in-hand with the experts advising and working in the field with President Donald Trump, Senator Gardner, and the State GOP,” according to an El Paso GOP news release.

But Williams isn’t the lawmaker that should be associated the GOP in Colorado, as it tries to win over independent voters who swing toward Democrats on social issues, in particular, say Williams’ critics, adding that the ultra-conservative lawmaker is the last face Republicans want connected to U.S. Sen. Cory Gardner.

Williams has been a divisive figure in the El Paso Republican circles and across the state, denouncing gay rights throughout his career. He opposed civil unions, for example, referring to them as “homosexual marriages.” Sounding like Trump, who’s invited Williams to the White House, he once said at the Colorado Capitol, “People have been murdered, mayhemmed, [and] raped” by immigrants in sanctuary cities. Williams gone even further, introducing legislation that would hold lawmakers legally responsible for crimes committed by undocumented immigrants in so-called sanctuary cities.

The appointment of Williams comes on the heels of serious budget shortfalls, leadership resignations, accusations of ineptitude, and backstabbing that some say could upend the El Paso Republican Party’s ability to perform its most basic functions (caucus process, GOTV) relating to next year’s critical election. And critics say the state GOP has refused to intervene to help solve financial and personality problems there.

Depressed turnout in El Paso County, where so many of the state’s Republicans congregate (157,208 registered Republican voters), would likely be the death knell to Republican hopes statewide.

With the rapidly growing number of Trump-hating independents and Democrats pooling in previously-thought-of swing areas of Colorado, the GOP must orchestrate a phenomenal turnout of voters around Colorado Springs–or it has little chance of winning Colorado’s U.S Senate race next year, say analysts.

Hence, the importance of having a functional Republican Party entity in El Paso.

But in a news release, El Paso GOP Chairwoman Tonkins said, “As the only Hispanic millennial Republican in the State House, and with strong ties to local and state parties, as well as the Trump Administration, Rep. Williams is the best person for the job.”

“Voters are ready to reject the radical agenda of Democrats in Colorado by supporting President Trump,” Williams told the Colorado Springs Gazette last week. “From job-killing oil and gas regulations to giving away our electoral college votes to California, the Democrats know their crazy record doesn’t come close to the real results the president is delivering for our state. It will be an honor to help restore balance to Colorado by mobilizing Trump supporters to get out the vote in our state’s largest Republican count.”


Sound Of GOP Silence As Trump Exits Paris Accords

UPDATE: While we wait to hear from Sen. Cory Gardner on the Paris Agreement, here’s a clip from a few years ago of Gardner positively going off at the Steamboat Institute over the liberal “war on coal.”

Doesn’t inspire a lot of confidence, does it?


President Trump and Sen. Cory Gardner.

Michael Karlik of the Colorado Springs Gazette:

On Monday, the Trump administration notified the United Nations of its intent to withdraw the United States from the Paris Agreement, effective Nov. 4, 2020. The nonbinding agreement, in which nearly every other country is a signatory, seeks to limit the global temperature rise to less than two degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels through voluntary carbon emissions reduction.

Democratic policymakers in Colorado reacted with harsh criticism of the decision. As of yet, no Congressional Republicans have responded.

Colorado Democrats are livid as one would expect, even though Donald Trump’s plan to pull the United States out of the Paris Climate Agreement has been known for years now–Rep. Joe Neguse of Boulder:

The question of Republican support for Trump’s pullout from the Paris Agreement is especially timely in Colorado, since vulnerable incumbent GOP Sen. Cory Gardner has switched message tracks in recent days from 2014’s “New Kind of Republican” championing renewable energy to “oil and gas defender” as Gardner works to shore up support on his weak right flank. Despite this updated conservative-friendly message on energy, Gardner still can’t afford to look like a complete throwback on an issue he’s paid significant lip service to over the years.

What will Gardner say when he’s cornered on the Paris Agreement?

Most likely as little as possible, followed by a quick-march to the nearest exit!

But it’s still worth asking, at least the usual five to seven times.


Gardner Money Trail Leads to Trump Hotel Restaurant

(Better have been one hell of a sandwich! – Promoted by Colorado Pols)

U.S. Sen. Cory Gardner is set to attend a “Save the Senate Retreat” in Washington D.C. Thursday at the Trump Hotel, featuring the president himself, Senate leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY), and others.

But it looks like Thursday won’t be the first time this year that Gardner has dined at Trump’s DC property.

Back on June 21, Gardner’s campaign dropped $600 at the hotel restaurant, called BLT Prime, according to campaign information compiled by More Gardner cash was spent at the Trump restaurant in July.

Gardner’s campaign didn’t return a call seeking to know the cost of the menu items selected–or the guest list.

But the Trump Hotel appears to have a history of jacking up the prices on GOP guests.

Rates for the least expensive rooms on Thursday night, when the “Save the Senate Retreat” takes place, are about three times higher (about $1,400 per room) than the normal rate (about $500).

Money flows from Trump to Gardner, as well. Trump sent a fundraising letter last week for Republican senators who condemned the impeachment inquiry.


Bush Ethics Lawyer: Lock Cory Up!

UPDATE: As they say, a hundred thousand reasons:


What, me bribery?

Newsweek reports on the fallout from yesterday’s big story covered in this space, fundraising by President Donald Trump on behalf of vulnerable Republican incumbent Senators including Sen. Cory Gardner of Colorado ahead of their likely service as jurors in an impeachment trial against the President–a situation that gives rise to pretty straightforward corruption allegations:

Attorney Richard Painter, who served as the chief White House ethics lawyer in the George W. Bush administration, warned on Thursday that President Donald Trump appeared to be committing “felony bribery” by giving Republican senators fundraising cash ahead of an increasingly likely impeachment trial in the Senate.

The lawyer shared an article published by Politico on Thursday morning. Titled “Trump lures GOP senators on impeachment with cold cash,” the article outlined how the president is turning to his large network of donors to raise funds for a few senators facing difficult re-election campaigns in 2020. All of those senators have also signed a resolution condemning the Democratic-led impeachment inquiry…

“The senators can raise their own campaign cash. Any senator who accepts cash from @realDonaldTrump before the impeachment trial is guilty of accepting a bribe and should go to the slammer,” he tweeted. [Pols emphasis]

Folks, he’s talking about Cory Gardner–and not just with this latest fundraising appeal, but Gardner co-headlining the Trump campaign’s fall fundraising “retreat” and joining President Trump personally for a joint National Republican Senatorial Committee (NRSC) fundraiser later this month. It’s a fair question that really only applies at a high-drama moment like impeachment, when the Senate has the power to remove a President: at what point does Gardner’s acceptance of Trump’s largesse stop being party loyalty and become something closer to bribery?

There’s the legal question, then there’s the optics. For the purposes of Gardner’s political survival, neither seem helpful.


Colorado Republicans Stand at Historical Crossroads


On Thursday the House of Representatives voted along party lines to formalize the process for impeachment proceedings against President Trump.

For weeks Republicans have railed against Democrats for not opening a “formal” impeachment inquiry — it was easier for Republicans to attack the process than to defend Trump on the merits of his actions — but on Thursday the GOP demonstrated that this argument was more style than substance. If Republicans can’t assail the process or defend the President’s decisions, then what’s left?

The only obvious step forward is to actually consider the case against President Trump and to vote accordingly. As the editorial board of the Aurora Sentinel wrote on Wednesday:

Credible, compelling, consistent and growing allegations against Trump extorting Ukraine for his own political gain have reached a tipping point…

…Trump himself has now offered honest Republicans a way out of having to defend an indefensible, lying, untrustworthy and incompetent president. Trump has admitted his “high crimes and misdemeanors.” Democrats are documenting them and making the unequivocal case for impeachment. Gardner and others can now finally step out from under the pressure to appease Trump’s misguided base of supporters. But to do that, they must commit to representing the voters in their district, not the delusional, fear-driven scheme of Republican Party leaders.

This is the way out for Gardner and other Republicans of becoming complicit with a duplicitous president. The nation is about to see Trump’s malevolent scandal exposed, and all voters will see which Republicans have the temerity to spurn or defend it.

The nation and history are watching what happens next.

Clockwise from top left: Cory Gardner, Ken Buck, Doug Lamborn, and Scott Tipton.

History does not yet appear to motivate Republican members of Colorado’s Congressional delegation. Instead, they appear more concerned about the present and how they will be perceived by Trump in 2020. Congressmen Scott Tipton (R-Cortez) and Doug Lamborn (R-Colorado Springs) are the co-chairs of Trump’s re-election campaign in Colorado; even if you could figure out a simple way to explain this to Lamborn, there’s little chance that he would bother to listen to the arguments. Congressman Ken Buck (R-Greeley)? He moonlights as the Chairman of the State Republican Party (or vice-versa) and has been clear about his loyalty to Trump.

As for Sen. Cory Gardner (R-Yuma)…well, Quid Pro Cory gave up any pretense of a conscience long ago. Gardner may not have a breaking point when it comes to Trump.

It seems clear that Colorado Republicans aren’t going to be moved by the present, but surely they can comprehend the impact impeachment proceedings may have on their own legacies. David Greenberg, a history professor at Rutgers University, examined this subject for The Washington Post:

Still, people return to this notion for a reason: It acknowledges the potentially high stakes of any political action — how a single vote or decision can loom large in someone’s legacy when the day of reckoning finally comes. It appeals to transcendent ideals that may be obscured by the fervor of the moment; sometimes these coalesce crisply over time, making right and wrong seem obvious and incontestable in retrospect. When, for example, a dying Sen. John McCain went to the well of the Senate to give his thumbs-down on the gutting of Obamacare, he knew this was an act he’d be remembered for…

But the Watergate saga does tell us this much: Those loyalists who abandoned Nixon early, when it mattered — who stood up for principle over party, for integrity over professional advancement, before Nixon was politically doomed — are remembered and praised for their courage. [Pols emphasis]

And what of those who chose to stand with Nixon?

None of these men has been well remembered. All of their obituaries led with the fact that they defended Nixon. That decision became the headline of their entire lives. [Pols emphasis]

Wherever the impeachment inquiry leads, Tipton, Buck, Lamborn, and Gardner have shown no indication that they will do anything but march alongside Trump.

But there is never a wrong time to do the right thing.


Get More Smarter on Halloween (October 31)

Nothing’s scarier than not voting. Visit to find out where to drop off your ballot before next Tuesday. Now, let’s 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 an audio/visual learner, check out The Get More Smarter Show or The Get More Smarter Podcast. And don’t forget to find us Facebook and Twitter.


► The House of Representatives is voting today on impeachment hearing procedures. As The Washington Post reports:

A divided House approved a resolution Thursday formally authorizing and articulating guidelines for the next phase of its impeachment inquiry, a move that signaled Democrats are on course to bring charges against President Trump later this year.

The 232-to-196 vote, which hewed closely to party lines, was expected to fuel the partisan fighting that has accompanied every stage of the impeachment probe and much of the Trump presidency. Nearly all Democrats backed the resolution, and House Republicans, who spent weeks clamoring for such a vote, opposed it…

…The House’s resolution clears the way for nationally televised hearings as Democrats look to make their case to the American people that Trump should be impeached.

In other words, Republicans are going to need some new talking points.

Colorado Public Radio explains how each member of Colorado’s Congressional delegation has responded to impeachment investigations thus far; you can probably guess who lines up where.

As Joshua C. Huder writes for the New York Times, today’s vote puts the House on a path that will almost certainly end in Trump’s impeachment.


► Another witness, another round of damning testimony. As Politico reports:

President Donald Trump’s top Russia aide corroborated aspects of a key U.S. diplomat’s testimony connecting the president to a quid pro quo with Ukraine, according to people familiar with the aide’s testimony to House impeachment investigators.

Tim Morrison, the Europe and Russia chief for the National Security Council, was cited more than a dozen times in William Taylor’s opening statement to investigators last week. Taylor, the top U.S. diplomat in Ukraine, said he was told that Trump sought to withhold military aid to Ukraine and refuse a White House meeting with the country’s president until it launched investigations into Trump’s political rivals…

…Morrison was set to resign his post imminently, people familiar with the matter said on Wednesday. He became the second current White House official to testify to impeachment investigators, two days after Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman, a Ukraine and Russia expert on the NSC, testified he believed Trump’s overtures to Ukraine undermined U.S. national security.


Quid Pro Cory: Say it three times fast. Colorado Sen. Cory Gardner (R-Yuma) can’t abandon President Trump because he needs the campaign cash that the Big Orange Guy can provide.


Get even more smarter after the jump… (more…)


“Quid Pro Cory”–Why Gardner Won’t Jump Ship

UPDATE: CNN’s Dana Bash speaks frankly about President Donald Trump’s financial power over Republican Senators today, and how it could be brought to bear against vulnerable incumbents like Sen. Cory Gardner:


Donald Trump, Cory Gardner.

Donald Trump’s “chaos presidency” has given Sen. Cory Gardner of Colorado innumerable chances to put daylight between himself and a President deeply unpopular in a state they will both be up for re-election in next November. Since Gardner called for Trump to pull out of the race in October of 2016, saying he “cannot and will not support someone who brags about degrading and assaulting women,” Gardner’s swift track back into line to support Trump unquestioningly after Trump’s unexpected victory has wreaked havoc on Gardner’s credibility with Colorado voters–contributing directly to Gardner’s weakness in every poll conducted over the past year.

A recurring question in response to this ongoing political masochism is simple: why is Gardner so determined to not just support Trump, but tirelessly work to rehabilitate Trump with Colorado voters who want nothing to do with Trump?

I like the president, and we’ve got to make sure we have an opportunity for the American people to get to like the President. [Pols emphasis]

To our knowledge, no reporter has ever asked Gardner directly to explain his evolution from denouncing Trump as “someone who brags about degrading and assaulting women” to claiming that he “likes” Trump and wants you, the same voters he told Trump was a rapist in 2016, to “like” Trump too. The difficulty reporters have experienced getting even the most rudimentary answers from Gardner on the substance of the impeachment case against Trump makes it highly unlikely that Gardner will ever come clean on this arguably even greater and more emotionally visceral contradiction.

If Gardner won’t explain these contradictions himself, voters are left to figure out what’s going on themselves. And as Politico’s Alex Isenstadt reports, there is a straightforward explanation requiring little imagination, damning though it may be:

President Donald Trump is rewarding senators who have his back on impeachment — and sending a message to those who don’t to get on board. [Pols emphasis]

…On Wednesday, the Trump reelection campaign sent a fundraising appeal to its massive email list urging donors to provide a contribution that would be divided between the president and Colorado Sen. Cory Gardner, Iowa Sen. Joni Ernst, and North Carolina Sen. Thom Tillis. Each of the senators are supporting the anti-impeachment resolution despite being endangered in 2020.

“If we don’t post strong fundraising numbers,” the message warned, “we won’t be able to defend the President from this baseless Impeachment WITCH HUNT.”

Reaching out to Trump’s loyal fan base–more loyal to Trump than the Republican Party as a whole at this point–to fill Cory Gardner’s coffers is just another sign, along with Gardner headlining the Trump campaign’s recent fundraising “retreat” in New York and co-billed with Trump for another event next month, of the tie that binds Gardner to Trump more than perhaps anything else. With the Republican Party increasingly a cult of personality existing to prop up one individual, Gardner’s immediate political future is linked at the hip to the President’s.

Even if Trump has no realistic shot at winning Colorado, and we’re pretty sure he does not, Gardner’s already bleak prospects for re-election become a total impossibility without the support of the Republican base–and if Gardner jilts Trump now, the base jilts Gardner.

Gardner may yet have a conscience, but Trump’s money is flooding it like dopamine floods a drug addict’s brain. If there is a better explanation for a strategy that seems certain in the end to harm America’s Most Vulnerable Senator™ far more than it helps him, we’d like to hear it.


New Poll: Colorado Latino Voters Excited to Vote, Just Not for Cory Gardner

(Promoted by Colorado Pols)

A new tracking poll shows both an increase in enthusiasm for voting among Coloradan Latinos and a distinct preference for presumed Democratic senate candidate John Hickenlooper over incumbent Republican Sen. Cory Gardner.

When Equis Research polled Colorado Latinos over the summer, it was clear Cory Gardner had a lot of work to do. As the Denver Post’s Nic Garcia reported at the time, “U.S. Sen. Cory Gardner is in big trouble with Latinos.”

However that poll from July also noted that fewer than half (48%) of Latino registered voters were “excited” to vote in 2020. According to the latest data released yesterday, that total has jumped to 55%, a significant increase in less than three months.

When asked about the U.S. Senate race, Latino Coloradans expressed a 3-1 preference for a generic Democrat over Gardner (68%-23%). The latest poll, which named Hickenlooper as Gardner’s likely opponent, returned essentially the same results (69%-23%).

The Colorado data also reflected increased support (6%) among Latinos for the Democratic party, along with a three point slide in President Trump’s favorability.

Breaking down the “excited to vote” data by partisan affiliation further exacerbates the challenge Colorado Republicans face in wooing the Latino votes. Here are the totals of “excited voters as divided into partisan categories: “Liberal 67% (+9), Moderate 51% (+12) Conservative 47% (-5).”



Say One Thing, Do Another: Cory Gardner on Healthcare

With prices so low I must be CRAZY!!!

Senate Democrats today tried to pass a resolution opposing President Trump’s efforts to dismantle the Affordable Care Act. As Jordain Carney explains for The Hill, Republicans weren’t having it:

The Senate on Wednesday rejected a Democratic effort to roll back a Trump administration rule that allows states to ignore parts of ObamaCare.

Senators voted 43-52 on the resolution, falling short of the simple majority needed to pass the chamber.

Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine) was the only Republican to vote for the resolution.

Democrats wanted to overturn a Trump administration rule that makes it easier for states to opt out of certain ObamaCare requirements and prioritize cheaper, less-inclusive plans than ones offered under ObamaCare.

Members of the party have termed the plans “junk insurance” because companies can refuse to cover people with pre-existing conditions.

Senator Cory Gardner (R-Yuma) surprised no-one by voting against today’s resolution; Gardner has regularly backed efforts by the Trump administration to strangle the Affordable Care Act (ACA). Polls have consistently shown that Americans differ on their opinions about the ACA overall but generally support some of its key tenets, with protections for pre-existing conditions at the top of that list:

Via Kaiser Family Foundation (Oct. 2019)

Elected officials on both sides of the political aisle are well aware of the public support for protecting coverage for pre-existing conditions (57% of Americans say that someone in their household is impacted by a pre-existing condition). In fact, Gardner often says that he backs protections for pre-existing conditions; his votes tell a different story. Gardner’s office did the very same dance today, but how can he do that with a straight face?

Gardner and Republicans are trying to convince Americans that they are not directly removing protections for pre-existing conditions by supporting efforts to rollback the ACA, but there is no question that they are making it possible for this very thing to happen. What Trump and his fellow Republicans are doing is making it easier for companies to sell short-term “junk” insurance plans that do not qualify for pre-existing protection coverages.

Here’s how Bloomberg Businessweek described this cause-and-effect relationship in a story about a Phoenix family that was handed a $250,000 bill for emergency care that they believed was covered by their health insurance:

The Diazes’ plan was nothing like the ones consumers have come to expect under the 2010 Affordable Care Act, which bars insurers from capping coverage, canceling it retroactively, or turning away people with preexisting conditions. But the law includes an exemption for short-term plans that serve as a stopgap for people between jobs. The Trump administration, thwarted in its attempts to overturn the ACA, has widened that loophole by stretching the definition of “short-term” from three months to a year, with the option of renewing for as long as three years. [Pols emphasis]

Fewer than 100,000 people had such plans at the end of last year, according to state insurance regulators, but the Trump administration says that number will jump by 600,000 in 2019 as a result of the changes. Some brokers are taking advantage, selling plans so skimpy that they offer no meaningful coverage. And Health Insurance Innovations is at the center of the market. In interviews, lawsuits, and complaints to regulators, dozens of its customers say they were tricked into buying plans they didn’t realize were substandard until they were stuck with surprise bills. The company denies responsibility for any such incidents, saying it’s a technology platform that helps people find affordable policies through reputable agents.

Now, let’s go back to what Gardner said about today’s vote: “Washington Democrats tried to prevent choice and access in health care, because they think the American people aren’t smart enough to buy the health insurance that’s right for them.” It would be more accurate to say that Democrats believe that consumers should be shielded from companies trying to fool them into purchasing baloney insurance plans that don’t provide coverage for pre-existing conditions. 

This is Gardner in full used-car salesman mode. If you’re dumb enough to believe what he says and to buy a car that turns out to be a lemon, well then that’s your fault. Everybody should have the opportunity to buy worthless healthcare policies.


Ken Buck’s Impeachment Denial Gets Harder By The Day

Colorado GOP chairman Rep. Ken Buck (R).

As Politico reports, yesterday was another day of damning testimony against President Donald Trump in the ongoing House impeachment inquiry, with a decorated veteran National Security Council staffer testifying that the transcript Trump dubiously relies on to proclaim his innocence has itself been compromised:

A senior White House official told House impeachment investigators on Tuesday that he believed President Donald Trump undermined national security when he appealed to Ukraine’s president to investigate his political rivals, according to a copy of his opening statement obtained by POLITICO…

“I did not think it was proper to demand that a foreign government investigate a U.S. citizen, and I was worried about the implications for the U.S. government’s support of Ukraine,” Vindman, a National Security Council official overseeing Ukraine policy, told investigators, referring to Trump’s efforts to pressure Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky to announce probes into Joe Biden and his son.

Vindman, who became the first White House official to testify as part of the impeachment inquiry, also wrote that he reported Trump’s July 25 phone call with Zelensky to the NSC’s top lawyer after listening in on the conversation from the White House Situation Room alongside other national security officials.

The testimony of Army Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman was swiftly attacked by Trump’s congressional surrogates like ex-Rep. Sean Duffy, who openly questioned Vindman’s loyalty to the United States before walking his smears back a short while later. Other Republicans like Rep. Liz Cheney of Wyoming have been much more vocal in, if not explicitly endorsing Vindman’s damaging testimony against the President, at least defending the honor of a career military officer with no grounds for accusation of political bias.

Among Colorado’s Republicans in Congress, though, it’s just another day of blanket denial:

I see nothing!

We’ve noted previously that Rep. Ken Buck, the former Weld County district attorney and assistant U.S. Attorney, seems to have lost all of his prosecutorial critical thinking skills upon election to Congress. The ongoing impeachment inquiry against Trump is causing Buck’s newfound willful ignorance to stand out in sharp relief. Despite the insistence of Trump and his Republican defenders that the phone call between Trump and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky occurred in some kind of fictional isolation, it’s well known that the call was just one piece of a much broader pressure campaign involving numerous proxies including Trump’s personal attorney Rudy Giuliani and members of Trump’s Cabinet.

As for whether or not Trump committed a crime even if the quid pro quo is universally acknowledged, that’s not up to Ken Buck to decide. Federal law says clearly that seeking assistance from a foreign government in an American election is a crime. Again, if anyone out there should be expected to know this without being told, it’s a former prosecutor. At the end of September, Buck even said “I don’t think this is necessarily even wrong” in reference to what  federal law clearly defines as a criminal act. Today, Buck sidesteps the question by saying only that it’s not an “impeachable offense,” but his credibility to make that judgment is already spent after he argued that what is clearly a crime is in fact not.

The good news is that Rep. Buck isn’t pretending to be excluded from these hearings anymore.

The next step, and we may never see it, is for Buck to acknowledge what is actually coming out of them.


Trump, Tipton Join Forces To Screw West Slope

UPDATE: Ernest Luning at the Colorado Springs Gazette:

[Sen. Cory] Gardner hasn’t signed on to a bill sponsored by U.S. Sen. Michael Bennet and U.S. Rep. Joe Neguse, both Colorado Democrats, dubbed the Colorado Outdoor Recreation & Economy Act, or the CORE Act — but he hasn’t said he’s opposed to the legislation, either…

“Coloradans need a senator who will stand up for public lands and listen to local communities,” [former Gov. John] Hickenlooper said in a statement. “I am calling on Sen. Gardner to join me and Coloradans from across our state in supporting the CORE Act.”

Rep. Joe Neguse:


Rep. Scott Tipton (R-Cortez)

As the Colorado Sun’s Jesse Paul reports, the unexpectedly “partisan partisanized” standoff over what should have been bipartisan legislation to extend new protections to some 400,000 acres of Colorado land, the CORE Act, escalated dramatically today after President Donald Trump threatened a veto of the bill:

President Donald Trump’s administration on Tuesday threatened to veto the CORE Act in a statement that said the massive Colorado public lands bill puts the Western Slope economy at risk.

The White House also said that not enough local input has been addressed when it comes to the legislation, which is expected to get a vote this week in the U.S. House.

If the act — which aims to protect about 400,000 acres of public land, including around the historic Camp Hale and along the Thompson Divide — were “presented to the president in its current form, his advisers would recommend that he veto it,” the White House statement said.

As our readers know the shell game over the CORE Act has been going on for some time now, with Colorado Democrats united with local stakeholders in support of the bill attempting to persuade Rep. Scott Tipton and Sen. Cory Gardner to join them. Republicans have alternated between delaying while they slowly “consider” changes to the CORE Act, and competing legislation introduced last summer by Tipton and backed by Gardner that significantly dimmed prospects of a bipartisan CORE Act at all–and with a divided Congress and a Republican President, a bipartisan bill is the only bill with a prayer.

Politically, this further partisan isolation on an issue that voters on all sides care about isn’t going to help either Tipton or Gardner going into next year’s elections. Just yesterday a new poll was released showing strong public support for the goals of the CORE Act on the Western Slope–voters who are about to be bitterly disappointed by the evening news, as the Colorado Springs Gazette reports:

Of 400 voters surveyed in Congressional District 3 and Chaffee and Fremont counties, two-thirds endorsed the designation of more public lands as wilderness areas, which is one of the aims of the Colorado Outdoor Recreation & Economy Act… [Pols emphasis]

Another finding of the poll, conducted by New Bridge Strategy, is that support for wilderness areas increases among people who participate in more than one outdoor recreational activity. Majorities of both Republicans and Democrats agreed with greater wilderness designations.

At this point, CORE Act supporters need to stake out clearly what they are willing to live with in terms of compromise to get a bipartisan CORE Act back on track. And if the current administration, Republican-controlled Senate, and the incumbent representative of most of the affected lands are determined to forestall the bill Colorado needs, it may be necessary to solve the political problem first.

It looks like in that event, the voters will have Democrats’ back.